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Bonkers Blog June 2013

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30 June (Part 2) - Like governor of a Siberian Gulag

That’s how Hugh Neal describes Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill on his blog. Lots of other entertainment too. Hugh describes how Microsoft has woken up to the benefits of the ARM processor. About time; I was using one from 1990, three years after the first one was produced, now everyone has got one of three hidden in almost every household appliance.

I have finished tinkering with the internal workings of Bonkers for this weekend; still not entirely happy with it, but the foundations have been put in for better viewing on telephones and other similar gizmos which are all foreign territory to me.

 

30 June (Part 1) - “Where am I?” said the road tsar

Notice Three times I have been to Bexleyheath in the past ten days looking for the reported traffic chaos at newly designed junctions but been disappointed because there was simply not much traffic around. However I did stumble upon this notice in Highland Road yesterday, placed there on the order of the over paid Mike Frizoni for the ‘Queen’s unveiling’ ceremony on 9th March. I was just wondering why he felt it necessary to say “The London Borough of Bexley, being the Traffic Authority for Erith High Street, Erith”. It might well be but what has that got to do with Geddes Place?

This website is currently undergoing substantial “beneath the bonnet’ changes. There may be some temporary formatting disruptions as a result.

 

29 June (Part 4) - Site news

Some readers will know that Bonkers is constructed from scratch without the help of Wordpress or Blogspot or similar web writing utilities. It’s all done the hard way which has some advantages but simplicity is not one of them. One of the site’s features is the Blog text size configuration facility - see menu above. I was tinkering with it this morning with a view to introducing a similar facility to the main site. i.e. non-Blog pages. While doing so I noticed that the user choice was stored in a Cookie called site_style when logically it should have been called blog_style, especially as I plan to use site_style to store the user’s choice of site text size etc. So I changed the Cookie name and almost certainly broke the system for anyone not using the default text sizes.

Apologies for that. It can be reset via the Configure menu or if all else fails the Cookie can be deleted.

 

29 June (Part 3) - UKIP doing well in Welling

UKIP UKIPPedestrians in Welling today could hardly move for UKIP canvassers. Drivers could hardly move for Bexley council. In both Bellegrove Road and Wickham Lane the traffic was queued to the railway bridges and beyond because of the road narrowing work. Not that there actually was any work going on.

It’s been like it for a month or so but no one is sure why, no one I spoke to while lurking around the UKIP stall for rather a long time anyway.

It was fascinating to see the reaction of passers-by to UKIP, everything from “I can’t read” to requests to see the party’s manifesto. Most people took a leaflet and lots of people really dislike Bexley council and all its works. I even met three Bonkers readers.

 

29 June (Part 2) - @mayor_of_bexley

Sharon MasseyGuess who joined Twitter today? I’m still hoping this one will be as good as she looks. Ever the optimist!

Go easy on her, she’s done nothing wrong yet.

 

29 June (Part 1) - Can he hack it?

TweetOne of the people excluded from Cheryl Bacon’s closed meeting was 19 year old Danny Hackett who aspires to be a Labour councillor in Lesnes ward. He told me at ‘the meeting that never was’ that a selection meeting was to be held on Friday 28th so I suppose this midnight Tweet means he was successful.

If I knew his number or was on Twitter I’d call him to check, but maybe not; nineteen year olds don’t get out of bed on Saturdays until lunchtime. Seeking election is an extreme way of being allowed into one of Cheryl’s meeting don’t you think? Possibly even more extreme than Munir Malik having to resort to an FOI to get a Committee paper that a pig headed Cheryl wouldn’t pass across the desk to him.

In other Labour party election news I hear that Daniel Francis is aiming to get back in in Belvedere and that Seán Newman and Gill McDonald are safely reselected for the same ward. Did anyone expect anything else?

Not so fortunate is Harry Persaud (Thamesmead East) who like Munir Malik and Sandra Bauer will stand aside for an all African team.

Oh bugger! As a Lesnes voter myself does Danny’s probable success last night mean I have to vote Labour for the first time in my life?

 

28 June (Part 6) - It’s enough to make you ill

GLA announcementI find the take over of local health services by Bexley council rather worrying. My experience of local health care is mixed to say the least. My GP told me not long ago that my consumption of prescriptions is around one twentieth his average, so maybe I’m not qualified to give an opinion - but I will anyway.

I’ve found Queen Mary’s to be poor and after two visits wouldn’t go there again. Not so much because of the treatment but the total lack of respect and consideration for the patient.

Queen Elizabeth I’ve always found to be good, except for one visit to A&E when they disconnected my two drips and left me on the reception area floor telling me to get myself home. It was five minutes before their four hour target time expired.

I complained and received a load of excuses and denials from Dr. Chris Streather who was Chief Exec. of Q.E.H. at the time and eventually “an untraceable locum” was blamed. My own GP told me there was no such thing as ‘untraceable’ in the medical world.

This blog was young and inexperienced at the time and I self-indulgently posted the correspondence here. It still gets quite a lot of hits.

Like the man who was in charge when 1,200 patients died at Staffordshire General, Streather continues his rise to the top. Boris Johnson has appointed him along with our very own Teresa O’Neill to form his new Health Board for London. Not exactly reassuring. Doesn’t Boris know that Teresa’s council has already helped kill someone?


CommentBexley has appointed a new Director of Public Health, Dr. Nada Lemic. She says she is going to concentrate on obesity. Seems like a good idea.

Another of Bexley’s vaguely health related schemes is to “transform the borough into a mini Holland”. For a moment I thought they were going to bulldoze Knee Hill, but no. It’s some cycling initiative or other. They are going to apply for more taxpayers’ money to fund their ideas

Only this morning Teresa O’Neill was lamenting the fact that the government is tightening the purse strings. Surely the time for vanity projects has gone?

Bexley Times’ mini Holland report.

 

28 June (Part 5) - Government condemns Bexley council

NS CommentBest go and take a look at the News Shopper’s site quick. Eric Pickles’ deputy has said that calling the police to a public meeting because a member of the public took along a broken dictation machine was a waste of police time. An anonymous Bexley council spokesman says they have given Mr. Brandon Lewis a “more balanced account“ of what happened. I bet they have, the lying wotsits. This calls for an email to Mr. Lewis me thinks.

Among the lies told by Bexley council is “The problem that arose last week was caused by one of a small group of people who was intent on causing disruption and who refused to comply with our rules to gain attention. We do not employ security staff, so we asked the police to help restore order so that the committee’s business could be completed.”


