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Bonkers Blog November 2012

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30 November - Another month gone

The end of another month means another Bonkers’ summary…

Death threat
Grim reaperThe most bizarre thing to have happened in November was that I was accused of making a death threat against Kevin Fox, the man who dishonestly put paid to the 2,219 signature petition against Bexley council’s excessive senior salaries. Thrown out in part, you may remember, because it was alleged it misled residents by providing examples of salaries the council said were wrong. They were. Despite being taken from the council’s own web site the accounts published later showed the figures to be too low.

The ‘Death Threat’ was made after the Cabinet meeting in Thamesmead in a report which said I hoped the councillors got out alive and excluded Kevin Fox from that wish. I altered it to “get out in one piece” which isn’t really any different but maybe sounds as if it is. You can’t be too careful with over sensitive folk everywhere seeing offence in the most harmless of Tweets and our utterly useless police force apparently with nothing better to do.


Useless police

Chief Superintendent Victor OlisaSpeaking of useless police, readers will probably have noticed a shift in emphasis from trying to bring Bexley’s obscene blogger to justice to highlighting the police’s apparent reluctance to do so and an acceptance that political interference may be the cause. The eighteen months of delay is totally ridiculous unless the police enquiry has become far more wide ranging - and they have said it hasn’t.

Any confidence that the police might be intent on doing a decent job evaporated when the last investigating officer was transferred to other duties and the responsibilities were taken over by one named in the latest report on corruption and dishonesty at Bexleyheath police station.

I summarised my current view of what might be going on on the new Home page which was introduced at readers’ request. There had been justifiable complaints, perhaps that is too strong a word, about the previous one which was loaded with facts about Bexley council’s obscene blog. That was introduced at the request of a journalist who wanted to see a concise and comprehensive summary. The older page has been moved away but will continue to be updated as necessary.

The six month old complaint to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe about the original failure to do anything to track down the obscene blogger is still unanswered.


Newspapers and journalists
There was another enquiry this month from a national newspaper interested in covering bonkers Bexley council but it went the same way as the last one which was from the Daily Mail back in the Spring. Once they read what was in the obscene blog they say it is far too filthy and shocking for a family newspaper. Personally I think the police failures and what would appear to be a cover up makes the more interesting story.

Both Rita Grootendorst and A.N. Other asked the News Shopper why they fully reported Bexley council’s launching of a Section 215 attack upon her but said nothing when the council’s case was thrown out. Their excuse was somewhat lame, they didn’t have a spare reporter to attend court. It doesn’t stop them reporting council propaganda when they have had no reporter in the council chamber to hear things at first hand.

Complaint
Kevin FoxI started with Kevin Fox and I shall end the same way. While I ran this website single handed I made two official complaints to Bexley council but after attracting several regular contributors I generally leave that sort of thing to others. However I felt I must make another this month.

Kevin Fox told me in writing that there were no rules against taking a photograph in the Civic Offices before a meeting started, just ask he said. So I asked to take one with a wide angle lens to set the scene for a meeting report. I said I wouldn’t be using flash and I would take it only from the public area and would be perfectly happy to be directed by a council officer who I would allow to look at the image and say whether or not he felt it to be OK. There is no way of being more cooperative than that short of getting the council officer to press the shutter button. But Kevin Fox said that he would not allow a photograph to be taken under those conditions.

So I have complained that by his perverse decision Kevin Fox has been instrumental in bringing Bexley council into disrepute because he presented me with yet another example of Bexley council’s stupidity. For good measure I complained that he broke the council’s correspondence policy by not replying to my follow up email and that he twice broke the law by denying me (and attempting to deny) the facilities normally afforded to traditional journalists (a table to write at) as is required by the law introduced on 10th September 2012.

 

29 November - Halt. Who goes there?

Cyclists dismountCyclists dismountIf I am short of news or fancy a quiet day its easy to fall back on another Frizoni Folly; there seems to be an inexhaustible supply.

I cannot make head nor tail of this one. A two way cycle path is suddenly interrupted by Give Way signs but what one is supposed to give way to is unclear. There is no adjacent dropped kerb, there is no tactile paving and it’s not a good place for a pedestrian to cross the road as I discovered while taking the photographs. There is no gate or opening in the adjacent wall either so there really is no special need for a pedestrian to want to cross the cycle path at this point.

It’s a total mystery. One can only guess it is a left over from long ago which may have made sense then but as has been seen so often before no Bexley council official comes out to check the work that is done in their name.

Where is it? I’m tempted not to say to ‘keep ’em guessing’ but I suppose that might be irresponsible. OK, it’s in Erith, around the corner from the Potion Bar in Wharfside Close.

Note: with thanks to a reader’s tip off.

 

28 November (Part 3) - Bexley distinguishes itself in the Ofsted results…

Mark Charters…by having the fewest number of council maintained schools and academies rated Outstanding in the whole of London last year. And what was that number? A big fat zero!

The best boroughs were Southwark, Harrow and Ealing with 10, 9 and 7 outstanding schools respectively. All Labour controlled as it happens. Only Barking and Havering managed to share Bexley’s exalted position. Previous years weren’t much better, two outstanding in 2010/11, one in 2009/10, one in 2008/09.

When Bexley council screwed up on Children in Care a member of staff was dismissed, what’s the betting on Mark Charters (Director of Education and Social Care) retaining his £175,000 package for this second failure? Source data.

Councillor John Fuller, Cabinet member for Education said, in a different context, “Bexley is fortunate to have many high quality schools”.

 

28 November (Part 2) - The mystery of police attendance at council meetings

Mr. Barnbrook and policeStationing police inside and outside the Civic Centre before and during public meetings shows signs of becoming the norm. Cabinet Meetings at the Civic Centre are “a complete waste of time” (Source: Bexley council), they are rehearsed, short, ‘no one’ turns up and nothing much happens. If there is trouble the police station is only 150 yards away. Why do the police need to be there and how much do they cost us?

Following the meeting held on 16th October 2012 graced by three policemen, a Freedom of Information request was sent to both the police and the council in an effort to establish some facts.

The police replied “The officers were on duty in their ward and Chief Superintendent Olisa asked for them to pay attention to the public meeting that was being held in the Council office building. There had been concerns raised that this could be disrupted and the officers were there to prevent a breach of the peace. The police officers were there on their ward providing their normal policing duties. The Officers did not provide any special service for Bexley Council.”

As you might imagine, that FOI response did not satisfy Mr. Barnbrook - for it was he - and he sent another. Meanwhile Bexley council replied to their FOI. “There was no request by the Local Authority for police to be deployed at the meeting of the Public Cabinet, which was held in the Civic Offices, Bexleyheath, on Tuesday 16 October 2012.”


TweetThe total ‘public’ attendees that night were five members of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group, an equally elderly lady - and me. One might guess that Olisa decided on police presence because of John Kerlen’s (aka Olly Cromwell) rhetorical question. But why the probable lie about “normal policing duties” and the more obvious one, “did not provide any special service”? On 16th October the time of three officers was wasted for at least an hour.

Do senior police officers have nothing better to do than monitor John Kerlen’s Tweets and if so why don’t they do the job better? Not a single Twitterer replied to his question.

Even if the Olly Cromwell supposition is correct it does not explain the police presence at other meetings. Mr. Barnbrook’s second FOI was more comprehensive…


• "Please supply details of all correspondence, emails, etc. received by Bexley Borough Police from Bexley Council in the last two years that have given cause for concern that any Bexley Council Meeting was likely to, or has been disrupted.
• Please supply details of all correspondence, emails, etc. received by Bexley Borough Police from any other source in the last two years that have given cause for concern that any Bexley Council Meeting was likely to, or has been disrupted.
• Please supply details of all CAD messages in the last two years, requesting police to attend any ongoing disturbance at any council meeting at Bexley Civic Offices.
• Please supply details of police records for the last two years, indicating the number of individuals ejected from, or arrested for, disrupting any council meeting at Bexley Civic Offices."


The police said that all their answers were the same. “The searches failed to locate any information relevant to your request.”

So Bexley council say they don’t ask the police to show up and the police admit to there being no recordable problem at the Civic Offices yet Borough Commander Victor Olisa thinks it is a good use of public resources to get his officers to parade up and down outside the Civic Centre and sit in on meetings. Has the 999 service deteriorated so much that he couldn’t get his men down from Arnsberg Way within a couple of minutes in the unlikely event that was necessary?

Note: CAD: Computer Aided Despatch.

 

28 November (Part 1) - The Outlook is more prevarication

Council instructionThe Freedom of Information request (FOI) for a copy of Will Tuckley’s business diary is still kicking around Wilmslow, the Information Commissioner’s HQ address, to test whether a brief extract from the real thing is an acceptable substitute.

Meanwhile, someone who must have Bexley council associations showed me what their internal instructions say about diaries. All diary entries must go into Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar. That seems eminently sensible but why did Bexley council take a couple of months to respond to the FOI and eventually go to the trouble of typing it out when an electronic copy could have been sent at the click of a mouse?

I think we know the answer.

 

27 November (Part 2) - Rotten to the core

Victor OlisaMetropolitan Police Mission Statement:
We have pride in delivering quality policing, there is no greater priority.
We will build trust by listening and responding


A couple of weeks ago I was very pleased that a Bexley resident felt able to share his experience of Bexleyheath police and the corruption he exposed in court. A Judge was convinced that Bexleyheath police had systematically lied to turn a serious crime into a non crime - worse than that, to put the blame on the victim - with the result that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board refused assistance.

The resident indicated he would be back and he has been as good as his word. He has yet to reveal why Bexleyheath police were so keen to falsify the evidence but I feel sure that will come in due course. Here is the unedited Phase II of his report.


The curious thing about the court case is that the Police seemed intent on doing whatever they could (including spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money) just to avoid the simple, honest action of correcting their records:

• They stated that they “neither admitted nor denied” that an assault had even taken place – a strange argument when several Bexley officers had already referred in their own documents to the “assault”.
• They asked the judge to “skip past” some of their false blaming of the victim, on the grounds that it was only “in handwriting quickly done”.
• They claimed they didn’t have to correct false information about CCTV footage of the assault, on the grounds that their comments were about a CCTV camera and not about the child being assaulted. (The judge rejected this argument as an “artificial” distinction.)
• They claimed it was “very dangerous indeed to start requiring” the police to correct their records, as this would “damage their integrity”.
• They were caught misquoting data protection law, changing “disclosure” to “processed” so that it fitted their argument better.
• They were caught misquoting a witness, falsely claiming that he had said the child had “caused” the attack upon himself.
• They argued that, if a man assaulted and killed another man claiming that he thought, “completely wrongly and wholly unreasonably”, that the other man was about to attack him, this would be “a good self defence argument” that could make him “not guilty of an offence”, and that people who do consider this an offence were not looking at it “at a higher level”. (This is useful to Bexley Police, as it frees up their time from investigating serious assaults and killings, and allows them to refocus their limited resources on prosecuting bloggers and standing around at council meetings instead.)

The judge didn’t accept any of these claims. But, as with Bexley councillors and council officers, when there are insufficient checks and balances on your behaviour, it is easy to start believing that you can get away with doing and saying whatever you like.

A correspondent informs me that, after the judge gave his decision, the Police put pressure on him, telling him that his verdict was “inappropriate” and threatening to “go further with it” unless the judge was “prepared to re-open the finding”. Indeed, the correspondent began to fear that the judge might himself get arrested for not showing the Police enough ‘respect’. Thankfully, the judge stood his ground, and the Police ended up backing down.

Next we can start looking at the Police 'investigation'. Some elements of it might be familiar to readers of this website.


It’s dreadfully depressing to read just how dishonest Bexleyheath police can be but I await the next installment with some impatience. As a convenience to readers the whole story is being amalgamated here.

