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Bonkers Blog December 2011

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31 December (Part 3) - The BAFTAs

In a look back at the past year Bonkers presents the Bexley Awards For Tyrannical Activity.

Best Fiction

Councillor Katie Perrior for her rags to riches story of an impoverished single mum who metamorphosed into a high flying businesswoman and media mogul. Link

Best Actor

Councillor Colin Campbell for his superb portrayal of an innocent businessman in a court room drama. Link

Best Supporting Actor

Councillor James Hunt for playing second fiddle to Jasper the dog. Link

Most advanced use of CGI

Councillor Peter Craske for his industry leading exploitation of Car Generated Income. Link

Best short drama

Ex-Mayor Val Clark for her pièce de resistance, the eleven minute public question time. Link

Best fantasy

Councillor Melvin Seymour for his totally incredible production ‘Post dog faeces through the letterbox’. Link

Best Sound Recording

Councillor Linda Bailey for her superb recording of Bexley council’s motto “I can do what I like”. Link

Best Script

The Constitution Committee for its masterful use of language which blocked every hole in a complex plot. Link

Best Direction

Councillor Peter Catterall for his re-imagining of that old favourite, the public library saga. Link

Best Travelogue

Councillor Teresa O’Neill for her exploration of darkest Sussex; ‘Flackley my dear, I do not give a damn’. Link

Best Animation

Councillor Munir Malik for brightly coloured fast moving criticism of every council blockbuster. Link

 

31 December (Part 2) - How many Bexley employees does it take to change a light bulb?

Sodium lampNone. They don’t bother.

An electrician working on a long term project in Sidcup reported to Bexley council that the nearest street lamp had failed. That was on 1st December and he was told it might take up to five days to replace it. Fair enough. Two weeks later the electrician called Bexley council again and they apologised for the delay. By yesterday they had no knowledge of the earlier reports.

 

31 December (Part 1) - Bexley is Bonkers and Internet Explorer 9

I took an instant dislike to IE9 when it came out, Googled “IE9 is horrible” and found I was not alone. My particular gripe was the fact that it appeared to display text very slightly smaller and with closer line spacing than its predecessor and rival browsers and the default text size for the Bonkers blog is small enough already. But in typical Microsoft fashion user choice is to be taken away. During 2012 Internet Explorer users will be forced to use the latest browser.

Most Bonkers readers are using IE8 and the site is always tested on that and the Chrome and Firefox browsers. Occasionally Safari and Opera too and they all look the same, but I’ve recently noticed more Internet Explorer 9 problems that must be fixed. Over the holiday weekend adjustments will be made and by the time you read this subtle adjustments will already be in place. Font size and line spacing may become slightly larger. Some things may never be quite right. I have no idea why Internet Explorer 8 on Windows XP places the rotating carousel in a higher position than the same browser does on Vista and W7. Someone can’t count pixels and I hope it is not me.

The site will also be changed to accommodate 2012. From tomorrow the blog will begin to lose the frivolity of recent days.

 

30 December (Part 2) - Parking Adjudicator says Bexley is wrong. Again

Last week the Parking Adjudicator reserved his judgment on a case of pavement parking recorded by mobile CCTV in Days Lane, Sidcup. The appellant was supported by Notomob. This afternoon the Adjudicator pronounced judgment and Bexley has been found lacking again. The judgement is the same as that given on 7th December and reported in full on 11th December. As was said at the time, the floodgates are open now and until Bexley appeals anyone should be able to mount the same defence. To appeal with any real chance of success Bexley will need to produce a certificate and, oh dear, the Parking Manager Tina Brooks said she hasn’t got one.

 

30 December (Part 1) - Bragging again…

Web statisticsI suspect that bloggers look at web statistics in much the same way politicians read opinion polls. Regarding poor results as unrepresentative, wallowing in the warm glow of a good score and bashing the opposition with them. I know I should take the stats with a pinch of salt but they nevertheless remain fascinating to me.

The Christmas period on Bonkers has been disappointing with the numbers falling off the edge of a cliff which is why I have not blogged anything to be taken too seriously. Christmas Day only just surpassed the 100 unique visitors mark and most of the big company names and all the universities that are regular visitors have been missing all week. The Greater London Authority and the House of Commons looked in but the net result is that December’s figures are down on November’s by 12%. The first monthly drop seen all year.

If you have ever used a PC clean-up utility you may have seen it removing tracking cookies. Tiny computer programs that get on to your hard drive and monitor your browsing habits and send data to their parent companies so that they can sell it to advertisers and the like. Some of them make the collected information available on line. One such company claims that Bexley council’s website attracts about 335,000 visitors a month which is a lot less than councillor Campbell was claiming at a council meeting two or three months ago. It doesn’t make councillor Campbell a liar, it merely demonstrates that there are various ways of measuring site hits and some are grossly optimistic and the whole subject should be treated with caution. What may be more interesting is comparing how such companies rate sites which are in some way similar.

Looking at Bexley council’s site, Bonkers, the three local newspapers and blogs in and around Bexley only the council, the News Shopper and Bonkers make it into the top million most popular sites world-wide. The News Shopper lags behind the council by a small margin and Bonkers by a much bigger one for world-wide hits. However UK hits tell a different story as shown by the figures in the graphic. The News Shopper has an unfair advantage over the others, it covers six local authority areas. Bonkers being ranked 51,670 may sound like a rubbish position but with other local news outlets being in seven figure territory (eight figures on a world-wide basis) perhaps it’s not so bad after all.

While writing the above I received two emails about yesterday’s blog. One from an anonymous friend to say it was a rather weak dig at Bexley council and another to say it was a good one. I’m inclined to agree with the former, but it was never meant to be anything other than mildly amusing. Don’t worry Mr.  Anon. I’m sure something juicier can be found with which to start the new year.

 

29 December - Where’s Melvin Seymour (Bexley’s favoured decorator) when you need him?
Click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Goal posts Goal posts Goal postsWhen’s the best time to paint the goal posts at a sports ground? In the summer when they are down and in storage? I would have thought so, you may have thought so, but Bexley council had other ideas. They waited until the playing season was well under way before sending their contractor to the St. Mary’s Recreation Ground, off Bourne Road, Bexley. The rugby posts were a particular problem, most people know that they are beyond the reach of a simple step ladder. The painter tried getting on the roof of his van, then he tied his brush to a broom handle while perching on the roof of his van. Good job the Health & Safety brigade didn't see him.

The result of his efforts may be seen here. If your screen is not reasonably well calibrated ‘the join’ may not be very visible, try the larger versions. The horrible grey skies of recent days did not help.

For newcomers who may not know who Melvin Seymour is… Click here.

 

28 December - Bexley council declares an extra Bank Holiday

Bexley council is closedThe holiday is officially over and I’ve seen the dust cart out on the road and the park rangers doing whatever park rangers do and I’m sure some parking tickets will have been issued by now, but Bexley council offices remain shut. They have awarded themselves an extra day off. In the neighbouring boroughs it’s business almost as usual according to their websites but not in Bexley.

If you need to register a birth or a death and take a trip to the Manor House in Sidcup you will have wasted your time. Bexley council decided to keep the Registrar’s Office closed until tomorrow too.

 

27 December - Councillor Craske - Having his Christmas cake and eating it - Click to see more tickets (13 images)

Parking machines Parking ticket Parking ticketAfter bragging about Bexley having the cheapest parking in South East London - which anyone who visits the nearest out of borough shopping centres will know is a lie - councillor Craske has become a little more cunning. Four days before the event he announced that parking would be free on Christmas Eve in some of Bexley’s car parks - not all of them - and not at street parking facilities. Now he is going to be able to claim that Bexley had free Christmas parking when thanks to the short notice it may have cost him very little.


Bexley Times reportI was away over Christmas but various readers informed me of what was going on back home. Some parking ticket machines bore a Christmas notice but others didn’t and not unnaturally motorists are not too keen to trust Bexley council so paid up. Reports suggests that about half of car park users were paying, and if it hadn’t been for the public spirited citizens who were advising those who hadn’t visited the council’s website in the preceding few days, it may have been many more. Several paid as much as £2.30. I’m not sure how much time that buys because off street parking charges have disappeared from the parking services menu on Bexley’s website. Only on-street parking is listed, maybe it helps councillor Craske hide his “cheapest in SE London” fib?

Tickets sent to me include examples from both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. An honest council that really wanted to not charge for parking over Christmas would have turned the power off or covered the cash machines with one of the yellow out or order bags. But that requires an honest council.

Some readers may remember Councillor Linda Bailey being reported in the press that she had sought funding from the Mayor for free Christmas parking. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that a Freedom of Information response from the Mayor’s Office says she did no such thing.

More Christmas cheer tomorrow.

 

24 December - Bexley council’s Christmas gift to Elwyn Bryant

Santa examines the petitionElwyn Bryant is like a kid in Santa’s grotto, he has got exactly what he wanted for Christmas. Bexley council has rejected his 2,200 signature petition out of hand. Thank goodness for that, his plans would have been wrecked if Bexley had suddenly come over all sensible, honest and democratic. It would have been a disastrous start to 2012 if I didn't have a major new reason to castigate Teresa O’Neil and her merry band of reprobates.

Bexley council has rebuked Elwyn for his efforts claiming that he has “chosen to mislead those you have approached to sign” and with school masterly finger wagging, that he has “been told on a number of occasions”.

The petition asked for the revision of contracts to bring them into line with government policy. The council says the existing contracts are legally binding. You would think the government and Eric Pickles would know that there is no way to vary a contract of employment if it were true. All across industry and business employees have their contracts varied but senior Bexley council staff wish to be immune. Perhaps 2,200 residents will condemn Elwyn as the villain of the piece and smile sweetly on a benevolent council; or maybe the entire population will understand Bexley’s self-interested ways even more clearly.