DisruptionHow many times does it have to be stated that technically no one at all said anything during the meeting? It was immediately adjourned when Nicholas continued to hold his recorder after being refused permission to use it before the meeting commenced. No one but Nicholas said anything during the adjournment either apart from a small amount of whispering among members of the public present.

No one but Nicholas was asked to leave because everyone sat quietly waiting for an outbreak of common sense. Everyone was refused entry to Cheryl Bacon’s ‘Closed session’. An illegal act.

No member of the public knew of Nicholas’s intentions before they entered the Civic Offices, though he did tell his friends as they entered the reception area. I think that included the Doorman.

If the members of the public were so keen on mayhem, as Bexley council alleges, why were the councillors happy to leave them alone in the chamber to await the police? More proof of their lies is it not?

 

28 June (Part 4) - O’Neill’s out, but wrong one

Deselection stories continue to trickle in, from good sources too. Not only is councillor Malik going but also his leader. Councillor Chris Ball has decided to stand down, citing work pressures. Ditto the rarely reported Labour councillor Maggie O’Neill. I think that makes four of the present Labour councillors heading for the exit. And there may be ‘funny business’ going on in Sidcup too - and I don’t just mean that June Slaughter has had enough of it all.

 

28 June (Part 3) - More parking nonsense

Penalty PenaltyCharles of Crayford is still getting daily parking tickets despite buying a quarterly Residents’ Parking Permit at the beginning of the month. The letter on display is on Bexley’s notepaper and says the permit will be sent shortly. The photo, once again, is by a concerned neighbour. I have concluded that a letter stuck to a car windscreen for a month is no longer Confidential, so if you look at the larger version you may be able to read it.

The BELL issue seems to have loosened some tongues at Bexley council. I have received three reports that Bexley’s erstwhile parking manager, Tina Brooks, much criticised for her ignorance of the regulations by Notomob, did not make the transfer to Bromley. She has gone. It is alleged she may not be the only bad habit that hasn’t made it across to Bromley.

I can hardly believe this is true, but given the way Bexley often is, you can’t be sure.

Consider this. A dozy Parking Attendant makes out a ticket at 17:35 and plonks it on the windscreen of a car parked in a bay restricted to 17:30. Dozy attendant thinks he is patrolling a 18:30 bay. Ticket gets invalidated in the office because it has been issued contrary to regulations. Motorists coughs up the money anyway. Obviously the money should be returned but in Bexley it goes into some sort of slush fund.

Staff query this with managers as they are unhappy with acting outside the law. Managers tell them to get on with it. It is not clear from the informant’s report whether the practice is being continued now that Bromley has taken over the back office services. Nor is it clear that the informant is not yet another disgruntled employee, but if I was a betting man…

 

28 June (Part 2) - And they got on to the BBC for this!?

HuntingdonshireTweetA week after Nick Dowling asked if he could make an audio recording of a tremulous Cheryl Bacon, Richard Taylor from Cambridgeshire went to a council meeting armed with a video camera. He has been featured on the BBC’s website; why I do not know, Huntingdonshire District council is the height of reasonableness compared to Bexley.

Huntingdonshire allow filming with three days notice. Bexley has always without any exception whatsoever banned all forms of recording.

Huntingdonshire spoke of calling the police; Bexley called the police almost immediately.

Huntingdonshire eventually relented and allowed filming. Cheryl Bacon did her Pied Piper act and held an illegal closed meeting.

Huntingdon intends to discuss its arrangements with a view to possible changes on 24 July. Bexley issued a new instruction to reinforce its banning orders. I have been waiting ten days to hear if I will be allowed to take a photograph. All I have had is a threat from Director Paul Moore that permission may not be forthcoming if I fail to withdraw last Thursday’s blog.

 

28 June (Part 1) - Corporate Manslaughter

Teresa O'Neill ManslaughterNo wonder they tried so hard to muffle the BELL. It’s enough to make the leader’s hair stand on end.

 

27 June (Part 5) - Cheryl Bacon and the consequences of her uselessness

Peter AylingFor reasons best known to himself Michael Barnbrook made a Freedom of Information request to the police seeking the time at which they logged the call from Bexley council on the evening of 19th June asking them to evict a man from the council chamber who insisted on clutching a broken dictation machine. My notes reveal that it was at 19:57 that the Hallkeeper (doorman to you and me) reported the police might take up to an hour to get there. The call must have gone in just before 19:55 but I think Mick wants to show that putting the meeting into ‘Closed session’ at 20:15 was not only illegal, it was unreasonable after waiting only 20 minutes.

The police were quick to respond to the FOI request. They said that giving Mick the time fell foul of the Personal Information exemption of the FOI Act. If you want to know the time ask a policeman - except in Bexley where he appears so often to be in corrupt cahoots with Bexley council.

As it was Nicholas Dowling who was the recorder clutcher he has volunteered to resubmit Mick’s FOI under his own name. Probably it will not be in the Public Interest. Several people and not just the usual suspects, have told me that Superintendent Peter Ayling is in the same mould as Dave Stringer. Bad news if so.

Eighty five year old Peter Gussman, not a name you have seen here before, has sent me a copy of his complaint to Bexley council after he took the trouble to turn up to hear the plans for his local High Street (Sidcup) and was turned away from the illegally closed meeting.

Mr. Alabi is the council’s Legal Officer and he has had my request to take a photograph in the council chamber as Eric Pickles has suggested I do, since 18th June. Somewhat in excess of their ‘five days’ correspondence policy.


Dear Mr.  Alabi,
I wish to make a formal complaint against Councillor Cheryl Bacon for being inconsiderate and disrespectful towards me.

I attended the Civic Centre on 19th June 2013 at 7.30pm to be present at the meeting of the Public Realm and Safety Committee as a member of the public and a resident of Sidcup. The meeting did not commence due to the fact a member of the public insisted on recording the above meeting, the Chairman Councillor Cheryl Bacon stated this practise was not allowed. After repeated warnings to the individual the Chairman arranged for the Police to be called to escort the person off the building. Before the Police arrived the Chairman Cheryl Bacon announced that the meeting would take place in closed session all the members of the Committee then left the main chamber.

I wish to state that the described altercation had nothing to do with me whatsoever, I was just sitting quietly waiting for the advertised public meeting to start. On leaving the chamber the Chairman showed no interest or consideration to the fact that I and others were in attendance. Therefore, I wish to know what right the Chairman had to abandon a Public meeting. There was no reason why the Chairman could not have started the Public Realm meeting after the Police had arrived and escorted the individual from the building.

Yours sincerely,

 

27 June (Part 4) - UKIP Day of Action in Welling. Get yourself on TV

UKIPUKIP plans to be out in force in Welling next Saturday (29th) presumably to tell residents what they can do for Bexley. Both local and national press have said they will look in plus Channel 4 TV. I think I will pop along too to see if any of them would be interested in the Bexley ELL service.