Note: This example of the corruption rife within Bexleyheath police occurred before the arrival of the present Borough Commander Victor Olisa.

 

27 November (Part 1) - DPA. Don’t Provide Anything

Internal memoA little over 18 months ago year I submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) to Bexley council in an attempt to see who had authorised the attempt to get Bexley police to charge me for repeating something that first appeared on another blog.

I never did get a proper response. Bexley council claimed a legal exemption because they had sought legal advice about me. The Information Commissioner supported Bexley council although I was later advised that the exemption only applies to legal advice bought in from an external source, not advice that comes from a Bexley council officer who just happens to work in their legal department. But there is not enough time to chase every bit of council dishonesty.

I have been sent more evidence of how Bexley council will routinely break the Data Protection Act.

Someone who I don’t think knew what an SAR was merely asked for a copy of the file Bexley council held on him. They were reluctant to comply with the law and I believe some strong words may have been exchanged before they agreed to provide what was required.

In the bundle of papers were these comments… “What he will be allowed to see” and “it is unlikely he will get what he wants”. As a give away of what goes on behind Bexley council’s doors it is a bit of an eye opener; though probably not as good as “in case audit pick this up”.

Note: The memo is undated and I believe it is not very recent.

 

26 November (Part 3) - Double-barrelled incompetence

Benefit changesThe new rules mandate the sharing of rooms by same sex children up to age 21, age ten for children of different sex. “21 seems quite old to share a room. Why not 16 or 18?” asked councillor Ball. “That's what the standard allows” said Bryce-Smith. Stefano Borella asked a question designed to confirm this ruling was chosen by Bexley council and not a central government imposition - and it was Bexley’s.

That’s what I wrote on 28th September 2012 after attending the Adults’ Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting the previous evening. Councillor Ball queried Bexley council’s intention to make ‘children’ up to age 21 share a bedroom. Councillor Borella made double sure he had heard correctly and Deputy Director Bryce-Smith said he had.

On 1st October I reported that Bryce-Smith appeared to be intent on stepping outside what the law permits and now the latest issue of Bexley’s magazine confirms it - or should that be corrects it? Better late than never.

How is it that Bexley council can make such a mess of planning its application of the law of the land equitably? Shouldn’t directors and their deputies on six figure salaries have a clear understanding of the law and be able to tell intuitively when they are embarked on a course of action that no one with any sense would contemplate?

It would be naive to feign surprise. David Bryce-Smith was the man in charge of the persecution of Rita Grootendorst. He was the man who backed a loser and was cut down to size in Bromley Court. At the pre-hearing in Bexley Court I heard Mr. Wong, Bexley’s solicitor, tell the court that Bryce-Smith could not possibly attend as a witness because he was paid far too much money for his time to be justified. Earlier on it had transpired that he didn’t even have the legal authority to do what he had been doing.

 

26 November (Part 2) - Proud of themselves?

BeforeAfterDoes Andrew Bashford swell with pride every time he sees buses queuing in Belvedere awaiting a chance to squeeze by another coming in the opposite direction? Does Vinney Rey get a thrill from seeing the problems at Ruxley Roundabout caused by its design not being up to the job or a kick from preventing a resident in Blackfen from driving into his own garage because Rey put a traffic island in a silly place? Does Aurang Zeb rejoice at the traffic queues he created in Penhill Road? Maybe.

Bexley council seems to have particular problems with traffic islands, the vehicle blocking one in Blackfen is not unique. Those near bus stops often do the same whenever a bus stops and a new island in Bellegrove Road had to be redesigned immediately after it was installed because it blocked the right hand exit from Hill View Road. (Larger Before and After photographs.)

But that wasn’t enough. Moving and redesigning that Bellegrove Road traffic island to allow traffic to turn right out of Hill View Road made it too small to be a practical pedestrian refuge so it is all change again. Good to see we are getting our money’s worth out of that £4 million Parsons Brinckerhoff contract.

Parsons Brinckerhoff
The island is to be elongated with a gap in the middle for pushchairs and the like. Why didn’t they do that in the first place?

Note: From information supplied by a Welling resident.

 

26 November (Part 1) - New home page. Who’s the criminal?

Now that Home pages are a little more hidden than they were it probably makes sense to announce new ones, so I will. Yesterday the four month old Obscene Blog Timeline was displaced by a new Home page which suggests how the powers that be have managed to spin out Bexley council’s crime over 18 months so that any chance of achieving justice must now measure approximately zero.

 

25 November (Part 2) - Bexley council. Driving residents mad

Erith Town HallBuried away on this website is the story of an eccentric and vulnerable old man who in 2009 was so frustrated by Bexley council that he burned his own house down. It’s still on the News Shopper’s website too. This poor old man was accused by Bexley councillor Melvin Seymour of intimidation and the court gave him an ASBO. But that wasn’t the end of the matter.

The old man had asked Bexley council for help to protect his home against vandals and yobs 81 times. He got no help but Bexley council wasn’t slow to prosecute him for benefit fraud instead. Barrister David Martin-Sperry took up the retired builder’s case and thanks to him a jury acquitted the old man in just 20 minutes. The Daily Telegraph’s web pages still carries a report on the matter.

Burning property out of desperation at Bexley council’s inaction is more common than you might think. A year earlier someone set light to the contents of a filing cabinet at Erith Town Hall. I thought it might be interesting to find out why and I went to see the man who did it last week. Sure enough he proved not to be a pyromaniac but a man driven to the end of his tether by the incompetence and intransigence of Bexley council.

I doubt I will be able to report his story in any great detail because it also involves a firm of solicitors - not local - and you know how litigious they can be if you tread on their toes. However there are a few documents that reflect badly on Bexley council. I expect they will get an airing before long.

 

25 November (Part 1) - Think of a number, any number…

KnaveBexley council’s answer to a Freedom of Information request about the cost of persecuting the Grootendorsts was provided by a new contributor. The unedited questions and answers were…


Q1. The financial cost of the investigation in to the allegedly untidy garden of Bexley resident Rita (and Pieter) Grootendorst up to the commencement of legal proceedings.
A1 This is covered in the costs below.
Q2. The financial cost of the legal proceedings for the above including the cost of hiring external lawyers.
A2. The Council's in-house Legal Service acted on the appeal proceedings and instructed a Barrister to advise and represent the Council at the trial of the appeal. The Council's Legal Services spent 60 hours and 18 minutes on the matter. The "with on-cost" hourly rate of the Senior Solicitor acting was £54.25 - over 50 hours 48 minutes. The balance of the time spent was by a Solicitor at the rate of £38.30 per hour and by administrative staff.
Counsel's fees were £3,750.00 before VAT.


…and I calculated that to be £3,119.75 plus the barrister’s fee of £4,500. All the letter writing and spying sorties by John Waring and others over two years cost nothing apparently.

Rita Grootendorst is a founder member of the Sidcup Community Group and unknown to me the SCG had asked the same question and have published the answer on their website. This time it is £3,952.60. Which figure is correct? Almost certainly neither of them.

 

24 November (Part 2) - Complaint lodged

Masonic compassYesterday’s mention of Freemasonry prompted a Contact Form message and a mild rebuke for my critical tone. This was not a Parsons Brinckerhoff style tirade of abuse, it was only a little short of friendly. It said “One must assume that you believe Freemasons to be dishonest, corrupt and in collusion . This is most certainly not the case”.

I have known only three Freemasons in my life (as far as I know) and one of those I last saw 30 years ago. It seemed to me that they spend their time raising colossal amounts of money for good causes and tucking in to sumptuous lunches. Despite that the feeling remained that there is an undercurrent of mutual support that can go just a little too far for most people’s moral compass; so I rang the only Freemason with whom I am in regular contact for advice.

Mick Barnbrook, a Freemason for 28 years, did not disagree. “Masons have raised millions, if not billions, of pounds for charities but every member knows that a small minority joins for all the wrong reasons”. Thus armed I went ahead with the aside in yesterday’s blog. Perhaps it was a little biased ignoring as it did the positive aspects. Hopefully that is corrected now.

Stefano Borella spoke of there being ten Freemason Bexley councillors which suggests seven disregarded the Standards Board’s instruction. Of the three declarations in the Register of Members’ Interests (in May 2011) none were by what readers of this blog might term ‘the villains’. If Freemasons want to wipe the aurora of suspicion that surrounds them why are they so keen to promote it by short-changing the Register?

Note: Nationally the Standards Board has been abolished. In Bexley standards have been abandoned.

 

24 November (Part 1) - Maliciously persecuting the Grootendorsts. How much did that cost us?

The evidence packJohn Waring and Diane GlazerTwo years they were at it and the evidence bundle ran to about 500 pages and cost more than twelve quid to post. Photocopying hundreds of letters umpteen times doesn’t come cheap but the time spent writing them would have cost a great deal more. A Freedom of Information request attempted to get at the truth - always difficult where Bexley council is concerned.


[What was] the financial cost of the investigation in to the allegedly untidy garden of Bexley resident Rita (and Pieter) Grootendorst up to the commencement of legal proceedings?
[What was] the financial cost of the legal proceedings for the above including the cost of hiring external lawyers?


Bexley council was unable to break down the figures. It was only able to say that Legal Services spent 60 hours and 18 minutes on the case. In monetary terms that was 50 hours and 48 minutes at £54.25 for the Senior Solicitor and 9 hours 30 minutes at £38.30 for more junior staff. I make that £3,120. On top of that a barrister cost £4,500. It would appear that John Waring and Diane Glazer spent two years working for nothing. Seems fair, it’s what they are worth.

Odd that Bexley council’s defeat in Bromley Court never made it to the News Shopper; maybe the stories that Bexley council threatens them are true after all. No, surely not?

 

23 November (Part 3) - Teresa O’Neill. Democracy block

Council leader Teresa O'NeillWith only 15 minutes allowed for councillor’s questions at Bexley’s council meetings few are answered in public. This month’s meeting was no exception and a number of interesting questions went unheard. However the written answers have become available.

As stated at the time, councillor Stefano Borella (Labour: North End) was ‘Man of the Match’ at November’s council meeting. He had formally asked Teresa O’Neill…


“Could the Leader of the Council please tell us how many of her group she knows to be Freemasons?”


And her official reply was…


The declaration of Members’ Interests is a matter for the individual Member and the Monitoring Officer, and I am sure that all Members are capable of declaring relevant interests at the appropriate time.


This is in marked contrast to her response two years ago when she acknowledged that “Members of the Grand Charity must register membership in their register of members’ interests”. The current exclusion may arouse suspicions about Bexley police’s inability to bring their enquiries into Peter Craske to a conclusion.

Another of councillor Borella’s questions was…


“Why have a large number of Conservative councillors not disclosed their home address on the latest declaration of interest?”


Teresa O’Neill’s written response was as follows…


The declaration of Members’ Interests is a matter for the individual Member and the Monitoring Officer, and I am sure that all Members are capable of declaring relevant interests at the appropriate time.


It looks like a complaint to Mr. Akin Alabi, the Monitoring Officer, would be in order.

Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour: North End) did his best to bring democracy to Bexley too…


“Will the Leader of the Council agree with me that it is important that members of the public take an active part in scrutiny and are allowed to ask questions following debate at any scrutiny meeting?”


The democracy killer replied…


Our Standing Orders allow for the Overview and Scrutiny Chairmen to allow participation from non Committee Members at their discretion.


This almost never happens, only once in the last two years or so. Even the better Committee Chairmen like Alex Sawyer rejects such requests. If you happen to encounter an appalling one like councillor Alan Downing he will tell you to sit down and shut up even if the member of the public is only asking for compliance with the law by switching on the hearing loop.

 

23 November (Part 2) - Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa. Who’s got at him?

CS Victor OlisaI am allowing Elwyn Bryant to take the lead in pursuing the police about their failure to conclude the obscene blogger case. I simply don’t have enough spare time.

