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Bonkers Blog February 2012

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29 February - End of month review

Another quiet month with nothing new of any significance. It was however a month that saw something which has been thankfully rare, reader criticism - anonymous obviously. I recall only one previous incidence. However this one says I should stop pouring forth “bile on a daily basis” as it is “gratuitous abuse and offence”. It doesn't say to whom, Bexley council presumably. This critic seems to know quite a lot about me so it would appear that he/she does actually read Bonkers daily. I don't quite understand why people who find what is written here offensive bile keep coming back for more. It’s the same with Olly’s Twitter account. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t use the C word to satiate his followers’ lust for rude words. After a while it stops being funny to all but a few. Is Sandra Bauer still hooked on it and complaining? I would hope not.

Surely the same should be true of ‘offensive bile’? Those given the star treatment on this website have responded in a variety of ways. Everything from reporting me to the police to knocking on my door and asking nicely. I’m not convinced the site is a non-stop diet of offensive bile, a lot of it just reports what’s going on, from a particular point of view perhaps, but it aims to be accurate and Bexley council has never had reason to put Bonkers on its ‘Setting the record straight’ feature as it has a couple of local newspapers.

To console myself I looked at my record of emails and found that support outweighed criticism by a rather neat 1,111:1. There were other interesting emails this month, including two from ex and current Bexley council employees which may eventually prove interesting. I also received a poetic response to Bonkers which was a bit different to the usual fare. I’m no judge of poetry and ordinarily may not have published it but it acts as a bit of a contrast to the bile and vitriol accusations so I’ll share it with you. Do let me know if your bile-o-meter is triggered too often.

Councillor O'Hares's barber shop Councillor O'Hares's carIt would appear my 14th February picture of the car with the personalised number plate (a rather better effort than the one shown here) was understood by almost no one - which was the general idea. It was supposed to be a visual pun on Olly's posting of an anonymous house which got him into so much trouble. The almost anonymous number plate picture was accompanied by a similar comment to Olly’s. So far, touch wood, it hasn’t landed me in court.

The number reads, with a bit of imagination, Nick O’Hare - a Bexley councillor who is reported to own the barber’s shop at 284 Broadway. Maybe you should call in and put a bit of business his way. There are conflicting reports as to whether he is the demon with the scissors himself but if he is, probably best not to mention this site at the time. I think I am going to stick to bile and vitriol in future, I am not exactly brilliantine at barber jokes.

 

28 February - Petition news

Bexley council leader Teresa O'Neill and Eric Pickles MPElwyn Bryant has asked that I pass on news of what he has been up to since Bexley council refused to listen to the views of his 2,219 signatories. He had a meeting with his MP, James Brokenshire last week and came away from it feeling he had gained an ally. That is not all that surprising; James is already on record as saying, “In these extremely difficult times senior managers in local councils and elsewhere might consider agreeing to a voluntary cut in pay and conditions as Ministers have done”. Mr. Brokenshire considered that Bexley council might be in conflict with the Localism Bill and indicted he would have more to say on that matter.

For my part I asked my MP Teresa Pearce if she would consider putting the facts before Eric Pickles to make sure he knows that whether the case be citizen journalists, armchair auditors, weekly bin collections, council propaganda sheets or the Big Society itself, councils like Bexley will raise two fingers. My view is that Eric Pickles has proved to be nothing but a bag of wind and I suspect Teresa might agree but she has offered to do the deed anyway. Rumour has it that there are three MPs within the borough of Bexley; can that be true?

 

27 February - Teresa O’Neill. Witless trouble maker

“I, amongst many other Erith residents have well deserved cynical views of our local government representatives; to paraphrase an old aphorism “How can you tell when a Bexley Councillor is lying? Their lips are moving”. Quite. The price of democracy is eternal vigilance - [n]ever truer than in this case. Keep watching the council.”

Police reportThat’s not me, it’s from Hugh Neal’s Maggot Sandwich, which I was reading yesterday evening as I do every Sunday. Last time I quoted Hugh it started something that has cost us tax payers an awful lot of money - and you can blame the Conservative leader of Bexley council for that, because Teresa O’Neill sent her right hand man Will Tuckley to see their mates in blue to report me for threatening our esteemed leader with violence. Not sure where one would get a pitchfork from but apparently Teresa, insignificant and timid as she is, was scared witless by a metaphor.

Witless she may be but if If she was really worried about imminent impalement by pitchfork you would have thought Hugh would have got a knock on his door. Perhaps Will and Teresa overlooked telling the police where the comment started life as that might be an inconvenient fact that didn’t fit their story. Whatever the case, the truth is that Teresa O’Neill was out looking for trouble and councillors can lie to the police with impunity. Something councillors Seymour and Bauer have reason to be thankful for too.

You will note that Teresa also pretended to be inflamed because I claimed to have persuaded someone that petrol bombs are not a good idea. It wasn’t an especially funny remark made to me and maybe it wasn’t a very good idea to repeat it, but let’s suppose for a moment it wasn’t meant in jest; what would be the sensible course of action? Someone to call me and ask who had suggested it would take a petrol bomb to get Bexley council to change its dishonest ways perhaps? I do know who said it, it wasn’t made up. But no, witless Teresa was intent only on silencing her critics and if that meant lying to the police then a liar would have to lie.


Teresa and BorisI’d never heard of Olly Cromwell until he showed up at a council meeting on 2nd March 2011. I doubt very much Teresa O’Neill knew anything of him either. That was the meeting where Olly taped mayor Val Clark breaking the question time rules so naturally he became an instant target for Bexley’s venom. Within days Teresa had him reported to the police too, all he had done at that stage was take up Eric Pickles’ invitation to be a citizen journalist. Nevertheless he was sent a Harassment Letter accusing him of posting blogs on this website. Another lie in the cause of silencing critics.

Teresa O’Neill is, you will remember, Boris Johnson’s ambassador to Outer London, because, so he said in a letter, she is the woman he admires most in local government. Someone who makes up stories to feed to the police for her own political ends - not to mention offering shelter to obscene bloggers. Strange taste in women Boris.

 

26 February (Part 2) - It ASDA be a stitch-up - Click any image for photo gallery (4 street images)

Last July I was asked to start a campaign on Bonkers against the proposed new ASDA store in Belvedere. I don’t do that sort of thing I said, it will be up to Bexley council to do what is right and lawful and until they stray from that course it doesn’t concern me - although in a way it does, I live only 15 minutes walk from the proposed site.

B&Q Poor selection of shops Road congestionThe plan is to divide the enormous B&Q store in Belvedere into two and give a deprived area of town a decent food store. It seemed an attractive proposition although road access to the East, South and West is far from ideal. Bexley’s policy of narrowing roads, in this case the B2013, has not been helpful. Personally I felt a little bit negative about the arrival of ASDA but only because of the road situation and I never found anyone else who thought it was other than very welcome.

Obviously I did not mix with the right people because the shops close to B&Q began to sport anti-ASDA posters and the owner of Belvedere News, Amit Patel, organised a petition which attracted 409 signatures. The cynic in me thought that was likely to approximate to the family members of the affected shops. Their councillor, Kerry Allon, was brought on side and he wrote to the News Shopper. He didn’t get a lot of support; this is typical of comments posted to the Shopper’s website.


Councillor Kerry AllonI cannot believe how small minded the councillor for the area is being. As a Belvedere resident close to the proposed development, I can only see Asda moving to the area as a good thing, let’s take a look at the calibre of shops where this development is proposed: Chinese take away, fried chicken take away, off licence, Caribbean food shop, barbers, doctors, dentist, dry cleaners, news agents, vets, bookies, sandwich bar, hairdressers, Tescos - who charge the earth and go slower than a snail’s pace, kebab take away, another Chinese take away, Indian take away - think that about sums it up so who exactly other than the Tesco local will be affected by the new ASDA store? I for one won’t be objecting to the new store and can’t wait for it to go ahead they have my full support. We need investment in this part of Belvedere, not people putting the kibosh on it. Does Cllr. Kerry Allon even live in the area??