One day Bexley council may learn to play this game more skillfully, as it is they step into every trap that is set for them and slowly but surely their reputation is deservedly trashed. News is travelling fast; I found these comments on the proposal to restrict opening hours at the Charcoal Grill in Bexley more comprehensive and incisive than my own. If you have a minute to spare over the holiday it may repay a look.

 

23 December (Part 3) - Tina Brooks v The Parking Adjudicator

Bexley council was hauled before the Parking Adjudicator again this morning, same old story about lack of certification and failure to observe the code of practice. It could well mean the same old result; bad news for Bexley council. The adjudicator has gone away to ponder the issues but the Notomob representative was not unhappy with developments. The Adjudicator was mildly amused to read that Tina Brooks, Bexley’s Parking Manager, believes he needs to be educated.

There is a nice bit of news just arrived for announcement tomorrow morning, then it really will be Christmas.

 

23 December (Part 2) - Awash with complaints

Civic Offices under waterChristmas has as usual crept up on me almost unnoticed but the arrival of messages such as “Just a quick email to thank you for the hard work that you and your team put into your website which I read daily” reminds me that it is time to take (and give you) a rest from Bexley council’s catalogue of spite, failure, lies and deceit and wish everyone a Happy Christmas.

Not that everyone will get one, certainly not the disabled couple in a house with its floor under water due to Bexley council’s incompetence, neglect and inhumanity. A sudden flooding at Christmas might be a very unfortunate and unavoidable emergency situation but this one is far from sudden. It was the same last Christmas and every wet day since. Chief Executive Will Tuckley, Deputy Director (Housing) David Bryce-Smith and a host of lesser mortals who could be named have all turned their backs on a problem they caused and they could put right, if only they cared for anyone but themselves. Maybe I’ll be able to reveal more about this next year but Bexley council has such a dreadful reputation for victimising anyone who refuses to suffer in silence that some not unnaturally prefer to avoid publicity.

As the website gains readers (a new record set every day this week) more and more accounts of Bexley’s wicked ways arrive. Staff abused by managers who lie, convicted fraudsters leaving trails that lead perilously close to Bexley council, widespread hatred for Bexleyheath police. Not every report will see the light of day, sometimes the final piece of the jigsaw of proof is elusive. Some of the stories are extremely disturbing and would keep anyone but a council manager awake at night. It’s not at all surprising that Bexley council enlists its minders in Arnsberg Way to try to eradicate scrutiny.

But enough of that for now, I have some presents to wrap. I hope to emerge from a surfeit of turkey by Wednesday for a blog or two before we start all over again the following Saturday but if anything interesting happens at PATAS today, I'll let you know as soon as I can. Meanwhile enjoy the break and if you drive to the shops tomorrow remember it’s free in the car parks but not on the street - unless Craske has changed his mind again.

 

23 December (Part 1) - James Brokenshire MP

To those correspondents (some anonymous) who expressed surprise at yesterday’s report that James Brokenshire had been helpful behind the scenes of the obscene blog investigation which may find a culprit right on his own doorstep; may I say you didn’t see the expression of horror on his face when he first saw the blog content, nor have you seen his recent letters to the police? Earlier on in the investigation reluctance to be involved was detected but not since he realised just how serious the crime is.

 

22 December (Part 3) - Local Government Ombudsman criticises Bexley council - again!

• 6 March 2011 - Complainant wrote to Bexley council raising concerns about parking restrictions and enforcement.
• 22 March 2011 - Parking department replied concluding, “if dissatisfied submit complaint to council’s Deputy Director (Customer Relations)”.
• 28 March 2011 - Complainant emailed his dissatisfaction for the Deputy Director’s attention.
• 15 April 2011 - No reply so complainant emailed again.
• 2 May 2011 - No reply so complainant emailed again.
• 3 May 2011 - Reply received as follows…


‘Dear Sir/Madam Thank you for your email. I have had a look into your case for you and your case has been closed and you will receive no more communications concerning your case. Regards Parking Services’


On 19 December 2011 the Ombudsman ruled…


The Council has clearly failed to give the complainant any substantive response to his complaint, despite the complainant repeatedly pointing out that he had received no reply. The Council’s letter of 22 March had told the complainant how to take the matter further and he tried to do so. The Council’s response of 3 May exacerbated matters and I can well understand the complainant finding it cursory and discourteous. The Council’s other responses were ineffective. It seems wholly inadequate simply to keep forwarding the complaint, at lengthy intervals, to a section of the Council that did not reply. The Ombudsman considers it important that councils deal with complaints effectively and reasonably promptly. It is concerning that several sections of the Council all failed to ensure that anyone actually replied to the complainant over some seven months.

These failures amount to maladministration, which caused the complainant avoidable frustration and uncertainty.


Deputy Director Mike Frizoni has apologised but not without blaming Bexley’s failure on their “automated system”. Mr. Frizoni’s letter referred to the original parking enquiry by saying “The response set out the Council’ s position with regard to enforcement using CCTV vehicles and having reviewed this service, I am satisfied the legal requirements for its operations are being fully met”. Notomob will be suitably impressed I am sure.

The Ombudsman’s correspondence reveals that he plans to feature Bexley’s failure on the LGO’s website.

 

22 December (Part 2) - An update on Bexley council’s obscene blog

Elwyn Bryant and I have been pursuing differing paths to try to convince Bexleyheath police that covering up Bexley council’s (or their associates’) criminal activities is not a good idea and sooner or later it will come back and bite them.

My efforts seem to have gone around in a circle. On 16th September, Darren Williams, the Deputy Borough Commander, wrote to me to say he would inform me of the result (I’ve had no contact with him since) and this week Borough Commander Stringer told me that my latest email to him had been passed to the Deputy Commander. So three months and back to square one as far as I am concerned. My email to the Chief Superintendent said I felt I should now present a file to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe in the new year, so that looks like my holiday taken care of.

Elwyn Bryant’s situation is somewhat different to mine. He had his wife’s feelings to consider when Bexley announced to the world that he had been up to homosexual no good in the Civic Centre and for that reason if no other he involved the Victim Support charity. Another difference is that Elwyn was not in any way linked to Bexley council’s malicious use of the Harassment Act to combat “criticism” yet his name was included in the largely inaccurate case papers that formed the malicious prosecution of Olly Cromwell. Elwyn was able to complain that his name was brought into court and possible disrepute for no valid reason. His MP and Under Secretary for Crime and Security, James Brokenshire has been very supportive and between him and Victim Support Bexleyheath police have shown some sign of being half competent. Two recent phone calls to Elwyn and an email of confirmation - not just the non-committal one liners I have received from the Commander. If you can believe them, the case is progressing well and a resolution is not far away. Elwyn will not be counting any chickens.

An interesting fact came out of that recent correspondence, viz. that the crime had not been recorded as a hate crime. Bexleyheath police said it wasn’t. Elwyn corrected them by quoting from the Metropolitan Police code of practice on hate crime. It quite clearly states that it is the victim who defines a hate crime, if Elwyn says it is a hate crime then it is a hate crime. Bexleyheath police either didn’t know that or it is yet another example of their inclination to pervert the cause of justice. Bexley council or their scheming cohorts committed a homosexual hate crime. Let’s not beat around the bush.

Note: The foregoing does not imply that my own MP Teresa Pearce has not been supportive too, but I did not involve her in my most recent correspondence with CS Stringer so it is not appropriate to detail her earlier assistance here. I’m sure if I needed help she would readily offer it.

 

22 December (Part 1) - An update on my Subject Access Request

On 23rd May 2011 a Subject Access Request (SAR) for myself reached Bexley council; by coincidence that was two days after their obscene blog was posted. The legislation gave Bexley forty days to provide me with details and copies of everything they had written about me. There was a chance that the correspondence would reveal who Tuckley and O’Neill may have approached when they caused the obscene blog to disappear in June. Needless to say Bexley council refused to comply with the law although under pressure they did tell me that it was Chief Executive Will Tuckley who persuaded Bexleyheath police to stretch the Harassment Act to cover criticism. As Tuckley had already been revealed as the string puller by a Freedom of Information request it wasn’s exactly a proper SAR response. A complaint went to The Information Commissioner on 27th July. There is a long queue for their assistance but the IC has now told Bexley to respond by 5th January 2012. I cannot see them handing over the details of whoever blogged for Bexley without putting up further resistance. The issue will not be allowed to rest.

 

21 December (Part 3) - Who’s the criminal?

Will Tuckley Teresa O'Neill Chief Superintendent StringerTake a good look at this bunch of ruthless and malicious incompetents. These are the people responsible for raiding the home of a lone pregnant woman at dawn, seizing all the equipment from her home office - she is self-employed - and leaving her without her computers, phone, camera, memory sticks and all the other paraphernalia of modern business. It remains confiscated two months later.

The grinning cop was so confident that he was on to a dangerous criminal that all his men were stripped of ID so that they could do what they liked without fear of comeback. Perhaps he had already booked a place at Guantanamo Bay or maybe he just keeled over at the behest of his political paymasters. Hard to tell and now we will probably never know because all the harassment charges against Olly Cromwell were dropped at the Magistrates Court this morning. He will not be tried for that offence. He is entirely innocent in law of harassing anyone.

But it’s not the end of the matter because we are dealing with deeply wicked people intent on silencing all criticism presumably because there is corruption to be hidden; what other reason could there be?