After making yet another phone call to Bexleyheath police station, Elwyn managed to get a reply to his emailed questions about the Peter Craske case and his subsequent request for a meeting to try to establish why a relatively low level hate crime has bogged down Bexley’s police for 18 months.

The only plausible excuse is that they have been intent on a cover up. Their line that the suspect being released from bail has changed nothing just doesn’t wash. It is hard to believe that council leader Teresa O’Neill would appoint a councillor to two Scrutiny Committees if she hadn’t been tipped off that he was never going to be charged. We already know that she is fully capable of exerting pressure on the police to do her bidding from the Harassment warning issue and the subsequent IPCC report.

So what did Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa have to say for himself? Well nothing actually. He didn’t answer any of the questions and he doesn’t want to meet anyone. He offered a meeting with the current investigating officer - I’ve lost track of who that is, there have been so many changes - and Elwyn will take up the offer. It’s more than likely that that officer doesn’t understand the finer points of the case. I’ve seen that before.

Referring to the News Shopper’s report of 31st October 2012 some of Elwyn’s questions were…


• What are the reasons for Councillor Peter Craske being released from bail
• If an application was made to police to release Councillor Peter Craske from bail who made the application
• Who was the Police Officer who authorised the release of Councillor Peter Craske from bail
• Whether the report in the News Shopper that the investigation concerning Councillor Peter Craske is on going is correct
• If the investigation against Councillor Peter Craske is on going, please explain as fully as possible why he has been released from bail
• If the report is correct, that Councillor Peter Craske was arrested for misconduct in public office, what is the alleged offence committed in public office


Victor Olisa. He started so well. Now he is about to be reported to a variety of official bodies with suggestions that he is complicit in corruption.

 

23 November (Part 1) - Site navigation

I have given up on persuading people to use www.bexley-is-bonkers.com to get directly to the latest blog so from this morning some changes are introduced to the site’s front page. You may also see some disruption as the live site is amended to suit.

The problem arises because the site began as a repository for Bexley council news with an occasional blog entry tacked on. The tail now decisively wags the dog and too many people are taken by search engines or word of mouth to the Home page and cannot find the blog despite there being links at both the top and the bottom of that page.

The Home page has not gone but it is now only available from the menu. www.bexley-is-bonkers.info routes directly to it although during this transition period your browser cache may overrule that.

 

22 November (Part 3) - James Cleverly. Out of order again

James CleverlyThis man, James Cleverly, is the Bexley and Bromley member of the London Assembly and Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The Authority that has just proposed the possible closure of the Bexleyheath Fire Station. I think he is a bit of a hypocrite.

Exactly a year ago today Mick Barnbrook of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group asked him, and I was barely two feet away, if he read Bexley is Bonkers and he said no because it was “Well out of order”. A bit rich coming from him.

In 2010 James Cleverly said that Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes was a “dick”. I have reason to believe that James is right but if he thinks that Bonkers is “Well out of orde2r” is he any better?

BBC report on the incident.


TweetHe has not grown wiser with age. He got into a slanging match over the Fire Service cut backs with another South London blogger last month.

No sooner had that died down and he libelled fellow GLA member Andrew Dismore. Andrew decided what he sent went well beyond political rough and tumble and threatened legal action. After an initial refusal to climb down James Cleverly grovelled.

News Shopper report.

Who is well out of order James?

 

22 November (Part 2) - Bexley council mistreating the disabled

Bexley council has a well deserved reputation for its spiteful and dishonest approach to parking matters and the disabled are not spared their vindictiveness. For example, the deliberately misleading parking restriction signs in the Bowling Centre car park were maintained even after the Parking Adjudicator criticised them and more recently their lying over the signs outside KFC in the Broadway have been serialised here. They are still at it and yesterday the Parking Adjudicator again recommended that Bexley council takes another look at the case.


I found the appellant, and his partner who was a blue badge holder, to be honest and credible witnesses. I have no doubt whatsoever that the account given by both was actually what happened. The appellant's partner is a blue badge holder and has been such for the past 22 years. I understand that throughout the past 22 years, and since she was 16 years of age, she has never had a blue badge contravention. She has never abused the terms and conditions of her blue badge.

On this occasion when she got out of the vehicle, and after placing the badge on her dashboard as she always does, she left the vehicle with her partner. On return to the vehicle the badge was on the floor well inside of the vehicle. She had inadvertently knocked the badge off whilst getting out of the vehicle. The appellant has a number of physical disabilities which I shall not dwell on, but it is due to her condition that on this occasion the badge was knocked off. I would urge the Authority to take this determination and my findings into account when determining whether there should be any further enforcement.

PATAS Case Reference: 2120541685


Gareth BaconMaybe it’s worth an FOI to see what Bexley council does about that. If they had an ounce of humility they would have dropped their persecution at the initial appeal stage but as we learned from the disabled ex-policeman’s story they never do anything then except chuck it back at the appellant. It may not be legal but it is what they do

Bexley council: © News Shopper. “A mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”

 

22 November (Part 1) - Bexley council mistreating the disabled?

Penalty Charge NoticePenalty Charge NoticeFour people have drawn my attention to this week’s News Shopper story about a disabled driver who is going to desert Bexleyheath in favour of other shopping centres because he has to wait “two or three hours for a space to free up”.

I find that very hard to believe. It’s not that I am unsympathetic to the disabled, my daughter was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 17 just after being accepted into a London ballet company. Of the ten friends I see most often five have blue badges.

I have first hand experience of how expensive if can be to be disabled especially if you are not so bad that you can’t use a car but not good enough to use public transport. It effects your earning capacity, your mobile phone bill and racks up taxi fares. Then there is the occasional parking fine because someone has smashed your windscreen, stolen your badge and causes £50 daily taxi fares while the car is repaired. Not to mention the fact that not all councils allow the free use of residents’ parking bays and it can be expensive to assume they do.

All things considered, Bexley is not a bad place for disabled drivers to be. There is a car park exclusively for them as near to the town centre as any can be, they can park free in any ordinary bay - and the man in the News Shopper is not confined to a wheelchair and all the paraphernalia of a rear space demanding ramp - and on yellow lines for up to three hours.

Another plus for the disabled is that councillor Peter Craske has been especially kind to them. Thanks to his phone and credit card only parking scheme, nearly all the spaces that used to be adorned with a parking meter remain unoccupied and free most of the time.

Sorry, I can’t see what the problem is. Unless of course you park in a disabled bay and still get a ticket. See pictures.

 

21 November - Police failures. An update

Obscene bloggers?Parsons BrinckerhoffThe pursuit of Bexley council’s obscene blogger is gradually being replaced by the pursuit of failed policemen. The former is stuck in limbo with, if you can believe Bexleyheath police, the same individual remaining a suspect while they refuse to discuss the matter. Until the case is closed so are the avenues to seeking information. It’s quite clever really but not exactly justice.

Action against the policemen involved began on 7th June 2012 when Elwyn Bryant took up Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s invitation to let him know if he got no satisfaction locally. Elwyn and I jointly signed a complaint which was based on the known facts that Bexleyheath police labelled our crime report as “a counter allegation”. i.e. They regarded it as revenge for the harassment letter and not as a serious crime.

This was confirmed when the investigation was prematurely closed on 23rd August 2011 with a claim that the blog site had been removed from Google’s server (wrong) and that various investigations had drawn a blank. The police refused to provide so much as a date for their enquiries claiming that to reveal them was not in the public interest. Elwyn and I were left with the impression that no such enquiries had been made and we suggested that corruption was the root cause.

That complaint of 7th June was confined to the failed 2011 investigation under Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer and is still not answered although we were told last week that it would be within the next fortnight. Mind you, we were told much the same at the beginning of October.

Following councillor Peter Craske’s release from bail a month ago, Elwyn wrote to Borough Commander Victor Olisa asking eleven specific questions about the case, seeking among other things, confirmation that the obscene blog suspect and Peter Craske were one and the same. After two weeks without response he wrote to request a meeting. Once again he has had no response and a telephone enquiry left him in some doubt as to whether or not he ever would. Next weekend I am going to help Elwyn draft another complaint to the Commissioner. Hogan-Howe asked him to let him know if his new Commander proved to be as useless as the last one and we both believe that is clearly the case.

 

20 November (Part 2) - What is it that Bexley council has against cyclists? - Click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

Road narrowedRoad narrowedRoad narrowedLike most public authorities, Bexley council’s number one priority is keeping themselves in well paid employment at taxpayers’ expense. Hence the non-stop fiddling around with road layouts, sometimes putting right the idiocies of a few years earlier, sometimes creating new ones.

A common theme running across many recent developments is a desire to put cyclists at maximum risk. Narrow roads are not only a “recipe for head on collisions” as a safety consultant once told me but they put cyclists closer to other traffic. Even worse is an abrupt narrowing such that a momentary lack of concentration can put a cyclist under the wheels of a bus.


Road narrowedOne might argue that narrow roads make pedestrian crossings safer but that theory is not always borne out in practice. Occasionally roads have been narrowed to the point that a central pedestrian refuge can no longer be accommodated. Long Lane being a recent example.

But it keeps Bexley’s bureaucrats employed and FM Conway in the money. Nothing else seems to matter.

Note: The pedestrian crossing shown is of the original after the road was made narrower and the central refuge removed. A new and similar crossing was provided a few metres to the south. Note the re-sited pole and the tactile paving. The black patch is where the pedestrian refuge used to be.

20 November (Part 1) - Hospital management. Is it off its trolley?

Woolwich Town HallVarious things have conspired to make any significant new blog entries impossible today but to keep the pot boiling, those interested in the impending collapse of local hospital services may wish to nip across to Greenwich to read what is going on there. Bexley may have rolled over and accepted its lot but across the border they have other ideas.

Note how Greenwich council allows its meetings to be recorded, unlike Bexley which won’t even allow a single photograph to be taken under supervision. We have the jobsworth supreme to thank for that, Kevin Fox.

 

19 November (Part 2) - Bexley Bullies

Overgrown hedgeBexley bulliesFollowing the irony of Bexley council’s involvement in the Hate Crime campaign last month they are now intent on eradicating bullying. Apparently today marks the beginning of Anti-Bullying Week. Bexley council is saying that…

Bullying is an abuse of power that results in distress and pain (physical, mental or emotional) to the victim. It is usually part of a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated incident. There are three significant factors in bullying:
• A power imbalance in favour of the aggressor.
• A victim who cannot match that power.
• it is repeated often over a period of time.


Remind you of anyone? Yes, it fits the way Bexley council treated the Grootendorsts to a tee. Presumably they will make amends for their vendetta by getting rid of their own bullies, like John Waring and Diane Glazer who tormented the Grootendorsts for two years because they have more trees and sheds in their garden than their neighbours. The council‘s expensive case against them was thrown out in court.

The Grootendorst’s garden has far less effect on other residents than some others (see associated picture) but presumably they are not owned by council critics.

 

19 November (Part 1) - Assume the worst - Click any image for photo gallery (7 images)

Bexleyheath BroadwayNo ParkingBexleyheath Broadway is currently undergoing Phase 1 of its rejuvenation. A mixed pedestrian and traffic area with fancy block paving. Naturally Bexley council doesn’t want to cover it with ugly yellow lines so from next weekend you will be fined for parking there even if there are no lines.

Instead of it being a case of ‘Park anywhere except where it says you can’t’ there will be a change to ‘No parking anywhere except where it says so’. It should be a good trap for the unwary signed only by a Zone sign at the entry points.

Also from next weekend work will temporarily cease to minimise disruption to the Christmas trade, presumably access to Christ Church will be fully restored too.


Christ ChurchBus stop removedParking warden in actionASDA shoppers may not be as happy, the bus stop opposite is to be removed and replaced by one 40 metres away and delivery drivers are likely to suffer the fate of this one - see picture.