For the record, councillor Kerry Allon lives in far away Welling and the only Belvedere shop owner with whom I am on first name terms is all for bringing more people to the area.

As has recently been reported, Bexley council’s planning officers recommended the ASDA plan, but the Planning Committee threw it out after a “sob story” from the principal objector. Now it transpires that its main opponent, Amit Patel, was advised by another major supermarket. He, councillor Allon and Bexley council have contrived to keep Belvedere in a state of neglect. Only last month its MP, Teresa Pearce, was bemoaning the fact that vast tracts of her constituency do not even boast a bank. And now when a large store group wants to provide some of the poorest residents in the borough with cheaper food, the fat cats at Bexley council unite to make sure they remain poor and 300 more of them remain unemployed. Who is councillor Allon representing here? Not the bulk of his voters that is for sure.

 

26 February (Part 1) - Free speech v dishonesty - The trial

Melvin Seymour and Sandra BauerThe much deferred trial of Olly Cromwell is on again. This time it is at Greenwich Court 1 at 10 a.m. on Friday 13th April 2012. Sandra Bauer, the Bexley councillor whose cunning stunt of tittle-tattling what she thought she had seen on Twitter to her good friend councillor Melvin Seymour and convincing him that Olly had been “urging people to put dog faeces through my letter box” is to be called as a witness. In his signed statement to the police Melvin Seymour said Olly referred to councillors as “lying, stealing, cheating ****s” and that because of Olly’s activities “both my address and my daughter’s addresses are in the public domain” and he “feared for the safety of my family”.

As has been made clear before, Olly did not put Seymour’s address or anyone else's in the public domain, that statement was a product of Seymour’s imagination and presumably part of a spiteful attempt to cause Olly maximum trouble. Seymour placed his address in the public domain by standing as a councillor and allowing Bexley council to name him as a recommended painter and decorator. It seems that Olly’s allegation of lying and cheating was not too wide of the mark.

Everyone is welcome to turn up and listen to Sandra Bauer and see if she is going to be more truthful in court than Seymour was in his police statement.

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

 

25 February - Welling corridor diary (Week 7)

There has been a report that the narrowed Bellegrove Road claimed a victim this week. A motorcyclist in collision with a car where a traffic island has been moved too close to the pavement. The photo diary is again updated.

As will be apparent my computer rebuild went reasonably well, not perfectly, it took six attempts to install Service Pack 1 for Windows 7. I was rather worried by the appearance of this site in Internet Explorer 9 until I discovered that it had defaulted to ‘Compatibility Mode’ which attempts to recreate Internet Explorer 6 for those non-standard websites written only with Internet Explorer 6 in mind. IE8 and IE9 users may wish to ensure that Compatibility mode has not been engaged on their own computer.

 

24 February - Harassment and the obscene blog

There have been a few enquiries about these two old chestnuts. Not a lot to say really. The IPCC seem to be taking my complaint (the unjustified issue of the harassment letter, Form 9993) against DI Keith Marshall seriously. It is now pretty clear that he broke every rule in the book by asking “How high?” when Will Tuckley said “Jump” but the investigation is made difficult by the fact that DI Marshall is elusive. The same excuse as that which came from the Directorate of Professional Standards several months ago. But it is nevertheless good to know that Bexleyheath police should at the very least have warned me of the impending Harassment Letter and given an opportunity to vary my behaviour. Subsequently it became apparent that Bexley council took the ‘Flaming torches and pitchforks’ comment copied from another website as the ultimate proof that violence was threatened and DI Keith Marshall fell for it. I’ve always refrained from calling him an idiot so I won’t start now.

The obscene blog issue is close to dead and buried. I suppose we must just accept that it is the sort of behaviour to be expected of Bexley council and move on. The intervention of the Information Commissioner into a Freedom of Information request that Bexley council tried not to answer revealed just a little extra interesting information…

It confirmed that Bexley council computers were used to access the obscene blog. Despite the blog being so serious that the council felt obliged to inform the police it was not considered sufficiently serious as to merit any sort of internal investigation.

Despite the apparent lust for salacious information I suspect that you may hear no more about the blog as one cannot flog a dead horse for ever, though presumably one can hold the occasional memorial service for it so that the depths of depravity to be found at the Civic Centre is not totally forgotten.

My computer has been sick for several months, the time has come to rebuild it from scratch. It may take a day or two. See you then.

 

23 February - Another council pantomime

There was a full council meeting last night with mayor Sams presiding in full ‘fish out of water’ mode. Exude confidence he does not and Wishy Washy effortlessly rose close to the heights of incompetence and partisanship achieved by his old mum Widow Twanky. He began proceedings with his tired old speech about any form of recording not being permitted and for a moment I felt he had his eye on my pencil and notepad. Following that it was question time. Wishy Washy made great play of his intention to time things carefully as he didn’t want democracy to be given more freedom than strictly necessary. Not that it actually got much of a look in at all. Bexley council has successfully banished public questioning with a draconian set of rules and if any should manage to wriggle past they are deemed “vexatious” by WW Sams and cast aside. The only questions permitted now are of the arse-licking variety designed to allow a cabinet member to blow his or her trumpet. And so two failed Conservative electoral candidates and a councillor’s wife were lined up with their tongues at the ready.

Amandeep Singh Bhogal of 108a Lower Road, Belvedere asked councillor Gareth Bacon to say how successful Bexley’s refuse services have been and he duly (and rightly) did just that. John Ault of 6 Westergate Road, Abbey Wood asked councillor Campbell to confirm that the Strategy 2014 programme of savings was on schedule and he duly did - although without the caveats reported at the recent Public Realm meeting. Mrs. Christine Bishop of 76 Danson Crescent, Welling asked councillor Bailey to tell us about the money Boris Johnson had granted Bexley via his Outer London Fund, and she duly did. Sidcup is going to get £1·8 million apparently. None of these Conservative sycophants could have been truly interested in proceedings, they all left together the moment question time ended. Is it not ironic that Bexley’s plan to discourage questioning by publishing home addresses makes it so much easier to confirm a question is planted?

It was then councillors’ turn to ask questions. Councillor Deadman (Labour) asked Craske “when he is likely to follow Westminster’s example and stop 24/7 parking charges”. Craske duly lied. “Bexley will never have 24/7 parking charges” lied the habitual liar. Councillor Deadman asked him to “stop playing with words” and helpfully rephrased his question in a manner even a moron might understand. Craske retaliated with his well rehearsed diatribe about Bexley having the cheapest parking and more of it than anywhere else in South East London. Once a liar always a liar. Councillor Philip Read chimed in with more of the same. Once again the car park in the historic centre of Greenwich with its tourist level parking charges was reported as if it is the norm for the Royal borough. Craske as his wont interspersed his bile with anti-Labour jibes based on events long gone.

Councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour) managed to provoke a minor storm by asking about the number of new homes to be provided by the regeneration of Larner Road. She may be concerned by the government’s failure to ring-fence Bexley’s £697,379 New Homes Bonus and that the council may have no intention of spending the money on new homes. Councillor Bacon had covered the housing numbers reasonably well at the recent Public Realm meeting and Cheryl objected to the suggestion she hadn’t. I’m not sure she gave precise figures on that occasion (622 homes demolished, 648 new ones to be built) but her implication was plain enough. She strongly defended herself against the suggestion that something was being hidden from view - the New Homes Bonus perhaps? - to the point that mayor WW Sams told her to stop, but she did not. I was on Cheryl’s side with that one.