Their next wheeze is to get Olly on a charge of sending an offensive message. It is a political act (Olly’s barrister instantly expressed that view) worthy of a corrupt dictatorial regime. In Bexley we seem to have one. This is modern day Conservatism purporting to be operating under David Cameron’s creed and chosen by Mayor Boris Johnson as the best example in London of Conservative politics in action, but in truth plumbing the depths of political skullduggery. Boris not only acts the buffoon, he must be one to associate himself with bent Bexley.

Councillors Seymour and BauerThe new single charge against Olly is that he Twittered “What c**t lives in a house like that, let’s post him actual sh*t” alongside a picture of an unidentified house. It was councillor Seymour’s house but you would need to know that to put two and two together. Councillor Seymour isn’t a Twitterer so he wouldn’t know of it and could have lived in blissful ignorance; but enter stage left councillor Sandra Bauer, busybody and nosy parker extraordinaire. She saw the Tweet and got on to Seymour straight away and the invitation to post “actual sh*t” - which I took to be Twitter-speak for send critical messages - was magically transformed into “put dog faeces through the letterbox”. Not sure why Bauer and/or Seymour found it necessary to embroider the truth, but between them they did.

Is that single Tweet offensive? It’s not for me to say but I do know you can read worse on the net any time you like and unlike Olly’s Tweet not all fail to identify the target.

In Court this morning there were 44 minutes of legal debate. I heard the judge say after consulting a big fat book that it will be necessary to prove that Olly’s Tweet was not only “grossly offensive” but that he intended to cause “distress and anxiety”. Given that Olly was not communicating with councillor Seymour I have my own opinion on that. The only reason that Seymour could possibly have become distressed is because councillor Sandra Bauer brought the Tweet to Seymour’s attention. It was she who effectively ‘published’ the comment, or should I say a mischievously exaggerated version of the comment?

The trial has been reset for 13:30 on 14th February 2012 at Greenwich Court. Seymour and Bauer are both to be summoned as witnesses. Conservative and Labour councillors with a common goal. What could that be? The perversion of justice and the subjugation of democracy?

Note: This morning’s District Judge expressed his disquiet at the police’s continued refusal, even after formal requests by Olly’s barrister, to return Olly’s wife’s computer equipment etc. He pointed out that no part of the new charge depended on digital information that is in dispute and there can be no reason for Bexleyheath police to be so unreasonable. He regretted that he was not empowered to order its immediate return.

Olly’s barrister said the prosecution was seeking a restraining order on Olly forbidding him doing anything related to Bexley council, or blogging, or swearing. Nothing came of that this morning but it serves to illustrate just how deeply the Stalinist tendency is entrenched within Bexley’s rotten council.


Note 17th August 2012. At an appeal hearing where both Seymour and Bauer were called as witnesses and cross examined it became clear that it was Seymour who had dishonestly exaggerated the content of the Tweet in order to attempt a miscarriage of justice and Bauer had merely sent him a copy and took no part in its embellishment.

 

21 December (Part 2) - Olly Cromwell’s harassment case

All the charges were dropped at Bexley Magistrate’s Court this morning. The case was built on Bexley council lies and mischief and coupled with the incompetence of Bexleyheath police who failed to investigate, preferring to do the bidding of their council chums, the outcome never did seem in great doubt. However it is not unmitigated good news and I shall endeavour to post a full report by 3 p.m.

 

21 December (Part 1) - Parking confusion overcome - possibly

I have been taken to task by readers for being far too kind to councillor Craske yesterday. I am informed that Bexley has in the past always suspended parking charges on Bank Holidays so that the recent concessions amount to very little. I confess to having no first hand knowledge; I don’t think I have ever paid to park in Bexley in all the years I have lived here. Bexley council has amended its first parking announcement. to reflect the later one.  The link in yesterday’s blog has been amended to take account of this.

The revised announcement for Christmas Eve is on the left below, the original is on the right
New and old parking announcements

 

20 December - Too little, too late, too Craske

Free parkingPDF propertiesThis slogan appeared on Bexley council’s website yesterday afternoon. Councillor Craske claims in the associated text he is “pleased to announce that we are extending free parking over the festive period to now include Christmas Eve. Not only does Bexley have the largest number of parking spaces in the area, we have some of the best shops and shopping centres too”. The weasel words we have come to expect from the weasel. There is no extension to free parking, this is the first announcement of any free parking other than on Christmas Day when enforcement staff all want the day off and nobody goes shopping.

Councillor Linda Bailey’s press comment heralding free Christmas parking came to nothing and the use of the word “extension” is typical of Craske’s antipathy to the whole truth. Last weekend the best offer shown on Bexley’s website was the opening - at usual charges - of the Civic Centre car park usually available only to the privileged few.

To confuse motorists not all council car parks are to be free, my nearest is not on the list. All the usual restrictions and charges will continue for street parking (but see below). If councillor Craske was serious about “wants to help local businesses and residents during the current financial climate” the announcement would have been made weeks ago before most of the shopping was done. Neighbouring boroughs got that right and were far more generous than Craske. This looks like cynical manoeuvrings forced upon Craske at the last minute by circumstances. As if to prove it was a last minute panic reaction the new documentation on the council site was prepared yesterday and the dates for free parking shown on it are not the same as on the source web page. There was no time to organise things properly.

Click either image above to view the council’s belated announcement or click here to see something entirely different.
Bexley parking announcement
On street charges applyWhich of these is to be believed for Boxing Day? It would appear that the plan was for Christmas Day to be free of all restrictions because not unnaturally NSL staff wanted the day off. Then, probably, there were not enough volunteers for the 24th and 26th so less enforcement was possible. Craske then bowed to the inevitable but claimed it to be an extension to the original plan. Who else but Craske would regard no charges on Christmas Day as some sort of gift to the populace and suggest that his latest announcement is an extension of the original one? The man is Scrooge personified and we are still left to guess which of his two web pages is correct. Park in Bexley at your peril!

 

19 December - In case he hasn’t noticed…

Dear Chief Superintendent Stringer,

When I wrote to you on 7 December I said that the obscene blog which could only have been written by someone very close to Bexley council could still be checked out at Google blogspot and I alluded to blogs by Bexley councillors which I felt should also be checked. Since then the obscene blog and those of the councillors all disappeared from public view at much the same time. I suspect the blog hosting companies will have retained identifying records so the need for investigation has not changed. You will probably agree that the disappearance of the obscene blog and those of councillors James Hunt and Chris Taylor at the same time is a very strange coincidence.


And five more paragraphs.

 

18 December - The amazing case of the disappearing Bexley councillor blogs

Taylor and HuntIf you have read last Friday’s blog the images below will require little explanation. Google for ‘christaylor.yourcllr.com’ and note that councillor Taylor’s blog has disappeared, though like councillor Hunt’s it remains in Google’s cache.

It’s an amazing set of coincidences (†). One small suggestion to Chief Superintendent Stringer that he should check in certain places and Bexley council’s obscene blog, James Hunt’s and Chris Taylor’s all go down the pan together. The reason is hard to fathom, perhaps the fairies did it.

I’m beginning to think I am a far better detective than any to be found in Arnsberg Way. The two faces featured in the ‘carousel’ above (placed there a month ago) were not chosen at random. If the Bonkers team can nose out interesting facts, how come Chief Superintendent Stringer with all the resources at his command manages to do nothing in six months? Maybe he doesn’t want to look, but that would be perverting the course of justice - so there must be some other reason; mustn’t there?

† A coincidence is just that. There is no real evidence that it is anything else.


Chris Taylor’s blog
Google search results
Chris Taylor’s blog removed

 

17 December - Sudden outbreak of common sense at Bexley council

A proposal by Bexleyheath police that the Charcoal Grill in Bexley village should lose its late night licence because one of its customers was murdered in the street shortly after buying a kebab has been thrown out by Bexley council’s Licensing Committee. This irrational idea was backed by councillor Peter Craske at the council meeting last month. As a crime prevention measure it looked like desperation, what next, an 11 p.m. curfew?

For the second time this month the man responsible for a sensible response is councillor Mike Slaughter.


Dear Cllr. Slaughter,
I apologise for being unkind about your claim to have been a Bexley councillor for more than 30 years. Experience is valued above gimmicks.
Yours sincerely,
Malcolm


Shh… Nobody mention the Morrison’s shares.

PS. At 15:00 yesterday I carelessly clicked the wrong button on my Junk mail folder and unintentionally deleted a message unread. I never get spam mail so I suspect I have accidentally deleted a genuine message. If you sent a message just before three o’clock you may wish to send it again.

 

16 December (Part 2) - Do you believe in coincidence?

James Hunt's blogA month ago today I provided a link to the unexpurgated obscene blog and a couple of days later a link to a blog purporting to be by councillor James Hunt’s dog Jasper. It didn’t prove a thing of course although some of you believed it did.

Part of my complaint about Bexleyheath police is that they said on 23rd August 2011 that the obscene blog with my name in its address had “been removed” which wasn’t true and proved the “data specialist” they claimed to have employed was either incompetent or more likely was a figment of someone’s imagination. I drew that fact to Chief Superintendent Stringer’s attention eight days ago and the ‘empty’ obscene blog remained on line until a day or two ago. Then it entirely disappeared, I’m surprised it wasn’t deleted long ago but some criminals aren’t very bright. It’s an odd coincidence that immediately after I asked Borough Commander Stringer to check it out with Google it should disappear. But that may be a relatively minor coincidence.

Showing immense restraint I have never told you about one of councillor James Hunt’s blogs. I’ve mentioned others but never this particular one. Its address is (or perhaps was) http://cllrjhunt.blogspot.com. The image above shows an extract from one of the entries on cllrjhunt.blogspot. I might have suggested you read it but I would be wasting your time. That blog disappeared from my view too. I used to be able to get it easily, now I can’t. I have no explanation for that. Perhaps you might come up with some reason for malcolmknight.blogspot and cllrjhunt.blogspot disappearing at the same time just after I suggested that CS Stringer check out their respective IDs.

