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Bonkers Blog September 2011

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30 September (Part 2) - John Watson speaks to Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio

A transcript of the interview by Nick Ferrari of LBC with Sidcup resident John Watson, Chairman of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group,  is now available on the Home page. Bexley council is accused of talking “fatuous garbage”. Will Nick Ferrari get a Harassment letter?

 

30 September (Part 1) - Earthquake hits Bexley - Click Google image below for a more readable version (2 images)

It is fortunate that no one has ever asked what this website is here for because there could be no simple answer. There must be a dozen contributory reasons but a personal one has always been the sense of mischievous delight that comes from entering “Bexley council” into Google and seeing the words “dishonest, incompetent, vindictive” right under Bexley council’s own entry. The position occasionally bobs around for a day, Google’s algorithms are hard to fathom, but it is generally as shown below.

What has always been a mystery is why typing in “Bexley council” produced a good result but “Bexley” alone didn’t. “Bexley” was lucky to get Bonkers on to Google Page 4. But that problem is now solved, a “Bexley” search now generally puts Bonkers above Bexley NHS, Bexley Adult College, Bexley Conservatives (Google Page 7). It still bobs around a bit, today is different from yesterday, but Google now makes its contribution to Bexley council’s world-wide reputation whatever the search criterion.

Google fooled me earlier this week. It sent me an Alert to the fact that Bexley council was cutting the pay for its top executives. The council’s grant had been slashed and it needed to cut costs and was keen to set a good example to residents it said.


• Several director positions have been eliminated.
• Director salaries have been reduced in many instances.
• Staff has been reduced in the Service and Parks and Recreation departments.


But it turned out to be Bexley, Ohio.

There is another Bexley in New Zealand. It was wrecked by last September’s earthquake. I have a very distant (in genealogy terms) relative who lives there. She emails about twice a week to tell me how the town is recovering. Basically it isn’t. It has suffered after shocks and new quakes every day and no one has had a decent night’s sleep for a year. Sewer systems have been raised above house level and in one part of town almost 90% of the houses have been ear-marked for demolition. Vindictive, anti-democratic Bexley council could do with a good shake too.
Google search results

I promised something relatively frivolous for the end of the month and there it is. Normal service will resume next week with something about our mayor. Son of Twankey, Ray Sams.

 

29 September (Part 2) - Bexley residents saved £3 million by recycling. True or False? - Click image for photo gallery (1 image)

£3m. saving last yearA fortnight ago I came to the conclusion that Bexley’s proud boast that it was top London recycler was a little dubious, the position depended on it collecting more compost than other London boroughs, much more, and then recycling it all. If residents composted more of it themselves Bexley would fall from its self-proclaimed pedestal. In percentage terms Bexley is not top of the list but the abnormally high tonnage works to its advantage.

That feature two weeks ago, heavily dependent as it was on arithmetic, was condemned by some readers as “boring”; well tough luck because I am going to do it again. When Bexley’s website doesn’t even manage to divide the total refuse collected into the component parts and get them to add up to 100% the claim to be saving £3 million pounds a year on recycling definitely needs to be examined. If you don’t like numbers, come back tomorrow when you can be assured of the usual end of the month frivolity.

To counter Bexley council’s inclination to say that what is written here is “often wrong” I will remind readers that all the figures I shall use come either from Bexley council or ‘green’ websites it recommends on its own recycling web pages.

Recycling makes a lot of sense. Bexley’s contractor, Serco, pays Bexley (or at least knocks the amount off the bill) £50 a tonne for paper and cardboard, cans and plastic bottles fetch £11.74 and glass £17.54. Landfill taxes are nearly £80 a tonne, £77.04 according to Bexley council, so recycling paper saves £127 a tonne compared to landfill and other items somewhat less. Compost is the weak link; Bexley pays £49.96 to have it taken away. That's not the cost from your address, it’s just from the depot to the composter; but it’s cheaper than landfill. By multiplying the tonnage of each recyclable commodity by the difference between the sale price and the landfill tax, Bexley comes to its near £3 million pound saving.

Bexley’s website guides readers to ‘Recycle for London’ for recycling information where it tells us that the average cost of getting rid of recyclable rubbish in London is £30 a tonne less than dumping ‘green bin’ rubbish. This is a world away from Bexley’s figures and if true would reduce Bexley’s £3 million saving to around £1·25 million. But Bexley is deliberately excluding gate to depot collection costs because that produces a bigger number, Recycle for London is more honest. Whatever the figure, is it a saving at all? Bexley council admits that refuse collections from all points of view is a fairly static business. The costs creep up but the sale price of the materials and the percentage recycled stays much the same. So whether the saving is £1 million or £3 million it was much the same the year before; so it's not new money going into the bank. It is a saving compared to having done nothing for the last decade but in the accountancy sense there is no saving at all. If costs and income remain almost exactly the same year on year there cannot possibly be a saving. Bexley’s advert is a fraud. Isolating a favourable part of its refuse disposal budget and comparing it to some notional scenario that could never exist is typical Bexley economics, not unlike Craske’s determination to prove that his parking accounts are going in the right direction.

The intriguing thing about the figures is the £49.96 cost of getting rid of waste food and garden material. It’s a very useful service but it’s not long since garden compost wasn’t collected at all. You had your own compost heap and dug it into the garden if you could and burned the bigger cuttings on November 5th. Compared to doing that the compost service is costing £50 a tonne plus collection charges. I shall have to stop my Bromley friend filling my brown bin. But that £976,000 (Bexley council figures) paid to the composter, let alone the collection cost, delivers a nice bonus. It is the reason Bexley is highly placed in the league table of London boroughs’ recycling rate. Second to Harrow for compost recycling percentages and eighth for the other things. And because of Bexley’s enormous tonnage of compost collected that is enough to swing Bexley into second or first place overall. Surely Bexley council wouldn’t spend a million pounds on a service solely to provide the ego trip of claiming to be top recycler? But definitely any claim to fame is down to the hugely expensive, but admittedly convenient, composting collections.

 

29 September (Part 1) - Monitoring Man

John Watson of The Bexley Council Monitoring GroupI went to meet John Watson yesterday evening following his appearance in three  local newspapers due to his involvement with the petition against excessive salaries paid to Bexley’s top staff. Will Tuckley the Chief Executive is the 37th highest paid local government employee in the country (Source: BBC Panorama). While I was with him his phone rang and it was LBC asking if they could interview him live on air this morning. Well it seems he was squeezed out by the proposed closure of Brompton Hospital and the fact that there were only 60 adoptions in the country last year due presumably to a surfeit of red tape.

LBC apologised and said they would try to get John on tomorrow.

The call from LBC wasn't the only media related contact yesterday. Another broadcaster called in the morning to discuss the possibility of doing a programme on local government and the rejection by some councils of Eric Pickles’s advice to them. It’s unwise to count chickens in these matters and it is clear that a programme such as that suggested would take a long time to come to fruition. Speaking of which…

The Notomob feature involving Dominic Littlewood is I am told scheduled for broadcast during the first half of October - subject no doubt to the usual delays and postponements that afflict these things.

 

28 September (Part 2) - Lambasting Bexley Council

Nick Ferrari show on LBCWhen the ‘Listening To You’ council decided it didn’t want to listen to 2,000 residents who back the petition that backs the ideas of Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, their arrogance was picked up by three local newspapers. That has led to interest from further afield. Tomorrow morning one of the residents involved with the petition is scheduled to be interviewed on Nick Ferrari’s show on LBC 97·3FM. The interview is currently planned for 08:45.

I understand that Bexley council has refused to take part. The petition is still open for signature and thanks to the newspaper publicity is widely welcomed. Today a lady who thought she had been missed ran down the street to make sure her signature was included and two men signed it with reference to "those bastards" (duly qualified with more colourful language). Bexley council seems to have no idea of the level of animosity they face.

LBC is available not only on FM in the London area but DAB radio and Sky nationally and beyond. The message is spreading.

 

28 September (Part 1) - Nothing to laugh about

Councillor Peter Craske with parking managerNext week sees the first significant sign of Bexley council showing its face to the public again as the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee gets back to work on Monday 3rd October. 19:30 in the Council Chamber.

The Agenda includes Bexley council’s Parking Accounts. Probably there will be further comment here after the meeting takes place but some readers have an insatiable desire for Craske-bashing, so here are a few initial thoughts.

To mask the whole truth the Parking Account report starts off with carefully chosen words. “[Bexley] retains some of the lowest parking charges in the area” and goes on to give as proof the single nearby example that is more expensive than Bexley. Councillor Craske goes on to compare the number of penalties (PCNs) issued by Bexley with the two most punitive boroughs in London, Camden and Newham. Bexley is totally unlike either; maybe Craske should have compared us with the same borough that he used for the parking charge comparison, Greenwich, but that would show Bexley in a very bad light, so he doesn’t. It's not the usual Craske lie but it’s the next best thing.

Craske omits to tell us that both his chosen boroughs use fixed and mobile CCTV for prosecuting every driving mistake; U-turns, box-junctions etc. as well as yellow lines. Bexley currently only enforces bus stops and zig-zags from mobile CCTV. Yellow lines are not included. Craske plans to follow Camden and Newham before the year is out in order to “maximise value” of the CCTV system. Why do you think he was so keen to extend it to Bexley village and Crayford?

Bexley has the second highest level of car ownership in London, and only 24% of its 91,000 households do not have a car. 27% have two or more so the number of cars exceeds households. (Source : Bexley council’s Parking Account). Interesting statistics because councillor Craske said that in the first three days of ‘pay by phone only’ parking 180 people rushed to register and implied that was a huge success. If the momentum can be maintained and all were Bexley residents it is going to take four and a half years for the potential number of local users of ‘pay by phone’ to equal the number able to use the meters before Craske meddled with the system. If you assume two drivers per vehicle it will take almost a decade! That is not good for local business or council parking revenues. Last year’s parking revenues went in the same direction. Craske managed to engineer a fall in income of 20·8%, down from £669,000 in 2009/10 to £530,000 in 2010/11. He’s a class act and no mistake.

In the Strategy 2014 budgetary proposals councillor Craske said he wanted to raise parking and permit revenues by £378,000 over the next three years. How is he doing? The Parking Accounts show Craske made a profit of £842,000 from parking in the year to last April so he needs to be even more punitive to get it up by nearly 50%. Two years ago, the last year in which full accounting details were provided, the profit was £954,000 so Craske’s war on the motorists is proving to be counter-productive.

It gets worse. Projected profit from parking schemes was allocated to various schemes costing a total of £962,000. The money is spent but the income didn't go up; it went down and there was a shortfall. If Craske is as successful with the years to 2014 you can kiss goodbye to the much vaunted saving of £36 million. Craske has achieved nothing apart from annoying the population and driving more businesses to the brink. But his ineptitude could yet cause council tax to rise.