Free parking 24-27 DecemberAfter a short and pointless anti-Labour party speech by councillor John Waters, the mayor said time was up even though on his own admission there were two minutes to go. We were thus deprived of the opportunity to hear councillor Philip Read crawl up Craske's rear end with a question which included the assertion “that Bexley waived parking charges for six days over the festive period”. In fact the only truly free day was Christmas Eve tacked on to the usual days when parking staff demand the day off. Even then it didn’t apply to all car parks and the machines were still taking money because users didn’t know about the last minute concession. Council leader Teresa O’Neill said later in the meeting that that freebie day was financed by the council staff who went on strike just before Christmas.

Councillor Stefano Borella then put forward a Motion which included a resolution that the council should “champion diversity in all cases including gay rights and promoting equality at every opportunity”. He then provided a lengthy treatise on the history of gay rights (or lack thereof). He didn’t manage to go back as far as Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 13 but he did get back to the Wolfenden Report of 1957 and reminded everyone of the almost forgotten gay rights campaigner, Leo Abse MP.

Borella portrayed every Conservative leader before Cameron as wickedly homophobic and said the Labour party had, for the last fifty years at least, been quite the reverse. All the progress towards gay rights had been the work of Labour said councillor Borella while aiming vitriol in the direction of Mrs. now Lady, Thatcher at every opportunity. It was an over the top performance with as far as I could see, just one aim: to lay a trap for Conservative councillors by praising David Cameron to the heavens and then expecting them to fail to show total support for gay marriage and their party leader. Borella won applause from Labour councillors for his cunning while the Tories sat in stony silence.

I asked my neighbour Elwyn Bryant what gay marriage was to do with Bexley council and he didn’t know either. Surely if it became lawful Bexley would implement it and meanwhile it shouldn’t be a priority for any council. That sort of thing, I had believed, ended with the demise of Looney Left councils. Maybe I am behind the times, but if so I am not alone. Bexley’s Conservatives were not going to fall into Borella’s trap. For complete clarity I should at this stage show you Stefano Borella’s Motion. See below left.

Motions on gay marriage
It was seconded by councillor Munir Malik who spoke up for the Motion in more restrained terms.

Councillor Chris Taylor (Conservative) who entered a Civil Partnership only a year ago proposed a revised Motion. He had had the foresight to have a printed copy for everyone present. See above right. A somewhat bland and self congratulatory form of words compared to Borella’s blatantly pro-gay agenda. It has several times been suggested to me that Bexley council is run by a “gay mafia” (list of names supplied) but if it is I don’t think it matters - not if they refrain from obscene blogging anyway - but the council being run for a gay mafia would be a very different kettle of fish. Borella’s Motion was in danger of straying into that area.

Councillor Taylor said gay rights are not a matter for Bexley council and would cost money to ensure compliance, hence his amended Motion. The Labour sponsors argued that Taylor’s Motion was not a revision, it amounted to an entirely new Motion and should be ruled out of order. Wishy Washy ducked the issue by passing it to the council’s legal officer. I got the impression from what he said that he agreed it was a new Motion but if he did he allowed it to stand anyway, superseding Borella’s Motion. Well he has his inflated salary to protect. It gave the green light to councillor Sawyer to let rip with a speech that probably owed much to his wife Priti Patel MP. It included numerous choice phrases. Certain activities were not his business nor the council’s. The Motion was cynical and for nothing other than political gain, to promote positive discrimination and to score cheap political points. It attempts to create division where there is none and lives in the Looney Left past. It showed why the Labour group was unfit to run a council and if anyone wanted proof of that, tonight was the night. It’s a tragedy that they still want to distribute money like an incontinent ATM, the gay marriage cause may be just but the Motion is political window dressing.

Councillor Malik responded but was rudely told to sit down and stop speaking by the gavel waving imbecile on the top bench. Councillor Malik finished making his point anyway and as a result overran his allotted time by all of four seconds.

The revised Motion was approved by 45 votes with six abstentions and ten against. I have a note of which Conservatives abstained and assume that is as a result of deeply held religious convictions. For that reason they won’t be named here.

Boris busFollowing all that excitement the council leader’s Report was questioned. There was more than a little interest in Boris Johnson’s new ‘Routemaster’ bus. For some reason the Conservatives thought it highly amusing that Craske had photographed the Labour group skulking behind the clock tower when Boris brought his bus to town. Small minds are easily amused I suppose. Councillor Craske could not resist indulging in one of his trademark cheap jibes. He said that the Boris Bus had visited Bexley more often than Ken Livingstone. Unless the local press has been guilty of a very big failure to report facts I think this has to go down as yet another of Craske’s lies. Why does he do it? Is he totally stupid?

Councillor Clark was concerned by Blue Badge crime and quite right too. The disabled were having their windscreens broken by thieves she said, something I know all too well to be true. Councillor Craske said that in the last year 60 badges had been seized, 30 abusers issued with police cautions and eight prosecuted and fined up to £500.

Councillor Ball commented on the road outside the Civic Centre being clogged with cars on a Sunday since 24/7 parking charges had been introduced and yellow lines might be considered. Craske said he only added to the number of double yellow lines if residents asked for them. No one pointed out that there were no residents in that road nor did Craske dispute the “24/7”.

More than once during the meeting the Labour group expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the arrangements made for the Howbury area of Slade Green. The council leader said that surveys had been positive and residents delighted and on at least two occasions added that the Slade Green (Labour) councillors should be very pleased that theirs was the only area on the receiving end of council investment. What there is to be proud of in neglecting the whole borough other than Howbury puzzles me but if it keeps Teresa happy…

Councillor Munir Malik was concerned for the future of the Freedom Pass and asked if the Boris Bus was good use of public money. Munir in full flow went on to ask why, if it was necessary to boost business by waiving parking charges on Christmas Eve, does it make sense to impose increased charges for the rest of the year? It seemed to be a question worthy of consideration but mayor Sams banged his gavel, told Munir to sit down and by implication shut up. It was the second unwarranted attack on councillor Malik by the mayor and Munir asked why he was being asked to stop when there was no imposed time limit. He got no answer from Sams so I will give him one. If you dress up a pathetic little man with a gold chain, deliver him to his parlour in a limousine and arm him with a wooden hammer, he won’t be able to resist banging it on his highchair like a baby with a spoon.

It had been announced at the start of the meeting that the final Agenda item (11) might necessitate exclusion of the public and I decided to get out at that point rather than be thrown out. However in the minute or so it took me to visit the boys’ room I found everyone, mayor included, leaving the building.

In total the peak number of members of the public present was around a dozen, although some of them looked to be council staff. There is another council meeting next week. I’ll have to check the Agenda to see if it might provide more gaiety. Craske’s performance might be good for a laugh.

 

22 February - Craske has no answers - just more carefully chosen irrelevancies

Extract from News ShopperTwo weeks ago the News Shopper published a letter from a Mr. Walkling who had been fined by Bexley council for ‘paying and displaying’ in Sidcup - the CCTV confirmed he did so - but although his ticket was visible on his car window, it was, according to Bexley council, displayed in the wrong window. Mr. Walkling likened Bexley council to North Korea and said he wasn't going to go shopping in Sidcup ever again - which seems a not unreasonable reaction.