Google search resultsNote: I have recent screen shots of the whole of James Hunt’s blog that I am not able to see now. I have had several other computer users check they too are having the same problem so I doubt it’s a peculiarity of my computer or my ISP. If you Google for ‘cllrjhunt blogspot’ you can find it in Google’s cache and read its opening sentence. It will probably disappear from Google soon. Yes of course I have taken screenshots of everything. What do you take me for? Unfortunately these events could all be down to coincidence. The innocent as well as the guilty may wish to distance themselves from anything even remotely connected to Bexley’s obscene blogging.

 

16 December (Part 1) - Councillors’ criminal records

It may have crossed your mind that councils could be comprised of bunches of crooks; which is possibly what was in Mick Barnbrook’s when he composed a Freedom of Information request on 11th October 2011. It said “What checks does Bexley council make to ensure that no serving councillor has a criminal record and therefore a fit and proper person to serve the community”. One might have expected a quick response to the effect that a check was made with the Criminal Records Bureau or possibly that no check was made at all; either way it wasn't a very difficult question to answer. But nothing is simple where Bexley council is concerned.

Two months and one reminder later Bexley council had made no response leading once again to suspicions that something shameful was going on. Then late yesterday all that changed, a reply came out of the blue.

According to the response “the Council’s Standards Committee agreed unanimously that Councillors voluntarily undergo a criminal record check”. That probably answers Mr. Barnbrook’s question. Bexley council does not make any check on councillors (except for members of the ‘Corporate Parenting Forum’). The crime free may voluntarily put themselves forward for a CRB check and anyone else will probably choose not to. In both cases Bexley council will keep the results “strictly confidential”. It may be the case that every single councillor has had a CRB check and come from it clean. Or it may be that Bexley council is stuffed full of rogues. An indication that all the CRB checks were perfection itself might have provoked favourable conclusions. Bexley’s response leaves you free to put any interpretation on their silence that you wish.

Correspondence with the Information Commissioner has recently revealed that all Mr. Barnbrook’s questions to Bexley council are sent to the Chief Executive Will Tuckley which may explain why his answers are invariably long delayed. Answering within 20 working days is a Statutory requirement. Regularly breaking that law is something the Chief Executive chooses to do. I doubt that will surprise anyone.

Mr. Barnbrook played the leading role in bringing down local politicians Derek Conway (former Conservative MP for Old Bexley) and Ian Clement (former Conservative leader of Bexley council) and a significant part in the jailing of several Labour and Conservative politicians. Complaints against Labour and BNP politicians are still with the authorities.

 

15 December (Part 2) - Part 2 is cancelled

The plan was that Part 2 would provide information on why there was no coverage of Bexley’s little accident at PATAS in this week’s newspapers. There is a good reason and I’ve been persuaded to drop my report. There isn’t a problem - although Tina Brooks and councillor Craske may beg to differ - but Notomob are being very cautious and methodical with their next step, hence the News Shopper holding fire. I too must resist the temptation to drop hints.

In reserve I had a story concerning another example of Bexley council not answering a simple Freedom of Information request made on 11th October 2011. But just as I had finished writing it there was news that Bexley had provided an answer. Not a freely given open and transparent one, that goes without saying, however it means the report will have to be rewritten. Something for tomorrow.

 

15 December (Part 1) - The strange case of the disappearing coppers

You will probably remember Detective Inspector Keith Marshall who threatened me with arrest for “criticising” Bexley councillors and you may recall that when I complained about him Bexleyheath’s Professional Standards Unit based at the same address spent six months looking for him without success; well it’s happened again.

The papers released to Olly Cromwell after he was charged with doing something which the prosecution team have since been unable to “particularise“ revealed that the obscene blog perpetrated by one of Bexley council’s cohorts had been labelled a counter-allegation. They also revealed that Bexleyheath police are so deeply in the pocket of Bexley council that they reported me to the Crown Prosecution Service. What for one might ask. To jump at Will Tuckley’s command presumably. I can only guess that the CPS told them to not be so damned stupid.

For the non-crime of ‘criticism’ the CPS were immediately involved. For a hate crime punishable by a spell inside, Bexley police have yet to admit to making a move. Then they wonder why the public generally holds them in such low esteem.Counter allegation
Elwyn Bryant was not involved in the harassment issue, getting his face in the News Shopper several times does not apparently count as harassment. So why was the crime against him labelled a counter-allegation? He has been trying to find out. Naturally no one will tell him but the excuse for not doing so is interesting. They can't find Detective Constable Neil Thomas who wrote the above report.

 

14 December (Part 2) - Motorists kebabed

Sometimes on a Wednesday the News Shopper acts as a prompt for a second blog of the day, but its news pages provided nothing new today. Readers from far away who lack local knowledge may wish to know that the Shopper’s front page features yet another knife murder and Page 3 reports an attempted knife murder the previous week. If I am at some future date sceptical about claims that the authorities here have influenced crime levels significantly for the better you may understand why. The statistics have an unhappy knack of reverting to the mean and four knife deaths in six months may be an example of that. Bexley council believes that shutting a kebab shop is the way forward. It doesn’t seem much of a plan to me. For the record I have lived in Bexley 25 years and never seen any violence except on late night trains and very rarely at that.

The News Shopper covers the petition nicely but the council has not found a new excuse for ignoring it. They still can’t do better than “inaccurate and misleading”.

Long LaneSidcup High StreetThe Public Announcements page reveals that Bexley council is continuing with its drip drip attack on motorists on the day the national press features Mary Portas’ advice to the Prime Minister that local councils are killing shopping centres. Long Lane is to have some Free bays converted to One Hour Maximum Stay bays and any remaining 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. restrictions converted to 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.

I am intrigued by the plans for Sidcup High Street. Three new pedestrian crossings to be installed. 30 metres west of Church Road, 23 metres west of Church Road and in Church Road, 13 metres south of Sidcup High Street. If one of those announcements is wrong and should have read ‘east’, that's quite close to how things were before the present traffic lights were put in. Round in circles we go while fat cats run off with the cream.

 

14 December (Part 1) - Public cabinet meeting

Maybe that is not an appropriate title because the council leader Teresa O’Neill appears to have dreamed up a new way of defeating democracy. Usually, no, every time before yesterday, if one arrives in the Council Chamber around 7:15 most of the cabinet members will be found sitting in their places in friendly preliminary discussions. Yesterday they all filed out of an adjacent meeting room with two minutes to spare, ignored the public totally, and 32 minutes later filed back into their meeting room to continue whatever they were really up to last night. There was nothing in the adjacent room to suggest it was a Christmas party, it was just another empty room so it looks as though Bexley council has hit upon the perfect way of minimising scrutiny.

Only five members of the public had turned out to watch proceedings, the usual suspects including the local Notomob representative. He had expressed a wish to examine the visage of councillor Craske after his PATAS defeat but Craske got the better of everyone. He arrived at the very last moment and sat below the raised viewing area so that all that could be seen of him was the top of his head from the rear. I can confirm that his ears were of a suitable hue.

Despite its brevity and the dress-rehearsal having been conducted entirely out of public view the meeting was not without its interesting moments.

Early on in the proceedings councillor Katie Perrior said she did not want to “keep banging on” about the top award by Ofsted for Bexley’s fostering service and then did precisely that. It would appear that neither she nor Ofsted is aware that the Local Government Ombudsman considered Bexley worthy of a ‘fine’ of £12,741.08 for failures in that area of activity. Ms. Perrior also proudly told us that Ofsted has reported that Bexley is “performing adequately” in other areas of children’s services. Ofsted’s definition of “Performs adequately” is “Meets only minimum requirements”.

In reports from senior council officers we were told that on 30th September 2011 the council had investments of £105.6 million and long-term debt of £103.3 million. The ‘savings account’ had earned £0.7 million of interest during the first six months of 2011 and the ‘personal loan’ was costing £4.75 million a year in interest. Think about it.

Bexley village libraryMr. Tuckley said that the “financial challenges facing the council remain very substantial” - which sounded like code for ‘we are heading for trouble’ - and went on to recommend a pay freeze for staff. Councillor Deadman put in a word for the low paid but no cabinet member said anything about it, it was as if he hadn’t been there at all, no acknowledgement of his words whatsoever. The pay freeze was approved.

Councillor Peter Catterall told us of his proposals for Bexley village library. Councillor Catterall usually comes across as a thoughtful and caring man slightly out of place among a metaphorical den of thieves.

Maybe I am swayed by the fact he told me “Being held to account by people like yourself is very useful” and “I’m certainly not sensitive about what you put on your site, which was scrupulously accurate”. He seems a ‘good egg’ worthy of his electors’ support. I can only hope that his plan for Bexley library is a success.


Boots Book Lover's libraryCouncillor Catterall’s plan involves handing Bexley library over to a group called Bexley Village Community Library (BVCL). They have a few changes in mind; CDs and DVDs will no longer be on loan but they will offer to sell them instead. They say this “will release customers from the burden of due dates and fines”. Confusingly they aim to add to that burden for books. The free loan period is likely to reduce from three to two weeks and fines will go up. Alternatively customers can pay £24 a year for extended loan periods and no fines. The philanthropic can opt to pay £75 a year for “Gold membership’ with as yet unspecified benefits. When I was a lad Boots the Chemist ran a library (as it did in all large towns) not far from the public one and it failed because unlike the latter it was not free.