Note: I understand that motorists confused by the new parking arrangement are currently being given warning notices rather than penalties, but only for the reminder of this week.

 

18 November - The Gallion’s Reach Bridge. Teresa O’Neill’s part in its downfall

Thames Crossing consultationAt the time Boris Johnson was first elected Mayor in 2008 two of our Thameside neighbours, Greenwich and Newham were in favour of a new Thames bridge. Only Bexley council stood against it and in a supreme act of NIMBYism convinced the Tory mayor, who owed his victory to the Bexley councillors who ran his election campaign, that it would much prefer that Greenwich should suffer further congestion and pollution rather than Bexley. The fact that Bexley’s former leader, Ian Clement, had become Boris Johnson’s right hand man and the new Bexley leader, Teresa O’Neill, represented the Bexley ward most likely to be affected by a bridge ensured SE London continues to be at a transport disadvantage. A political stitch up if ever there was one.

The only valid objection Bexley council ever raised against the bridge was Knee Hill. No one was clever enough to think up a scheme for encouraging heavy traffic to use the A2016 instead. If it wasn’t for Bexley council this area would within the next few months be due to get easier access to the North and the job opportunities that would bring.

But not even a road block the size of Teresa O’Neill can impede progress for ever, so a new set of proposals is on offer and consultations are currently in progress. There was a small ‘Road Show’ in Abbey Wood yesterday and more are to follow. If you go you will be given a rather nice explanatory booklet. Several options are available, a new bridge alongside Blackwall, a refurbished Woolwich Free Ferry, a new ferry at Gallions reach or a bridge at the same site (see map) and closing the Woolwich Ferry. Although it is claimed that no decision have been taken the emphasis is very much on tolling all the crossings.

Site of Gallions Reach BridgeWhen I attended the Road Show there were about ten people present and views were fairly strongly held and I was pleased to note that Bexley council was getting its fair share of blame for the present unacceptable situation. One lady was of the opinion that what was good enough for Dartford i.e. constantly increasing tolls, was good enough for London but everyone else was 100% against tolls. Too many of us have to get to North East and possibly Central London by car each day and the assumed £20 a week toll charges would go down like the proverbial lead balloon.

There were very specific references to the dishonesty of politicians and the failure to adhere to the promises made in respect of the Dartford crossing was held up as the prime example.

The consultation booklet reveals that if the Gallions ferry goes ahead any prospect of a bridge will disappear for 20 years. The decision is incredibly important for London and Bexley’s dishonest Conservative administration should not be allowed to unduly influence it in return for political favours. Get yourself to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings and have your say.

One of the Road Show visitors was keen to point out that the proposed Gallions bridge had, unlike the one Boris cancelled, no special provision for buses or the DLR and if it and the Silvertown Tunnel both went ahead (and the Woolwich Ferry closed) the total capacity would be no greater than Ken Livingstone’s scheme.

The Mayor’s website says “More river crossings will help our city grow” and no one can argue with that. Obviously improved infrastructure must be paid for somehow. If the whole of our city is going to benefit the whole of our city should pay. It was a philosophy good enough to justify the Olympic levy on London, the same should apply to essential river crossings.

 

17 November - Sheer lunacy

Sidcup road follyI think this must be my favourite Frizoni Folly (†). It’s Sidcup again and it’s gone now but it shouldn’t have existed even for a minute.

An illuminated No Entry sign finding itself in the wrong place when Bexley council embarks on another of its interminable, frequently pointless, road rearrangements should always be moved before the road is resurfaced. It’s hard to fathom why the contractor went ahead with it but maybe they get fed up with getting stupid instructions and just follow them - I had a boss like that once and after a while you get sick of querying them - but where are the council inspectors that allow these things to exist for weeks on end?

When I employed some former F.M. Conway men to do a job for me they said that the good thing about working for Bexley is that if they do come to look at a job they rarely bother to get out of their car while eating their sandwiches.

† Mike Frizoni: Deputy Director of Public Realm Management who has been busy wrecking Bexley’s road system since January 2001.

 

16 November (Part 2) - Parking fines. Exposing Bexley’s dishonesty

KFCDespite the blog title this is not a continuation of the disabled ex-policeman’s story of how Bexley council tried to excuse their dishonest behaviour when they fined him for parking outside KFC in Bexleyheath Broadway where the signage was totally deficient. (Missing kerb chevrons and obscured signs.)

After the council eventually conceded that the markings were inadequate they promised to remedy the situation. The pensioner noted that five months after he was fined no one had been busy with the yellow paint; nor has Bexley council made any attempt to stop defrauding motorists in the 22 months that have elapsed since then. Parking fraud is such a nice little earner for all councils.

A reader has drawn my attention to another Bexleyheath KFC story heard by the Parking Appeals Service under Case Reference Number 2120532673. (†)

Just two days ago Bexley council lost that case at PATAS and it was almost identical to that of the retired policeman. This is disgraceful on several levels. Bexley council admitted three years ago that its appeal procedure was entirely unjust and they promised to renew the defective signage. The ex-policeman’s story has not yet progressed to the point where he was offered money in compensation for the wrongs done to him but it suggested Bexley council had learned its lesson. Now we learn that it was all a charade and more than two years later they are still pulling the same dishonest trick! This is what the Adjudicator said when he allowed the appeal of another disabled motorist who stopped for a takeaway. I wish he could spell the word ‘metre’ but at least he can see when Bexley council is fleecing motorists. And they know they are.


The Enforcement Authority is obliged to ensure that all restrictions are clearly marked. The double yellow lines are clear and bold. There is a warning sign of the restricted times about 30 meters from the KFC. However the restriction does need to be marked by a yellow kerb marking. Whilst some of the photographs show signs of these, they have eroded badly are very faint, particularly near the vehicle.


The situation at KFC has changed in recent days because of the work going on there. Motorists will have no yellow lines to guide them. More on this over the weekend I expect.

† The PATAS website is notoriously unreliable. If the link provided in Paragraph 3 gives a ‘Busy’ notice, Try their search page and enter the Case Reference Number manually.

 

16 November (Part 1) - Bexley police see only what they want to see

I suspect that my distrust of the police upsets some readers but probably not as many as would have been the case 20 years ago. Back then I too believed they were honest, I had had no contact with them at any time during my life and then suddenly I did. Beaten up when I opened my own front door to two Bexleyheath police officers and no end of apologies from the Chief Superintendent could undo the damage. The lies told at the police disciplinary hearing, the loss of the incriminating CCTV tape, the policeman who came back to berate me in my own home and who threatened to arrest me for a breach of the peace when I told him to go. I still try hard to believe the police when they claim to be on my side but I know they will try to sweep crime under the carpet if one of their friends might be in trouble - and I don’t just mean the obscene blog.

At the end of last month I alluded to a court case in which Bexleyheath police had, to put it at its mildest, been found wanting. I hoped my long term correspondent would be persuaded to allow publication of some details of how he successful sued our police for their failures and their dishonesty. His account follows. You may wish to read the background to the case before proceeding.


Dartford County CourtThe case involved several pieces of false information that Bexley Police sent to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority about a child who was the victim of a violent crime in the borough. The information given by Police initially resulted in the child being refused compensation for the serious injuries that he suffered in the attack. Of course, once the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority received accurate evidence about the incident, their compensation decision was changed. However, the Police refused to correct any of their false records and statements, claiming that the law about keeping accurate records did not apply to them, and that they were ‘exempt’ from having to be accurate.

When the case was eventually taken to court, the judge ruled that it was “quite clear” that police statements were not exempt from the law. He considered evidence about several statements from Police that the child was to blame for the attack upon himself, that only minor injuries were sustained and that there was no CCTV footage of the main assault, and found that these statements were “wholly inaccurate” and “completely wrong”. He concluded that Bexley Police had “failed to properly consider” the evidence that was available – CCTV footage, a teacher’s report, a medical report, and the handwritten statements of the attacker and other parties, and stated that “those documents show quite clearly a version of events that is different from the conclusions reached by the officers at the time”.

So could there be many other people or investigations that Bexley Police have written false information about, but decided not to correct, because they felt they were exempt from the law requiring it to be accurate? Surely not, as this could have made them responsible for serious miscarriages of justice, and that sort of thing would never happen in a respectable borough like Bexley.

In which case, we have to ask ourselves why Bexley Police would “fail to properly consider” evidence about a serious crime committed against a child in this particular instance; and why, on finding their records wrong, the Police would do everything in their power to avoid putting them right. Perhaps posting more information about how Bexley Police officers conducted themselves in this case will help readers solve this mystery…


As implied by my correspondent’s final sentence there is more to come. I am hoping he will feel able to reveal why the police were so keen to bury his case. As I said last month their motives may not have been a million miles from their apparent inability to bring Bexley council’s crimes to a rapid conclusion and will show the extent of the institutional dishonesty which Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa has inherited and I see no sign that he intends to tackle it.

It is disturbing to learn that the police officer responsible for the malfeasance recorded above is now in charge of the obscene blog enquiry.

The complete story.

 

15 November (Part 3) - And the winner of the shortest yellow line competition is…

Shortest yellow lineStrange as it may sound, not all Bonkers readers have internet connections; I know of one who keeps in touch via his mates in a pub, another who gets the news while sitting in a steam room and another who only gets a print out at the end of the month. I shall not offer to do that again. Too costly! However one of those less well informed ‘readers’ asked only last week if the blog covers stories other than parking related ones. It may be that the next few days will have you thinking I shouldn’t have said “of course not”. A small deluge of parking stories have recently hit my Inbox.

The photo published alongside was taken today in Blackfen. Surely there must be an explanation for it other than Mike Frizoni is nuts?

 

15 November (Part 2) - Regenerating the truth

Cabinet meeting in ThamesmeadBexley council issued a Press Release today following their meeting with disgruntled Thamesmead residents last Tuesday evening. See below. Council leader Teresa O’Neill is quoted as saying “This is a great opportunity for local residents and community groups to access much needed funding for the projects they really care about. We know local residents are passionate about Thamesmead. By working closely with local residents and organisations, we can support the work local people think is most important”.

One might reasonably assume that Teresa O’Neill was present at the meeting, indeed I thought she was having looked at the photograph available on the Thamesmead residents' website however I have been informed by someone who ought to know that she wasn’t. I think I can recognise a grey haired Colin Campbell in the photo even though he has tried to disguise himself by wearing a tie. But maybe the figure I believed to be Teresa O’Neill is someone else, on reflection the figure is possibly not, ahem, wide enough.

A senior source within the Residents’ Group has described Gallion’s Ian Beckett’s comment about a “hugely positive response from the local community” as a total joke. Always assuming he actually said it of course. Bexley council might well have made it up.


PARTNERS APPROVE A £30,000 FUND TO HELP REGENERATE THAMESMEAD
A £30,000 fund to deliver vital improvement projects was launched on Tuesday night (13 November) at The Link, the new state-of-the-art community hub in Thamesmead.

The Thamesmead Match Fund has been established by the South Thamesmead Regeneration Partnership to support resident-led projects and initiatives. The fund will pay for the materials, tools and professional services needed to deliver local projects, such as improvements to local parks and streets, and much more. The successful bidder will match the allocated funding with an equal contribution, for example, in time, labour or other investment.

Cllr Teresa O’Neill, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, said: “This is a great opportunity for local residents and community groups to access much needed funding for the projects they really care about. We know local residents are passionate about Thamesmead. By working closely with local residents and organisations, we can support the work local people think is most important.

The fund was launched at the London Borough of Bexley’s Cabinet meeting, where the South Thamesmead Regeneration Framework was endorsed by the Council and its partners. The Framework sets out plans for investment in the area over the next 10-15 years, in order to build on the momentum of recent local projects, such as The Link.

Consultation on the Framework was carried out in the summer with the local community and key stakeholders. The feedback received was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and showed a significant number of Thamesmead residents want to be directly involved in the proposals.