10:30 until 2:00 outside Tesco (opposite Morrisons).

 

27 June (Part 3) - BELL ends

The BELL scandal will inevitably cool down for a while. I have passed the documents to someone who may be better equipped to take the case further. However recent days have seen various comments from both anonymous and named sources. Here are some I feel able to repeat.


Log• It is crystal clear to staff left here what happens if we do not tow the party line. Not making excuses for Maria, but it is easy to compromise one’s own integrity when under a lot of stress, upset, or put under ‘awkward pressures’ let’s say.
• I was disciplined for threatening to attack Maureen Holkham with an axe which was a totally false allegation.
• There is not a shadow of doubt in my own mind; the Bexley union rep. is there to protect the Council, not the employees. For run of the mill complaints, the union might do grand things for the employee and get membership recommendations because of it, but for the real cases like John and Andy’s, forget it!
• After Mrs. Baker died staff asked for 24/7 on call managers to be listed on the noticeboard. They were, but only their names, no contact numbers. So not a lot of use.


What exactly is Bexley council’s management style and culture? If someone threatens to attack a Deputy Director with an axe you don’t hold a disciplinary hearing, you call in the police - unless of course you are part of the management team that manufactured a story with the sole intention of getting rid of a round peg in a square hole. Or as it is beginning to look, a man in a woman’s world. This account is not from someone’s vivid imagination, it is referenced in John’s (dismissed BELL technician) files.

The issue of server codes not being translated into English has been explained to me by two people. It required a module from the manufacturer to be added to the system but it failed to work properly in Bexley and was forecast to produce too much information even if it did.

John says his immediate manager. Linda Cox (I only have his word for it) believed the problem was caused by incorrect installation of the equipment at the clients’ premises. Installation was the responsibility of another technician there is no need to name. John (the server technician) says Ms. Cox’s fault diagnosis was entirely wrong. In any event, Bexley council did nothing to correct the fault. Calling in the manufacturer’s support engineer may have incurred a charge. One BELL operator comments as follows…


With the less usual codes coming up on the screens, when the BELL alarm comes through; the codes could easily be put into plain English but weren’t. When these calls came through it makes the operators anxious because they do not indicate what they are for.

It could mean flood, fire, carbon monoxide. Anything! And each would require a different reaction. But they so rarely came through in English that even if there was information about what they meant and how to deal with them, chances are that you would not know where to find the info.

Of course, you could always be well organised and keep all this info in a notebook or in a file on a shelf, but what about the casual staff or staff brought in at short notice, or the the trainee??

The codes should be a simple heading, such as ‘care home lift alarm’ or ‘contact Tunstall service engineer - electrical fault’, or whatever the basic problem is.

Whilst operators have a personal responsibility to deal with emergency calls in keeping with the procedures, the employing body surely has a responsibility to make these procedures efficient and straightforward in a way that recognises that an emergency operator never needs to waste time worrying about how to deal with some foreign looking screen that jumps to life in front of them in the small hours of the morning, when where is not a single soul to turn to in the room for assistance.


In an attempt to discover whether staffing levels improved after Bexley council’s neglect contributed to the death of Mrs. Baker, Mr. Barnbrook has requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a (names redacted) copy of the BELL staffing rota for April 2012 and April 2013.

 

27 June (Part 2) - Election news

Two unsolicited submissions that were ‘spiked’ during the week while more pressing things took centre stage. The usual warnings about no documentary confirmation may apply…


• Councillor Munir Malik was not selected to represent Thamesmead East in the May 2014 council elections. The three candidates will be Ms. Derry Begho, Mr. Endy Ezenwata and Ms. Mabel Ogundayo. The ‘Thamesmead Tiger’ will be missed! A separate report speaks of “back stabbing”.

• It was reported on 7th June that councillor June Slaughter is not seeking re-election in Sidcup. Probably she is persona non grata for her willingness to bid me good evening and the like, or maybe she just cannot stand the dishonesty any more. Maybe it is significant that the Conservative propaganda sheet Sidcup Matters is listing the name Rob Leitch alongside the councillors’ names. A Google search for Robert Leitch will confirm his close associations with Boris Johnson. Just what we need on Bexley council; another leech. I do hope this revelation will not provoke Director Paul Moore into another of his rages.

 

27 June (Part 1) - Crossrail cometh

Abbey Wood station The Dartford to London via Woolwich railway line runs a literal stone’s throw from my front door. At the moment it is two tracks but Crossrail will increase that to four.

I know this because Network Rail has been very good about keeping nearby residents informed of their plans. Originally the extra tracks were going to be used for shuffling trains arriving at Abbey Wood across to the up platform for the return trip and for parking trains overnight. I think this idea may have fallen into disfavour when Network Rail noticed the number of graffiti artists who live on the other side of the tracks. Also the decision to rearrange the platforms at Abbey Wood, to suit the trains rather than the passengers - typical Network Rail if I may say so - meant the tracks extending towards Belvedere are no longer required. However a Newsletter from Network Rail revealed that they will be retained as over-run. Presumably train drivers are no longer taught how to approach a set of buffers.

Over the years Network Rail’s succession of Newsletters has put the journey time from Abbey Wood to Tottenham Court Road at 16 minutes, 26 minutes and most recently, 23 minutes. Via London Bridge or Waterloo East you’d be hard pushed to do it in 50.

Now that work on Abbey Wood station is imminent a schedule has been published.


• Felixstowe Road car park (Thamesmead side of the station) will partly close in August 2013 and shut completely in September.
• A few places will be lost from the station (railway owned) car park this month and full closure will occur in September 2013.
• The existing station will be, well, attacked with sledgehammers I suspect. The Network Rail leaflet is rather vague but an “interim station” will open early in 2014.
• The new station will open in autumn 2017.


The current plan is to provide twelve peak hour ten car trains an hour without “permanent reductions to the current North Kent Line trains”.

There will be an exhibition in the Knee Hill Community Centre to explain things further from 1 p.m. to 7.p.m. on Thursday 11th July.

I imagine there will be parking chaos in the area by September. Roads right up to the one next to mine are already inconsiderately blocked by commuters prepared to walk for seven minutes rather than pay extortionate car parking fees. My own drive would accommodate three cars with ease. Maybe Bexley council would let me have a discarded Pay & Display machine.

 

26 June (Part 5) - You couldn’t make it up

Bexley Magazine I’m surprised that title has not be used before, it’s almost a generic one that could be applied to every day.