 

27 September - High (f)lyer

Councillor Katie PerriorThe guys who plan to distribute their Craske leaflet to all the homes in his ward think it would be a good idea to put something about councillor Katie Perrior on the back of it. They asked me if I could draft out something short and pithy but I am not convinced it is a good idea; after all, if you were forced to look at a picture of Craske on one side and Katie on the other which would you be more likely to look at? I’d be inclined not to dilute the message but since my arm is being twisted I offer this…

Councillor Katie Perrior is a successful business woman; she went from university straight into a well paid city trading job where annual bonuses are worth more than my house. Ten years ago she jumped ship to work for the Conservative’s Shadow Cabinet. From there she went into TV Production working on a number of well known programmes such as ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’.

Other TV jobs were in ITN where she soon rose to be Head of Press for Channel 4 News and Media Advisor to the Conservative Shadow Cabinet. Not content with that she set up her own company iNHouse PR. The company was an instant success being chosen by Boris Johnson to run his mayoral election campaign.

In addition to being founder and director of a top PR company Katie retains her links with TV where she appears as political pundit and newspaper reviewer for Sky. In her spare time she helps out in other London boroughs. Obviously a talented lady who has made a success of her life; so why does she find it necessary to go on public record saying…


• I could not be a councillor if I didn’t get something [a £22,615 allowance] as I would be out of pocket by thousands of pounds a year for travel, childcare, telephone costs, admin support etc.
• As a mother who works part-time and juggles family life with 20 plus hours a week of council work…
• Bexley’s residents are not rich and sadly nor am I.
• I am best placed to know exactly what residents of the borough are going through [financially].
• Councils must find a way around the law.


I expect you can guess what is coming next…

Councillors can claim for travel, childcare and everything else she lists as a cost. There is a whole department devoted to councillor support. Katie doesn’t work part-time, she runs her own business and appears on TV. It’s not most people’s idea of a part-time job. Four hours a day on top of that for council work? Are there really that number of hours in a day? And how long a gap is there between council meetings? (Sixteen weeks actually.)

Does anyone believe that with a successful career in business, politics, TV and lecturing our Katie is struggling along like the average Bexley mum on the average wage or less? She would like you to think so to excuse her extra £22k. for saying very little at council meetings.

What is it about Bexley’s Conservative councillors that makes them want to lie all the time?

Incidentally, Craske is so popular in the borough that volunteers have come forward to help distribute the leaflets and the council’s refusal to entertain the petition has boosted the number of signatures wonderfully. 2,000 is now a real possibility by the time of the next council meeting.

 

26 September - The not listening, running away, falling flat on its face council

 At last my Subject Access Request complaint to the Information Commissioner (ICO) has bubbled to the top of his pile and the ball has started rolling. My final plea to Bexley council to obey the law sent on 13th September…


Dear Mr. Grosvenor,

I am sorry to make your position even more difficult but I really need to know if Mr. Tuckley is going to allow you to answer completely in the immediate future or whether I should assume he prefers to continue going against the Data Protection Act.

As I said; are you asking for more time or should I give up on Tuckley now?
Yours sincerely,


…fell on deaf ears and is now overtaken by events.

Bexley council is keeping the ICO very busy; just one of my colleagues now has six refusals by Bexley council to answer Freedom of Information requests going through the ICO’s complaints procedure. Probably another will not be far behind, Bexley council has refused to supply a copy of its parking accounts for the last financial year, claiming it will be published for general consumption. The council used to publish its parking accounts in full but last year was forced to severely edit the published copy as it would otherwise have exposed councillor Craske’s Residents’ Parking Permit calculations for what they were. False. It will be surprising if they don’t do the same this year.

Councillor Jackie Evans Councillor June Slaughter Aileen BeckwithThe resident with the ‘derelict’ garden found herself next to her councillor in the street last Saturday and asked if she could speak to her. “No” came the reply. A “can you please make an appointment” might be acceptable but a Listening Councillor shouldn’t say “No” should it? After a moment’s thought the garden lady tried again. The councillor took to her heels, ran across the road, tripped on the kerb and spread-eagled herself on the pavement. Now that really is devotion to the cause of making life difficult for residents they are intent on persecuting.

The garden lady had to help the councillor to her feet.

None of the Sidcup councillors pictured hold ‘surgeries’ to discuss problems asking instead that residents approach them directly "as they occur". Something else about Bexley council that isn’t true then.

I am advised that this website will not be available between 03:00 and 03:30 tomorrow. No, nothing to do with Chief Superintendent Stringer, something to do with a security issue on a Cisco switch.

 

25 September - Their number’s up

Alex and Priti Priti on BBC Question TimeAs indicated yesterday, the number of website visitors falls noticeably at the weekend so it is tempting to take the day off, but on the other hand Monday is often the busiest day and it wouldn’t be fair to give all those office workers nothing to read.

I am a big cynic when it comes to ‘website hits’, I suspect that half the people who come to websites do so by accident and rapidly leave, never to be seen again. If people are spending an hour or more on Bonkers, and some do, I suspect that they have left their computer running while they go and watch TV.

Advisers on web statistics say that the average number of pages looked at by each visitor to sites in general is 1·7 and if a site scores three it is doing very well, so I am happy on that score.

What I find interesting is the words put into Search Engines that route to Bonkers. There was a big surge at the end of last week in people looking for Bexley councillor Alex Sawyer and his wife, the MP for Witham Essex, Priti Patel. I expect that is because Priti appeared on last Thursday’s BBC Question Time and I guess many visitors were disappointed because few stayed long.

Whilst on the subject of BBC TV… I regret mentioning a forthcoming Panorama a couple of weeks ago. The programme I was interested in has been deferred again and will not be on tomorrow.

Other local names frequently searched last week which resulted in much longer stays than Priti’s were Chief Superintendent Stringer of Bexleyheath police, Chris Loynes, councillor Aileen Beckwith and councillor Katie Perrior. All well into double figures of searches. What has Aileen Beckwith done to deserve that, like the majority of Bexley councillors she barely features here?

Orchard School warning letterPossibly because the schools are open again there was a large number of searches for South Eastern Attendance Advisory Service, the company featured here last July which was writing scrappy notes to parents threatening them with legal sanctions but which was displaying a false address and no land-line phone number. All the people running the company, Philip Turner, Denise Percival and Irene McClellan are Bexley council employees. Maybe not for long.

Since Barrington Road Primary School got into bed with this amateurish outfit I have noted more schools joining in so some incentive must be given. Money is bound to be involved somewhere. Among the new converts are Belmont School, Erith. Welling School, which issued eight pages of rules for parents, and Orchard Primary School, Sidcup.

Possibly more reliable than website hits as a guide to ‘popularity’ are emailed comments. There have been two in the last two days complimenting the owner of the garden which Bexley council called derelict for creating such an attractive scene. Not so good were two comments independently passed on to me saying they don’t like the site because it is so dreadfully rude. I’m hoping that they are confusing Bonkers with Olly Cromwell’s site. It is currently off air because the police who don’t seem to care about Bexley council being involved with obscene on-line remarks about residents fly into action when they are on the end of some truthful, but perhaps tasteless, remarks about one of their own. Never forget, “We are all in this together”.

 

24 September - Foot soldiers have Craske in their sights

It’s the weekend which means that the number of readers falls by 30% and sometimes more which is an excuse for not saying much. Most readers reach the blog via the Home page so they will already have seen that it changed yesterday evening. Gone is the timeline of Bexleyheath police’s failure to make any progress on cracking the great obscene blog mystery and is replaced by the track record in office of your friend and mine, councillor Peter Craske.

My friends who have been walking the streets getting signatures for their petition seem to enjoy it so much that they are just about to embark on a new venture. Delivering a version of this site’s new front page to every address in Peter Craske’s Blackfen & Lamorbey ward. (Actually they had the idea first; I pinched it for the Home page.) They are still working on the final design but currently it looks something like this. I thought it was a little premature as there isn’t going to be an election until 2014 but they told me they are going to do it again later and that as she is in the same ward, they have councillor Katie Perrior in their sights too. I suspect they will give her a little boost on the reverse of their Craske leaflet.

 

23 September (Part 2) - Gardeners’ World - Click any image for photo gallery (5 images)

The not so derelict garden The not so derelict garden The not so derelict gardenYesterday afternoon I returned to the allegedly derelict garden to hear what Bexley council had to say about it. I arrived early enough to stand on the shed roof to see if I could see the complaining neighbour’s house from nearly six feet above the surface I had photographed the day before. It was totally obscured by trees.

I strolled around taking photographs thinking it was a fairy grotto rather than a traditional garden and began to like it. How anyone could consider it derelict beats me. While there I learned about the surveyor’s report which confirms that a fence has strayed towards the victim’s side just as I suspected on my first visit. I asked the owner how long ago it was his neighbour artificially raised the height of his garden by installing decking eighteen inches above the original surface. He replied “soon after he moved in three years ago”. So he bought the house in the full knowledge that the house next door had a non-traditional garden adorned with pots and old kettles for robins’ nests and now he doesn’t like it. Unbelievable.

The council officials turned up on time. A John Waring from Bexley’s Environmental Health Department, a lady from the Housing Department who did nothing but take photographs and the council’s solicitor, Guy Atkins, who said very little. Mr. Waring did the talking. He took the line that the garden would not now be considered “derelict” as it was tidier than when he first saw it in April but he refused to accept that it was already much tidier when he saw it seven weeks ago and took the ‘derelict’ decision. Photographs show it was. He is now going to pursue his victims for “loss of local amenity”.

Presumably keen to find something wrong with the garden at all costs he plans to come back when the leaves have fallen from the trees which currently obscure the view from the complaining neighbour’s house. There is therefore a stay of execution but my view is that Bexley council is intent on taking some sort of action if they possibly can. Meanwhile the householders’ stress, aggravation and lawyer’s bills continue, with Bexley council said to be providing more of the stress than the complaining neighbour.

 

23 September (Part 1) - The absolutely not listening council. (Working to line their own pockets) - Click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Petitioners at Bexley Civic OfficesI was spoilt for choice yesterday. Photographing Bexley council inspecting someone’s back garden or taking photos of the petitioners outside the Civic Offices where a News Shopper reporter had asked to meet them. I chose the former and will provide an update later today. Meanwhile both the News Shopper and the Bexley Times has splashed the petitioners’ activities all over their websites. They are on the This is London site too.

The petition was the brainchild of Elwyn Bryant, the man who arranged the inspection of Bexley council’s Register of Members’ Interests with the Head of Members’ Services, Chris Loynes, and hours later found himself (and me) libelled on Google blogspot.

Elwyn’s petition was “We appeal to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Teresa O’Neill, to support her Government and do the right thing by urgently taking 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, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government.”