Ian Beckett, Director of Development and Property at Gallions Housing Association, said: “We are proud to endorse the South Thamesmead Regeneration Framework. It is very rewarding for the Partnership to see the hugely positive response from the local community.

Mick Hayes, Chief Executive of Trust Thamesmead, said: “Despite the difficult economic times there is a powerful optimism in Thamesmead, the most hopeful I have ever known. We are beginning to see real progress through the collaboration between Gallions Housing Association, Tilfen Land, Trust Thamesmead, the Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Bexley.

The meeting took place at The Link in order to showcase the state-of-the-art facility to the local community. More information about the activities and services provided at The Link is available at www.thelinkthamesmead.co.uk

The South Thamesmead Regeneration Partnership includes the London Borough of Bexley, Gallions Housing Association, Trust Thamesmead, Tilfen Land and the Greater London Authority. The Partnership was set up to lead the regeneration of South Thamesmead and to develop the Framework with funding provided by the Greater London Authority.

 

15 November (Part 1) - Turbine update

Erith wind turbineOn 5th October I referred to a document relating to the Erith wind turbine in the hands of one of our councillors, it was Howard Marriner. An attempt was made to obtain a copy of the document via the Freedom of Information Act but Bexley council denied it existed. However a little more pressure has resulted in a copy surfacing. It confirms that no residents were considered worthy of consultion and regurgitates some of the government guidance available on the web. Those affected by the borough’s highest structure may wish to read the council’s report.

The document confirms that the three Labour councillors for the Slade Green area (North End) were consulted but makes no reference to any MP being asked, certainly not Teresa Pearce as I heard alleged at the Finance Committee meeting in October, it’s not even her constituency.

Rather than wait six weeks for a copy of the document to come through official channels I should have asked councillor Marriner to put his in the photocopier, he seems to be a reasonable fellow.

 

14 November (Part 3) - Police update

MPS TweetI just spotted this on Twitter. After I had stopped laughing I took it as a reminder to chase the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) about the complaint I sent to Commissioner Hogan-Howe on 2nd June 2012 about Bexley police’s failure to take Bexley council’s obscene blog seriously. They said the crime report was just a tit for tat complaint against the council. My suspicion is that the DPS don’t want to make a response until they see which way the current investigation is going and then adjust their answer accordingly.

With council leader Teresa O’Neill giving councillor Peter Craske a new job you have to suspect the police have given her the nod they will find a way to let him off. I hope I have to eat my words but it would go against all the precedents.

This morning Bexleyheath police phoned me to say it will probably take six weeks to do the trace on the Parsons Brinckerhoff obscenities. My ISP friends did it in just a few hours.

 

14 November (Part 2) - Thamesmead rises up

Thamesmead Thamesmead protestAs I indicated yesterday, I owe a lot to readers who send suggestions and fill in the gaps in my knowledge. One has shed a little light on why last night’s cabinet meeting in Thamesmead was a sell out. Gallions Housing Association has been busy annoying both private and rental occupiers with what are said to be exhorbitant service charges. They have a website at www.thamesmeadresidents.co.uk and about last night’s meeting it says…

“Firstly I would like to say how pleased I was to see such a good turnout for our demonstration on Tuesday 13th November. Although the councillors and Gallions team were put out by our outburst, I think that this was the first time that many of them realised the appalling situation that we find ourselves in. They said they were very pleased with the turn out however they were not so pleased when they realised we were not there to hear what they had to say but to make our views heard”.

“The councillors were put out.” Oh dearie me, can the police be far behind? I must make a point of visiting the Thamesmead residents’ site more often. I hope the site owner won’t mind me borrowing his photograph, he has a lot more here.

My own photograph is for the benefit of my associates from the Bexley Council Monitoring Group who had no idea that Thamesmead is full of lakes. It would appear that Conservative councillors living in posh houses are not the only ones living in ignorance.

 

14 November (Part 1) - Sewer tactics

Crossness pumping engineThere was a Bexley council cabinet meeting last night and looming large on the agenda was the South Thamesmead Regeneration Framework. Presumably it was for that reason that the decision was taken to hold the meeting in Thamesmead in a building hidden under a flyover on the road that leads to Joseph Bazalgette’s Crossness Pumping Station. That suits me, it’s not somewhere I would normally want to go but it’s walking distance from home. In the event it was further than I had bargained for and I arrived five minutes late.

The ladies on Reception knew nothing about any cabinet meeting, “nothing like that going on here. There is a protest going on about Gallions Housing Association raising charges but no council meeting”. Eventually we worked out the ‘protest’ and the cabinet meeting were one and the same thing. “Which way?” I asked only to be told “You can’t go in, it’s full”.

For the past two months Bexley council has been legally obliged to provide me with a place to write at meetings along with regular journalists and I felt sure that Bexley council could not possibly have failed to observe the law but I guessed it might be futile to broach that subject with the bevy of ladies barring access so there was little alternative but to withdraw.

Outside a group of men informed me that around 200 people had gathered at about 7 p.m. to protest about increased management charges but only 150 or so were allowed in with about 40 more excluded. There was a pile of discarded protest banners in a heap by the roadside. What it was really all about I have yet to discover.

There were no police in evidence as is commonly the case at regular council meetings and I hope the contingent from Bexley got out in one piece after facing the good people of Thamesmead - not so sure about Kevin Fox.

 

13 November (Part 2) - Lodge a complaint with the leader

Where would I be without helpful readers? No sooner had I mentioned Freemasonry earlier today and council leader Teresa O’Neill’s less than satisfactory response to councillor Borella’s comments than I was reminded of an old News Shopper news item. A quick look around the web found the two items reproduced below.

John Watson of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group asked leader O’Neill at the July 2010 council meeting to react to the Standards Board for England’s ruling on the declaration of membership of the Freemasons. See Agenda below.

The Board said membership must be declared in the Register of Members’ Interests. When I inspected that Register in May 2011 three councillors had done so.
Council meeting AgendaNews Shopper report
Council leader Teresa O’Neill’s response was recorded in the News Shopper - reproduced above. She confirmed that councillors must register their membership. Last week when councillor Borella drew attention to the lack of registration O’Neill said she trusts them to do it. Obviously she shouldn’t. John Kerlen recently reported that the Register had been severely whittled down since I saw it 18 months ago and councillor Borella has confirmed it. Ten masons; three or fewer in the Register.

Wherever you look within Bexley council disrespect for guidance, a lack of common decency and a disregard for the law are never far away.

News Shopper's report.

 

13 November (Part 1) - Full council meeting. The leader’s report

Teresa O'NeillBefore council leader Teresa O’Neill rose to give her report there was a move to the exit by many in the public gallery, even the policeman watching over procedures upped and went leaving fewer than ten diehards to listen to the Controller plough through her 14 pages of A4. Leaving was a tempting prospect but a sense of duty prevailed. In the event O’Neill took us through recent events with commendable speed.

Knee HillIn response, councillor Margaret O’Neill (Labour) said that the leader’s anti-bridge campaign that resulted in this corner of London being cut off from the North was “a missed opportunity”. Cabinet member for Public Realm Gareth Bacon said that a bridge at Thamesmead would have turned Bexley into a car park and blamed the fact that Greenwich is turned into a car park instead on Ken Livingstone who turned off the Blackwall Tunnel contraflow. For good measure he claimed that Knee Hill which might have taken some of the Thames Bridge traffic was “tricky for two cars to pass”. Having seen two buses pass on it I’m not so sure he is not exaggerating for effect.

In a reference to the proposal to toll the Blackwall Tunnel Gareth Bacon said it wouldn’t be possible to toll only a new tunnel at Silvertown as traffic would then continue to use the old one. Obviously Bacon and Co. have never heard of the M6 Toll which operates alongside the free alternative. Councillor Stefano Borella said the proposed Thames ferry was a medieval solution (where have I heard that before?) and rightly said that river crossing tolls are a South London Jobs Tax.

Councillor Chris Ball was concerned that Royal British Legion poppy sales had been curtailed by licensing conditions, Teresa O’Neill knew nothing of that, and councillor Don Massey asked for Bexley’s Olympic volunteers to be given some recognition. This was said to be in hand.

Councillor Borella, as I said earlier, was in very good form and managed to get in a dig about the Conservatives’ addiction to Freemasonry. He said there were ten masons in the Tory ranks and none mentioned in the Register of Members’ Interests and few Tories have not removed their home addresses from the register. Leader Teresa O’Neill feigned ignorance of the omissions saying “I don’t look at them and I trust all our members”.

(Stefano, if you think a fair old number of Bexley’s Tories are cheats, liars and crooks why don’t you come right out with it and say so? To say their behaviour is “simply astounding” as you did doesn’t quite cut it.)

Councillor Munir Malik had been uncharacteristically quiet but my notes say that he referred to the care services contractor MCCH as “despicable”. Being so late in making this report I confess I don't actually remember him saying it but I suspect he would agree with the sentiment anyway. Munir was out of character again when he praised cabinet member Gareth Bacon for solving the County Gate fiasco although no one could doubt his real motive was to criticise the despicable councillor Peter Craske who had so publicly fallen out with Greenwich council and wrecked his chances of reaching an agreement with them.

Superintendent Peter AylingThe following items on the Agenda were mainly reports from the various sub-committee chairmen which, if you have attended those meetings, present nothing new so at 21:40 I decided to bid farewell to the council chamber. Outside four policemen were still on guard paid for by the tax payer while thieves and muggers were free to run amok elsewhere in the borough. When the same thing was in evidence at the last Cabinet Meeting, the Bexley Council Monitoring Group’s Mick Barnbrook asked the police (under FOI) who requested the protection, who authorised it and how much it cost.

The reply from the newly appointed Superintendent Peter Ayling said no one asked for the police to be in attendance but Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa had suggested they should drop by when they could. “The police officers were there on their ward providing their normal policing duties” and “The officers did not provide any special service for Bexley Council”.

The policemen stationed outside the Civic Centre on 17th October 2011 were there for the duration, several attendees including myself engaged them in friendly banter about it. I saw three when I went into the chamber, I saw one inside the building at the half way stage and all three were outside when I left at 20:10. The police were clearly not on “normal policing duties”.

That’s all we need isn’t it? Another Bexley policeman prepared to lie in order to protect Bexley council.

 

12 November (Part 3) - Full council meeting. The left overs

Mayor Alan DowningItem 8 on the Agenda of last Wednesday’s council meeting was for things deferred from the July meeting because of lack of time. Councillor Cheryl Bacon wanted to show her Waitrose credentials by putting forward a motion about Sidcup High Street in general and Waitrose in particular. “The council urges Waitrose to rethink [its commercial decision to avoid Sidcup] and looks forward to welcoming them to Sidcup soon.”

Councillor June Slaughter seconded the motion and made an impassioned speech in favour of the upmarket grocer. It is easy to imagine a lady such as Mrs. Slaughter as a Waitrose customer and she had “sighed with relief when Waitrose signed the lease” only to be disappointed by the “lack of openness on the part of Waitrose management”. They gave no warning of their change of heart, “the news just leaked out”. Now we have “yet another empty shop which makes Sidcup look like a ghost town”.

Mrs. Slaughter is not wrong but whether Bexley council is right to become so intimately involved in a commercial decision by the John Lewis Partnership seems politically dubious to me. I have no issue with Mr. & Mrs. Slaughter as the locally elected representatives starting a petition but for the whole Conservative administration of Bexley to take over the council’s propaganda machine to please some upmarket shoppers who probably vote Conservative looks a bit too like Dame Shirley Porter in Westminster to me.


Aileen BeckwithNext on the bandwagon was deputy mayoress Aileen Beckwith who I had assumed might be more of a Poundland shopper than a Waitrose patron. She said that “not a single person in Sidcup did not want Waitrose” to a small chorus of “well I didn’t” and a single “playing to the crowd” from the public gallery. She was “heartily disappointed”.