The Bexley magazine popped through my letterbox an hour ago and I was amazed to see the associated comment on Page 8.

Under the heading ‘Parking Services Improvements’ we are told that Parking Attendants will soon be routinely video and audio recording members of the public without seeking their permission.

What a bunch of two face hypocrites. They have the cheek to say this will demonstrate transparency and provide accuracy.

Fair enough, but contrast that with what Bexley’s goons trot out at every public meeting. No recording in case it offends a member of the public. How low can this Conservative council go?

Click image for the full story.

 

26 June (Part 4) - The liars are at it again!

News Shopper News ShopperBexley council knows it is in a weak position after putting a public meeting into “closed session”. Chairman Cheryl Bacon’s words not mine. It’s illegal, so since their first attempt to bamboozle the population via the News Shopper they have added to their lie score.

“If other members of the public had wished to join the meeting they would have been able to.” Rubbish!

Mr.  Barnbrook was particularly keen to be there and Cheryl Bacon twice rebuffed him. As soon as he got home he sent in a formal complaint.

Young Danny Hackett, would-be Labour councillor, with friends on the inside already, wasn’t allowed in either.

Does Bexley council really believe that five members of the public who had given up their evening to hear what the council had in store for parking and Sidcup High Street, and had not entered the recording debate at all, would have gone home if there was an alternative acceptable to the lying Cheryl Bacon?

Bexley council issues nothing but lie after lie and I get very sick of reporting it.

Next time there is a meeting recorders will have to be secretly switched on if that is what it takes to get the truth out of Bexley council.

 

26 June (Part 3) - Falling off the log

Bexley’s BELL alarm system was supplied by a company called Tunstall, who appear to be the leading purveyor of such gear. Most if not all of it is supplied on lease. Some of it has a limited life, neck pendants with batteries for example. Five years and you throw it away and lease or buy another one.

The software that runs the system is sophisticated and highly configurable if you know what you are doing. In the client’s home you have a responder to listen out for pendant button presses and it calls the Civic Centre over a phone line. The responder has a sensitive two way voice mode too enabling it to be used just like a phone. A care home might include several such systems all connected to a dedicated phone line. Mrs. Baker’s care home was on 020 8302 7162.

In the Civic Centre the controlling server was set to assume ‘No answer’ if the operator failed to pick up a call within 180 seconds, the system’s default time. This was not long enough for a lone operator to visit the toilet and John (the whistleblower) says that Bexley’s answer was to set the delay to 30 minutes but that he successfully resisted their proposal. He also says that Bexley council didn’t always withdraw alarm pendants that reached their ‘sell by date’ so as to avoid the need to lease more. This practice he says was the norm when he first worked for Bexley but improved over the years.

He claims that when elderly clients died he retrieved their pendants and tested them to see if the batteries had gone flat due to them being in use beyond the manufacturer’s safe date. If they did not work, and some didn’t, it was possible that the alarm had been pressed in vain and was a contributory factor to a death. John says he was told in no uncertain terms not to continue doing testing pendants and threatened with disciplinary measures if he persisted. We only have his word for it.

The system was able to report more than a simple button press, if there was a power cut for example. All such events bore a numerical code which would appear on the operator’s screen. John says that the system was perfectly capable of translating the codes into meaningful English but Bexley had decided not to use the facility. I shall have to go back to John to find out exactly why - he is not on email so communications between us are slow.

The simplified explanation of what happened when Mrs. Baker’s call came in at five past one in the morning is that it was not answered for reasons unknown. The most obvious reason is that the operator fell asleep but as he was sacked immediately and disappeared from the scene his colleagues had no opportunity to question him.

After 90 seconds of No Reply the system correctly logged off the operator’s console as being not in use. It then called its reserve number but Bexley in an act of sheer stupidity had programmed that in as the same as the primary number - which was logged off.

The system signalled that the operator should log on but he was either not there, asleep, or as a trainee, didn’t recognise the screen display. The prolonged lack of response caused the server to send repeat calls at 75 second intervals throughout the night. Several other emergency calls came through only to suffer the same fate. Fortunately none proved fatal.

‘Andy’ did not twig what was going on until two minutes to six. At eight o’clock the warden at Mrs. Baker’s home called to give the dreadful news.

Had Bexley’s server been programmed more intelligently it would have called Tunstall’s 24 hour control centre but it did not. One must assume it was not intelligently programmed or maybe Bexley council was too mean to subscribe to Tunstall’s service.

Either way a lady died, ‘Andy’ disappeared, presumably a nervous wreck, the man who warned of the impending disaster was sacked, and not a single Bexley council officer had a word said against him - I mean her. Sounds like they would all be assured of good jobs in the NHS.

 

26 June (Part 2) - Bouquets and brickbats

Obviously the target audience for Bonkers is Bexley residents but inevitably quite a lot of readers come from further away.

Every day visitors include the Houses of Parliament and the local press and on the second rung you get the Greater London Assembly, Transport for London, the BBC and Sky News. The other London Boroughs are there every day too, not necessarily the same ones every day, and I always imagine bored doorkeepers giggling over a Google Chrome Book rather than a Chief Executive thanking the gods of Common Purpose that none of his councillors labelled their road planning “Bonkers”, but maybe the truth lies somewhere in between…


I’ll just start by saying that I really enjoy reading your blogs, even though I’m north of the Thames. How did I find your blog? Well, I was doing some research and decided to get in touch with the various Councils involved, to find some information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

As you’ve mentioned previously, typing Bexley into Google brings your site up within the first couple of hits, so I thought I’d have a read. Needless to say, I’m now an avid daily reader. Anyway, aside from the usual automated response from my initial email, I’ve received not one bit of contact from your illustrious Council, and that’s Local Government to Local Government!! Then again, having read about them, I have a firm grasp on their ethics (or should that be lack of).

Keep up the good work.


(Edited to remove the source borough.)

That was one of 23 emails received yesterday and almost none was answered because I was away north of the river too, yesterday’s blogs were written the day before. One of the 23 emails was not very complimentary which almost never happens, not even a handful in the four years Bonkers has been going, councillor Melvin Seymour’s thuggish friends and relatives excepted of course. In my opinion the main thrust of the email was wide of the mark. It said


You harp on about all of you information being factual and thoroughly checked yet you have suggested that vinny rey was responsible for the works at ruxley roundabout, when a simple check with the council would reveal that in fact that is not actually the case. This is just one inaccurate fact that I have come across whilst browsing this site with some interest. There is plenty of information on this site and whilst I have the time to go through it I dont think that I would waste it when the accuracy of it is clearly questionable. Sounds like another person with a chip on their shoulder to me mate.