A couple of days ago a journalist asked Bexley council to comment and was told that there was no way the council would entertain a petition claiming it offended against their standing orders. Elwyn is well versed in Bexley council’s slippery ways and knew it was inevitable that Bexley council would reject the petition. Councillor Sybil Camsey (Brampton ward) had already jumped the gun by saying it was “not worth the paper it is written on” and “no one will take any notice” and that “I don’t care”. That Bexley council doesn’t care is not news. One, two or three thousand signatures will never be enough to derail their gravy train. That is well known; the game with Bexley council is to watch them make another ill-considered anti-democratic reputation damaging excuse. And they never let us down.

This time they jumped straight in and said they cannot discuss individual salaries. No one asked them to. What people want to hear is an adult discussion about Bexley’s defiance of government policy.

Bexley council claims the example salaries provided to signatories are inaccurate. Presumably they have forgotten it was the council that provided the numbers or just maybe they are lying again. They also told the press that the petition is “misleading”. In what way they fail to say but it cannot be as misleading as claiming the cheapest parking in SE London when it is dearer than any of its neighbours. They also claim to be “transparent”. So voting to defy every one of the Secretary of State’s recommendations on open government is transparent? Only in Teresa O’Neill’s dream world.

 

22 September - Don’t dare to be different, Bexley council might sue you - Click any image for photo gallery (13 images)

Sheds Decaying garage door Decking Rear fence

Today Bexley council intends to decide if a Section 215 Untidy Sites Act Notice should be issued to compel a resident to clear some less than expertly built garden structures because of complaints from a neighbour. The photographs taken yesterday show rubbish stored on the roof of two dilapidated sheds, a badly rotted garage door that provides a ready access for rodents and has not seen a paint brush for many a long year and decking to provide shelter for any wildlife that requires it. There is no lawn to speak of, just odd clumps of grass and a rear fence on to a railway line that is not in a particularly good state and hides oddments of garden rubbish that have found their way over it. None of it is what a keen gardener or house proud resident would want to see. But that description and the photographs are not the subject of Bexley council’s attentions, what you see here is the less than award winning rear garden of the complainant to Bexley council, their victim’s neighbour.


Example of derelict gardenThe victims are a married couple and their garden is not the traditional lawn and flowerbeds but is described by a local beekeeper and conservationist as “a model bee garden” and “of great benefit to wildlife in general and bees and butterflies in particular”. It also includes some old sheds and fruit cages which are similar in appearance to those on nearby allotments and secluded from view by many trees. It’s not at all like most gardens but I can see a certain amount of charm and quaintness in it (see photo gallery) but much more importantly the owners love it and regard it as their hobby and outlet for self-expression. It is certainly not ‘derelict’ as defined and illustrated (see example left) in the Section 215 legislation and guidance to councils; so why might Bexley council champion the owner of a neglected garden against another who spends a lot of time on theirs?

One reason could be is that the lady of the house has long been a thorn in Bexley council’s side. She writes letters about them to newspapers and is not reticent when it comes to reporting them to the Local Government Ombudsman. Another thought that worries the lady is that she claims to have been set upon by her neighbour with a large builder’s spirit level, knocked to the ground and held there, following which Bexley council’s friends in the police did not cover themselves in glory.

Her intention that day was to retrieve articles allegedly removed from her outbuildings without permission but one of her complaining neighbours video’d proceedings.

The victims reported the neighbour to the police and when they eventually arrived they arrested the wife, made door-to-door enquiries and then charged her; the neighbour later offering video evidence that the petite lady had assaulted him. The case against her collapsed when the Crown Prosecution Service saw the video evidence; it showed no assault. The police have sent a letter of apology for their conduct, from Borough Commander Stringer no less. The lady victim fears that having crossed Bexley council’s uniformed wing there will be retribution.

The preceding paragraph has been confirmed by the lady’s legal adviser and documentation. Why the police took no action over the neighbour’s allegation of assault which proved groundless remains a mystery. Bexleyheath police doesn’t pursue those they see as their friends. Now the lady fears that Bexley council is intent on descending on her mob handed to serve an enforcement notice.

The victims say that the complaining neighbour has been steadily encroaching on their land by levering over or otherwise moving the fence. Within the past week tensioned strings have been tied to trees which have the effect of pulling the fence in the desired direction and another string stretched between the house and the victim’s side of the fence post at the rear of the garden shows the fence to be noticeably curved towards the victims’ garden. The photo gallery attempts to illustrate the effect.

A further complaint is that the ‘eyesore’ of the garden structures can be seen from nearby house windows. I climbed on to the roof of one of them to see if this could be true and found it wasn’t. See photo gallery. I also twice rode on the train that passes by on an embankment at the end of the garden to see if it stood out in any way. It did not, it was barely visible and not the worst sight among nearby rear gardens.

Front of houseTo my mind the garden is not derelict, it is looked after constantly; so how can it be derelict? It is possibly eccentric and won’t appeal to everyone, but why should it? It’s not easily seen from outside so why should anyone else be interested? The victims are convinced there is a connection with those constantly critical letters in the local press.

Something else Bexley council seems unwilling to take into consideration is the victim’s diagnosed Asperger Syndrome; for that of course no help is forthcoming from Bexley council. Another indication of Bexley council’s perversity is that they have granted planning permission for a traditional brick built extension to their victims’ house. Negotiations are going on with a builder now. For that the second-hand outbuildings closest to the existing house are coming down anyway. Why can’t Bexley council wait? Why does it take sides with those who assault ladies old enough to have a free bus pass? Maybe after today’s visit we will know a little more.

 

21 September - Bexley News

Lesnes ward councillorsI suspect most Bexley households will be getting one of these; tailored to their particular ward. It is Bexley News, subtitled, ‘News from your Bexley Conservatives’. It’s a propaganda sheet but unlike the one issued by Greenwich council, you are not forced to pay for it and it doesn’t attempt to usurp the position of the local press as does Greenwich Time.

Not everything in Bexley News is untruthful, but being issued by Bexley Conservatives, some of it is. They quite rightly remind us that under Labour, Bexley’s council tax went up by a staggering 40% but if that was such a bad and wasteful thing to do (I’m inclined to think it was) why was there no equivalent reduction under the Tories to bring us back to the old trend line? The Conservatives are still collecting all that extra cash and spending it on something. It can’t all be going on pay for the top brass, like the technical adjustment to the Chief Executive’s salary that saw it go up by £36,000 in one year authorised by the leader of the council. Oh, to have friends like that!

Perhaps Bexley’s Tories believe their own propaganda because Bexley News repeats the li(n)e that Bexley has “one of the lowest council tax rates per household in Outer London”. We haven't, unless you count being in the bottom half qualifies. Bexley Tories then compound the misinformation by claiming that they froze council tax rates for two years in a row. That may have been their aspiration but it is not what happened. They take us for fools with memory loss problems.

In a Conservative propaganda sheet it is probably mandatory to lie about the opposition party. "There were gasps from the public attending the March budget meeting when Labour councillors voted AGAINST freezing council tax. The packed public gallery watched as, one by one, Labour councillors stood up to condemn the freeze before voting against it”. No they didn't, that is an outright lie. Protest groups tend to be left-leaning and inclined to back Labour and not jeer them and the night in question was no exception. There were no gasps from the gallery and rightly or wrongly the public protest was directed at Conservative councillors voting to deprive vulnerable children and adults of day care. I was there, I saw it, and I would have reported any ‘gasps’. I did however report sporadic outbreaks of jeering but they all came from Conservative councillors in pathetic schoolboy mode. One of them yelled out “tosser”.

Bexley’s Conservatives accuse Labour of “complete contempt for Bexley taxpayers” but surely lying over and over again to Bexley taxpayers is doing exactly that? Lying Bexley Conservatives just can’t help themselves.

Last time I said that I was told Bexley council is claiming that this site is Labour party inspired. If Bexley Conservatives look up their old records they will see that I used to be a member of their party. I turned against them when they lied to me a couple of years ago and I’ve never had to look far to find more examples.

 

20 September - Perks of the job - Click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Gestapo wagonPity the poor salesman, deliveryman, meter reader etc. who needs to get around Bexley trying to find a place to park near to where he needs to go. He must waste several hours every week. How nice it would be for them if they could just apply to the council for an exemption certificate which would allow stopping on a yellow line any time they liked. Well I have news for them, they can. However the snag is that applicants must work for Bexley council. One rule for them…

It’s amazing what you can pick up from speaking to a council employee. The one that gave me that little snippet of information told me that Bexley council’s standard response if the subject of this website should crop up is first to express ignorance of it and if that fails to say that almost everything you read here is wrong. Some things are of course wrong. The various reports about the unnecessary outing to the Flackley Ash Hotel were wrong because Bexley council didn’t tell the truth which initially fooled lots lots people and the local press. Why Bexley council prefers to muddy the waters rather than come out with the whole truth in simple matters like a beano to a seaside hotel remains one of life’s mysteries. Presumably if they allow even the smallest chink in their suit of armour it will expose it as a can of worms, if you will excuse the metallic metaphor.

 

19 September (Part 2) - Police action

Maybe you didn’t notice but Olly Cromwell blogged about Bexleyheath police last week and it was pretty strong stuff. Every last word was true but it was dressed up in his usual boisterous style. I think you know what I mean. The police don’t seem to like it and he has been told he must remove it. I have no idea what legal basis they may have to do that but it is easier to move the site to an overseas server than argue. It is striking how Bexleyheath police can swing into action immediately they are the subject of a ‘scurrilous blog’ but are very slow to move when it is officialdom making obscene comments about the public they are supposed to protect from such things.

Maybe that is a bit unfair. I received a letter from Bexleyheath police today and to be honest I can’t make head nor tail of it. It seems to face both ways. Are they investigating how Bexley council allowed their own bit of obscenity to go on-line or have they given up? Your guess is as good as mine.

If you visit this blog via the site’s Home page you will have noticed that Olly isn’t the only one critical of Bexleyheath police’s new Borough Commander but I have merely listed the events and left it for the reader to make up his own mind. With luck my webserver won’t have to go overseas just yet.

Other local websites including Olly’s are linked from the ‘Local links’ page

 

19 September (Part 1) - Site maintenance

This website has been through 48 hours of maintenance. Well more than that really, every page now works in a different fashion which should make it easier to maintain and massively reduces the space it takes up on the webserver. The eagle-eyed may spot that the file extensions have moved from htm to shtml which has the potential to break everyone’s bookmarks and all the links from other sites including search engines. With luck some server code has fixed that but anyone using the site at the time of the changeover will have been left high and dry. If all proves well on the live site normal service will be resumed later today.

It is the website’s second birthday, so it deserved some loving attention.

 

17 September - Newsreel

Council inspired obscene blog


After some complaining the police have now accepted a Freedom of Information request about the apparent failure to investigate the hate crime committed by Bexley council or one of its associates. Chief Superintendent Stringer of Bexleyheath police has not acknowledged an enquiry addressed to him two weeks ago.