This week councillor Peter Craske appears on the News Shopper’s letter page excusing his department’s behaviour with four totally irrelevant “facts”. Nowhere does he address the complaint. He has no answer as to why a fine is justified for buying a ticket and not sticking it on the windscreen as precisely as he would like. Instead he complains about the “myths” said to be circulating about Bexley’s parking regime. I can think of several…


• Bexley has the cheapest parking in South East London.
• Bexley has more parking spaces than elsewhere in South East London.
• It costs nearly £250 to issue a Resident’s Parking Permit.
• Bexley council conducted a survey about the Controlled Parking Zone in Albert Road, Bexley. (It did not, confirmed by FOI.)

• The new parking facility at Hall Place cost ‘only’ £1,000,000. (The council’s Capital Expenditure Report said it cost £3,605,000.)


Who do you think came out with all these myths? No other than Cabinet Member, councillor Peter Craske. Untruthful as ever.

 

21 February - What’s Willy up to now?

SercoProbably every reader will know that Bexley’s refuse services are provided by Serco and most people think they do a good job most of the time. You’d think it would be sensible for Serco to operate their own vehicle fleet and indeed that is what the original announcement said they would do. So why is Will Tuckley “sponsoring” a cross London scheme to make bulk purchases of refuse vehicles?

The idea is reasonable enough; to get together with other boroughs when purchasing vehicles may well save money but why refuse vehicles? Serco were supposed to own and run the vehicles now, how will Bexley benefit? If Bexley has no need to join this scheme why is Will Tuckley taking a leading role in it? Who paid him to do the job? Link to the announcement.


Extension of vehicle lifeThe extract (left) from one of the London Commercial Fleet Project’s documents suggests that Serco might be having their cake and eating it too. Just who does own Bexley’s refuse vehicles? The other boroughs with contracted out services make it clear they have no need to buy their own. See Refuse Collection Vehicles Report.

 

19 February - Welling corridor diary (Week 6)

The photo diary has been updated and for those who may be puzzled by why the work is being done, the Consultation document has been added. See Index.

 

18 February - New site menu

After much experimentation a new and more flexible site menu has been introduced to the main site pages. It’s a bit of a compromise, but it’s the best I have come up with so far. As far as I know all the problems are confined to Internet Explorer 6 which is 12 years old, abandoned and unloved. If yesterday is typical 42% of visitors use Internet Explorer and of those only 0.9% are using version 6. IE6 users will no longer see the rotating Carousel and the spacing above and below the menu is too big but everything should nevertheless work on IE6. In case it doesn’t and maybe of use to those with small screens or using devices that do not support javascript, the menu has been replicated as a web page. See the ‘Menu map’ button at the bottom left of the site banner. If no snags are seen over the next few days a similarly styled menu will be applied to the blog pages.

Bad RequestGetting the more complex pages to work on IE6 is a complete pain in the backside but the modern browsers all behave in a similar (but not identical) fashion to each other. If something works in IE9 and Google Chrome it will probably work in Firefox, Safari and Opera too - which are the browsers used for testing Bonkers. So I can’t explain why a reader found that Bexley council’s web forms produce an error when not using Internet Explorer. I reproduced it very easily using Chrome.

Bexley council’s website is huge and no doubt difficult to maintain but presumably they employ professionals to do it. It really isn’t good enough.

 

17 February - Public Realm Scrutiny Committee

There was a meeting of the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee last night chaired by councillor Cheryl Bacon. The Agenda was 118 pages long and there were several supporting documents and it took 2½ hours to wade through the lot. If you are expecting a comprehensive report you have come to the wrong place.

The Agenda made for interesting reading but the meeting which consists mainly of short addresses by council officers followed by questions from councillors contrives to be tedious. It may be that there aren’t any interesting questions unanswered by the 118 pages and things are certainly not helped by the generally poor quality of the sound waves that reach the ears of the audience. The fact is, that apart from council officer Jane Richardson who is exemplary, no one has a clue about the use of their microphones. Even when they remembered to switch them on, everyone but Mrs. Richardson ignored their microphone and frequently turned their head away and/or drifted a couple of feet from it. The seating arrangement is such that half the councillors have their backs to the audience and the end result is poor audibility requiring close attention.

Mrs. Bacon opened the meeting by welcoming the public to the meeting and immediately prevented councillor Munir Malik from questioning why several actions required by the minutes of the last meeting had not found their way to the current Agenda. Apparently Bexley’s protocols do not allow for ‘Matters Arising’ and if some items get lost; then tough luck, that is the way it is. Councillor John Waters aided and abetted the chairman in this decision. During the next 150 minutes I learned a number of interesting things. Perhaps the most noteworthy (to me) are…


• During the past year 52% of the projects (by value) scheduled to produce savings under Strategy 2014 are completed. A further 20% are going according to plan and 28% are at risk of failing in some way.
• The average price of housing in the borough is £225,233 which is 0·9% lower than a year ago. The figure is the third lowest of all the London boroughs. A pity you can’t say the same about the council tax where we are 24th worst out of 32.
• Unemployment is rising but remains much better than the London average - except in a few pockets to the North of the borough where it is twice the London average.
• The Siemens CCTV contract has provided income from local housing associations but nothing from elsewhere. As a result the income from 3rd parties is £23,000 below target. The cost of BT line rental is £17,000 over budget. Not good.


Because much of the proceedings were tedious it was tempting to read ahead in the Agenda and I did. So it seems did councillor Brad Smith who on three occasions asked questions relating to a subject the meeting had not yet reached. His mistake was met with the amusement you might expect. Councillor Malik however was not so fortunate; he asked a question relating to Agenda item 6 after the meeting had moved on to item 7. He was told that he was too late and if necessary must address his question to the individual officer outside the meeting. This opens up a whole can of worms in my view. It deprives the other members of the committee an element of scrutiny and the same goes for the public. Why not go the whole hog and have all questions answered in private and not have public meetings in future? Shhh. Don’t give them ideas.

Councillor June Slaughter can come up with some nice signs of scepticism when she tries. She felt that some of the targets the council had set itself were far too easy and was concerned that the targets are what they are primarily to allow the council to blow its trumpet later. Mrs. Slaughter took a similar line when council officer Mike Frizoni told us that the proportion of children going to school by car had fallen significantly. Like everyone in the audience (I know it is true because I was the only one present at the late hour) who has ever attempted to drive around at 9 o’clock in the morning, Mrs. Slaughter had noticed how much easier it is during school holidays and felt things were getting worse not better. How do you get these figures she wanted to know. Mr. Frizoni said he goes into the classrooms and asks pupils for a show of hands. Sounds like a good scientific survey to me. Councillor Sybil Camsey observed that a £50,000 cycle shed at a school in her ward remains almost completely empty.

Many more questions were answered in similarly vague or imprecise manner. I noted the chairman answer one of councillor Malik’s questions about unemployment with “find out for yourself”. When he asked for next year’s target for unemployment the responsible officer said she didn’t know and when Munir asked what impact Crossrail and the Olympics might have on unemployment rates he went away empty handed again. Is it possible that only councillor Malik has a nose for the incisive question that goes to the heart of the matter? Other questions that required a numerical answer were met with “Not a huge number” and “Significant enough to notice”.

Councillor Tarrant drew attention to the fact that the council was touting for more advertising business, the latest idea is to place adverts on lamp posts, but at the same time £50,000 was being spent on getting rid of unsightly street clutter.

One thing that was made absolutely clear at the meeting is that the redevelopment of the Larner Road tower blocks will provide more homes than before, not fewer as some rumours would have you believe. The increased number will be small but there will be a lot more accommodation overall with more of the homes being ‘family’ instead of flats and bedsits. I’m not sure how you get more accommodation by switching from hi-rise to low-rise but the chairman was emphatic that that was the case.

The foregoing is necessarily a very condensed version of events. The complete Agenda is available on Bexley council’s website.