That one is totally unedited because I feel it gives some insight into the sort of person who wrote it - anonymously of course.

I remember the three Ruxley Roundabout visits well as in those days it was rare for readers to invite me out. My destination was Ruxley Nursery and I saw the owner whose name was Gary. I think I can safely name him because Ruxley Nursery is a yard or two across the Bromley boundary and presumably safe from vindictive retaliation by Bexley council.

Gary accumulated a file of papers about the roundabout, even councillor Craske, cabinet member for Public Realm at the time, had helped fill it and because of that file I know there is no need to revise the Ruxley Roundabout report. Indeed I still have some of the stuff which Gary emailed to me and yes the relevant name is there. It may not have been the only name involved but it was the one that took responsibility for the Ruxley disaster afterwards.

 

26 June (Part 1) - Support from inside the tent

“John was a very thorough and reliable worker.”

 

25 June (Part 2) - Outside the tent peeing in (†)

The principal BELL whistleblower proved to be a nut in one sense, a film nut, or as he might prefer it, a film buff; and it was that that got him the sack. Perusal of the documents from Bexley council reveals nothing about the death of Mrs. Baker and the subsequent cover-up. All you get in writing is vague references to “circumstances earlier in 2012”.

It is notable that John, for that is his name, had worked for Bexley council for seven years before Mrs. Baker died in April 2012 and within a month of that he was being threatened with the dismissal that ultimately came on 27th July 2012. A dismissal decision taken by Deputy Director Tom Brown and upheld at appeal by councillors Aileen Beckwith, John Davey, Alan Deadman and Michael Tarrant.

The straw that brought John down was that to relieve himself of some of the stress imposed by an oppressive management, he amused himself by doodling a revised film script. It read…


SPARTACUS
The story of a romany slave worker on BELL who has been brutalised, abused and disenfranchised who retaliates against the evil ICT empire builder Gluteus Maximus Orificious Warrinker and his Metacompliance legions. The hero ends up being crucified by emperor McLaughter. Its a battle between the self-righteous against the righteous, the self-important against the important and the judgemental against the good. Be prepared for a lavish bloodbath.


John found that so therapeutic that he wrote another one…


GET CARTER
After hearing of a plot against him, he is sent to Coventry where he takes on a bunch of criminals known as the Metacompliance gang, once there he receives an obscene phone call while a sex starved woman sits rocking in her operator’s chair. He embarks on a mission to get revenge on all those who crossed him with calamitous results for all concerned.


After showing it to a trusted colleague John locked it away in his drawer some while before Mrs. Baker died.

Gluteus Maximus Orificious Warrinker is a reference to an IT manager who John alleges called him a f**king twat and a ‘wuss’ when John reported a bug in a piece of council prepared computer code - the Metacompliance. John responded by calling him an arsehole.

The sex starved woman is a reference to one of the bosses who had a tendency to boast to her friends of her sexual exploits. John’s boss, Alison McLaughlin, is on record as saying John’s “prose was deeply offensive to his colleagues”.

While John had a day off his boss raided his locked drawer looking for the incriminating BELL server log which was reputed to be there. It was, but while snaffling it away she found and took the mock film scripts too. She convinced senior management with the aid of an employee reputed to be a member of her own extended family, that John had distributed copies of his film scripts around the office and for this he was dismissed. The earlier ‘arsehole’ comment didn’t help either. Naturally Gluteus Maximus Orificious Warrinker denied his provocation.

Files obtained from Bexley council reveal that another of John’s bosses was Linda Cross, immediately subordinate to Alison McLaughlin, and to both of whom John alleges he many times gave warnings of the inadequate overnight staffing levels. The papers record that the alleged false witness to the distribution story was Maria Giles.

It is not yet clear to me whether Alison McLaughlin’s submission to Tom Brown was sufficiently fulsome as to allow a fair hearing or whether Mr. Brown was ‘in’ on the need to get rid of an employee who knew too much. I shall read the papers again to see what else can be drawn from them and no doubt report back again.

Before I depart for the day I should perhaps mention what may prove to be the most important document in this sorry affair. The server log. A copy has surfaced and it clearly shows what happened and why the managers who allowed staffing levels to fall below two were so emphatically misguided. The equipment did not malfunction, it did exactly what it was told to do, and what it was told to do proved to be a major contribution to a lady’s death.

The first alarm call came through at 01:05:55. It was not answered until 05:57:52. Bexley council does not want you to know that. I am inclined to ask John if I may ship all the papers across to the News Shopper. This disgraceful affair deserves wider exposure than I can give it.

† With reference to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous quotation about J. Edgar Hoover.

 

25 June (Part 1) - Public Realm report : Round 3

Parking ReviewIf Cheryl Bacon had not chosen to take Bexley council down the road to ridicule again the public would have learned what her husband’s Strategic Parking Review had come up with. However, as is far too often the case, Bexley council decided to break the law by holding a public meeting in what Cheryl called ’closed session’. She refused to allow any member of the public to attend it, not even reporters, i.e. me.

In law she has to rerun the meeting, but don’t hold your breath. Upholding the law of the land is not what Bexley council generally does. In the circumstances, if Bexley’s residents are to learn anything of what may be in store by way of a new parking regime, the only way forward is to report some of the highlights of what was in the Agenda here.

A sub-Committee had been set up consisting of councillors Brian Beckwith, Munir Malik, Howard Marriner, June Slaughter, Michael Tarrant and chaired by John Waters. A strange mixture of the wise and the slightly mad. Their aim was to “further the economic prosperity of the borough” and representatives of both Richmond and Westminster councils’ parking departments attended some of their meetings; what one might call the good and the ugly extremes of enforcement.

The sub-group’s final recommendations were as follows…


• Clear consistent signage.
• Priority for Bexley residents in an attempt to exclude Kent commuters.
• Retain phone parking (the report referred to its unpopularity) and retain cash and credit card payments in car parks.
• The 10 pence surcharge for phone parking should be scrapped but recouped through increased SMS and extension charges.
• The weakness of the local economy should be considered when setting charges near shopping areas.
• Short parking, e.g. 10 minutes, should be allowed in marked bays for low or zero charge close to shops.
• A ‘finer grained’ payment structure should be considered near shops.
• CPZ boundaries near stations should be reviewed.
• A residents’ parking payment card should be actively pursued.
• The council should continue to operate the car parks.
• Civil Enforcement Officers should be trained in sympathy and consistency.
• Any Free Parking at Christmas should be notified in advance.
• Disabled bays in car parks to remain free.
• Residents’ bay operation times should align with nearby car parks to avoid displacement from one to the other.