BBC Panorama


The BBC Panorama programme which will not flatter the British National Party that was referred to last weekend has been postponed for a week and is now scheduled for transmission on 26th September.


Public consultation on the new Civic Centre


There is only a week left to have your say on redevelopment of the Civic Offices and Woolwich Building Society sites but it may not be a good idea to use the computer dedicated to that purpose at the Townley Road library. It is supposed to access the Survey Monkey website but Survey Monkey not unreasonably kicks out all attempts to participate from the library computer on the grounds that it is a duplicate request from the same IP address. The council’s website allows access via ’Related Links Feedback’ on the right hand side of its page, and that may be a better bet, although at ten o’clock this morning it was refusing to let me in. Maybe that is because I have used it before but that is not what it was telling me. Good luck if you try.


Rubbish Statistics


Bexley council’s website currently shows how the refuse it collects divides into the different components. 28·09% is made up of paper, glass, tins and plastic and 22·66% is kitchen and garden waste, which is the basis for its 50·7% recycled claim. The other half goes to landfill (42·24%) and 9·45% is (burned at the Belvedere incinerator presumably) used to generate electricity. Don’t bother to add the figures up, you were right first time; they exceed 100%.

The latest available official figures on recycling show that Bexley is second best in London for compost recycling and eighth best (ninth if you count the City of London) for paper, tins, plastic and glass. (See complete table.) So how come they keep claiming to be best? More figures that don’t add up perhaps?


Petition against excessive salaries


Door knocking recommenced this week after a break for holidays and the success rate is still exceeding 96%. Nobody likes Bexley council. If the resources were available 100,000 signatures would be achievable not just the target 2,000.

 

16 September - Rubbish statistics - Click image for extended blog (1 image)

Council posterWhen leader Teresa O’Neill told us she had given Bexley one of the lowest council tax rates in Outer London it wasn’t true. We are 24th worst on a list of 32 London boroughs. When Bexley council restricted questions at meetings and claimed to be still among the most welcoming it was totally without foundation, by any reasonable measure we are not even in the top 50%. If councillor Craske says anything at all it’s odds on it’s a lie and when he claims his parking charges are cheapest in South East London and all three surrounding towns are cheaper we fear for his sanity, but fortunately there is one area of activity where Bexley council really shines. It is indisputably, undeniably, absolutely, unambiguously London’s top borough for recycling. Everybody says so, so it must be true.

But beneath the surface the statistics are not so clear cut, we are far from being worst, but if we are top dog there is an element of statistical fluke about it.

Harrow is the top recycler of compost and Kingston, Bromley, Hillingdon, Sutton, Kensington and Chelsea, Harrow and Richmond all beat Bexley at ‘dry waste’ - paper, tins, plastic and glass. Bexley wobbles around the first and second place because it generates far more waste per capita than other boroughs (30th worst out of 32) which is nothing to be proud of. Bexley tops no single recycling category but because of the way things are calculated it benefits from being 30th worst in terms of the total rubbish produced. The arithmetic is perverse. If you need more detail click the image or here.

 

15 September (Part 3) - Bexley’s Tories. Lying again - Click image for photo gallery (2 images)

Cllr. Malik encourages the County Gate petitionersBack in June councillor Peter Craske blamed the lamentable state of traffic affairs in County Gate at the borough’s Greenwich boundary on that authority and claimed their behaviour was “disgraceful”. Having been made to look rather useless by the follow up report and correspondence in the News Shopper, Bexley’s Tory council has had to concoct an excuse, and what better than to blame the situation on Bexley’s Labour party. Have I missed something? Has Labour been in power since 2006? Do Labour represent the people of County Gate now?

If you believe what you read on the Bexley Conservatives’ website the County Gate fiasco is all Labour’s fault. “The Labour Party in both Bexley and Greenwich needs to explain to residents of County Gate… Labour Party representatives in Greenwich AND Bexley must write to people in County Gate, setting out, in detail, the political reasons why they continue to block this scheme. What are they hiding?”

How’s that for a distortion of the truth? What hypocrisy for an obsessively secretive council to accuse the opposition of hiding things.

At that June meeting it was Labour councillor Munir Malik who introduced the leader of the County Gate residents to the council and it was a Conservative chairman who slapped him down and refused permission for her to speak. At the next meeting in July it was councillor Malik who supported the County Gate petitioners. Is that not Labour councillors Malik and Newman conversing with the petitioners in the photo? Do you see any Conservatives giving their support. No; and there were none.

What is it about Bexley’s Conservatives that make them lie at every opportunity? How can councillor Gareth Bacon, a Greater London Assembly member, be so stupid as to allow his name to be associated with such blatant distortions? Doesn’t the governing Tory party in Bexley have anything at all that they can put on their website that they have achieved and for which everyone would applaud them? It seems not. Lying is the only thing they are good at.

 

15 September (Part 2) - Bexley council. Still intent on law dodging

Information Commissioner's logoSubject Access Requests are supposed to be a quick and easy way of extracting information from organisations that hold data on us. When the object of the exercise is to get an organisation harbouring a criminal to release information the reality can be rather different.

I allowed Bexley council another fifteen days beyond the legally imposed response time before reporting them to the Information Commissioner on 29th July. On 7th September Bexley council wrote to me with what they thought was an answer. The letter was pretty much identical to their answer to an FOI request (by somebody else) asking who had reported me to the police last April for being critical of Bexley council. There was absolutely no information about what else they may have been writing about me. Nothing about the obscene blog they allowed to be set up. Since then the correspondence with Bexley council has been…


8 September 2011

Dear Mr. Grosvenor,

You appear to have confused my Subject Access Request with Freedom of Information Request 11/337. The response is close to identical but SARs and FOIs are not the same thing.

I accept that I gave permission to exclude mundane areas of little interest such as council tax payments or failure to empty refuse bins but you appear to have excluded everything except for Mr. Tuckley's ill-judged trip to Bexleyheath police station.

At the very minimum I require to see copies of all the correspondence by staff and councillors relating to me and my website. For example I know that the IT department blocked access from council computers in mid-April 2011 because a councillor wrote to someone about it and the mail found its way to me. I know that the IT department later blocked access to my website from libraries because numerous people have tried and failed to get it from a library. All this must have been in response to written instructions.

It is also well known that by arrangement with Mr. Chris Loynes I visited the council's offices on 20 May 2011 which must have been logged by him and within a couple of (working) hours of that visit it had been recorded in scurrilous terms on the website http://malcolmknight.blogspot.com in contravention of Google's terms and conditions on impersonation. If Mr. Loynes did not do it himself he must have told someone else who did. There will be correspondence. Similarly there will be correspondence on the day Mr. Tuckley received my complaint about my arrangement with Mr. Chris Loynes being made public.

Within the period in question I have received email from a fairly senior council official and a councillor both from a bexley.gov email address. Unless you find at least the councillor's correspondence I will know you have not looked for any.

Do you wish me to give you a little more time or would you prefer I report the latest failure to the Information Commissioner without further delay?

Yours sincerely,

9 September 2011

Dear Mr. Knight,

Thank you for your email and feedback yesterday regarding the response made by the London Borough of Bexley to your Subject Access request, reference 11/504.

Yours sincerely,

John Grosvenor

13 September 2011

Dear Mr. Grosvenor,

I am sorry to make your position even more difficult but I really need to know if Mr. Tuckley is going to allow you to answer completely in the immediate future or whether I should assume he prefers to continue going against the Data Protection Act.

As I said; are you asking for more time or should I give up on Tuckley now?

Yours sincerely


No response to that so I rang the Information Commissioner’s office this morning and very helpful they were too. The case has still not reached the vital stages but they were keen that I should send them copies of the latest exchanges.

I find it hard to understand the mentality of people such as Tuckley and Teresa O’Neill who apparently prefer to let the one man who would definitely know of my visit to the council offices and be able to blog about it be the lone subject of suspicion, rather than come clean and behave in an honest fashion for a change. Mr. Grosvenor it must be emphasised is merely caught in the middle and should not be blamed in any way for Bexley council’s dishonesty, those who have spoken to him have reported very favourably.

 

15 August (Part 1) - An open and honest council - Click the YouTube button to see the video full-size

No of course it is not Bexley but anyone who has lost faith in councils because of the vindictive and criminal antics employed locally may care to watch the first ten or so minutes of this video. It is of Richmond council in session, something which you cannot see in Bexley because Bexley council voted against implementing the Secretary of State’s guidance. It also has some illuminating comments on how to keep both motorists and traders happy with a number of sensible initiatives - none of which have been applied by Bexley council which only knows how to wage war on motorists.

The Nigel Wise praised by Councillor Lord True, the leader of Richmond council, is the same Nigel Wise who was quoted here two days ago. The same Nigel Wise who wrote to councillor Craske and Greg Tippett his parking manager and was rewarded only with various refusals to engage with him. As always Bexley council has something to hide which prevents them from answering enquiries. I was informed by NoToMob earlier this week that there is every reason to believe that Bexley council is operating its camera cars with defective certification, the same failure to observe the law that led to Richmond council’s problems.

 

14 September (Part 2) - His number’s up

You don’t need to be a Detective Inspector to work out that I am disillusioned with Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer of Bexleyheath police. You would think a new broom might want to sweep clean but all the evidence is that when he finds dirt in a murky corner of Bexley, under the carpet it goes. His ’Police Biography’ says he came here from Croydon. We seem to have a habit of taking their cast offs. Will Tuckley, Tomris Ibrahim… who else grew up together and got matey in Croydon? I have more than once heard Borough Commander Stringer proclaiming that the crime rate in Bexley is low by London standards, and the police and Bexley council like to take credit for that. I’ve been looking into some crime stats for myself, and this is what I found for the period since 2008…


• Street robberies up 41 per cent.
• Robberies up as much as 46 per cent.
• Antisocial behaviour up 11 per cent in a year.
• Violent offences up 12 per cent.


Sounds nasty! Oh, didn't I say? Those figures aren’t Bexley’s thank goodness, they are Croydon’s in the time Chief Inspector Dave Stringer was there (as Superintendent) until  the end of last year. Source : Croydon Today.

Under his Bexley command hate crime seems to have taken a significant turn for the worse already and there is no sign that he has shown any interest.

 

14 September (Part 1) - Bexley council. Mad as a paint brush

Disabled parking bay erased Disabled parking bay Disabled parking bayYesterday I was looking for examples of clearly marked parking bays but all I got was a couple of particularly confusing ones. From the south of the borough came pictures of an unwanted ‘Disabled Bay’ within a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) which has been replaced by a yellow line. The sensible thing would have been to erase the ‘Disabled’ marking from the road, remove the pole and sign that stood by it, all of which has been done, and allow the space to revert to one for general use by those who pay £100 a year for Residents’ Permits. But no; in goes a single yellow line with no indication of what restrictions apply so no one knows what to do.