 

16 February (Part 2) - Which councillors aren’t listening to you?

Probably most of them; but Elwyn Bryant has been seeking more publicity for Bexley council’s rejection of his petition and reminded me I had failed to name all the undemocratic councillors who endorsed Kevin Fox’s decision that calling for government policy to apply to Bexley as well as the remainder of the country fell foul of Standing Order 84. So to keep Elwyn happy here is the list…

Don Massey (Cray Meadows) chairman, Philip Read (Northumberland Heath) proposer, Mike Slaughter (Longlands) seconder, Brian Bishop (Colyers), Jackie Evans (Sidcup), Steven Hall (East Wickham), Howard Marriner (Barnehurst), James Spencer (Christchurch), Colin Tandy (St. Mary’s) and John Waters (Danson Park). Try to remember those names when the next elections are due.

The only councillor who thought Fox’s interpretation of the Standing Order was wrong was Seán Newman (Belvedere). Another name that may be worth remembering come the next election.

 

16 February (Part 1) - Don’t Wyncham, punch ’em

Wyncham HouseAbout three weeks ago news came in of a punch-up at Wyncham House, home to Bexley council’s planning department. It was alleged that one of the planning officers got into a heated debate with a female visitor and decided that the best way of getting his point of view across was a swift right hook - or something like that - and she suffered minor injuries requiring treatment. It’s not the sort of story that I would cover without a statement by a witness and it was left unreported. However John Watson of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group, who I meet now and again, thought some enquiries would be in order and wrote to Chief Executive Will Tuckley.

I don’t know exactly what John said but presumably Tuckley was asked if he could confirm or deny the reports. Two weeks later and in contravention of Bexley’s code of practice on correspondence response times, John has heard nothing at all. Tuckley is well versed in the art of cover-up and in my view John Watson must be the supreme optimist if he expected a prompt and truthful reply. Nevertheless the silence goes a little way towards confirming the initial reports may have been correct. A brief denial would not take a lot of effort, on the other hand, given Tuckley’s denial of any police investigation into the obscene blog, would it be worth the paper it was written on?

 

15 February - Subject Access Request

Will Tuckley Teresa O'NeillIt seemed such a good idea when a reader suggested a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act as a simple means of getting information from Bexley council following the unjustified (†) issue of a Harassment Form 9993 in April last year. Just pay your ten pounds and in return get copies of all the council documentation bearing my name. But that was to reckon without the dishonesty of Bexley council. They simply ignored the request. Then they refused the Information Commissioner’s (IC) request.

Following more pressure by the IC and another refusal by Bexley council I think it is time to give up. To get anything out of Bexley council the IC suggests court action. As Bexley council would have anticipated, I’m not sure it is worth it. I’ve got most of what I wanted anyway. It may not be absolute proof in the legal sense but Bexley council’s refusal to offer any documentation on either the harassment issue or their obscene blogging is a pretty clear indication that to do so would incriminate themselves.

I’ve always thought that council leader Teresa O’Neill and overpaid Chief Executive Will Tuckley must know quite a lot about both issues but were never going to come clean. Why else would Tuckley state in his FOI response there had been no police investigation into the blogging when Olly Cromwell’s trial papers showed that the police went to see him about it on 7th July? They concluded that there was no prospect of finding the culprit. Why did Tuckley have to be so devious about that? Somewhere in Bexley council there is a criminal and Bexley council know it and the inaction has ensured that Bexley council remains a safe haven for criminals. Knowing that the names Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley will forever be associated with hiding criminal activities is worth a tenner of anyone’s money. Even more of a bargain that they never cashed my cheque.

† Correspondence with the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Met. Police Directorate of Professional Standards has confirmed that Bexleyheath police and DI. Keith Marshall in particular failed to comply with any part of standard police procedures when issuing Form 9993. No check as to whether the complaint was justified. No attempt to discuss the matter with me before the issue of the Form. A refusal to provide details of the precise offence so that behaviour might be modified. 100% wrong on every count but the threat of arrest for “criticising” Bexley council remains.

 

14 February (Part 3) - The Taxpayers’ Alliance has a Valentine’s Day message for Bexley council

The Tax Payers’ Alliance has blown raspberries rather than kisses in the direction of Bexley council. Surely they couldn’t be so deluded as to expect anything but criticism to come from the throttling of democracy by the unelected Kevin Fox and the endorsement of his decision by ten Conservatives led by councillors Philip Read and Mike Slaughter?

 

14 February (Part 2) - Not only is Bexley’s mobile CCTV uncertificated their penalty notices are iffy too

You would think that all the high salaries Bexley pays its executives would at least buy in people who know their rear ends from their elbows, but it would appear not. The Parking Adjudicator has allowed an appeal from someone who claimed the wording on Bexley’s Penalty Notices doesn’t comply with the law. It's a bit technical, I had to read it more than once but this is part of what the Adjudicator said…


4) The second of Ms. Green's submissions appears to me to carry more weight. The Bexley notice to owner form states, "...you should return your representations and any supportive evidence to… within 28 days of the date of service of this Notice to Owner, (which is the date it was delivered)". Ms. Green submits that this does not reflect Regulation 3(3) of the same Regulations, which reads, "A notice to owner… must,…. include the following information (a) that representations… against payment of the penalty charge notice may be made to the enforcement authority, but that any representations made outside the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is served ("the payment period") may be disregarded…" Ms. Green makes the submission that "within" has a different meaning to "outside the period of".

5) Such a technical and procedural argument, causing no prejudice to Ms. Green, is not immediately attractive when there is such clear evidence of a contravention. However Bexley has not responded to the argument, and I find that it at the very least a reasonable argument. The Notice to Owner is an important document in the enforcement process, and there are statutory requirements for the form. I find that Ms. Green has raised a potential legal or drafting issue with Bexley's form. In the absence of a cogent argument from Bexley as to the legal accuracy of their form, I am finding that the form is not valid, so that reliance upon it causes a procedural impropriety, and am allowing this appeal. This decision is taken on the strength of the arguments in this appeal. It may be that Bexley would be able to provide a contrary argument in another case.


The issue here is that the law says representations in mitigation of any offence may be made at any time but after 28 days those representations may be disregarded. Bexley arrogantly considers itself to be above the law because it says representations must be made within 28 days full stop. That is not as flexible as the law says such notices should be and was ruled to be wrong. Thank goodness we are paying the highest salaries to get the very best people to run Bexley council. Just think what a mess we would be in if Eric Pickles and Elwyn Bryant had their way.

The case is numbered 2110700079 and concerned parking in front of a dropped kerb. Yet another reason to appeal about parking tickets issued by Bexley council

 

14 February (Part 1) - What cut justifies a car like this? Send him actual chat

Car number plateToday Olly Cromwell is not appearing in court; the authorities would have you believe they double booked it. I witnessed the court being booked on December 21st, can they really be that incompetent? If the court was double booked would you not expect Olly’s solicitor to get a letter along the lines of “Sorry we double booked the court, the new date is…”? But they didn’t, they cannot give him a new date. There must be more to this than meets the eye.

Every day in court costs Olly £600. And what did he do to upset Bexley’s disreputable council? He used Twitter to show his friends and followers a picture of a very ordinary unidentified house with the comment “What c**t lives in a house like that, let’s post him actual sh*t”. To most people it could have been any one of a large number of such houses but one nosey parker councillor recognised it as belonging to Bexley council’s favoured painter and decorator, councillor Melvin Seymour and the spineless wimp trotted off to the cop shop to tell them he was worried half to death that his address had been put on the net. It hadn’t been and even if true it wouldn’t be a first, Bexley council had already put it there, complete with map and directions. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story Melvin.