What the Scrutiny Committee thought of that may never be known thanks to councillor Bacon’s law breaking. It is interesting to note that councillor Craske’s policy of absolutely no change to CPZs may be looked at again. It may also be interesting to Craske watchers that the Review begins with the words “The council has a statutory responsibility to provide adequate parking for Bexley residents”. Only the evening before the purple pygmy told the Finance Committee that there was no legal obligation to provide car parks. Purple prat?

There is no Agenda reference that I can find to what the public may have said in the Consultation, but Bexley never takes any notice of them so why waste the paper and ink?

Public Realm report : Round 1
Public Realm report : Round 2

 

24 June (Part 9) - Definitely not saved by the BELL

Before the BELL story began to get really interesting anonymous emails were arriving from what I thought might be a family member and someone else, maybe a worker at the home where Mrs. Baker lived - or should I say died?

Then came the first email that required no guesswork. It is reproduced below because it sheds light on the problems an important witness alleges he faced. The more that is known about the case, the easier it may be to understand it.


I am concerned that the death of a Bexley Emergency Linkline customer due to her emergency call being unanswered because only one member of staff was on duty at the time, seems to have been forgotten.

It has not made the press despite being of high public interest. Mrs. Barbara Baker died 6/4/2012 and there followed a police investigation. All BELL staff were told by managers to keep it quiet. All questions about it were met with “we can't comment due to a Police investigation”.

I worked at BELL for about seven years before I was sacked for swearing after being abused and sworn at over those years.

When I started at BELL there were insufficient records of where in the field alarm units were, how old the units were and whether they were due for renewal. I discovered that Bexley BELL was installing units already out of date, the existing staff did not understand the need for renewing the standby batteries and when I explained the seriousness of the situation I was disciplined.

Every time I brought something up about failures and shortcomings in the system I was disciplined. After Mrs. Baker’s death I reminded management that I had previously warned A.M. [name deleted] that we should have two on duty at all times in case someone was indisposed when a call came in.

After this I was constantly baited and provoked and abused by some of the more senior staff. It was during a verbal bombardment by a colleague that I let the swear word out that I eventually got sacked for. I believe there was a cover up and the true reason for my dismissal was because I knew too much and didn’t want to turn a blind eye.


The report bore uncanny similarities to another email received about the same time…


There are so many outrageous reports of Bexley council's scandalous behaviour towards residents and their own staff. I know and have known so many people who [work] for Bexley who are disgusted at some of these scandals. I know there is a lot of talk and unrest in some depts.


And today I have been to see the concerned ex-BELL employee.

He makes a good case and has retained a lot of documents but as he said in his email, he was on the face of it, not sacked for reasons directly connected to the neglect of Mrs. Baker. That would have been altogether too blatant. However the documents which I have on loan do not confirm the sacking was for uttering a single swear word - despite “arsehole” appearing in the documents - but for something very different.

Maybe I should leave this until I have more time - which probably won’t be tomorrow. Tuesdays are not my favourite day for blogging. Other things must be done.

 

24 June (Part 8) - Brunswick Road report - A very big mistake

The more blogs there are to write the more mistakes I make, and I don’t just mean writing Brunswick Avenue when I meant Road which numerous people were keen to tell me about. No, there was one almighty clanger that only one person noticed. It isn’t just councillor Linda Bailey who has an interest in Brunswick Road, leader Teresa O’Neill has her own place down there too. No. 39. If I hadn’t deleted the Address List maybe I would have noticed.

Somehow I don’t give much for applicant Mr. Sullivan’s chances.

 

24 June (Part 7) - Barnet’s democratic council

The bloggers of Barnet try to convince anyone who will listen that their council is as bad as they come, but I suggest the following does their case no favours…


Just a quick note to say that I will be addressing the Barnet Council Cabinet tonight at their meeting at 6:30 p.m. I have asked for permission to address the cabinet to express my concerns at the various policies the council are currently implementing and the lack of consultation and democracy in the manner of these implementations.


That just couldn’t happen in Bexley could it? The cabinet listening to a protester. A blogger no less! Don’t be so silly.

 

24 June (Part 6) - Nick Dowling makes it into the Shopper

Nicholas Dowling Left aloneThe long awaited News Shopper report on councillor Cheryl Bacon’s successful attempt to make Bexley council a laughing stock - it’s at the This is London site as well as the News Shopper - has gone on line.

Bexley council has repeated its lie to the press. “Their subsequent behaviour was so disruptive that it was impossible for the meeting to continue.” It was so disruptive that every councillor and official was happy to walk out leaving us to sit in the chamber with no supervision at all. How else do you think we could have had our photograph taken? Good to see them confirm “the meeting was moved to another room”. All that is missing is Cheryl’s term ‘closed session’.

The fact is hardly a word was spoken all evening and nobody did anything more active than occasionally visiting the cool water dispenser.

Do you think this appalling bunch of liars masquerading as councillors would leave six “disruptive” residents alone in the chamber? Didn’t they realise that any one of us could have hidden a pitchfork down our trousers?

 

24 June (Part 5) - Today’s joke. It is a joke isn’t it?

Who is giving you all this inside information? It must be someone very senior, because he or she seems to know more than most of us here. Could it even be Paul Moore himself?


So said a recent emailer and I haven’t a clue. What’s more, I don’t want to know. The anonymous contact facility is about as untraceable as you can get. The only chance of a trace is if I provide the time it is used and ask my ISP to track the IP address and that won’t be good enough in most cases because you’d need to go to the sender’s ISP to find out who owned the IP address and they aren’t likely to allow that. I did it just once because the message looked to me as though it may have come from a certain councillor - but it didn’t. It came from Parsons Brinckerhoff, a company with Craske connections.

No one else would have been able to make such a trace behind my back because this site is hosted on servers owned by one of my old friends; he’d recognise it wasn’t my voice and if anyone tried it on he would let me know. So the whole thing is pretty safe, I can’t go tittle-tattling to my friend expecting a trace every time someone sends a message, he’d soon get fed up with me.

So whoever tipped me off about the Press Release that Bexley council issued this morning is safe. And it made me laugh out loud.

Councillor Chris Taylor has been appointed a ‘Dignity Champion’. This is the man who wrecks lives by approving the payment of minimum wage (plus one penny) to care workers and nothing for their time travelling between clients. Then if they complain they are victimized by not being allocated enough work and their meagre income plummets even further. I’ve gone on about it before so I won't add to it again today.

That other total waste of space, councillor Eileen Pallen has got in on the act too. I do love the bit about ‘changing the culture of care services and placing a greater emphasis on improving the quality … and home support services’. It’s at times like this I find myself very tempted to resort to more colourful language. What a pair of w… No I mustn’t.