From the north comes something close to a mirror image of that situation. There used to be a line of Residents’ Parking bays here but after some road works obliterated the lot they were replaced but the one at the end was never marked out. So again no one knows what to do. There are no signs to indicate parking is not allowed but no one can afford to take the risk.


Silly bus stopWhile on the subject of crazy road markings in Bexley, I rather like this one. The bus stop bay is long enough to be Heathrow’s third runway - it extends to the car in the background - but the bus stop pole itself lies outside it. A rare case of it being entirely legal to park at a Bexley bus stop.

 

13 September - Huge whoppers. It’s not Smart

Hidden gestapo wagonAfter getting themselves on TV yesterday Bexley council issued a statement which may be read in full on Channel 5’s website. It includes…


Every year we issue fewer parking tickets than the year before and we issue the fourth lowest number of tickets in London. Last year, parking enforcement made no surplus for the Council. The MICE cars have been really effective at ending dangerous parking around schools. The cars have huge signs written on them which say they are carrying out enforcement, they have huge cameras on the roof, and the operators put up camera signs on the highway telling people enforcement is being carried out so it is clear what the cars are doing. We are completely open about this issue - we publish an annual report on parking enforcement which sets out in detail the number of tickets issued, and the reasons why.


According to an official local government statement issued only a few days ago, “Slow economic growth has resulted in less traffic on the roads, easing the pressure on parking spaces which has meant less illegal parking. These tough economic times may mean that drivers decide they cannot afford to risk incurring a penalty charge notice the number of fines is reducing”. Not quite what Bexley claims is it? The same site (via a link at the bottom of their page) says that four boroughs issued fewer penalties than Bexley, not three, which is nit-picking I know, but the real reason for the lowly position is that Bexley is one of the few London boroughs that doesn’t issue penalties for moving traffic offences. That is something that councillor Craske intends to rectify very soon. The reason which he blatantly gave in the cuts document (Strategy 2014) is that it would allow him to get better value for money from the CCTV systems - mobile and fixed. If putting such a statement in a budgetary paper is not an admission that he is doing it to raise money I do not know what is.

Bexley council claims that it makes no money out of parking enforcement, but we know from inspecting their accounts that many of their figures are guessed. £36,000 a year on painting white lines just in Controlled Parking Zones! Show me one that is not in a bad state and I’ll come out and photograph it. “The cars have huge signs on them with huge cameras on them.” I’m not sure how a Smart car can have anything huge about it but when they hide them up side streets it’s all a bit academic. They are effectively not on show at all. Bexley’s annual report on parking used to give all the required detail but when they started making up numbers to justify the price tripling of Residents’ Parking Permits the format had to change to mask their skullduggery. As for the signs they put up; I’ll let Nigel Wise who forced Richmond’s cameras off the road with his thorough knowledge of parking law, have his say…


Legal parking signThere is a very important issue that should be highlighted. Bexley affix signs to lamp posts where they are conducting CCTV enforcement. These signs are put up by the drivers of the Mobile Enforcement Vehicles when they stop at locations. They then remove them when they leave.

The signs that are displayed are not compliant for CCTV Enforcement of Static Parking. They are simply TSRGD 2002 signs to Diagram 879. These signs can only lawfully be used for Moving Traffic Enforcement. They have no function for Static Parking Enforcement.

Furthermore the signs used are simply repeater signs that can only be used after a primary sign to diagram 878 that also states “Traffic Enforcement”. Traffic is not Parking. These signs without the primary signs before them are unlawfully placed on the highway.

The only signs that can be lawfully used for Parking Enforcement by CCTV are signs approved by The Information Commissioners Office. These signs are used by Westminster Council and I enclose an example. This means that Bexley Council are operating their Mobile Enforcement vehicles illegally.


Bexley’s sign is of the central camera logo only - often upside down. No words to explain what is going on. Confusion makes money!


The photograph of a gestapo wagon hiding in a side street while spying on a bus stop and a dropped kerb is by Martin Peaple, the man who Bexley council thought was such a danger to their cash cow that they sent in their friends from Bexleyheath police. Martin had committed no offence. Incidentally, the term ‘MICE car’ is a Bexley invention and is peculiar to this peculiar borough.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that the Channel 5 programme was not about Bexley council, but C5 asked NoToMob for some photos and video to illustrate their report. NoToMob submitted some and C5 chose a photo of Bexley’s car which was seen only briefly. Pure chance, it could so easily have been another council’s. If Bexley council had not responded with their standard set of excuses, I doubt anyone would have associated the piece with them. Now they are on Channel 5’s website - and here too! Well done Bexley council; another own goal.

 

12 September (Part 2) - Bexley on the box

For those with better things to do than watch morning TV, this morning’s Channel 5 Show is available on line for the next seven days and the parking section starts at 15 minutes in and Bexley and NoToMob starting at 19 minutes. To be honest it is barely worth the effort. Let’s hope the BBC do better.

 

12 September (Part 1) - Going round in circles

Map of Bexleyheath
The map above is how I believe Bexleyheath town centre’s road layout will look after the new Tesco store is built. The difference between then and now is that North/South traffic will no longer be able to go via Highland Road but will be forced to take the detour via Gravel Hill. The impact of that on traffic to and from the 2,000 pupil school in Woolwich Road when it meets Tesco’s customers in Broadway and Albion Road should be interesting. There are already seven sets of traffic lights over that short distance.

Tesco customers are to be presented with two ways into and out of their car park. I pity those who have come from Bexley village and take the exit to Broadway, there is no way back for them without circumnavigating the town. Customers from Welling who use the Albion Road exit will have quite a problem too. I suppose they will eventually learn the hard way but if you need to exit town via Townley Road there is no simple answer. Bexley council never could design a decent road layout, if it could this site wouldn’t exist. Does Andrew Bashford still work at Bexley council?

By the time all this happens the council will have dragged all its staff in from outlying offices to work in the refurbished Woolwich building at the eastern end of Broadway. There surely will be a lot more congestion there than there is now.

 

11 September (Part 2) - It’s not what you know…

SE London Chamber of Commerce logoI went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting a little while ago, just out of curiosity to see what the inside of the Thames Innovation Centre was like. The people there were all keen to do business with Bexley council but it is not easy to get a foot in the door. The rules and regulations make life difficult for small businesses, Bexley council makes them jump through many hoops. I’m not saying that is wrong, they have their reasons but because of them small businesses aren’t very likely to land jobs in the up to £35,000 range. Above that it’s the big league of public advertising and tendering, so even less chance. It doesn’t help that Bexley council only spends 10% of its budget within the borough. So local business has a hard time even though I saw no evidence that Bexley council’s procurement departments were going out of their way to be difficult. On the other hand Bexley doesn’t insist that when it seeks quotations one must come from within the borough as it was claimed Lewisham does.

Did you know that the founder of the firm Capita which is contracted to Bexley council for tax collection was a Mr. Rod Aldridge? (Bear with me; there is a Capita link to the subject of contracts being hard to come by, or should that be easy to come by?) When he left Capita in 2006, he set up The Aldridge Foundation, and who works there, none other than councillor Peter Craske. Nothing whatsoever wrong with that of course.

Hidden away among the refreshment bills for June was one labelled ‘Miscellaneous Expenditure’ and paid to a company called The Adding Value Maths Consultancy Ltd. Something to do with education then, although Bexley council itself could do with a bit of help now and again when it comes to figures. The sum involved was a nice round £3,500.

Companies House records show the company has been registered for a whole seven and a bit months and further probing reveals that it really got under way only in March this year when Tomris Ibrahim (it’s female. You should have known that!) took over as director. Until then she had worked for Capita for five years and Croydon council for the five years before that. Guess who was the big cheese there at the same time, no other than our very own Will Tuckley.

Given how the Chamber of Commerce were struggling to get any work out of Bexley council at all and it was all taking far too much time anyway, I think Mrs. Ibrahim should be congratulated on jumping through innumerable hoops and landing a contract with Bexley council only a month or so after starting her company. (The payment was in June and Bexley is not a quick payer; the job must have been obtained within about a month of starting the company.)

The same sum went to the same Maths Consultancy in July too. These Chamber of Commerce chaps must be really rather wimpy if they can’t do the business with Bexley council.

 

11 September (Part 1) - Bonkers is not Labour

I was amazed to think someone thought so; and was in a position to perpetrate the myth. If Bonkers was associated with the local Labour party I might spend some time sorting out their ward websites; they are in a pretty awful state. Out of date and not all working properly. I’ve noticed that my MP seems to be far more active and aware of local needs than her male colleagues to the south but I’ve not exactly overdone the praise. Teresa Pearce (Labour) has featured here only twice as far as I can remember, once when she took the Nick Johnson pension fiddle to the House and again when she wasn’t keen on Bexley council giving lap-dancing clubs incentives to come here. Anyone who thinks this is a Labour party site obviously hasn’t seen the criticism of their 2010 election addresses. Try the blog for 3rd March 2010 for example. Looking back on it I feel it was a little over the top, but if Bonkers was a Labour supporting site it wouldn’t be there.

I don’t see how anyone could detect political bias because I personally don’t like any party at the moment and I don’t think any of my colleagues do either. Oh, I almost forgot. There is one who speaks up for the Lib Dems. Well there has to be one somewhere.

Sure I’ve admitted to voting Tory in the past but attending Bexley council meetings has put paid to that and Cameron is proving to be ‘the heir to Blair’ as far as I am concerned. Hopeless.

Something that annoyed me more than being labelled Labour is being labelled British National Party. It happened once at the Boris Johnson show when an unbelievable bigot sat next to me and in the conversation that ensued made that assumption and jumped up and ran away in terror as if I was suffering from the plague or something. There was a similar reference on another local (and in my view politically biased) website. Actually I have news for both. I am informed that on 19th September the BBC’s Panorama programme is going to devote their thirty minutes to annihilating any remaining thoughts that the British National Party leadership might be anything other than hopelessly misguided and absolutely beyond the pale. I know those words aren’t enough to satisfy everyone but it’s practically certain that someone will have set a Google Alert which will send a site link to them and I don’t particularly want their heavy mob coming to my door. Last week I sent Panorama a load of documents that I had come by which will aid their cause. I have the BBC acknowledgement to prove it. It is just possible that you will see a Bexley link in the programme, but not one that Bexley council need worry about.

I and my colleagues have somehow been drawn (in my case it wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened) into pursuing any local politician who lies, unreasonably withholds information or acts in his or her own interests and Bexley council has them in spades. It is they who issue obviously false public statements, it is their administration that uses the police as their own personal bodyguards and ‘hit men’ to pick off residents they don’t like, and it is a Conservative administration that attempts to usurp the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. When Labour do the same thing they will be criticised too.