A picture of an unidentified house and a couple of rude words became a priority concern in Bexley warranting the expenditure of large amounts of tax payers’ money. Thank goodness we are paying the highest salaries to get the very best people to run Bexley council. Just think what a mess we would be in if Eric Pickles and Elwyn Bryant had their way.

Arguably I have now committed a greater sin than Olly. There are many houses like the one Olly pictured. There is only one car bearing registration number N7 KOH. I shall have to hope that the owner’s friends don’t recognise it and lie to the police about the blog title. They could insert a consonant, swap another and a vowel too. It’s most unlikely Bexleyheath police would check on their truthfulness, not if they were councillors anyway.

The significance of the number plate (bought for a snip?) and the blog title will be lost on most people, not unlike Olly’s Tweet. The owner of the car is as far as I know guilty of nothing whatsoever - apart perhaps of infringing The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001.

 

13 February - Is Bexley council breaking EU law too?

I don’t like days when this blog has to wander into legal territory because I have no particular expertise in that area and studying the detail takes more time than is usually available. Today’s report is taken at face value from Notomob where some members are employed in legal capacities. It concerns Bexley council’s contract for the CCTV system operated by Siemens.

Council minutesCouncil meetings clearly indicate that the original plan was to pay Siemens somewhat over the odds for the installation and allow them to flog off spare capacity built into the system to spy on residents of other boroughs. Some of this income would find its way back to Bexley council.

It later became apparent that a number of such liaisons had been looked into but the proposed partners, some a very long way from Bexley, were playing hard to get. No one actually signed up. The most recent Public Realm Committee meeting had very little to say on the subject. Maybe other councils are more aware of the pitfalls than Bexley is.

Notomob maintain that “Bexley Council is and has been exploiting this contract in contravention of the Local Government contract regulations 2006 and in breach of the Local Government Act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2, and also in breach of EC Directive 2004/18/EC”. They have been in contact with the Audit Commission to voice their concerns and after a preliminary look at Notomob’s case the Commission has requested a formal complaint. If that is upheld Bexley council will have no chance of recouping the extra money it gave to Siemens. Not that that changes matters a great deal, in the two years of the contract’s existence it has earned nothing anyway. Thank goodness we are paying the highest salaries to get the very best people to run Bexley council. Just think what a mess we would be in if Eric Pickles and Elwyn Bryant had their way.

Bexley’s original grandiose plans for the new CCTV system may be downloaded from here. (PDF file. 292 KB)

 

12 February - The petition against excessive salaries

Daily Telegraph commentOne of the points made by Elwyn Bryant while arguing that refusing to accept his petition was unlawful is that Bexley’s Conservative council was flying in the face of government policy. His point was ruled out of order by the Scrutiny Committee Chairman Don Massey but it remains true whether Bexley council decides to stick its head in the sand or not. Eric Pickles, the government minister responsible is interviewed in today’s Sunday Telegraph, a small extract of which is shown here.

Mr. Bryant’s correspondence from the council says “Following the meeting you will receive written confirmation of the Committee’s decision”. You will not be surprised to hear that he has heard nothing. He needs the written confirmation before taking his next step which I imagine will concentrate on the fact the council used Standing Order 84, which speaks of what may arise during a meeting, to not have the meeting at all. Don Massey thought himself too “thick” to understand the point and by their votes all the Conservative councillors showed themselves to be equally stupid. Only councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere ward) understood the point being made. It is to be hoped that electors will be reminded of these facts and how Bexley’s ‘Listening to you’ council choses to ignore them in May 2014.

Elsewhere in the country other councils are facing up to reality. In Bath the council have acceded to residents’ wishes and there is a similar campaign in neighbouring Bristol. Both involve the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA is well aware of the goings on in Bexley but has chosen to ignore them. I still suspect the real reason that Bexley doesn’t want to revisit employment contracts for its top staff is that they know too much and silence has to be bought.

Click the newspaper extract to read the full interview with Eric Pickles.

 

11 February - Nothing going on

There are no Welling corridor pictures this week because the snow has ensured little progress has been made. Olly Cromwell’s trial is off/deferred/cancelled/a farce, take your pick, and there is nothing happening with Harassment Letters, obscene blogs and Subject Access Requests. So it looks like a good time to take a rest until the next possibly interesting council meeting happens. That should be next Thursday when the Public Realm mob turns out to talk about parking among other things. I expect some of the Notomob crew will show up but I doubt we will find out why councillor Craske back-tracked on his plan to get best “value for money” out of the fixed CCTV system by using it to chase motorists rather than have it concentrate on burglars and public safety 100%.

 

10 February - Bexley council. Forgive them their trespasses

As I know that Bonkers has a reader in Bideford I thought I might mention on yet another quiet day in Bexley that down in Devon a councillor objected to prayers being said before Bideford’s council meetings and took his objection to court. Mr. Justice Ousely ruled that such prayers are unlawful under Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 and his ruling will affect all councils (assuming it is not overturned on appeal).

I have no objections to council prayers and might encourage them if God was being asked to help residents against their oppressors, but more often than not the emphasis is the other way around. I shall probably be labelled a hypocrite but when Bexley council carries on flouting this particular court ruling I won't be making a fuss about it. Not unless some idiot mayor decides to write to any atheist member of the public who choses not to stand up. Parsimonious adulation instead of parsimonious appreciation?

Full court report.

 

9 February (Part 2) - The pitchforks and flaming torches must have done their job

For Erith’s Riverside Gardens that is. Here is an extract from Bexley council’s recently published Western Gateway document.

Erith Gardens statementIt would appear that the borough’s last remaining accessible view of the Thames is to be retained, for the time being at least. My understanding is that this is not a case of Bexley council listening to residents, more one of them being unable to find a property developer who thought there was any money to be made on the deal. Click image for the original document.

Note on blog title: “Personally I think we need to descend on Councillor Teresa O’Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks, as it would seem that she and her scheming cohorts are impervious to reasoned argument” were the words used on another local blog to criticism Bexley council’s plan to build over Riverside Gardens and repeated here. Twice. The first resulted in me getting a Harassment letter from the police and Olly Cromwell being prosecuted. Both those cases, as they say, continue, but at least Riverside Gardens survives.

PS. Why is a document about an area to the East of London and the North of the borough titled ‘Western Gateway’?

 

9 February (Part 1) - Olly Cromwell’s trial

It would appear that Olly Cromwell’s trial for uttering a four letter word on Twitter has been deferred again, so please don’t turn up at Greenwich Magistrate’s Court next Tuesday.

The cynical might say that it is an attempt to bankrupt him with additional legal bills, or maybe they just can’t get their case together. Whatever it may be it extends the period during which Olly is not allowed to talk about Bexley councillors. If he is found not guilty he can return to naming names.

 

8 February (Part 3) - Late payers

A few years ago a Bexley councillor was forced to resign by his fellow Conservatives because he fell a couple of months behind with his council tax payments. That was just an excuse of course, the real reason was that he had embarrassed the other councillors by not claiming his expenses. Perhaps he should have done and paid his tax with it!

A reader who stumbled upon that fact decided to ask Bexley council if they had any recent information about councillors slipping behind with their council tax. He began by asking if any had been sent reminders, just numbers sent you understand, not names. Bexley council refused the request saying the question was personal. An appeal was made against the refusal and despite two ‘chasers’ Bexley council has remained stubbornly silent on the matter, so after four months of that treatment the Information Commissioner has been informed. Why is it that secrecy is paramount in Bexley? What harm could come from an answer such as “six reminders have been sent to 63 councillors in the last five years”? I would think that few would care, but instead Bexley council gives us yet another example of its commitment to as little transparency as possible and its wish to avoid its responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act.