Councillor Stefano Borella, not usually a man with whom I would align myself politically, tried to make the point that Bexley has had no “We want Tescos” petition so why “We want Waitrose”? Cabinet member Linda Bailey tried to shut him up with a point of order but was herself stopped in her tracks. Councillor Borella asked why the council was authorised to invoke all its “propaganda machinery” to encourage what many would say is a Conservative cause. He may well ask but he got no answer. The council’s war cry is to be amended to “Waiting for Waitrose” and the vote for and against the motion encouraging Waitrose was divided precisely along party lines.

A second motion was put forward by councillor Chris Ball. “This council resolves to support The Armed Forces Covenant” which in the week before Armistice Sunday should be pushing against an open door but you never know with Bexley council so I was relieved when councillor James Hunt stood up to second the motion. A man who champions the Scout movement and a former member of the Air Training Corps one would think must be a double yolked good egg. Fortunately he didn’t disappoint. The motion was carried unanimously. At least I think it was. The clown who calls himself mayor forgot to take the vote and no one noticed for a while.

 

12 November (Part 2) - Playing catch up

Due to other commitments I have again fallen behind with correspondence and a few things notified by readers should perhaps have been mentioned here. So rather late in the day…


Bernard Hogan-Howe webchat
If you want to ask the Metropolitan police boss a question, releasing suspects from bail conditions while remaining suspects; that sort of thing, then the man is hosting his first live webchat at 6 p.m. this evening.

Erith Station disabled access
This is the sort of thing best covered by Hugh Neal, author of Arthur Pewty’s maggott sandwich, but he kindly tipped me off last week of the unfolding fiasco following MP Teresa Pearce’s campaign for London bound disabled travellers at Erith station which she started almost a year ago. It’s a subject which doesn’t fit naturally under this site’s ‘Bexley council is Bonkers’ title so take a look at Hugh’s blog for the whole story. However the gist of it is that Teresa has spent a year asking Southeastern to do something about the difficult access to Erith station only to find “It is true that no application was made for Access for All funding for Erith station, but I assure you that this was not because we had no regard for users of Erith station who might have benefited” as the rather lame excuse from Southeastern’s Public Affairs Manager would have it.

Council’s top earners face axe
In an email entitled ‘If only’ a correspondent drew my attention to a Daily Express headline in which the utterly useless Eric Pickles once again expressed his dismay at how local councils exist to line their own pockets. When Eric Pickles passes his thoughts into legislation and doesn’t simply leave them hanging in the air as ineffective sound bites I might take him more seriously. Meanwhile he remains a political joke.


…and now back to writing the rest of that Council meeting report.

 

12 November (Part 1) - Full council meeting. The questions

Mayor Alan DowningMayor Alan Downing prefaced question time by announcing that members of the public would be limited to 15 minutes but councillors would be allowed “at least 15 minutes”.

Questions to the council have been effectively stifled in Bexley. You are not allowed to ask anything that could be answered by a council officer which results in serious questioning being restricted to those about policy. An alternative is to ask a question that allows a cabinet member to blow his own trumpet, it may not conform to the rules but it will most likely be allowed. Anything beyond that is likely to get a response of the “Because I can” variety.

Answers in the trumpet blowing category are traditionally provided by Mr. John Ault of 6 Westergate Road, Abbey Wood, SE2 0DR who failed to win Erith for the Conservatives in 2010. This time he provided an opportunity for councillor Colin Campbell to repeat his ‘concerned and worried’ speech about the loss of council tax benefit which will apply to many residents from next April. Councillor Campbell does, I must accept, sound genuinely concerned about the unexpected bills that may arrive on many doormats and has taken some steps to soften the blow.

Christine Bishop of 76 Danson Crescent, Welling, DA16 2AS is another regular purveyor of brass instruments to Cabinet Members and this time her chosen subject was Waitrose. 76 Danson Crescent is councillor Brian Bishop’s address; draw your own conclusions. Councillor Linda Bailey duly blew a well rehearsed tune extolling the council’s untiring efforts to attract a reluctant food store to downtown Sidcup. Is Mrs. Bishop from Welling likely to do her shopping in Sidcup or is she solely a Bexley council stooge? ‘Biffa’ Bailey criticised Waitrose management for knowing their business better than she does and finished by saying “we are still in hopes”.

Another possible stooge, Ms. Megan Clement of 105 Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath, DA7 4RW had previously come to notice for swallowing councillor Melvin Seymour’s lie that John Kerlen had Tweeted about dog faeces and Seymour’s letter box. She went on the record in the News Shopper to regret he was not convicted for the words he didn’t say. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Ms. Clement in the flesh because she failed to put in an appearance.

As is true of all council stooges, the questioners left immediately after question time finished. They have no real interest in democracy.

The web publication of addresses is a Bexley council imposed condition of acceptance of a question. If your spouse, landlord or parent objects you may be effectively disenfranchised but universal democracy is of no concern to Bexley council.

Councillors had 20 questions lined up for Cabinet members to answer, not all of them of the trumpet provisioning sort. Councillors Val Clark, Peter Craske and John Waters were certainly guilty of vigorously polishing the brassware before handing it to the grateful recipients but time ran out on all three of them. Fortunately councillor Ross Downing’s question was first on the list and of wider appeal; even though it too was probably a trumpet burnishing exercise.

Councillor Ross DowningMayoress Downing was anxious to give council leader Teresa O’Neill the opportunity to claim credit for the partial rescue of Queen Mary’s Hospital. Saint Teresa of Brampton said she had been lobbying government and they had graciously accepted her ideas. Urgent care, chemotherapy, children’s services, radiotherapy, midwifery, acute care for older people, mental health, pathology and elective day surgery were all part of the QMS campus proposal thanks to the saintly intervention. (There were three more services but my shorthand skills and memory let me down.)

Councillor Pat Cammish Councillor Pat Cammish said she need to preface her question with a short introduction. The boorish mayor told her she could get lost, it was question time. Her question was about the ‘Olympic Legacy’ and unintended or not it turned out to be another highly polished trumpet. Cabinet member for leisure Don Massey droned on for far too long about the Erith Yacht Club which had benefited to the tune of £3·2 million and the Europa Centre in Crayford, £6 million. Two ladies in the audience summed up his performance with commendable accuracy. “He does like the sound of his own voice doesn’t he?”

Councillor Chris Ball posed the first question clearly not from the trumpet appreciation society. It was about the proposed reductions to the Fire Service. Cabinet member Gareth Bacon said “no cuts are planned” which may be technically correct for Bexley but if, for example, Plumstead’s station is closed, its proximity to Bexley must have some effect. Council leader Teresa O’Neill made the point that with the reduction in smoking, the prevalence of fire alarms and more fire resistant furniture, fire cover could be reduced. Unfortunately none of that reduces the distance between burning premises and the fire station so it is a somewhat inflammatory response.

Councillor Sandra Bauer asked cabinet member Katie Perrior why there were vacant posts on Children’s Services. Ms. Perrior said she didn’t understand the question because there were no vacancies. Not for the first time Ms. Bauer claimed to have seen things which weren’t there.

And with that question time was over and we were denied answers about the slow payment of accounts by Bexley council (councillor Margaret O’Neill), why members of the public are denied the opportunity of asking questions at Scrutiny Committees, (councillor Alan Deadman), about the failure to consult over the Erith wind turbine (councillor Brenda Langstead), about the disappearance of Conservative councillors’ home addresses from the Register of Members’ Interests, the proposed Thamesmead ferry and Freemasonry among Conservative (all three from councillor Stefano Borella).

 

11 November (Part 2) - It’s one rule for them… Again! - Click image for larger copy

The Broadway, BexleyheathI was under the impression that one justification given by Bexley council for running its little Gestapo wagons was to keep the traffic flowing freely. Perhaps I am mistaken for last Friday Bexley council was doing the reverse in the Broadway according to an eye-witness armed with a camera.


I was driving through the Broadway on Friday afternoon and the traffic was heavier than usual for that time of day. The cause of the jam proved to be one of our little rays of sunshine from Bexley council blocking the path of a bus. Probably the same one who films cars stopped at bus stops just long enough to let a passenger out. Too many of us know to our cost that stopping at a bus stop for ten seconds when there are no buses to be seen or even on a Sunday on a route that doesn’t run that day causes unimaginable traffic chaos. If only there was a CEO nearby to stop this type of thing from happening. Oh, I do believe there was!

When I arrived the car was unattended and its driver was speaking to the Civil Enforcement Officer (In blue). If a member of the public had done the same thing any protestations would inevitably get a frosty reception back at the weasel’s nest.


A larger version of the photograph is available here.

 

11 November (Part 1) - Yellow line confusion

St. John's Road St. John's Road St. John's RoadJust around the corner from where Waitrose doesn’t want to be is St. John’s Road, festooned with yellow lines as is everywhere near Sidcup’s shopping area. But these are yellow lines with a difference. What motorists are supposed to make of them is anyone’s guess but I doubt any restrictions are enforceable.

Is this another case of Bexley council not checking the work carried out by contractors? The lines and road surfaces are all well weathered so it doesn’t look like work in progress. Shouldn’t the parking contractor report such problems?

From a report by a resident of Sidcup.

 

10 November - The Black Horse Inn, Sidcup

Black Horse Inn Black Horse Inn Black Horse InnI noticed the replacement veranda was up at the Black Horse Inn when I drove by last Monday so I returned with my camera and attracted a small bit of attention.

A gentleman about my own age with two bags of shopping in hand introduced himself as John and said he passed by every day but hadn’t noticed the change until he saw my camera. We agreed that the veranda improved on the plain windows that had gone before and the addition of a hanging basket or two and maybe an old coaching lamp might begin to make amends for the desecration of the recent past. Both of us were offended by the sight of a drain pipe some way out of vertical. Why should a moment’s carelessness be allowed to detract from the view for evermore?

The conversation then strayed to the subject of Waitrose and the man was firmly of the opinion that that end of Sidcup is not right for Waitrose. “Waitrose is an upmarket store and Sidcup is well… just look at it.”

We were then joined by a lady eager to offer her opinion. She didn’t like the new frontage at all. “Why couldn’t they leave it as it was?” she wanted to know. I referred both to the Sidcup Community Group for some answers. Anyone who needs a reminder of what the historic coaching inn used to look like may find a photograph on the SCG website but unfortunately its structure prevents a direct link. (Try ‘Notices’ from the menu.)

 

9 November (Part 2) - Full council meeting. The deputation

There was a good attendance at last Wednesday’s council meeting, just about 50 people, many of them being victims of Bexley council’s policy on care services for those with learning difficulties. Dangerous people whose presence demanded the attendance of police officers both inside and outside the chamber. Money is no object when councillors demand to be looked after but is in short supply for deserving causes.

I was told on arrival that a table had been provided for my use but it was offset to the extreme left of the chamber and a good couple of feet lower than most councillors. It afforded a poor view of fewer than half of them and none of the top brass. I accept that too many speak from their backsides but I have no desire to be staring at those orifices. Three rows up in the centre of the public gallery gives a much better chance of seeing who is speaking.

Deaf abusing Mayor Alan DowningThe deaf abusing mayor took eight minutes to get through the formalities. Once again he told us that recording his dire performance was verboten without permission and no such permission had been granted. I think I knew that, having asked to take one photograph before the meeting began and supervised by a council official who I would allow to censor it if he felt it was intrusive. I was refused point blank. Open government? Don’t make me laugh.

The meeting opened with a deputation sponsored by councillor Stefano Borella (Labour North End) who seemed to be in particularly fine form all evening. The issue was the failure of Bexley council to provide enough money to their contractor MCCH to run an adequate service to those with learning difficulties. Last month councillor Colin Campbell said it was all MCCH’s fault for being bad managers. Even if that were true I cannot see how Bexley council can justify washing its hands of the problem on the grounds that the service is contracted out. Why should Will Tuckley on his £258,000 salary package be absolved of responsibility?