BVCL’s activities will extend to computers and coffee. The computers will be networked independently of the council libraries so there is scope for no censorship of sites critical of Bexley council. Windows PCs may be augmented by Apple Macs and the opening hours will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

Possibly the most significant threat to the plan comes from Bexleyheath library. Longer loan times, cheaper fines, more books and only six minutes away on very frequent buses.

You will presumably be wondering what huge contribution the new scheme will make to alleviating Will Tuckley’s “financial challenge”. It is hoped, if all goes according to plan, that it might be enough to pay his salary for just a little over two months. £40,000 a year.

The plan was endorsed by councillor Colin Campbell who gave every impression of relishing the idea of competition for an internet café in a nearby hairdresser’s shop. I have no idea why he should look forward to the demise of a local business but whatever reason he had in mind it was in one respect the most significant comment of the whole half hour charade. It was the only thing that you couldn’t read in the Agenda. The meeting really was a total waste of time, most of it had been conducted behind closed doors.

Councillor Catterall’s library plan was approved. Good luck Peter, imaginative but perhaps a bit of a gamble. And congratulations Teresa for finding a new way of subverting democracy. Crude rather than imaginative but it demonstrates your council’s true colours very effectively.

 

13 December (Part 3) - It’s not paranoia, they are out to get me

I said yesterday I believed Bexley council’s priority was to prosecute Bonkers, not Olly Cromwell. There is not a lot that is new in today’s report but it will help to make the point if all the old news is brought together.

By the time Bexley’s obedient servants in Arnsberg Way threatened me with arrest last April for “criticising Bexley council at a personal level” I had been writing here for 20 months. Police files recently made available reveal that “on 8th March 2011 police were made aware [by Chief Executive Will Tuckley] that comments had been posted on Bexley-is-Bonkers regarding councillor Teresa O’Neill, namely, Personally I think we need to descend on Councillor Teresa O’Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks as it would seem that she and her scheming cohorts are impervious to reasoned argument." The police went on to repeat another blog extract, “someone wanted to go to the last council meeting with a petrol bomb, but I persuaded him otherwise”.

As all readers seem to know, the first comment was written by the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator for Erith, the ultra-observant may have realised it wasn’t an original Bonkers comment by the inclusion of quotation marks and a capital C for councillors. I’ve never considered Bexley’s councillors merited a capital letter. The second quotation was me reporting what a friend said. I doubt the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator knows a local source of pitchforks and I fail to see that I personally encouraged violence, more the reverse. I have already accepted that reporting the friend’s comment was ill advised - for one thing, he runs a diesel car! - but the important thing to note is that neither of those comments were Olly Cromwell’s. It was me Bexley council was complaining about.

The police file goes on to record the council’s complaint that both Olly Cromwell and I have suggested that “the council has the police in their pockets”. How ironic is that? We have six (according to another report) councillors demanding that action must be taken against two bloggers and the police record that the councillors insisted they must “not have their names released as complainants”. Then they have the gall to protest that one does not live in the others’ pocket! If it wasn’t for those cowardly councillors the police would not have needed to label the files RESTRICTED and put ‘not in the public interest’ notices all over the case. It is because Bexleyheath are and have been, at least since the days of their expensive lunching with former council leader and convicted fraudster Ian Clement, in the pocket of Bexley council that they now look to be thoroughly corrupt and vulnerable to a charge of perverting the cause of justice.

So what in particular makes me think that it’s Bonkers that is in our bent council’s sights, not Olly Cromwell? For a start, as shown above, all the ‘offences’ up to last March, the date of the complaint, were mine. Nothing in the report to the police could be laid at Olly’s door. It could hardly be otherwise, Olly had never mentioned Bexley council until a few days before, his first ever blog about Bexley council was on 3rd March 2011. Little wonder that neither council nor police knew much about him. That would be why his harassment letter accused him of writing blogs on Bonkers. Totally wrong because no research had been done. There wasn’t time; they were after me, Olly was an after-thought, maybe the last straw, but not the first priority of a council scared witless that its wrong doings were being exposed.

Since then Olly may have made himself an easier target than Bonkers because of his foul language, but that is not a crime, a judge recently said so.

The police files additionally criticise Olly for making all councillors’ addresses public knowledge but he didn’t. And if he did, who cares? They always were public knowledge. Councillors are public people, their addresses become available as soon as they put themselves up for election despite Chris Loynes admitting to destroying the electoral records after they were FOI’d. (Still with the Information Commissioner if I remember correctly.)

It was Bonkers that made councillor’s addresses easily available - but only after Bexley council’s constitutional committee ruled that putting the address of any resident on the web was legitimate. If private individual’s addresses are OK for the web, those of public figures must be even more OK.

Another thing that makes Bonkers a bigger target than Olly Cromwell, maybe only a small thing, is that it finds something bad to say about Bexley council pretty much every day - the amount of ammunition Bexley provides is unending - and Olly wrote his blog comparatively rarely. As a result the number of hits on Bonkers far exceeds You’ve Been Cromwelled. It probably does far more damage to Bexley council than ‘Cromwelled’ ever did; the statistics reveal Bonkers is regularly read in some rather important places. Olly’s language makes some people wary about visiting his blog.

Despite my scepticism on the value of raw web hit statistics it still gives a certain amount of pleasure that no other similar UK website has ever claimed more hits than I see on Bonkers and every time Bexley council does something even more silly than their last bit of idiocy the number climbs again.

 

13 December (Part 2) - A few news items

Blue Badges


The News Shopper is reporting that Bexley council is to charge £10, the maximum permitted by law, for a Blue Badge from 1st January 2012. I shall sit on the fence. I know because of my daughter’s multiple sclerosis that people with reduced mobility suffer enormous inconvenience and extra transport costs. I’ve spent two hours with her on London bound trains while she tries to arrange for ‘disabled’ transport to meet her and ends up paying £40 for a taxi because no one answers the phone. For Bexley council to penalise the disabled to the maximum they can is typical of councillors totally unwilling to entertain any cut to their allowances.

On the other hand I have seen my daughter arrange, in her capacity as a journalist and in cooperation with the police, ‘stings’ outside football grounds so that she can write about the huge numbers of people caught abusing the concessions. If the revised arrangements help in that regard it is to the good but the cost of added Blue Badge security would easily be paid for by even a token movement in the direction requested by government, of senior salary levels. So much easier to Hurt the disabled instead.


Petition against excessive salaries


The News Shopper has also covered Elwyn Bryant’s petition against the very high salaries Bexley pays its senior managers. Their reporter, Abigail Woodcock, helpfully reminds us that Lewisham pays their Chief Executive £115, 000 while Bexley pays Will Tuckley one of the highest salaries in the country; well over ’200k. Bexley council has trotted out the same excuse as it did when LBC broadcast news of the petition. The same tripe about responsibilities ranging from “child protection to refuse collection”. Refuse collection is generally good in Bexley because it isn’t directly controlled by Tuckley. Child protection is his responsibility and what do we get? Almost the worst levels of child poverty and reprimands from the Local Government Ombudsman.

Nice photo Elwyn.


Bexley Care Trust


The BBC is reporting that Bexley is one of only nine Health Trusts in the entire country to have not bothered to carry out any health checks at all. It is supposed to carry out routine checks on things like cholesterol levels and blood pressure for over 45s but Bexley has failed yet again. Councillors John Davey (Conservative - Lesnes Abbey) and Eileen Pallen (Conservative - Crayford) are both on nice little earners to mastermind this failure to look after anything but their own pockets.


The District Auditor


Camera carNow that it is out in the open that Bexley council has been operating its CCTV cars illegally we can expect a number of consequences. I wouldn’t like to be in Parking Manager Tina Brooks’ shoes. She has been busy in recent months telling councillors that they have nothing to worry about, all is well. (Please don’t ask how I know.) And now we know nothing is well at all. Notomob has already been in contact with the Audit Commission because Bexley has declared illegally obtained income to the District Auditor. You don’t really need to read Section 17 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 to guess that it’s against the law.

The Bonkers team is proud to have been instrumental in bringing the parking law expertise of Notomob to town. Bexley council’s lying to me in 2009 is and will continue to have consequences. When will they ever learn?

Photo: Bexley’s car KX04 BKR operating illegally outside the Co-op store in Long Lane this morning. (With thanks to a reader from Thamesmead.)


Obscene Blog


The Information Commissioner has told me that my complaint that the Metropolitan Police would not tell me anything at all about their obscene blog investigation, that they probably didn’t make, saying it wasn’t in the public interest has at long last reached the top of his pile and enquiries have commenced. Don’t hold your breath, the Commissioner’s enquiry into Bexley council’s refusal to respond to last May’s Subject Access Request has still not gone very far.

 

13 December (Part 1) - They don’t care

Avante Care HomeA year ago all the talk at council meetings was of cuts to services and raising charges. Since then the few figures that have found their way into print do not reveal much progress towards the planned £35m. of savings. Councillor Craske’s malign influence on the borough has dragged parking revenues in the reverse direction and damaged local trade in the process, would we expect anything less of our favourite buffoon? All the figures seen so far suggest Bexley is on course for council tax rises a few years hence, neighbouring Bromley has already admitted as much.

Back in Bexley the council prefers to mislead you. If Bexley really saved £3m. last year on recycling as it proclaims on its dust carts it would have put £3m. into its coffers that it didn’t the year before. It didn’t; costs are slowly going up. Increasing recycling is good but Bexley’s £3 million claim is not producing more money; at best it’s creative accounting, at worst it is a lie.