 

10 September (Part 2) - Bexley on the box

I suppose I shouldn’t call the telly the box now that people hang them on the wall but whatever shape yours is I did strongly imply Craske’s gestapo wagons were about to appear on it along with their friends from NoToMob. I went to see some of it filmed and now I am being asked why its not been shown yet.

Well my source says that although it is taking longer than expected it has certainly not been abandoned. A change of production staff didn’t help. I was also told that Bexley council have… Oh no! I promised not to reveal that bit until after the programme went out. But I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. A promise I can reveal is that I have been assured there will be some notice of the programme going out, so that news will appear here just as soon as I have it.

I didn’t acquire a TV myself until the end of 2005 but I rarely watch it. I’ve never watched any Channel 5 programme but NoToMob tell me I should. They say that on current plans they will be featured on ‘The Wright Stuff’ next Monday; there is no suggestion that Bexley will be the favoured location, indeed I do not believe it will be. My research tells me that programme goes out at 9:15 in the morning, but don’t take my word for it, a TV expert I am not and of course it is not unknown for TV programme plans to be disrupted.

PS : The inclusion of CCTV cars in the programme has just appeared on the Wright Stuff’s web page.

 

10 September (Part 1) - Bexley’s bridge blunder

Craymill railway bridgeI expect you have seen in the local press the fact that Bexley council has approved plans to build a second bridge over the railway line in Bexley Road adjacent to Erith’s fish roundabout. This should alleviate the congestion there and that caused by the smaller roundabout at the end of Fraser Road, the one that provoked a petition against road congestion and rat-running at a council meeting last November. There is no money to build it so until £6 million or so drops into Bexley council’s hands the congestion in the area (I have seen the bus terminal area of Erith locked solid in the late afternoon) will continue.

It is to be fervently hoped that any new bridge is designed in full co-operation with the railway authorities. Last time Bexley council planned on tinkering with railway bridges they and their contractors messed up big time and as a result the dual carriageway that starts in Woolwich and goes through to the M25 is interrupted by a quarter of a mile of single carriageway road and a bridge at an awkward angle and still is six years after the road should have been upgraded. There was a fatal accident there only four months ago.

The proposed Bexley Road bridge at the fish roundabout is awaiting funding. As may be seen in the council’s report on the Craymill bridge below, we are awaiting funding on that too. Don’t get too excited that your journey through Erith is about to get better any day soon.


Council document

 

9 September (Part 3) - Tesco is coming to Bexleyheath - Click image for photo gallery (1 panoramic image)

Tesco exhibitionTomorrow is the last day of the council’s Tesco exhibition, or should I say of Tesco’s exhibition? They had three big displays to the council’s one, and three staff to the council’s one too. When I arrived soon after 1 pm today there was a wonderful silver haired old lady there, complete with waggling walking stick, leading off alarmingly about Bexley council being corrupt, councillors being on the make and it had always been the same. She had made one mistake, the people she was berating were Tesco staff, very nice people they were too. When I managed to get a word in I confirmed that Bexley council’s dirty tricks department was every bit as skilled as Tesco’s was reputed to be.

The artist’s impressions of the new 80,000 feet store suggested it would be a very nice addition to Bexleyheath when it opens in late 2014. There will be an underground car park which Tesco intends to provide free for the first two hours. It was admitted that they expect Bexley council to contest the plan and the council’s shop destroying draconian attitude to parking charges had not gone unnoticed. (Townley Road was very nearly empty again when I arrived; just two cars.)

The elderly lady was still having her say about Bexley’s awful council so to give her something else to complain about I mentioned the extent of their monthly expenditure on sandwiches. Naturally the Tesco people said they would do better to buy sandwiches from them. My neighbour, a civil engineer by profession, who accompanied me on the trip wandered over to speak to the Bexley council official to ask about the redevelopment of the old Woolwich site. There he learned that the council does not believe the electorate would tolerate comforts for their staff, so they have no space allocated to eating or relaxation, not even a patch of grass outside on which to sit and eat their own sandwiches if we should ever see another sunny day. Even in this day and age that seems a bit mean and if you compare the council’s attitude to staff wellbeing with their own extravagant partying their innate greed and contempt for everyone else becomes all the more apparent.

When that news was repeated in front of the Tesco people they remarked that in all their meetings in Bexley’s Civic Office, they were never offered so much as a cup of coffee, let alone a sandwich.

If you can’t get along to the central library tomorrow, take a look at www.tescobexleyheath.co.uk.

 

9 September (Part 2) - Lies, damn lies and website statistics

I’ve often been asked how many hits the Bonkers site gets and I have tended to dodge the question because I don’t regard the statistics as a very useful measure. Welcome though they are to come and look, readers in Vietnam aren’t going to worry Bexley council and there is not a lot of point in counting people who arrive by mistake and leave two seconds later. Taking hits and visits at face value is probably a fool’s game and to be honest I have little idea what sort of figures a local website should be knocking up to be rated a success.

Publicly accessible websites that try to assess web usage via those annoying tracking cookies that clog up your computer will tell you that Bonkers is about the seven millionth most popular website in the world - which sounds pathetic - and another will tell you Bonkers is getting about 30 hits a day; which I know for a fact is wrong.

Councillor Colin Campbell revealed the figures, with the same weaknesses that concern me, for the council’s website. I’m still not inclined to give away much by way of site statistics, but by the measure that satisfies Councillor Campbell, Bonkers is around twenty times smaller than www.bexley.gov.uk, perhaps a little worse by some measures. (†) Maybe if I issued parking fines and collected the money on-line things would be busier.

How people use the site can be fascinating. About half of visitors come in thanks to a search engine search for ‘Bexley council’, the high Google ranking doesn’t do any harm. Close to half jump straight into the blog suggesting they are regular visitors. These people tend not to use the links to older blog entries on the same subject which suggests they have read it all before, but they may be missing newly added documents.

The source of visitors can be interesting too. The biggest single group comes in from ‘NTL Bromley’ which is Virgin Media’s local internet hub, so exactly what you would expect. Over a period of time one could name drop almost everyone but I shall confine myself to visitors this week (Monday to Thursday). Most of the nearby local authorities and The Greater London Assembly have visited including the two boroughs north of the river, and from as far away as Kensington. Nothing from Bromley and nothing from Bexley of course, Tuckley’s Kim Jong-il style censorship is working well.

The local media has dropped by quite often and two mid-range national tabloids have nosed around quite extensively this week. The BBC too.

Council contractors can’t stop looking either, Serco, FM. Conway and the council’s Thames Innovation Centre customers. All this week.

And welcome to the readers from central government and Parliament and Conservative Central Office. Into double figures of visits in the last four days.

† Comparing last April’s stats from the council with more recent ones from Bonkers.

 

9 September (Part 1) - Another FOI rejection

The police have rejected another Freedom of Information request about Bexley’s obscene blog. All one can do now is go through the complaints procedure, the Information Commissioner and shame the police at every opportunity.

 

8 September (Part 2) - It’s party time

When the new Mayor, Ray Sams took office he spent £1,350 on tea and sandwiches for his mates. You thought he was being extravagant with our money? He was barely getting into his stride, and by comparison with others he is a bit of an amateur.

There was a knees up organised by the mayor’s office at the Marriott Hotel which cost £10,171.04. That was just for refreshments, the sound system cost another £528.

Not to be out done, councillor Craske’s lot (Environment and Wellbeing) managed to spend rather more on sandwiches and the like. A mere £10,754.64. That's an awful lot of grub to be stuffed down the favoured ones’ necks. I nudged my neighbour at Tuesday’s meeting to draw his attention to a certain red faced little man’s growing paunch. Now I find I helped pay for it - and again - because the very same gourmet went back for second helpings. But he wasn’t greedy. Only £7,490.40 second time around. The cheapskates in Customer Services weren’t invited so arranged their own nosh on the quiet. Nothing extravagant, only £1,830. Just peanuts. But they captured their fun on camera, the photographer cost them £736.

Down at the Thames Innovation Centre they had something to celebrate too, goodness knows what but they gobbled their way through £1,260 and put it down to Social Care.

Craske’s crew got jealous and munched their way through another £10,754.64 of… well caviar I assume. To wash it down, £1,436 and sixteen pence went to The Coffee Company.

That’s just for one month (June). At that rate Bexley council is spending more than twice as much on their own “refreshments” than they do on Meals on Wheels for the vulnerable. (Assumption derived from News Shopper which reported that the £275,000 cost in 2008 was too much and was to be cut.)

Note : The data provided by the council does not reveal who ate all the pies or why, only who paid the bill and its size. The council’s website does not reveal which department is responsible for Meals on Wheels but ‘Environment and Wellbeing’ does not claim to be.

 

8 September (Part 1) - The obscene blog - who dunnit?

No idea! I could guess but I would probably be putting two and two together and making five. Whoever it was has friends in high places, the police in Bexleyheath are going to inordinate lengths to hide his (I don’t believe it is a her) identity.

First the police wouldn’t talk about it until leaned on by MPs and Ministers. Then Borough Commander Stringer sent a letter of reassurance that things were progressing, maybe slowly, but it was all being taken very seriously and everyone involved would be kept informed. The government Minister received similar assurances. Then two weeks later came a couldn’t care less sort of automated response (no signature, wrong reference number) saying nothing could be done. The police refused to talk about it on the phone as they had marked the file ‘RESTRICTED’ to keep it hush-hush and the promise for someone to call back didn’t materialise.

It was decided I should write to the Borough Commander while Elwyn Bryant (also a subject of the Bexley council inspired obscenity) should probe via a Freedom of Information request. For technical reasons the FOI went off under my name. My letter to Commander Stringer made reference to it. He would have received it by Tuesday morning of this week and by mid-afternoon the FOI had been rejected for daring to seek personal information. It’s not subtle is it? Whoever heard of an FOI getting dealt with within a couple of days? They were in so much of a hurry they addressed me as Mrs.

The FOI did not seek personal information, it asked for dates, but any excuse will do when indulging in a frantic cover up. Obviously the complaints procedure was an essential first resort before going to the Information Commissioner yet again. The letter to the Police FOI Complaints Unit went off this morning.