I must confess that I received a council tax reminder last month. I used to pay all my standing orders on the 3rd of each month but Thames Water threatened me with court action if I didn't pay on the 1st. So I switched all my standing orders to the 1st. My last payment to Bexley for the current year was due on 1st January but as most people will know (some don’t!) the 1st is a Bank Holiday. You might have expected the standing orders to be paid on the next working day and most were. However those due to end on the 1st of January were wiped from the system at the end of that day as the computer said they were over and done with when in fact the final payments had not yet been made. When something similar happened to me once before Bexley council wrote an extremely rude letter to me; I am pleased to be able to report that this time their letter was entirely reasonable. Thames Water’s wasn’t.

 

8 February (Part 2) - Technical stuff

Most readers won’t be interested in this but the maintenance of this website is beginning to take more time than finding and publishing new material. The main menu in particular was put in place in 2009 and relates mainly to pages produced back then and is of little relevance today. It is no longer practical to put every useful page on the menu and the Site map which was intended to help find obscure pages has become too large and too unwieldy. Whilst the site was down last weekend I started to design something more useful and flexible. All I have discovered so far is that the problem is bigger than I thought. There is now an experimental new menu on the Home page but it doesn't solve the problem. Some bits of it don't even work yet, although any page other than Home and the blogs still carry the old menu. Efforts will be diverted to a new and technically far more advanced Site map. This may take quite a long time…

PS. The experimental new menu was withdrwan on 9th February. It will be replaced by another soon.

 

8 February (Part 1) - Welling corridor diary

An update is available. It would appear that pedestrians are being forced into or across the A213 road while the expensive rearrangements are carried out. I have little knowledge of the area myself so I am not sure what problem Bexley council is trying to solve; probably they see ’boy racers’ as a danger and so they are but the experience in Abbey Road, which I can see from home, is that boy racers use the opposing carriageway if something gets in their way and they have no respect whatever for Keep Left signs.

 

7 February (Part 2) - Any excuse will do

Daily Telegraph reportThose who follow the hot air machine otherwise known as Eric Pickles will be aware that he has asked councils to publish details of staff earning over £58,200 a year. It has yet to be seen how Bexley council proposes to wriggle away from that responsibility, but in the spirit of generosity I offer some quite nice excuses dreamed up by other councils. The attached is an extract from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. Link.

 

7 February (Part 1) - No conspiracy, just a cock-up

This website runs on a facility situated somewhere in Docklands operated by a friend I have known since the Internet began. On Saturday his server suffered a few short term outages and on Sunday morning the decision was taken to update the firmware on one of the Cisco routers. I was speaking to my friend while he did the job. At the 89% mark it hit a serious problem and subsequently it was found that the server’s operating system was corrupted. It was necessary to completely rebuild the server software and restore a huge amount of data from backups. My mail system was unavailable for 25 hours, the web pages took 45 hours to come back on line and it was a further two before I was able to update the website again, the latter being very frustrating because you were unable to see anything later than last Friday’s entries.

Being reliant on a small company for service has its risks, but on the other hand I am not charged for the web space nor are limits imposed on the size of the site or the bandwidth consumed.

Thanks to those who phoned to ask what was going on and the rather larger number whose emails (several suggesting that Bexley council had sabotaged something) arrived when that service was restored by around mid-day yesterday.

While nothing could be published I took the opportunity to redesign the site menu which is stuck too much in the past with too many references to pages that have been unchanged since September 2009. The menu and associated systems can only work on line and local off line testing is not easily possible. Rather than take the whole site down while the new system is tested it will be introduced later this week on the Home page only at the outset. Things could get messy for a while until the snags are sorted out.

 

3 February - A quiet day

There is not going to be any significant news today and probably the same during the weekend, I really must catch up on some other things.

I understand that Bexleyheath police have today and at long last returned all of Olly Cromwell’s property taken from his house in a dawn raid last October and kept contrary to a District Judge’s recommendation more than six weeks ago. So thanks to councillor Melvin Seymour manufacturing an artificial threat to his family by telling the police his location had been identified - it had not, he did that himself by advertising his business - Olly was put to enormous inconvenience and expense. The court found him not guilty of harassment charges.

Last night Bexley council Planning Committee was due to consider the planning application for a new ADSA in Belvedere as recommended by its officials. ASDA’s own website confirms that the plan was rejected in order to protect local shops. I went to see the owner of the biggest nearby shop this afternoon. He had not heard the news and said he will be disappointed if the scheme does not go ahead because he believes it will bring additional trade to the area.

ASDA’s Senior Property Communications Manager, Chris Martin, said about Bexley council: “They have ignored the support we received from across the community including residents, businesses and those seeking jobs”. Welcome to Bonkers Bexley Mr. Martin. That’s Bexley council for you; you could say pretty much the same about the petition rejection.

Google search termLast weekend I gave an example of one of the sillier search terms used to get to this website. It seems that the technique is being enhanced. “Tosser” is no longer enough. It really doesn’t bother me, unlike Bexley council’s obscene blog I regard it as par for the course. It does no one any harm. Maybe I should change my name to Melvin Seymour and report it to the police.

 

2 February - The Harassment Letter. A catalogue of police failure

It has been said several times before that the Harassment Letter that Will Tuckley, Bexley council’s CEO, told Bexleyheath police to issue to me for “criticising councillors at a personal level” went out with no check or investigation by the police, they just did the council’s bidding. That much was very obvious because Olly Cromwell was accused of posting blogs here which he has never done. I requested that the police should tell me what specifically had provoked the threat of arrest and guidance as to how any problem could be avoided in future. I was initially told that I could have neither and later I was totally ignored; my last and again unanswered letter of complaint being dated 11th December 2011.

A formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Service provided no information whatever beyond the fact that Mr. Tuckley’s complaint took precedence over anything I might say following which I reported several of Bexleyheath’s finest to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. That complaint now shows signs of moving.

I am in receipt of a letter which gives some details of what the police should do when considering a Harassment Letter. SOP is ‘Standard Operating Procedure’.
Standard Operating Practice
It would appear that Bexleyheath police have failed on every single count. They did not speak to me. No evidence was ever put to me, indeed there are several Freedom of Information requests outstanding seeking that information but none is forthcoming. I was refused details of the conduct which had given rise to the offence. Bexleyheath police have as you would expect, got every single aspect of the letter and its issue wrong. It’s what comes from slavishly following their paymasters come what may.

 

1 February (Part 3) - The petition - Strangled at birth

Councillor Don MasseyAs you will be well aware, this website, various councillors and senior council officers collaborate closely to ensure that any reputation Bexley council may have once had is as comprehensively trashed as is possible on a regular basis. Last night the Finance and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee came up trumps by endorsing a council officer’s rejection of the 2,219 signature petition which asked the full council to debate the renegotiation of senior officers’ pay to reflect government policy more than it does now. It would have been a tragedy if the decision had gone the other way; if ‘Not Listening To You, Working to Line Our Own Pockets’ had not been upheld the whole of 2012 may have been blighted by the inability to constantly refer back to it.

The unelected council officer who took the decision to not let councillors debate the widely supported petition was Kevin Fox (Head of Committee Services). He had written a two page letter to the petition organiser, Elwyn Bryant, on 22 December giving five reasons for his decision. Mr. Fox briefly reiterated his case to the Scrutiny Committee. Mr. Bryant was allowed five minutes to say why he thought Fox was wrong. As there was no evidence that the councillors present had looked at any of the documents in advance he began by outlining the reason the petition existed, its widespread support etc. and at each stage was interrupted by the Committee Chairman, councillor Don Massey complaining that he must confine himself to “the process” and that he was out of order. When Mr. Bryant referred to the five reasons for rejection put forward by Mr. Fox the chairman professed not to understand the points being made and pre-empted my own thoughts perfectly when he exclaimed “I may be thick”. So thick that I wondered if he displayed the same degree of thickness when undertaking his magisterial duties in the nearby Court.