Last February I covered a story which I was a little unsure about because the documentary evidence was sparse, but it suggested that Bexley council had cut funding of care homes to the extent that the staff there were to have their pay cut by a third and in all probability some would choose to leave. Subsequently the whole story turned out to be true, so when the same source contacted me last week to say the same thing is happening all over again I am inclined to believe it.

The source says that Bexley council has approved another cut in funding from next April which leaves the care homes - Avante anyway, for that is the source of the information - with no option but to get rid of all their wardens. No more help for distressed elderly residents. I thought the whole point of care homes and sheltered housing schemes was to have someone on hand to provide assistance when required. However my source says that wardens will be given three months notice at the end of this month which is the sort of Christmas present you might expect from Bexley council. No cuts yet to councillor’s allowances or top management pay you will note.

Given that some residents pay their own way one must wonder if the rent they pay will be reduced (as in effect the council funded residents’ rent has been) to compensate for the loss of warden services.

One can hope that my informant who proved all too accurate a year ago is wide of the mark this time around, but with Bexley’s track record any optimism might be ill founded.

 

12 December (Part 3) - Olly Cromwell’s court appearance

A bit of a non-event in some ways but interesting nevertheless…

When Olly was last in court it was clear - in fact it was written in the police files - that he was expected to plead guilty. For things he hadn’t done? No way. But that was the prosecution’s excuse for providing no evidence. The District Judge told the prosecution that they must “particularise” Olly’s alleged offences and told them to get it done by today.

In court today was councillor and magistrate Don Massey; obviously he had to agree to stand aside. Bexley council may well be bent but for Massey to hear the case would be a bit too obvious even for them. The proposed solution was that the case should be transferred to the same District Judge who heard the case last time but in the event we never got that far today. Why? Because the prosecution owned up to the fact they had been unable to ‘particularise’ Olly’s offences, in fact the prosecutor didn’t seem to know anything about the case at all. Admitted to not having even read it at one stage. The Judge seems to have the patience of Job as she has allowed the prosecution another week to get their act together, a new date has been set for 21st December.

Olly’s barrister has put in a claim against the prosecutor for wasting his time to the tune of £600. So that’s another bill landed on the taxpayer because Bexley council wants to see bloggers in jail. Actually I think it is me they are really after, I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

 

12 December (Part 2) - It’s official. Bexley council CCTV certification IS inadequate - click image for full adjudication

Pavement parkingNotomob, the Bexley Chronicle, the News Shopper and Bonkers have been banging on about Bexley council operating its parking enforcement vehicles illegally for months. Only last week I said that we were awaiting a Notomob assisted test case; now I find that an enterprising resident has gone it alone. Lying Bexley council kept telling us that its Technical Certification File was an adequate document, everyone who had studied legal precedents knew it was a lie. What did the parking adjudicator say about Bexley’s council’s idea of what constitutes a legal certificate?

“The evidence that the recording device is approved is insufficient to such an extent that one might say that there is no such evidence at all.”

The floodgates will open now.


I have to decide whether I should rule on this point [the lack of certification] without giving the Authority a further opportunity to address it. I have concluded that I should not adjourn the matter. Whether a recording device is approved by the Secretary of State is fundamental to the validity of the PCN. The Authority has in fact provided evidence which it says shows that the device is approved. It is therefore for me to decide whether such evidence is sufficient. If the evidence is insufficient, it would not be just for me to give the Authority the opportunity to put it right, especially as both the Appellant and the witness have appeared and they must have some expectation that the matter will be concluded.

The evidence that the recording device is approved is insufficient to such an extent that one might say that there is no such evidence at all. The evidence came in a statement provided by the camera operator, who says that "the equipment used is as prescribed and in accordance with the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and the Code of Practice approved by London Councils."

Regulation 6 (a) of the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 provides that a penalty charge shall not be imposed except on the basis of a record produced by an approved device. Section 92 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 provides that an approved device means a device of a description specified in an order made by the appropriate national authority. This is a reference to the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (Approved Devices) (England) Order 2007. The London Local Authorities Act 2000 and the Code of Practice approved by London Councils have no relevance.

This means that there is no evidence to enable me to conclude that the device used was properly approved. The PCN is therefore invalid and I must allow the appeal.


Parking Manager Tina Brooks is on record as saying that Parking Adjudicators need to be educated. Looks like the boot is well and truly on the other foot. Councillor Craske is likely to be an even deeper shade of purple when I see him at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.

Note: Picture above - actual offence. Date of appeal - 7 December 2011. Adjudicator - Anthony Chan. The full adjudication is available here.

 

12 December (Part 1) - Today we may see how many more lies Bexley council can concoct against Olly Cromwell

This morning I am going to hang around Bexley Magistrates Court in the hope of picking up some information about Olly Cromwell’s pre-trial hearing which can be posted here as soon as possible.

There have been a few small developments with the obscene blog saga, the investigation of which has been on off on off and somewhere in between for several months. Chief Superintendent Stringer told me last week that his deputy was dealing with the matter after I sent him a number of ideas for further enquiries. Chief Inspector Gowen who had told all and sundry that Bexley is Bonkers was to be prosecuted sent me a welcome and totally acceptable apology and an offer to discuss the various issues further. I took the opportunity to write, constructively I hope, to explain exactly why I think Bexleyheath police have failed ignominiously in everything they have done so far and accepted the suggestion that further discussions would be a good idea. Although I have serious doubts that there is any such thing as a totally honest policeman (†) one has to cling to the hope that one might occasionally strike lucky.

Anyone particularly interested in the correspondence files should take a look at the Site map. Most of the obscure and boring stuff may be found there.

† If you think that may be an extreme view, ask yourself how many are prepared to ‘shop’ a colleague who is up to no good. I’ve been there and seen what happens to those who don’t toe the line.

 

11 December - Websites banned by Bexley council - Click image for list of banned sites

Access DeniedI don’t get as many complaints about Bonkers being unavailable at Bexley libraries as I used to, presumably it is now better known that the web address was banned by Chief Executive Will Tuckley who doesn’t like you knowing too much about his source of close to £250,000 a year. However one would-be reader was sufficiently concerned about the censorship that he asked for a list of banned sites. Not a very large number actually. If you want to find out how to build a nuclear bomb or make a suicide vest you’ll have no problem accessing the information. If you are an extreme racist then Bexley council welcomes you, but if you are a five year old with an interest in BBC Cbeebies then tough luck, you are banned. Similarly Bonkers and Olly Cromwell’s site. Bexley council cannot bear to be criticised. Hence a Harassment warning for the dastardly crime of “criticising”. Of all the trillions of websites in the world Bexley council only wishes to ban those that expose their dishonesty, incompetence and occasional criminality.

If you click the image you will see a list of all the banned sites. It could be clearer but that is because as supplied by Bexley council (†) it was unreadable, some processing was necessary to improve things. I’ve not tried all the banned URLs by any means but I found three on Page 1 of the list which led to ‘Page not found’ including Cbeebies which goes to a BBC page which directs you to another one, so like most things to do with Bexley’s web services, the list is not kept up to date. As with most web related things, restrictions are fairly easy to circumvent. Next time you are on a library computer Google for ‘banned web addresses’ and investigate web translation services. Google has one.

† A screenshot was supplied embedded within a Microsoft Word file making it unusable to anyone who didn’t own a copy of Word, and worse, the images were so small that reading the text was close to impossible. The Word file had to be disassembled to extract the original data. Why does Bexley council assume that everyone owns Word and knows how to extract embedded files at the original (and not degraded) quality?

 

10 December - How’s that for a lie?

Record buttonYou may well see Notomob members on the streets of Bexley today, they are not happy with Bexley council. Bexley’s legal responsibility is to try to reduce parking offences to zero but we all know that Bexley council is only interested in raising revenue. Why else would it hide its cars up side streets, use the wrong signs and most tellingly of all, send their tame police force to Martin Peaple’s door when he warned shoppers of a hidden car? On their own admission, Bexley council had no legal right to do that. If you think that this is going to be another blog in which Bexley council is labelled an organisation built upon dishonesty you would be absolutely right.

It is necessary to say at the outset that Notomob’s activities are entirely lawful, they do what Bexley council should be doing; persuading motorists to park legally and without penalty. It is the latter that gets right up Bexley council’s nose but there is nothing they can do about it. Notomob operates in at least six boroughs and nowhere have the police taken any action against them. Indeed there have been lots of examples of encouragement by individual officers.

Notomob has established a few facts about Bexley mobile CCTV operation. The council admits that it does not comply with the London-wide Code of Conduct on the use of mobile CCTV for parking enforcement to which it is a signatory. It falsely claims that this is an advantage to the motorist. It also admits its operation is not certificated but continues in the belief that a Technical Construction File (TCF) from the manufacturer is an acceptable substitute. In other boroughs that defence has failed and we await the test case for Bexley. Bexley council has said it wants to publish that TCF on its website but six weeks later is unable to provide any evidence that it has made any move in that direction.

Something not revealed on Bonkers before today, but recently cleared for publication by my contacts in Notomob, is that the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) has stated under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that it doesn’t even know that Bexley operates four enforcement cars, they only have information about two. When Bexley council was asked (FOI request) when it acquired its four CCTV cars it claimed it did not know except that two cars were added to the fleet by NSL after winning the contract from Vinci.

A more complex question followed…


Can you please tell me if any amendments have been made to your Technical Construction File and submitted to the VCA since 1st of May 2011? If the answer is yes, please answer the following three questions…
1) What are the amendments?
2) What was the date(s) of the amendment(s)?
3) On what date was this information as detailed in any amendments confirmed by the VCA as being fit for purpose?


Easy enough to answer you might suppose except that an honest answer might further incriminate an incompetent and thoroughly dishonest council. The answer came from Jenny How.