Bexley council are busy trying to dodge the issue too. They came up with their excuse of a response to my Subject Access Request a mere two months late. It tells me one thing and one thing only, that Will Tuckley got the police to send the harassment letter. Exactly the same response as given to a four month overdue Freedom of Information request. You would think their obscene blog never happened; a blatant attempt to dodge their responsibilities under The Data Protection Act. A complaint was called for. The email read…


Dear Mr. Grosvenor,
You appear to have confused my Subject Access Request with Mr. Barnbrook’s Freedom of Information Request. The response is close to identical but SARs and FOIs are not the same thing.
I accept that I gave permission to exclude mundane areas of little interest such as council tax payments or failure to empty refuse bins but you appear to have excluded everything except for Mr. Tuckley’s ill-judged trip to Bexleyheath police station.
At the very minimum I require to see copies of all the correspondence by staff and councillors relating to me and my website. For example I know that the IT department blocked access from council computers in mid-April 2011 because a councillor wrote to someone about it and the mail found its way to me. I know that the IT department later blocked access to my website from libraries because numerous people have tried and failed to get it from a library. All this must have been in response to written instructions.
It is also well known that by arrangement with Mr. Chris Loynes I visited the council's offices on 20 May 2011 which must have been logged by him and within a couple of (working) hours of that visit it had been recorded in scurrilous terms on the website http://malcolmknight.blogspot.com in contravention of Google's terms and conditions on impersonation. If Mr. Loynes did not do it himself he must have told someone else who did. There will be correspondence. Similarly there will be correspondence on the day Mr. Tuckley received my complaint about my arrangement with Mr. Chris Loynes being made public.
Within the period in question I have received email from a fairly senior council official and a councillor both from a bexley.gov email address. Unless you find at least the councillor's correspondence I will know you have not looked for any.
Do you wish me to give you a little more time or would you prefer I report the latest failure to the Information Commissioner without further delay?

Yours sincerely,


So who is this Chris Loynes? Head of Democratic Services is the official title, he runs around after the needs of councillors and as events have shown, looks after the register of members’ interests. It is that register which was examined on 20th May. Anyone can do that by appointment, in a more open and transparent council it would be available on-line. So it is Mr. Loynes responsibility to look after councillors’ interests and unless he went blabbing about my visit he was the only person who would know about it. But I don’t know who set up the obscene blog, I expect Mr. Loynes foolishly blabbed.

I didn’t see Mr. Loynes at the last two council meetings I attended, a council mole tells me that that is because he has been off sick. I still don’t know who is adept with Google’s blogspot facility and I’m sure everyone will wish Mr. Loynes a speedy recovery.

 

7 September (Part 2) - The Harassment letter - who dunnit?

It’s taken long enough, they could have told us by the 14th April, but it has taken several reminders and in the end a complaint to the Information Commissioner and five months to squeeze an answer out of Bexley council. They really do like their secrets don’t they? Are they ashamed of everything they do? Probably. Anyway I’ll keep you waiting no longer, it was Will Tuckley our grotesquely overpaid Chief Executive that did the dirty deed. I suppose I should allow him that he may well have been put in an arm-lock by our dear leader Teresa O’Neill, but whatever the case we now know my site visitor statistics were boosted by someone from the top not some nobody of a councillor. Thanks to all those who worked behind the scenes trying to root out this news and the well known local personalities who variously labelled Tuckley’s decision as “heavy handed”, “a bit mad” and “sinister”. Obscene blog author next?

Council’s Freedom of Information response in full.

 

7 September (Part 1) - Crime and Disorder on public display in the council chamber

Yesterday evening saw a meeting of the Crime and Disorder Overview and Scrutiny Committee, a special one called following the fourth fatal stabbing of a young person in the borough in the last five years. Representatives of outside bodies had been invited; the Fire Brigade, Youth Council, Neighbourhood Watch, the Church, the Probation Service, someone from Charlton FC, Bexley’s director of Youth Inclusion and Colin Knox, father of Rob Knox killed with a knife in Sidcup in 2008. Among the regular attendees was the councillor who went on national TV a month ago to announce her view on crime and disorder “Councils must find a way around the law” and police Commander Stringer who will have to do a lot to persuade me he is not guilty of perverting the course of justice by putting a stop on my Freedom of Information request within hours of becoming aware of it. The meeting was well attended by councillors, most of whom have never before merited a mention on this website, however neither the council leader nor her deputy saw fit to attend.

I can see the need for such a meeting to try to convince residents that the council is doing something about knife crime but I fail to see what it achieves other than a mention in next week’s News Shopper. Residents don’t seem to be very interested. Faces that didn’t belong to councillors, invitees and council staff were fewer than a dozen and seven of those belonged to people I had suggested attend myself plus a couple from the local press. The reason I believe the meeting will have achieved nothing practical is that reasonable questions were asked, mainly of Commander Stringer, and the answers, when one was given at all, revealed little. The recent murder is sub-judice. At the end of it no one was going to charge off and implement any new and worthwhile initiative.

Not all questions were reasonable, some weren’t questions at all. Councillor Craske (Blackfen & Lamorbey) spent five minutes honing his waffling skills, praising every aspect of the council’s response to the recent murder in Welling along with the police and voluntary bodies, but no ideas on what could be done to prevent further loss of life. Not even a simple question to the Commander.

Councillor Val Clark (Falconwood & Welling) did a lot better, she reminded the Commander that the Prime Minister had said every knife carrier should expect to go to jail and wondered why they did not and some only got a caution. Commander Stringer replied that that was incorrect and said that everyone carrying a knife gets charged. I can feel a Freedom of Information Request coming on to see what the statistics reveal.

Councillor Steven Hall (East Wickham) asked several intelligent questions, among the subjects was school bus patrolling and what action is taken to control parents who have no interest in their children. We learned that Commander Stringer was very active in seeking the withdrawal of Oyster cards from travelling miscreants and the director of Youth Inclusion said that parents could ultimately be made to sign parenting contracts, be subject to parenting orders, or have their children put in care.

Councillor James Hunt was also interested in buses, referring to the considerable number of children who came to Bexley’s schools from Bromley and Greenwich and asked how the police bus patrols were tackling that. Commander Stringer said that the way the patrols were tackling it was “pretty good” which was both illuminating and reassuring.

Councillor Katie Perrior (Blackfen & Lamorbey) told us that for crime and disorder Bexley was “the envy of the rest of London” and for evidence of how important that was to Bexley people pointed to the public gallery saying “look at the turnout”. All ten of us were duly flattered. Katie then launched into an impassioned speech about how thoroughly awful some parents are. They are “a disgrace” and she is “staggered by what she is told”. Some are “scared of their own sons” and “parenting classes are costing millions”. I’m sure she is right; I’m sick of hearing young mums around the shops near where I live pushing buggies effing and blinding at two year olds while dropping cigarette ash on their heads. Ms. Perrior went on to say our “social services are fantastic”. So fantastic that a mother of my acquaintance faced with a misbehaving seven year old snapped and slapped him on the calf and for her attempt to control a possible future rioter Bexley council sent in not only the social services but the police too and then temporarily placed her child with a carer. The child now knows exactly how to get his own way in future. But full marks to councillor Perrior for injecting a bit of life into the meeting, her Sky TV skills served her well.

The Fire Brigade Commander, Cyril O’Brien, asked what standards of behaviour were expected at schools these days. Was there anything written down? No one seemed to know, so councillor Chris Ball (Erith), a teacher by professions, chipped in with the answer. Every parent of every child signed a behavioural contract with the school. That's OK, then. No school will ever burn down.

It was said about school heads that some felt they had nothing to learn from outside bodies because their own schools had no gang or knife problems. Since the recent Welling murder a bit more realism had been noted.

Councillor Maxine Fothergill (Colyers) thought some youngsters lacked respect for authority or indeed anyone. Commander Stringer disagreed. Councillor John Fuller (Lesnes Abbey), who I believe referees youth football teams in his spare time, mentioned the abuse heard at football games by both sent off youngsters and their parents. He clearly had concerns about the lack of respect too.

Councillor Hall came back with another interesting question, he wanted to know, with obvious allusions to the recent riots, what Commander Stringer was doing to combat the “rumour mill”. The Commander admitted that rumours about impending doom and destruction for Bexleyheath after the night of rioting had circulated via Twitter and admitted that there was no mechanism in place to circulate accurate information. But there is now. Councillor Philip Read (Northumberland Heath) had a question about rumours too. This one was about the claim that there had been a stabbing at the Danson Festival. He said it had spread following a comment by Richard Barnbrook, the Greater London Assembly member, at a GLA meeting and was entirely without foundation. It was said that Mr. Barnbrook had apologised to our local member, James Cleverly but there had been no public apology. Mr. Richard Barnbrook was elected on a British National Party ticket but resigned the whip due to alleged financial irregularities in the party as a result of which he was expelled by its leader Nick Griffin. Councillor Read’s introduction of the subject was probably politically motivated but it was a fair enough point that needed to be cleared up nevertheless.

Councillor Clark got in on the act again by mentioning the plight of elderly people who are in fear of crime; they won’t go shopping at school turning out time for example, and lock their doors at six o’clock. Commander Stringer agreed that elderly people could get anxious when confronted by half a dozen noisy teenagers on a street corner but no one suggested what might be done about it - so maybe I should do my bit to help.

As a grey haired old fart who vaguely remembers clamping his hands over his ears in an air-raid shelter, may I say that travelling on a bus at school out time is perfectly OK so long as you are wearing ear-defenders, that teenagers on street corners are not interested in old people wandering by beyond asking them if they can let them have a fag but not opening the front door after dark is probably a good idea unless you wish to talk to someone trying to flog cheaper energy.

Knife archCommander Stringer while bragging that reported crime was down 12% spoke up in favour of ‘knife arches’ and implied, if not said, that he was going to stick some up in Bexleyheath Broadway. Councillor Ball thought this would do wonders for Bluewater as local shoppers ran in fear of their lives. A young man from the Youth Council, Robert Smith, said that knife arches at school entrances would increase the fear of knives among pupils.

Councillor Malik (Thamesmead East) asked if the budgetary reductions were going to affect Crime and Safety. Commander Stringer said it was hard to say. Increased poverty could conceivably increase domestic violence but it could equally well reduce alcohol induced crime. As for his own police force, he was going to lose five sergeants and gain five constables so there was no change to police numbers.

Colin Knox, the founder of a charity devoted to fighting knife crime spoke at length. He tried to explain what the impact of losing a child on family life is, devastating and something that will never leave you for the rest of one’s life. Let me quote from his website…


We feel that stiffer sentences need to be put in place to halt the senseless carrying of knives. There is no need to carry a knife about you when walking the streets of the UK. A knife is a weapon, and weapons should not be allowed to be carried, and ultimately used. What we are seeking is a minimum six months mandatory custodial sentence for anyone carrying a knife in public.


Mr. Knox went on to say he had met many politicians, he had spoken at many of their meetings but “although they were present, they were not there”. I think I know exactly what he means. When my family met Hazel Blears (Home Secretary in 2004) because of the murder of the private eye, Daniel Morgan, she clearly did not absorb anything at all. She said afterwards that the police investigation of the late 1980s was “up to the standards of the time”. An investigation which has more recently been acknowledged by the Met as “One of the most deplorable episodes in the entire history of the Metropolitan Police Service" and “a disgrace”. Maybe given the way our local police investigates certain crimes, Hazel Blears had a point.