Following Mr. Bryant’s address, Mr. Fox again restated his claim that he had been told at the midway point of his signature gathering exercise that the petition would be rejected but he carried on regardless thereby “misleading” petitioners who subsequently signed. Apparently he and his political masters believe the unelected Mr. Fox is in a position to single-handedly dictate residents’ wishes and what message they wished to be conveyed to councillors. In this case they were shown what senior officers were being paid and if they didn’t like what they saw they signed on the dotted line. Simple freedom of choice but anathema to Bexley council.

Ed Milliband then surprised everyone by espousing a firmly held view that Stephen Hester was worth every penny of his salary and bonus as Chief Executive at The Royal Bank of Scotland and that good men must be paid the going rate for every job even while many people are losing theirs. Hang on, something must be wrong there, let me look at my notes again. Ah yes; it was councillor Alan Deadman (Labour, North End ward) who said that about Will Tuckley and his cronies, my mistake. Chairman councillor Massey should have warned Deadman that he must confine himself to “the process” and not the petition subject but it is futile to expect equality of treatment at the hands of the local despots.

Section 84Councillor Steven Hall with rather more skill than the Chairman could ever muster, tried to rescue the floundering Fox by asking him “Does ‘inappropriateness’ apply solely to Standing Order 84?” After considering the implications for a short while, Fox replied “Yes”. Thanks to councillor Hall further discussion could be more focused. Four of the five reasons for rejection out of the window with a solitary incisive question.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour) said he was unhappy with Mr. Fox’s interpretation of Standing Order 84. His views were indistinguishable from Mr. Bryant’s. Councillor Deadman said S.O. 84 was clearly inadequate for the purpose to which it was being put. It wasn’t fair he said, for residents to have to put their names to a petition which could be dismissed in such an “airy fairy” fashion.


Petition rulesMr. Bryant reminded the Committee that S.O. 84 referred to debates that had gone before the full council and what should be done if certain subjects cropped up and it wasn’t an excuse for no debate at all. Mr. Fox quoted his final point (see extract above) about Questions and Deputations relating to HR being “likely to be refused” to which the obvious retort was that a Petition was being discussed not a Deputation. Mr. Fox then came out with an unfathomable explanation of why he actually meant to say Petition. The Chairman recognised the confusion and produced the perfect solution. Mr. Bryant’s Petition was in fact a Deputation. He was deputised by 2,219 Bexley residents to stand in front of him and present their views. Councillor Massey may not be as thick as I thought he was but he is every bit as devious. A pity he contradicts the rules. “We will treat something as a petition if it is identified as being a petition.” Fox accepted it as a petition two months ago. Now the goalposts are moved and it is a deputation.


The petitionThickness was however not so far away in the shape of councillor Philip Read who moved that the rejection of the Deputation be upheld. He was aided and abetted by councillor Mike Slaughter (†) who seconded Read’s suggestion. The Chairman suggested that councillors took the decision away for further thought but his faith in their abilities was misplaced. One of the few Conservatives present with the ability to think is councillor Colin Campbell. I’m never quite sure what to make of Colin Campbell. I think I quite like him but only in the way some of the American public admired John Dillinger in the 1930s. Councillor Campbell offered the opinion that if the petition had not begun with the example salaries taken from Bexley’s website it may well have succeeded. That is quite a thought. The real heart of the petition began with the words “We therefore petition and appeal…” and what went before was no more than a scene setter, a preamble. Does councillor Campbell really believe that keeping would-be signatories in the dark before asking them for support is more honest and open than explaining to them why it might be a good idea to sign? Probably he does; keeping people in the dark is in Bexley council’s DNA.

Inevitably the vote went ahead along strictly party lines as they always do in Bexley. Both councillors Deadman and Newman voted for the petition to go forward to full council and all the Conservatives preferred to stamp on the voice of their electors. If I heard him correctly against the background noise of rejoicing Conservatives, councillor Newman insisted that his objections be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

So what now? The unlawful application of Standing Order 84 to a petition and the rules on petitions having been ignored, the case must go to the Local Government Ombudsman for a ruling. Meanwhile the effort put into gaining more publicity will continue. Probably the News Shopper will cover the rejection, they sent a reporter to the meeting, and there is a reasonable chance Bexley will once again be featured on one of the national political websites over the coming days.

The collaboration between leading Conservative councillors and Bonkers towards their exposure as cheats and charlatans can continue unabated. Democracy has dared to peep over the trench top and its head has been well and truly blown off.

† My angle of view was such that this identification is reliant on others.

 

1 February (Part 2) - Asleep on the job

The Bexley Notomob coordinator tipped me off on Monday that the News Shopper was likely to feature a CCTV spy car driver parked and fast asleep in Yarnton Way today, and so it has, plastered all over its front page. The Shopper asked Si Clarke, Notomob's local expert on the subject for comment but the News Shopper didn’t use it, too technical for their readers apparently, but I’m sure you will be able to cope if you are interested.


Some councils use unattended systems to identify contraventions automatically and store them for later processing, the CCTV car can be parked and GPS technology tells the system what offence to be looking for. Bexley council does not use this system and the driver needs to be fully awake not only to record the offence should one take place but also to be able to provide a statement of the events to back up the information that is recorded. I would question how alert the driver was as she was not aware that she was the subject of a photo shoot.

Taken from the Code of Practice for Operation of CCTV Enforcement Cameras, Monitoring of Traffic 2.4.1…

“Contraventions will be identified from attended systems by monitoring the screen and operating the cameras in real time. The operator must obtain the most effective images of a vehicle and its surrounding circumstances at the time when any contravention may be occurring. Contraventions must be identified at the time when they are committed. Pre-recorded video images will not be studied to identify contraventions committed at some earlier time.”

Along with obtaining the most effective images of the contravention, the operator must provide a written statement of the contravention. In Bexley’s case the operator may feel redundant as all they do is record the vehicle index number and time and location on a log sheet. Then in contravention of the code of practice Bexley Council review the footage at a later time in a backroom and then send a PCN without taking into account any reasons why the offence may of been committed. In this case, if they were to ask the operator for a statement concerning the circumstances of any PCNs she may have been awake enough to identify, I doubt that she would be able to give the full facts. As we know, once anyone is issued with a PCN the choice is to ask no questions and pay quickly at a reduced rate or try to submit representation. Should that be rejected, they must pay the full amount or take the case to adjudication. If that fails they still only pay the full amount. On the plus side it’s good to note that the number of PCNs issued is falling due to the public complying with parking regulations within Bexley and on some shifts no PCNs are issued. Maybe a reason why the operator felt she could have a little nap.

 

1 February (Part 1) - Bellegrove Road, the inevitable result - click either image for photo diary (3 images)

Bellegrove RoadBellegrove RoadThe narrowest part of Abbey Road, Belvedere is a place where bus drivers choose not to pass by in opposite directions. Something similar is happening in Bellegrove Road already. Abbey Road also suffers from vehicles taking the wrong route around pedestrian refuges. Having experienced ‘wrong way traffic’ while standing on such an island I can confirm it can be very frightening and dangerous, though perhaps no more frightening than having two vehicles go by within inches of ones nose and rear end at the same time.

I was with my friend who chairs European Union meetings on road and vehicle safety just over a week ago. He told me that creating unnecessary hazards in the hope of reducing speeds and accidents is a claim much favoured by local authorities but it is not supported by the evidence.

 

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