The deputation headed by a Mrs. Jo Stanton (†) who has a son in need of a proper service put her case to a largely indifferent council. "Drastic changes were being made to services for those with learning disabilities” she said and “the new staffing models are immoral and make staff leave”. “I am helpless and hopeless and [Bexley council] is an uncaring organisation”. “I have no faith that you are a listening council and I am sure you are not working. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Programmed assistance for her son and others was, she said, simply cancelled without notice leaving her son and others distraught, ill tempered and tearful. “It takes up to four hours to calm them down.”

Councillor BorellaCouncillor Borella referred to MCCH management’s claim that the changes will have “no impact on the services it provides” clearly attempting to provoke a rebuttal from Mrs. Stanton. He got one. Staff pay is being reduced by up to 40% and “it makes staff leave. Advertisements for replacements say that no qualifications are required for the job”.

The inadequate cabinet member for Adults’ Services, Chris Taylor, asked condescendingly and ungrammatically of Mrs. Stanton “Are you aware that MCCH are not council staff for the last ten years?” The stupid question got the answer it deserved. “It worries me very much that you are passing the buck. I am not convinced you understand the services you provide.”

Councillor Katie Perrior was keen to add her name to the list of silly questioners. “Have you raised your concerns with Adults’ Social Care?” Obviously Mrs. Stanton had. Why do councillors assume everyone is as ineffective as they are?


Councillor Edward BoatengCouncillor Edward Boateng (Labour, Erith) asked if Mrs. Stanton thought that Bexley council was about to renew their contract with the failing MCCH? She said “Yes I think they will on the basis that Bexley council does not listen”.

All too soon the disabled dismissing useless pen jabbing mayor declared that time was up and referred the issue back to the equally useless councillor Chris Taylor (Conservative Colyers) who confirmed that services in the hands of private companies are no longer his concern. It’s at Pontius Pilate moments like this that I wonder why Bexley council insists on a Christian clergyman sitting in on council meetings. Perhaps he is praying for them.

As circumstances have contrived to make this report very late I have been beaten to it by the News Shopper. Their report is here.

According to the News Shopper MCCH management has said, “Those who will be adversely affected will receive a transitional payment equivalent to any loss of basic pay calculated over a six month period. We have provided as much notice as possible to our employees of the changes, having notified all staff back in March 2012 and the transitional payment we have offered gives further time to adjust to the new rates of pay we are offering”.

If your pay is about to be reduced by up to 50% doing it over six months is no real consolation. I imagine even Bexley council staff on nearly £1,000 a day might find it tricky making adjustments to live on only £600 a day. But it should be possible; if you are on only only one twentieth of that figure the situation may not be manageable. In the immortal words published in the News Shopper three years ago. Bexley council has been “taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”.

† An earlier deputation on behalf of the disabled, this time by Mr. John Stanton.

 

9 November (Part 1) - Mr. Chris Loynes

Over the past 24 hours a number of reports (since confirmed) suggested that Mr. Chris Loynes, Bexley council’s former Head of Members’ Services has sadly died. Mr. Loynes time with Bexley council overlapped my interest for only a short time. I recall seeing him as a bearded gentleman at my first council meeting in 2010 but he didn’t merit a mention until he took a leading role in ignoring Eric Pickles’ February 2011 guidance letter about open government. Bexley council as is well known instantly faced the other way and Mr. Loynes found himself having to enforce the new rules. He was also in the unfortunate position of taking Elwyn Bryant’s booking to see the Register of Members’ Interests in May 2011 and presumably the source of that appointment information leaking to the obscene blogger.

Mr. Loynes left Bexley council’s employment a little over a year ago and was not a well man at the time. His job was not an enviable one; defending and supporting councillors while knowing exactly how some behave must have been more than a little stressful at times. My associates and I offer our condolences to his friends and family on their loss.

 

8 November - Lunatics in charge of the asylum

A man who left two previous jobs after accusations of misappropriating funds was given a Bexley council credit card with disastrous results. Taxpayers were left out of pocket.

A man charged with (and subsequently convicted of) paedophilia was left in charge of a Bexley council facility that included a unit for mothers and children.

A man who police linked to sexual fantasies about what elderly men do together when left alone has been appointed to the council committee with responsibility for looking after vulnerable old men - and women.

Councillor Peter Craske has been appointed to the Adults’ Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He has also been given a position on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Both appointments approved by his protector, council leader Teresa O’Neill.

Funny that Craske’s personal problems seem to have disappeared the moment the police released him from his bail conditions don’t you think. It looks like Teresa O’Neill was a little economical with the actualité again.

For reasons too complicated to explain here a report of last night’s council meeting will not appear today.

 

7 November - A much better start

Metropolitan PoliceWhen Elwyn Bryant and I reported Bexley council’s obscene blog to the police on 8th June 2011 it proved very difficult to get them to accept the report although they acknowledged a crime had been committed. For two hours the PCSOs allocated to deal with us dithered and popped up and down stairs consulting their seniors and coming up with reasons why they couldn’t become involved until we eventually made a breakthrough. A week later the report was acknowledged by a short unsigned letter. Exactly two months later another letter arrived which warned that such cases “do take a considerable time” and just two weeks after that on 23rd August 2011 another unsigned letter said it was all over. “No identifiable audit trail can be identified.” What a difference this time.

The allegation of crime was accepted without complaint and yesterday morning a Detective Sergeant phoned to ask a few questions and make a few comments. During the afternoon a Detective Constable left another enquiry on my answering machine. So far so good.

Parsons BrinckerhoffI do not believe the recent obscene messages traced to an IP address belonging to Parsons Brinckerhoff are as serious as the obscene blog. The homophobic language is similar but the message was sent only to me, not posted on the world wide web for all to see. Neither did it or could it impersonate me. It was nevertheless shocking in the sense I felt pretty depressed about it until the trace revealed that it came from no ordinary reader.


Peter CraskeThe Detective Sergeant said it could prove difficult to trace the messages to a particular individual; if they find the computer it might not be possible to prove which set of fingers were on the keyboard at the time. He is absolutely right and while calling someone rude names is a criminal offence under the catch all Section 127 I am not myself in favour of it. Several recent prosecutions of people who Tweeted silly things about airports, footballers, swimmers and councillors were in my opinion a total over-reaction and to change my mind because I now find myself on the receiving end would be hypocritical. The important thing here is the link with councillor Peter Craske. The Detective Sergeant I spoke to yesterday agreed. “I don’t believe in coincidence’ he said and he is right not to.

As is usual after speaking to the officers in charge I feel quite optimistic that they mean business but over time that seems to dissipate. If the new team could be just a little more communicative than the last one perhaps the reserve of patience will run out a little more slowly.

 

6 November (Part 2) - Parking fines. Exposing Bexley’s dishonesty. (Episode 8)

Civil Enforcement Officers, BexleyheathOn 29th March the disabled ex-policeman wrote again to Bexley Council’s Director of Customer and Corporate Services, Paul Moore. Another four pages of hand written A4 complaining that his previous letter had been “delegated to a minion who proceeds to send two sheets of waffle”. Here is a flavour of it…


He states that the CEO made a misjudgment, if that is so I pointed out his misjudgment at the time so he should have cancelled the PCN then and there. If he did not have the discretion to cancel and this misjudgment was genuine he should have admitted his mistake and rectified it in his report. He did not, In fact he chooses to tell an absolute lie, thereby abusing his powers.

I have a signed admission from [Mr. Greg] Tippett and [Mr. Graham] Ward that you operate a policy of discounting the first appeal of a PCN and reject it out of hand with no investigation. The excuse given is that the Traffic Management Act 2004 allows [only] 14 days for a response, which is insufficient for an Authorised Officer to leave his desk. Unbelievable.

This proves that Authorised Officer I.S. lied in his statement when he says “I have considered all evidence from both parties” when he rejects my challenge. This shows a lack of integrity within Bexley Parking Services.


The letter goes on to piece together various dishonest statements concocted at ranks between Civil Enforcement Officer and Deputy Director and says that is all the proof necessary for a conspiracy charge. It also asks for an explanation of some of the terms to be found in Mr. Ward’s letter.


Could you please explain what were “the contractual penalties imposed upon Vinci Park” and “the error was dealt with through the council’s contract and liquidated damages were levied against the contractor for their error”.


Mr. Moore took just over a month to reply. He repeats the misjudgment word when referring to the Enforcement Officer’s false statement on his report, that is not going to go down well. He explains that the liquidated damages means that the parking contractor was made to pay the full cost of the PCN (£120) to the council and repeats the offer of a meeting but rejects the suggestion it might be recorded. Would anyone expect anything else of Bexley council? Mr. Moore would have done better if he had simply accepted that the Enforcement Officer had fibbed. By then the parking contract had gone to NSL. What harm would it have done?

This story is reported in an indeterminate number of episodes. A cumulative version is provided for convenience.

 

6 November (Part 1) - Police enquiry into Bexley council’s obscene blog

A telephone call this morning from the Detective Sergeant who has been on the case since the beginning of the year confirmed that there has been another change of personnel. The DI who took over in October has now left the borough and the DS will be leaving next week. Yet another Detective Sergeant has been appointed to the investigation. The DS gives the usual assurances that the case is still being actively pursued and the fact that his suspect is no longer on police bail makes no real difference to the situation. The bail decision was made by a senior officer.

The DS expressed his regrets that he was not able to see the case to a conclusion and apologised for some of his earlier forecasts of when it might be concluded. He is too canny to provide another one.

 

5 November (Part 2) - Whatever they call you, tell us…

Hate crime Crime number… so I did. I called in at Bexleyheath police station today to make an allegation of crime. Two more obscene emails have been received. All the evidence was assembled into a nice little file beginning “I am making an allegation of a homophobic hate crime; an offence under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and of the suspicion of fraud”.

Things didn’t go too well at first. The lady on the front desk was more interested in eating a banana and drinking tea than any visitor. When she worked out that I wanted to report a crime I was told to wait. For the next 35 minutes she did nothing but consult a map and tell the one other ‘customer’ who showed up to wait behind me. I have no idea why, it all looked dreadfully unprofessional and if it was designed to antagonise visitors then the procedure was a rip roaring success.


Parsons BrinckerhoffAt the end of the 35 minutes there was a shift change and a pleasant young lady took over and transformed the situation. She was a PAO. Don’t ask what that is because it’s a new rank introduced last Thursday. Not a PCSO, neither a proper police officer. But never mind, she did her best to help and when she wasn’t sure of something she asked and soon found out.

So now I am the owner of a nice new crime number for the offensive emails which were traced to Parsons Brinckerhoff, the Bexley council contractor engaged by councillor Peter Craske. Wasn’t it Peter Craske who was circumstantially associated with Bexley council’s obscene blog? I seem to remember it was and my allegation of crime made it absolutely clear that Craske and Parsons Brinckerhoff were very closely entwined not so very long ago. The original Press Releases which I had salted away proved useful.

I asked the rather obvious question of why one should feel so indebted to the other and the police agreed to investigate it - and the homophobic hate crime. Now I suppose I must steel myself for another 17 month wait in the dark and the ever more ingenious excuses. On the other hand there may be fireworks.

 

5 November (Part 1) - Navigational aids

There should be some news about the next development in the Peter Craske saga later today but meanwhile I’d like to remind some people about ways of getting around this website.

Bonkers is quite often given a link from other websites which is good but often the quoted link is not ideal. Over the weekend I noted that someone had taken a whole chunk of Bonkers to place on another site. There’s nothing that can be done about that nor would I want to; if you put something on the web, expect it to be nicked, everyone does it and few care but what I didn’t like seeing was the accompanying comment. “BiB is a bit of a pain to navigate.”