The Dignity in Care campaign is about winning hearts and minds, changing the culture of care services and placing a greater emphasis on improving the quality of care and the experience of people using services in, for example, hospitals, community services, care homes and home support services. "Cllr Pallen and I are very pleased to have made the commitment to become Dignity Champions and we hope that others will join us," said Cllr Taylor. "We will do our best to work in the best interests of carers, vulnerable adults and older people, keeping these issues high on our list of priorities.


I’ve heard people under Bexley’s care reduced to talking about Dignitas, but not dignity.

The Press Release only seems to be available as a Word file at present. What sort of plonker puts a .doc file on the web? Half the potential audience won’t be able to read it.

 

24 June (Part 4) - Planning Department

At the handful of Planning Committee meetings I’ve attended the staff from Mrs. Susan Clark downwards have always seemed quite impressive to me. Unlike the typical Director or Deputy Director, planning staff always seem to know the answers. The brown envelope culture of where I used to live in Hampshire is nowhere to be seen but occasionally you have to wonder if attempts to influence planning officers come from a direction difficult to resist.

Whilst looking at Bexley’s Planning Portal in connection with yesterday’s reference to a possible planning malpractice I stumbled upon the address of 55 Brunswick Road which sounded very familiar to me. On 6th June the Planning Committee’s Agenda included this…

Recommended


55 Brunswick Road55 Brunswick Road is currently a small bungalow and there have been several attempts to get permission to knock it down and build a small block of flats. It is far from what you might call a ‘posh’ road and already includes maisonettes.

The council officers can’t see a problem. They have gone through the usual routine of consulting such bodies as the Transport and Traffic people, Environmental Health, The Bexley Civic Society and Thames Water. 57 such bodies if you believe Bexley council’s website. (I don’t, there are loads of duplicate consultations.)

None of them had any objections and as you can see above, the planners recommended the application for approval.

However once again it was turned down by councillors.

Refusal


I wondered why. Then I saw this attached to the list of planning comments…

Bailey comments

… and I went to the Documents tab to look through the list of comments. All favourable but Linda Bailey’s wasn’t there. Maybe someone more adept at searching the Planning Portal will double check it for me.

Then I remembered why 55 Brunswick Road sounded so familiar. I looked at the scribbled notes Elwyn Bryant and I took from the Register of Members’ Interests when we inspected them in May 2011. Guess who lives at (or owns) No. 45?

You are right, she does. Naturally I couldn’t possibly comment.

 

24 June (Part 3) - Gossip Department

I’ve no idea how reliable this sort of information is but an email said “I heard that Pallen was replacing Windle in Barnehurst and that Hall was replacing Cammish in Blendon - both standing down. Musical chairs!”

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Simon Windle went, he seems to have a too finely developed sense of decency to be a Bexley councillor and if they are looking for someone useless and another Teresa style tyrant you couldn’t do a lot better than Eileen Pallen.

Steven Hall’s Welling seat must be vulnerable to UKIP attack and a move is understandable but why a decent enough bloke like Steven wants to be associated with Bexley council goodness only knows. Maybe he has aspirations towards reforming it?

Pat Cammish? Who is she? I did a search of the entire Bonkers site and apart from the list of councillors her name only appears once. It was in November 2012 and if you click the link to that blog you may understand why she has had enough.

 

24 June (Part 2) - Teresa Kim Jong O’Neill

The last time the mild mannered Arthur Pewty published his thoughts on Bexley’s council leader, Conservative Teresa O’Neill, he said “Personally I think we need to descend on Councillor Teresa O'Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks, as it would seem that she and her scheming cohorts are impervious to reasoned argument” and when I said “I couldn’t agree more” the silly fool saw her opportunity to get me into trouble and rushed off to call in favours with police Commander Dave Stringer. Eventually the IPCC ruled against Stringer but the Local Government Ombudsman’s Office, stuffed full of ex-council types, backed O’Neill.

Yesterday, Hugh Neal who writes the Maggott Sandwich blog, showed his exasperation with O¹Neill once again. “I think that Bexley Council would be more open and honest in its dealings if it was headed by Kim Jong-Un, rather than Teresa O’Neill. At least the North Korean dictator is starting to talk to his opponents around the world now, unlike Bexley Council, who for a second time are directly disobeying an order issued by Eric Pickles.”

Perhaps if I agree with Hugh once again I’ll ensure I have something to write about for years to come.

Incidentally, in his 23rd June blog, Hugh reveals where the weird blog name came from. Bonkers, as I think you know by now, is based on councillor John Davey’s description of Bexley’s road planning.

 

24 June (Part 1) - For whom the BELL tolled again

Later today I am going to meet a man who says he has something important to show me about the events surrounding Mrs. Baker’s death following neglect by Bexley council. Funny how they have managed to keep that one quiet for 14 months. Let’s hope this informer doesn’t turn out to be some sort of nutter. He sounded absolutely normal and rational on the phone, maybe a bit hesitant, but fingers crossed I am not wasting my time. Such things do happen! Report later with any luck.

 

23 June (Part 3) - A blast from the past

On 5th January 2012 I wrote the following blog but I got cold feet over whether it was good enough. The general drift was accurate enough, I’d been shown the papers, but I was concerned that something may have been withheld from me. Fishy it undoubtedly was but I wasn’t totally happy with it.

So with the proviso that things may not be quite as bad as they look, here is what very nearly appeared 18 months ago…


5 January - Your guide to nobbling a Planning Committee

Step 1 - Preliminaries

• Apply for planning permission.
• See it rejected.
• Appeal to Government inspector.


Step 2 - On hearing that the appeal is likely to be rejected

• Reapply for planning permission.
• Recruit friendly councillor.


Step 3 - Procedure at Planning Committee

• Await inevitable severe criticism of plans.
• Watch friendly councillor argue that the inspector will allow the appeal so Committee may as well pass it and save the trouble.
• Planning officials must remain dumb about the fact the Government inspector has already rejected it.
• Application passed. (Celebration and pay-off optional.)


Terms & Conditions

• Applicants must be a council employee; preferably employed in the Planning Department.


Though he wasn’t personally involved, John Watson who founded the Bexley Council Monitoring Group, poked his nose in, asking for the plans and all that sort of stuff. He looked at them but was told it would cost hundreds of pounds to let him have copies - and he is not made of money. Gradually and with the help of the Information Commissioner he beat down the price but it was still too much so he arranged to go and have another look instead. He arrived at the Civic Centre last Wednesday at the appointed time and - guess what? Bexley council has lost all the papers.

As I concluded in January 2012, it looks like something fishy has been going on.