Your request for information has now been considered and it is not possible to meet your request. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as a Refusal Notice.

The Authority relies upon Section 14(1) which does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious. The Authority considers that the request is vexatious for the following reasons:

The request is the latest in a series of similar requests from various linked sources, (acting in concert), concerning the topic in question. In each instance the Authority has responded, in full compliance with any regulations and/or best practice guidance or protocols. Requests for similar information from known associates have already been refused in accordance with the regulations.

In addition, at the invitation of the Authority, you accompanied an associate to the Authority’s office to carry out your own supervised inspection of the information held by the Authority in respect of this and previous requests. You were advised at that point that the Authority would be seeking to publish either a redacted copy of the documents requested or a summary of said documentation in the future and that verbal discussions were ongoing with the supplier of said equipment to ensure that there were no regulatory breaches in any such disclosure, (as the Authority has already confirmed that said data is commercially sensitive in it’s original format).

During the above meeting with the Head of Traffic & Parking Services, aggressive behavior was displayed by your colleague and personal threats were made against the Head of Service which were both distressing and suggest an unreasonable fixation with an Officer of the Authority. The Authority is also aware that aggressive and attacking articles have been posted onto a forum site of which you are a known prominent member and group organiser.

The Authority also considers that this request will be used to cause disruption and annoyance as you are a known associate of a group which has publicly stated it intends to disrupt the service and has indeed taken direct action to do so by harassing Officers of both the Authority and it’s civil parking enforcement contractor on numerous occasions.

Information disclosed previously has been displayed on the above mentioned forum and other sites together with personal attacks and other inflammatory and derogatory comments, and the Council contends that there is reasonable cause to consider that such disclosure would be used in such a manner in the future.

If you have any queries or concerns then please contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny How
Service Review Officer


Now that is a very interesting reply. Forget for a moment that it is a thoroughly dishonest response by Jenny How and takes the cowardly ‘vexatious’ route so loved by our council when it has lost the argument. The subtle bit I like is the reference to parking enforcement as a “service” which Notomob has chosen to “disrupt”. If Bexley council is observing the law the only thing that Notomob could do to disrupt that would cause more motorists to be fined, which is manifestly absurd. So if Bexley council regards Notomob as disruptive it can only mean that Bexley council has knowingly and illegally set about the entrapment of motorists and doesn't wish to see their illegal activity disrupted. It’s not exactly news but it was very kind of spinning Jenny How to spell it out so clearly.

And now for the other aspects of the reply. The statements that the Notomob representatives were “aggressive” at their meeting on 28th October, the “personal threats”, the “unreasonable fixation with an officer of the authority”. Whatever is that when it is at home? Is Jenny How certifiably insane or merely misinformed by Tina Brooks the Parking Manager? Whatever the reason the FOI response is one long lie. And how do I know? The clue is in the image above.

Note: The Information Commissioner has previously ruled that the ‘vexatious’ excuse is not valid for use against an individual, however obnoxious he may be. It can only be used against repetitive questions on exactly the same point as a previous one. Notomob’s question had not been asked before. Bexley council is acting outside the law yet again to try to hide the fact it is acting outside the law.

 

9 December (Part 2) - Petition against excessive salaries

The Petitioners2,219 signatures calling for Bexley council to fall into line with government policy on senior staff salaries was handed in at the Civic Centre this afternoon. It would have been nice to report that it was graciously accepted by a ‘Listening Council’ but in practice it was taken by a council officer and in fewer than two minutes the deed was done. Permission to take photographs was refused and the one to the left was staged a moment or two later.

I see from Bexley’s parking accounts that councillor Craske claims that “many parking restrictions have been introduced in response to requests from residents. In 2010/11 over 60 requests were made for new parking restrictions, so this is a service that responds to the demands of residents”. Presumably all the other Cabinet members will take a similar progressive view to councillor Craske and respond positively to a far greater number of requests for action. Or should I be uncharacteristically cynical and point out that one provides the council with more revenue and the other might derail its gravy train?

 

9 December (Part 1) - Money in Browne envelopes

I fell out of the habit of looking through Bexley council’s list of expenditure over £500 when things got busy but now that things are a bit quieter I resumed my interest in where the money goes.

Most of the entries are meaningless, there is not enough information to do other than guess what the payment might be for and assume it is legitimate; but there are occasionally things that don’t seem to make any sense at all.

First4VauxhallWhilst the brevity of company and payment descriptions may be a recipe for confusion I cannot think of any obvious reason for a payment of £16,740 to Vauxhall dealer First4Vauxhall which isn’t going to be something to do with the purchase of a vehicle. However Education & Social Care have attributed that expenditure to “Arts”. Continuing with the transport theme, £212,243.93 went to our old friends Parsons Brinckerhoff, the beneficiaries of councillor Craske’s £4m. largesse.


Gabrielle BrowneOne thing I was surprised to see was a payment under the Long Service Awards (LSA) heading because Bexley council said that had all stopped at the beginning of the year. Personally I don’t see why council staff shouldn’t get similar benefits to those in other occupations and a token of appreciation of 25 years’ service doesn’t worry me at all, but a payment of £1,803.60 to Gabrielle Browne under the LSA heading strikes me as a bit odd. Bexley’s website says that Gabrielle Browne has been their staff counsellor since 1999 so is an unlikely candidate for a long service award. Why should awards money be passed to her? If it was a piece of internal accounting it wouldn’t be on the list at all. And what was the odd sixty pence for?

It’s much more likely than not that such oddities are down to incompetence, mismanagement and bad organisation than fraud but the examples serve to reinforce my view that publishing expenditure over £500 in the form that Bexley chooses to do so is just a token gesture towards openness and probably an almost total waste of money.

 

8 December (Part 2) - Beware. Profiteers operate in this area

Northumberland Heath Primary SchoolEver since the dubious business practices of South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service (SEAAS) were featured here back in July there have been almost daily site visits by people Googling their name and a steady trickle of emails from concerned parents pursued by this unsavoury outfit of ex-Bexley council employees. At one time it seemed likely that SEAAS would feature in the national press but that came to nothing because Bexley council absolutely refused to comment on the issue. To be fair, I doubt they liked the situation any more than parents did. Probably no one likes it apart from the company owners and those schools who see signing up to SEAAS as a nice little earner.

When I first heard about SEAAS, headmistress Mrs. Jacqui Keelan of Barrington Road Primary School had been roped into the scheme but more have joined since. I am informed that schools operated by The Woodlands Academy Trust (Northumberland Heath Primary School, Peareswood Primary School and Willow Bank Primary School) have hit upon a nice little scam by announcing that their “policy” is to prosecute both parents separately so as to double all fines and their income. I have grave doubts that this can be legal but I have not the time to find out. However what I can offer is a copy of Bexley council’s guidelines (link below) to private companies such as SEAAS which may enable their would-be victims to check their modus-operandi very carefully and perhaps retaliate with some awkward questions.

141KB PDF file available here.

 

8 December (Part 1) - Post scripts

Parking Accounts

In yesterday’s report on the creative accounting indicated by comparison of the current Parking Accounts with the previous year’s I failed to make it absolutely clear that the current Accounts are not available from Bexley council. It has published only an edited extract and refused a Freedom of Information request for the complete version. A complaint is with the Information Commissioner. Given the mess of waste and incompetence that it reveals no one will be surprised at the stance of a habitually dishonest council.

Note: No dishonesty or deception was involved in obtaining the 2010/11 Parking Accounts on which yesterday’s report was based.


Petition against excessive salaries

The first stage of submission of the 2,200 signatures to Bexley council has failed. Councillor leader Teresa O’Neill refused to accept it. Stage 2 coming soon.


Knee Hill

The road closures in Abbey Wood forecast last month have been in force for about a week. Woolwich Road is closed each evening (not all day as indicated by Bexley council’s public notice) and traffic is diverted via Knee Hill, Abbey Road and New Road. Knee Hill as I should explain to readers in Bideford and beyond is a narrow winding 1 in 10 hill unsuitable for large vehicles and avoided by all local bus routes. At 7 p.m. yesterday I found myself stuck on it behind a huge articulated lorry, a 99 bus to Woolwich and a B11 on its way to Thamesmead all of which found themselves on the same bend at the same time. The executives who head Bexley council’s ‘public realm’ department are all on six figure salaries.

 

7 December (Part 2) - Costs up, income down but profits rise. It must be magic

If you have been paying attention over the last year or so you will know that it is practically certain that councillor Peter Craske made up the numbers that he claimed justified the three fold increase in the price of Residents’ Parking Permits. We were asked to believe that organising and enforcing parking in a relatively small number of locations for just a couple of hours a day soaked up almost as much money as the borough wide 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with variations) restrictions then in force. When the council’s accounts were opened for inspection in July no one could come up with any justification for Craske’s numbers. Then to cap it all the full parking accounts for the year 2010/2011 were not made available. Certain documents have nevertheless come to light and with them some interesting figures which may not be a product of councillor Craske’s fertile imagination.

Straight away one can see that staff costs have rocketed from £460,000 to £522,000 between 2010 and 2011. That’s right, a 13·5% increase at a time when Bexley council is supposed to be cutting costs and improving efficiency. So presumably the work load has shot up? Doesn’t look like it. Income from fines is down by 1%, income from parking fees is down 21%. Income overall is down by 6·1% but Bexley council has engineered a rise in employment costs of 13% plus. Only in the public sector… Presumably I was hallucinating when I read Mike Frizoni’s very recent assurance that his department represented “true benefits to residents of the borough”

Despite the increased staff costs and reduced income Bexley council still managed to increase its surplus on its parking account compared to the previous year. Would I be cynical to suggest that costs were artificially inflated in 2010 to justify the price hikes and have now reverted to the norm? Possibly; after all the cost of the enforcement contract went up despite the promise that the new one was better for hard pressed council tax payers. Not up by much but certainly no saving.