One of the councillors present mentioned in passing that he had experience of being apprehended by the police and subjected to a stop and search. In the absence of evidence to the contrary I shall assume he was entirely innocent and I have no intention of starting unjustifiable rumours, hence no name, but he said, to considerable amusement around the chamber, that when he identified himself as a councillor, the police changed their tune and offered him a lift home. That is exactly how I would expect Bexley police to behave in any investigation involving Bexley council.

The Youth Council has been busy conducting a survey of young people’s attitude to crime in Bexley and had published their findings based on 45 of them who attended a conference in Bexley. A further 55 were allowed to comment on-line. I doubt that self-selecting sample would be approved by any polling organisation but the results were interesting none-the-less. Graffitti was reckoned to be the most “problematic” crime in the borough with drugs being rated not a problem at all. The conclusion was that there is no drugs problem in Bexley - on the other hand it may mean that young people do not see drugs as a problem - which is not quite the same thing. Nearly 20% (the graph does not show a precise number) of the young people surveyed had been arrested which seems a staggeringly high total to me. But then I grew up at a time when the police were looked upon as allies and commanded respect. Now our Commander can’t be bothered to investigate a crime properly, not even interviewing the prime suspects because they are his friends. Respect is a distant memory.


Notes : Mr. Richard Barnbrook of the GLA is not related to and should not be confused with Mr. Michael Barnbrook who sometimes makes contributions for this blog, although it may be fair to say that like most people he has no time for Richard Barnbrook’s (ex) party leader.

The questions and answers presented above are not in the original sequence and I had to leave the meeting as it was winding down. I doubt very much that I missed anything significant, the question session had finished.

 

6 September (Part 2) - Obscene blog. Cover up continues

It didn’t take long for the police to take their next step toward a total clamp down on information about the crime committed by someone connected to Bexley council. They rejected the Freedom of Information request I submitted last Friday claiming I was seeking personal information. I was not. The FOI asked four questions which I have resubmitted as separate FOIs, perhaps that will reveal which of them seeks personal information. After a suitable introduction the information requested is…


• The date on which Google was contacted and whether they responded.
• The date on which a copy of Bexley council's Apache or Windows server logs was taken, the dates those logs spanned and the rank and qualifications of the Data Specialist which the police claim to have used.
• The audit schedule of all Bexley council's computers (desktop machines, laptops and mobile devices) belonging to staff, councillors (names not required) and in libraries that were audited [as the police have claimed they were], including the date of each audit and the nature of each audit.
• Confirmation that Bexley council staff were interviewed and the rank of the police officer involved and whether the interview provided useful information.


The suspicion must be that Bexleyheath police did nothing to investigate the crime reported on 9th June  and are intent on protecting their paymasters. I fear the day I may have to use the word corruption in connection with Bexleyheath police must be fast approaching.

 

6 September (Part 1) - Eric Pickles. All talk, no bite

Eric Pickles - toothlessAfter the AV referendum last May I was able to get hold of the spreadsheet that detailed the election costs across London and listed Bexley’s expenses in the blog for 20th May. Chief Executive Will Tuckley was entitled to more than £8,000. A nice windfall on top of his £208,000 salary. The following exchange in Parliament yesterday caught my eye…

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire, Conservative) : “If the Prime Minister were to give the Secretary of State an additional role, I doubt he would ask for more money to do it, so does he agree that council chief executives who double as returning officers and already earn more than he does should not receive an additional fee for overseeing elections?”

Mr. Eric Pickles: “This is something very close to all our hearts in this Chamber. That, of course, is a matter for the Secretary of State for Justice, but to me this seems common sense. I have not come across many chief executives who do the count and organise the postal votes; that is often done by the deputy returning officer. I know that a number of returning officers ensure that the extra money is shared among staff. I think that that is the right course, but if chief executives are pocketing that money, they should feel ashamed.”


I wonder if a Freedom of Information Request would extract information on whether Mr. Tuckley is taking “the right course” or not. The problem with Pickles is that he comes out with bright ideas (such as councils should co-operate with “citizen journalists”) and then ignores councils that change their constitutions in order to make a monkey out of him. Bexley being the prime example.

Bexley council is currently trying to make a monkey of the Information Commissioner too. The Commissioner issues specific instructions to councils etc. which state that they must ensure that things do not come to a halt if the responsible officer is absent from work for any reason. Bexley council ignores that as it ignores most things and everything came to a halt between 16th August and yesterday because of annual leave. Partly as a result of that I know of six complaints about Bexley council currently with the Information Commissioner. Every one of them is an example of Bexley council breaking the law.

 

5 September - Site maintenance

I have been using the quiet period created by Bexley councillors having almost shut up shop to do some maintenance on the site. There were too many links to pages at Bexley council that have been broken because the pages there were removed and the list of links to other local sites required an overhaul. As part of that they have been brought together under a single menu instead of being spread across several. Now it is done I’m not sure it is all to the good and may need further adjustments. While checking the links I noticed that The Bexley Chronicle series of newspapers has restored its archive of old issues for which I am very grateful. Thanks Bob. Check them out via the new Links menu above.

Following a comment from a reader who asked why some text is in red I should perhaps issue a reminder that it indicates a link to another relevant part of the site. Hover the mouse pointer over it for an explanation of where the link will take you. Most often they will be to older blogs on the same subject but sometimes more detail on the current one.

 

3 September - Cover up or cock-up?

This weekend is for catching up with correspondence so no lengthy blog. Recent developments indicate that Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police may be trying to cover up what he has discovered about the obscene blog which could only have been set up by someone well connected with Bexley council. I don’t know for sure that the new Commander is following in his predecessor’s footsteps and I am at the present time giving him the benefit of the doubt, he could be presiding over a cock-up, but I am only too painfully aware that the police can be very corrupt when they wish to protect one of their own. As I said before, my family members know all about that and recently received an apology for it from the highest level. Police corruption cannot ever be ruled out when the establishment needs to be protected. Commander Stringer’s Crime Management Unit makes me fear he is tempted to follow that well trodden path. For those interested, most of the correspondence is available for them to consider and come to their own conclusions.

 

2 September - Information Commissioner harassing Bexley council

Extract from Harassment Letter • 11 April 2011 - Postman delivered letter from police threatening me with arrest if I continued to criticise Bexley council.
• 12 April 2011 - Freedom of Information request made to Bexley council asking for the name of the complainant.
• 28 July 2011 - Information Commissioner informed of Bexley council’s failure to respond, apart from the initial acknowledgement.
• 2 August 2011 - Information Commissioner acknowledged the complaint.
• 25 August 2011 - Information Commissioner instructed Bexley council to answer the FOI within ten days of receipt of the letter.


Fred WestSo does that mean that by the end of next week we will know which of Bexley council’s many idiots went to Bexleyheath police station to ask a favour? I doubt it. With a track record like theirs they are going to find an excuse or simply lie. Will they be stupid enough to say they don’t know? That would be a bit lame, there would be no excuse for not having said that four months ago. No, they are going to have to be a bit more inventive than that but the history of complaints to our disreputable council has shown they can be very inventive indeed, even if it involves destroying the evidence. So we are going to have wait but some are already guessing. One of my more mischievous correspondents is backing what he calls “the Fred West lookalike”. I cannot think who he could possibly mean.

In separate correspondence the Information Commissioner intimates that Bexley council is being considered for its Monitoring Programme because of its constant failure to comply with the law.

The police right up to the level of Directorate of Professional Services has consistently refused to discuss the issue of that letter. The blog has continued, I have not yet been arrested. Bexley council despite getting close to abandoning council meetings (16 week interval between the last and next) continues to provide the ammunition to fire back at it.

 

1 September - Sleazebuster

Mick Barnbrook with Nigel Farage in BrussellsMy comment two days ago that my colleague Mick Barnbrook had had a hand in the downfall of several politicians tempted him into sending me a list of those he had reported to the police (as is required by them if they are to open an investigation) for expenses and similar fiddles.


• Derek Conway, Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup. Whip withdrawn by David Cameron for paying public funds to his son for a non-existent job.
• Ian Clement, deputy to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Suspended 12 week prison sentence for abuse of his GLA credit card.
• Ian Clement, leader of Bexley council. No action taken over his use of a Bexley council purchasing card and unjustified expense claims.
• Elliott Morley, former Labour MP for Scunthorpe. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting (mortgage fraud). †
• David Chaytor, former Labour MP for Bury North. 18 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Jim Devine, former Labour MP for Livingston. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Eric Illsley, former Labour MP for Barnsley Central. 12 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Dennis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham. Asked to repay £1,573.03 of wrongly claimed expenses.
• Harry Cohen, former Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead. Resigned, forfeiting £65,000 from his resettlement grant for “serious breaches” of parliamentary rules. †
• Nicholas Winterton, former Conservative MP for Macclesfield. Claimed rent on a flat he owned outright. Retired from politics. †
• Anne Winterton, former Conservative MP for Congleton. As above. †
• Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South. Wrongly claimed £57,000 for accommodation. Case not yet fully resolved.
• David Tredinnick, former Conservative MP for Bosworth. Resigned over various expense irregularities. †
• Janet Anderson, former Labour MP for Rossendale and Darwen. Allowed to secretly repay £5,750 in over-claimed petty cash. †

† Voted in favour of keeping MPs expenses secret. Source.


Mr. Barnbrook’s complaint about Ian Clement’s abuse of the expenses system at Bexley council was rejected by Bexleyheath police who wrongly claimed that only Bexley council could bring such a complaint. It is known that Mr. Clement had claimed expenses for entertaining the then police Commander Tony Dawson. Although the police failure was acknowledged at the highest level (Mick was offered a hearing at Scotland Yard) he decided not to pursue the issue further. Meanwhile Bexley council refused to take a complaint to the police and the then deputy council leader Teresa O’Neill claimed not to know anything about the credit card. Bexley council’s website still shows the debt owed by Ian Clement and claims to be attempting to reclaim the money. They have refused to divulge any details when requested to do so under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Barnbrook has asked me to say that in some cases he may not have been the only complainant. The photograph is a recent one of Mr. Barnbrook with UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Brussels. Mick, it is fair to say, is not a supporter of the European Union.

I had planned to bring you something new and scandalous for the first day of the month; I have been working on the story on and off throughout August. It is I am afraid a return to the subject of lying, this time not by councillors, but by council staff. Naturally I have insisted on absolute documentary proof which has taken time to assemble and must be fully understood before publication. I was almost ready to go and then overnight more documents arrived which put me off immediate publication, hence the return to an older subject.

Life is full of coincidences; this time the police refused to accept a complaint of criminal activity at Bexley council and the fact they were headed by a Commander who accepted hospitality from the same council. Not only that, the perpetrator of the alleged criminal act and the provider of hospitality to the police were one and the same.

 

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