Note: The following description was outdated by the rearrangements made on 23rd November 2012.

The problem arises when people quote or use the original domain name, www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk, which routes to the Home page when more often than not they should go to a particular blog entry. The Home page has a link at both the top and the bottom which routes directly to the latest blog page but it may be bypassed completely by going to www.bexley-is-bonkers.info. A minor variant is www.bexley-is-bonkers.com which goes to the most recent blog on the same page instead of the top of the page. (†)

Once there, a mouse click over any blog date (note the green upwards pointing arrow) will take you to the top of the page and a mouse click over any blog title (note the black anchor symbol) will put that blog entry at the top of the page. At the same time it places the unique ‘anchor’ reference in the URL (address) area. Copying that as a link will ensure that the wanted blog is found now and in the future. It’s much the same with any fast moving blog and both the wordpress and blogspot solutions suffer the same problem. If you don’t take steps to link to the particular blog, the link will soon get out of date.

Possibly useful but not suitable for using as a link from elsewhere is the RSS feed at www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/rss/feed.xml. It lists the most recent blogs and clicking on an entry should take you to it. Different RSS readers can do slightly different things.

The top of each blog page carries a brief reminder of the foregoing but clearly no one reads it. I’m not sure what else can be done to make Bonkers ‘less of a pain to navigate’ but simply referring to www.bonkers.co.uk as a link is not usually very helpful. All constructive ideas welcome.

Web browsers are not always helpful. Internet Explorer often needs two attempts to find an anchor (bookmark) accurately. You click, it goes to the wrong place. You use the back button and try again and it then goes to the right place. It’s another Microsoft bug. Then at the end of each month when both www.bexley-is-bonkers.info and www.bexley-is-bonkers.com switch to a new page the browser cache thinks it knows better. Clearing the History fixes that. Maybe I should have a month called ‘current’ and do some renaming at the month end, that way the month would in effect never switch, but it’s another thing that could go wrong.

† This only works if you set your browser to delete the History on exit, a solution which fixes the month change problem too.

 

4 November - Do they know which day of the week it is?

Dustbin day

Yesterday got a bit ‘heavy’ for a weekend but today’s picture submitted by an eagle-eyed reader returns us to the rubbish end of Bexley news. The next Wednesday will be a Thursday. A council message well worth recycling.

Heavy stuff at the weekend appears to have been justified, it brought 1,331 visitors to the website yesterday, attracted by the Rita Grootendorst story in the Daily Mail and the keywords “Peter Craske arrested”.

More than 1,000 is unusual for a Saturday and the proportion that had not looked in before was above 50%. Bexley council may have succeeded in driving Rita to the edge but their court exploits always drive people here too. Will they ever learn?

Scrolling images do not work in Internet Explorer 6.

 

3 November (Part 3) - Barnstorming

Mick Barnbrook and friendI got a little carried away yesterday reading forums about the Denis MacShane affair and in particular his claim that he was brought down by a British National Party plot. He was of course brought down by his own greed and dishonesty. One forum comment from someone who had read yesterday’s Bonkers blog asked who the seven MPs brought down by Mick Barnbrook were and I am happy to shed more light on the subject.

Mick carefully researched false expense claims highlighted by newspapers, the Daily Mail in MacShane’s case, and trawled through and analysed the records on Parliamentary websites before providing detailed lists of inconsistencies and apparently fraudulent claims to both the Metropolitan Police and the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Many were not pursued or led only to the repayment of money falsely claimed. Others resulted in MPs standing down or being imprisoned. Those two categories included Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup), Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe), David Chaytor (Bury North), Jim Devine (Livingstone), Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central), Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) and finally Denis MacShane (Rotherham).

Other prominent MPs reported by Mick Barnbrook were former Home Secretary Jacquie Smith, Nadine Dorries, David Tredinnick and both Anne and Nicholas Winterton. He does not however claim to be either the only or the first complainant in those cases.

Mick was a BNP member at the time of those complaints but most were made in a private capacity in which he declared membership. The BNP did not take credit for Mick’s activities (but some individual members did) and there is nothing on the BNP website which claims any such credit or gives any to Mr. Barnbrook. My suspicion is that Mick’s sleazebusting activities would have inevitably led him to the BNP’s leader Nick Griffin. Like many who tried to reform that organisation Mick is not now a member of any political party.

 

3 November (Part 2) - Bexley council. More bad publicity

Rita's garden Rita's garden Rita's gardenRita Grootendorst’s triumph against Bexley council is featured on page 23 of today’s Daily Mail. The article is accompanied by many readers’ comments including some from Rita’s former neighbours now resident in Australia anxious as ever to stir up trouble.

To ensure that yet another story of Bexley council’s obsessive attack on residents, whatever the cost, is retained for posterity the Daily Mail’s article is preserved here.

Index to Grootendorst related blogs.

 

 

3 November (Part 1) - Bay watching

Belvedere Road Belvedere Road Belvedere RoadFrom Belvedere Road came an offer to rescue me from the current news vacuum. Bexley council has been renovating the footpaths and sure enough the square slabs had been replaced with asphalt as is the modern rather ugly way.

The road is blessed with on-pavement parking bays so beloved of Bexley council for their ability to confuse visitors although to be fair I saw nothing obviously wrong with the newly painted white lines. However the complaint that tempted me to Belvedere Road was the total lack of imagination on display.

As the photographs show, some of the parking bays are quite long, easily taking three cars and possibly four, so why didn't Bexley council do the job properly while replacing the kerb stones and cementing them back into place? If they had done so there would be no need for drivers to wreck their tyres by driving up a kerb. If the end bays are already occupied the middle ones can be accessed in no other way. Why did they not simply construct small recessed bays? The cost of placing the new kerb stones a couple of feet from the originals must be insignificant when undertaking a major pavement reconstruction.

Thanks to the road management skills of Mike Frizoni (Deputy Director, Public Realm Management) the residents of Belvedere Road are unnecessarily made to risk blowouts and forced to go to SETyres more often than they would wish.

 

2 November (Part 2) - Sleazebuster

Mick BarnbrookAt the risk of giving Mr. Barnbrook a swollen head I am going to give him two mentions in one day. For the past three years he has been pursuing a complaint against the MP for Rotherham for fiddling his expense claims. For long periods he has heard nothing at all from the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges but in recent weeks there has been some movement culminating in today’s announcement. Mr. Denis MacShane MP is said to have behaved in a way “far below the standards of integrity and probity expected of every member of the House”. He faces 12 months suspension from the Commons.

In the Standards and Privileges Committee’s report (PDF file, report page 77), Mick Barnbrook is credited as being the only complainant in this case bringing his tally of MPs’ heads to seven, if I have counted correctly. Perhaps I should have put Mick on Craske’s tail.

 

2 November (Part 1) - Patience evaporates

The dearth of interesting stories continues and until next week’s council meetings that doesn’t seem likely to change. Those who have followed the Peter Craske/Obscene blog situation may care to read the following but perhaps for some the tale of police incompetence gets to be monotonous, in which case they will know not to read further.

Peter CraskeI shall cease the pretence that the person arrested for the obscene blog might not be councillor Peter Craske. That person was arrested on the same day as Peter Craske (see News Shopper reports) and discharged from bail on the same day as Peter Craske (News Shopper again). It was Peter Craske who tripled the price of residents’ parking permits and had his arithmetic torn apart by Nicholas Dowling. It was Nicholas and I who went into the Cinema Car Park, were spotted on CCTV, identified and subsequently libelled and it was Peter Craske who was in charge of CCTV and parking operations.

It was Peter Craske who was questioned by Elwyn Bryant about the £4m. contract placed with Parsons Brinckerhoff and it was Elwyn who publicly argued with Craske after he told lies about it at a council meeting. It was me who reported all those anti-Craske stories here and it was all three of us who featured heavily in Bexley council’s obscene blog. Finally the icing on the cake was tracing recent obscenities to Parsons Brinckerhoff with whom approximately £4m. changed hands. Maybe it isn’t enough to convince a court of who was behind the crime but it surely does look suspicious. That Brinckerhoff trace took fewer than 48 hours, the police take months to, possibly not, do the same thing.

When the police said they had released their suspect from police bail the words they used were “The option to 'not proceed' is used by police where persons have been on police bail for some time and the restriction placed upon that person by being on police bail is no longer required. I need to be clear that this does not mean that the person concerned is no longer under suspicion” I called Mick Barnbrook who has been an Inspector at Bexleyheath police to ask if he could explain further. He said that in all his 31 years of service he had never come across it before but he would make enquiries of various retired colleagues.

None had ever heard of such a thing and some offered theories. Among them that the case is being left in limbo because it gets a councillor off the hook while disallowing FOIs and the like because it is still officially a live case. Another is that the police cannot bring anyone to justice because to do so would show the previous investigatory team, against whom there is an outstanding complaint with the Directorate of Professional Standards, to be incompetent or dishonest when they declared all leads exhausted on 23rd August 2011.

While the police refuse, in contravention of their own guidelines on hate crime, to tell the victims anything of note, speculation will flourish.

It is 12 days since the investigating Detective Inspector said “I have asked DS P*** M********* to make contact with you to obtain the full transcript of the e-mails to which you refer and establish whether any offences have been committed or whether indeed they impact upon any current investigation. He will make contact over the next few days” and no such call has been received. (My phone logs all calls whether answered or not.) On the same day I voiced my dissatisfaction (extract below) with the way the DI had handled the case.


The previous Borough Commander Stringer assured me and my MP in February 2012 that I would be updated monthly on that related matter. The last time any information was volunteered by the police was in June. When pressed in early September DS M********* refused to tell me anything in terms that would almost certainly fall foul of the Metropolitan Police's guidance notes on how to deal with victims of hate crime.

This month I have heard nothing and what little information I have has come via my MP and Mr. Elwyn Bryant.

Elwyn has received a message this afternoon addressed to both him and me at the same address. He has passed a copy to me.

Just because the perpetrator of Bexley council's obscene blog wrote that Elwyn and I are a homosexual couple does not mean it is true and that we live under the same roof. The police assumed that was so in June 2011 but I had hoped that you may have got a grip of the facts by now.

I am appalled that after 17 months of investigation you have so little understanding of the real situation.

In another indication of police incompetence Mr. xxxxxx advised me that he was concerned that Bexley police continued to believe I write under the pseudonym Olly Cromwell. CI Gowen made that mistake with the result that my identity was published in newspapers nationally, he was fortunate that I did not include his name in my formal complaint to the DPS, but he apologised. I had hoped that CI Gowen's recognition of Bexley police's failure would ensure it was not repeated.

Do I have to get the IPCC to find against you again? Do you think any part of this email shows you to be performing in a professional manner? All I see is constant incompetence.


Victor OlisaI believe the time has come to make an official complaint against Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa and his team for failing to provide even the tiniest clue as to what is going on and for disregarding their own guidance notes. When CS Stringer was in charge he hinted at just enough to keep Elwyn and I satisfied and made a request that I did not jeopardise his enquiries by talking about the case here. The blog revealed nothing new for four months because of that. The current team has made no similar request since Craske’s arrest and is proving even less helpful.

Their failures are very considerable in number and I suspect it will be a week before they can be assembled into a readable complaint document.

Because I have been waiting for the police to contact me about the offensive emails received 16 days ago a separate crime report will be submitted almost immediately. I am convinced that CS Victor Olisa and his team are engaged in a cover up of a crime by Bexley council and if I am wrong they have only themselves to blame through keeping the victims less well informed than the local newspaper.

 

1 November - Dangerous liaison

There is currently nothing to report; except perhaps that Bexley police continue to show no interest in two obscene emails which were traced to the company with which councillor Peter Craske placed a £4 million pound contract. Why would they be so keen to support their benefactor?

 

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