Perhaps the surplus soared because of the massive efficiency savings achievable from a Parking Permit scheme that was costing around £240 for every permit issued. Nope! Wasn’t that either. Administration costs went from £49,000 to £58,000. Those who are forced to purchase the wretched things are bound to be grateful that the cost of producing the scrap of paper has risen by 18·4%. Frittering away so much extra money must have taken real dedication.

One of the more fanciful of councillor Craske’s figures a year ago was that it cost £36,000 a year to paint white lines around CPZ parking bays although it later transpired that none were repainted in the year in question. The accounts state that the total of such maintenance activities was £110,000 in 2009/10. £36,000 for white lining always did look like an attempt to boost costs in order to justify price hikes and very possibly it was. A year later the total cost had fallen from £110,000 to a much more believable £3,000. Does anyone believe that Bexley council has made a 97% saving? Creative accounting seems to be alive and well at Bexley Civic Offices. Probably the auditor should be asked for advice.

Another massive saving comes under the heading ‘ALG-TEC’ which drops from £102,000 a year to absolutely nothing in 2010. And what is ALG-TEC anyway? It took a bit of research because it is an organisation that disappeared back in 2006. The Association of London Government Transport and Environment Committee. It was reincarnated as the London Council’s Transport and Environment Committee (LC-TEC). It provides the Parking Appeals Service and runs the Freedom Pass scheme. Why is Bexley council still using the old name five years on? It must be more incompetence.

Very strange that Bexley council’s parking accounts included the £102,000 payment last year but this year they don’t. It doesn’t seem at all likely that LC-TEC didn’t get paid, Freedom Passes are still alive and well as far as I know, ditto air quality monitoring and the host of other things that LC-TEC funds, so most likely a similar sum will be found in another set of accounts somewhere. Perhaps parking services got lumbered last year to assist in the case for bumping up charges. There is no footnote to the accounts to explain why LC-TEC wasn't paid but then I suppose some of Bexley’s smoke and mirrors accounting would be very hard to explain.

So what is the upshot of all this? Prices are all up. Staff costs are well up. Income has plummeted yet the parking account is more healthy than ever before. More than 17% better off and pretty much all accounted for by the removal of what looked like a fiddle last year. Is the £842,000 surplus being handed back to ripped off motorists in the shape of the cheapest parking in South East London or more reasonable Parking Permit costs? No of course not. The accounts state that it is all handed over to “various Transport Strategy schemes”. That will be more obstacle courses and yellow lines then. Maybe the extra £62,000 wasted on additional staff costs is the least of Craske’s various evils.

 

7 December (Part 1) - For their next trick

On 29th November I alluded to Bexley council dodging Freedom of Information requests by referring to an intention to post the answer on their website and then failing to do so. One of the instances I had in mind involved the council’s certification (or otherwise) of their four mobile CCTV cars. Parking Manager Tina Brooks told Notomob during a meeting on 28th October that after gaining the manufacturer’s approval the Technical Construction File (TCF) would be put on line. A month later the same answer was given in response to a totally separate Freedom of Information (FOI) request and it was followed up by a further request for evidence that the manufacturer’s permission to publish what might be confidential information had been sought. Bexley council was unable to provide any.

It said their request to the manufacturer of their mobile recording equipment was made by telephone. How convenient is that? Publishing the TCF of highly specialized equipment would be a bold and controversial move likely to involve protracted negotiation and more than likely with legal implications and we are asked to believe they sought permission over the phone. Is it disingenuous, unprofessional or just another ruse to avoid answering an FOI?

 

6 December - The blog

Apologies to those who have been looking in each day recently to see what is new and drawn a blank. Two reasons; one there has not been much to say and secondly a lack of time due to other commitments. I am expecting something approaching normal service to resume tomorrow afternoon.

 

4 December - Oddments

With Bexley council’s website inexplicably down all weekend (first report to me timed at 11:42 3rd December) I cannot tell you what it may be saying about councillor Gareth Bacon’s latest recycling initiative, but it probably includes the rewards scheme introduced in Thamesmead to encourage more recycling from flats and ‘high rises’ which pose particular collection problems. Letsrecycle.com has the details but the scheme was devised by a company called Green Rewards. At Companies House, Green Rewards is reported to be in a certain amount of trouble and slated to be struck off the register. Its accounts are long overdue and director David Bacon has recently left the company. It’s a little reminiscent of councillor Craske linking Bexley council with another company with a dubious past for his Pay by Phone scheme.

My dustbins were emptied in the usual efficient manner this week and at the scheduled time despite the public sector strikes. Presumably Serco staff are above such things. However the schools did not fare so well. The day before the strike Bexley council forecast that only 28 of its 76 schools were at risk of closure but in the event 40 were shut completely and another 21 partially closed. Doesn’t say much for Bexley’s forward planning. The Bexley Times reported that councillor Chris Ball said that workers on the average wage (not much over £2,000 a month) would have to pay up to an extra £210 from that sum in increased pension contributions. Can that really be true? Did I not read that pensions contributions might go up by 3%? That’s about the same as existing pensioners are losing on their life savings through being forced to subsidise cheap mortgages for those still in work. Chris Ball appears not to believe in ‘We are all in this together’ which may explain why he and all other councillors are in favour of paying managers at Bexley council many times the average wage. The council shovels more than £3,000 into Chief Executive Will Tuckley’s pension pot every month and rather more to pay for his predecessor who retired sick but got another similar job immediately afterwards.

On 13th December Bexley council plans to publicly discuss the pay of public sector workers. Details are thin on the ground but there is no indication that the agenda will not be confined to low level workers. 2,200 signatures say that would not be a good idea.

 

2 December (Part 2) - Well done Bexley council

I received a report from a trader in Long Lane on Wednesday that Bexley council was going to backtrack on charging shopkeepers for displays on their own land outside shops but only half believed it because it appears to be common practice by London boroughs. However the rumour was true; shops with a rateable value up to £12,000 are to be exempted from the charge and for others the fee is to be halved. Both changes to be backdated to last April. Bexley’s Licensing Committee chaired by councillor Mike Slaughter approved the relief for hard pressed shop keepers. Bexley council’s announcement.

Dare we look forward to more outbreaks of good sense?

 

2 December (Part 1) - Bexley council - making life difficult again

FOI answerIf the GCHQ puzzle aimed at recruiting would-be spies has defeated you, maybe this one from Bexley council will prove easier. It is a response to a Freedom of Information request and refers the questioner to the council’s website which may well be a sensible response if provided in a form that can be clicked on, but not otherwise. This one arrived as an email attachment but with any hot-linking it may once have had disabled.

The recipient sent it to me for decoding but all attempts at cutting and pasting failed and after laboriously typing it out and checking it many times it still results in ‘Page not found’. Maybe it is the latest in Bexley council’s armoury of techniques to frustrate questioning. If anyone manages to decode the link shown in the image I would be very grateful to receive it.

An older technique is to send Microsoft Word documents which require the recipient to have spent a lot of money on software or have greater than average knowledge of Information Technology and to own a compatible piece of hardware. I acknowledge that Bexley council is far from being the only offender but, nevertheless, it’s not an open and transparent approach to democracy.

As reported a few days ago, there is a dearth of Bexley council related news at present. There are a few stories brewing, the juiciest involves deception of the Planning Committee and suppression of a government inspector’s report. Looks like a return to form by Bexley council.

P.S. This competition is now closed. Thanks to detective work by a reader the page is available by clicking here.

 

1 December - They are at it again

This evening those who have collected more than 2,000 signatories for their petition about excessive council salaries meet to discuss their next move. Meanwhile Bexley council continues with its strategy to lie about it. The petition asks the council to take “the appropriate steps to revise all Contracts of Employment of staff at Bexley Council to ensure that no individual’s salary package exceeds £100,000.00 as recommended by Eric Pickles”. Read the full text.

Bexley’s council initial response was to tell the press “The correct remuneration packages are published on the Council’s web site. The petition is inaccurate and misleading. It would not be appropriate or constitutional to discuss individual officer's pay at a public council meeting”. No one asked them to do that but it was the best excuse they could think of at the time.

Someone (not associated with Bonkers) made a Freedom of Information request (FOI) asking in what way the petition was “inaccurate and misleading”. The council replied that the example salaries are “not the amounts paid to the individuals concerned”. So presumably because the amounts shown on pay slips aren’t precisely the amounts the petitioners took from Bexley’s website the whole thing is invalidated? I think we know the figures don’t tally, the Chief Executive’s health, car, expenses packages and Returning Officer fees were all excluded to ensure the example figure wasn't exaggerated.

The other excuse Bexley council offers for condemning the petition is that it “misled residents because they had previously been informed that a petition would not be debated at a Council meeting because the Council’s Standing Orders require that the press and public be excluded for that part of the meeting in their press releases”. How’s that for rewriting history?

The petition was designed to comply with Bexley council’s stated policy on petitions. The proposal was mentioned here in June and reported to be in progress in July. Only when it was well on the way to completion and the press got hold of the story did Bexley council become involved. It said the petition asked for individual salaries to be discussed - lie one - and now - lie two - it is telling anyone who questions their press announcement that the petitioners were told it wouldn’t be accepted before they started. I know, because I was there and advocated something different, that the petitioners debated whether or not to advise Bexley council before starting but decided not to but act strictly in accordance with their published guidance notes. Bexley council is lying under FOI again.

 

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