 

23 June (Part 2) - From the weekend postbag

I’ve been away and have returned from successfully negotiating the car park which was the M25. Not just around the M4 and M3 but also at the Bromley exit where a large caravan had been turned partially to matchwood. On Saturday I found myself at a two year old’s birthday party in a very windy Wales, so a bit of a busman’s holiday really.

The visitors’ score on Friday reached 1,634; probably half arrived by accident but that still leaves a good number who have learned a little more about Bexley council. Nearly 2% dropped me an email and apart from the ‘go easy’ guidance of last week none were even remotely critical of the ‘shameful’ blog which Paul Moore took issue with. While I wind down from the long motorway journey allow me to fill you in with a selection from the weekend’s crop…


• I think Moore has somehow come to think of you as an errant council employee.
• Why is Paul Moore coming on so strong? Because you've got them rattled and they've told him in no uncertain terms that they want you silenced once and for all. May God give you the courage not to give in to these bully-boy tactics.
• Greetings Malcolm, you nasty man. How dare you place things on the internet that are already on the, erm, internet. There was a real prospect of the council taking you seriously until you did that. Take it down now or we’ll have Biffa work you over a bit before throwing you down the stairs and having you arrested for damaging council property.
• You have merely passed polite comment.
• I don’t think you have overstepped the mark.


And from somewhere nearer the other end of the spectrum…


• Take the moral high ground. Remove the offending blog in return for a meeting with Moore - or even Tuckley - to assist their inevitable transition to more openness in a way that allows them to save face.


Actually I offered Mr. Moore an off the record meeting but he did not respond.

 

23 June (Part 1) - If at first you don’t succeed

Bellegrove Road Bellegrove Road Bellegrove Road Bellegrove Road

Our man in Welling writes…


You may recall that during Phase 1 of the Welling Corridor improvement scheme, a new pedestrian refuge was built in Bellegrove Road at the junction with Hill View Road (Picture 1). Then within a month, because it was impossible to turn right into Bellegrove Road from Hill View Road, the island was modified (Picture 2). Now more than a year on we have traffic island Mark III. The third picture shows work on the new island and finally the resultant queue at the temporary traffic lights. What a waste of money and so much for computer designed islands!


Trial and error again if you ask me. Computer program will be fine, but the chumps don’t know how use it.

 

22 June - Something for the weekend

I need a break so this is all you will get until Monday.

No entryThe reports of Broadway traffic problems continue to flow in and I went there equipped with the trusty Pentax at lunchtime Friday. I understand the potential for the reported problems, some I have seen for myself, but there were none today because there was very little traffic. Maybe the morning’s motor cycle crash in Albion Road had something to do with it.

A letter from Teresa O’Neill in my possession says that one of the advantages of the new Broadway is that it could exist without a load of street clutter. If you look at the large version of this photograph you will see that within the past week Broadway has gained a speed indicator and two No entry signs. I do not dispute that they are needed, indeed I suggested No entry signs were required at the beginning of the pedestrianised section. What amazes me is that our road planners and their highly paid consultants did not predict that requirement. They appear to be keen advocates of trial and error.

Bexley council being stupid is always good for the web stats. There were 1,295 visitors on Thursday and 1,473 by 21:45 Friday - the time at which these words are typed. That’s quite a good score for a local blog, just think how different it would be if Bexley council possessed an iota of common sense.

If councillor Cheryl Bacon had said “Yes” to Nick Dowling when he scared her rigid with his ancient broken tape machine we would have had no audio recording, no complaints to the DCLG or questions on LBC radio. I would have had to come on line with my tail between my legs trying to find words that didn’t come across as too disappointed or humiliating. 600 or so people would have gone away thinking that Bexley council is not so bad after all.

But she said “No” and we have no tape. If Nick had recorded the meeting preamble as Cheryl must have believed, it would be on line to prove that Bexley council lied to the Bexley Times. Their spokeswoman told the paper they couldn’t continue with the meeting because of the serious disruption. Nick Dowling said very little, he just sat there waiting to be ejected. No one else said anything at all. Because of Cheryl’s “No” the council’s top brass has been in session cobbling together a new strategy - which won’t work if mischievous people choose to rebel. Not that they ever have. Thanks to Cheryl Bacon, 1,200 or more people have had their opinions confirmed. A brilliant bit of PR.

I am not one to find pleasure in other people’s misfortunes but Bexley council’s influence must be rubbing off on me. I take a certain amount of delight in the thought that if Teresa O’Neill harbours ambitions for higher political office, there is a plentiful supply of data out there for anyone researching her career history. I suspect I am writing the content for UKIP’s election leaflets. Glad to be of assistance chaps.

 

21 June (Part 6) - Am I bovvered?

Yeah a little bit. It’s never nice if you think you have upset someone. It’s not my way in normal life and I’m absolutely confident that no investigative journalist could ever find dirt to dish from my past. Unlike some, my wider family has no members who have ever fallen out with each other, we were brought up not knowing any other way, so it is difficult to artificially adopt a different persona. But with Bexley council I have to consider the wider picture.

Whenever I find myself going soft I remind myself of a few things…


• That Bexley council made up a total cock and bull story (arson at the Civic Centre) in an attempt to have me arrested.
• That a Bexley councillor signed a fabricated police statement aimed at putting a fellow blogger behind bars which landed him with legal costs of £10,000 before his innocence was proved.
• That someone at Bexley council, almost certainly a Cabinet member, put on his own web space his dirty thoughts that I and three other Bexley residents had engaged in homosexual acts on council premises and in their car parks.
• That the council’s Chief Executive certainly, and its leader, probably, interfered in the judicial process to ensure the culprit escaped justice. The police confirmed it happened.
• That Bexley council unlawfully cajoled residents into having their addresses published on line in order to participate in the democratic process as an act of revenge against known critics. Despite firm indications that the practice was no longer continuing, as recently as 11th June Kevin Fox was pursuing the same agenda.


These are the actions of thoroughly vile people. Everywhere you look in Bexley you can find the council flinging its weight around creating misery.

Now that gang of people intent on bringing maximum harm to me and others is trying to prevail on my better nature to remove a reference to a council employee who generously raised money for charity, and his attractive link to Downing Street. There is no malicious comment, only an acknowledgement that the Civic Centre is past its sell by date. That is why you are being asked to cough up £42 million, or whatever the figure is, for something better.

Having thought about it all day, I can’t in all honesty see what I can do to make yesterday’s blog more acceptable to Paul Moore. His bullying tone has ensured my reluctance to remove it entirely. If he is looking for that he should learn to choose his words more carefully.

There is nothing shameful about the blog and it is not part of a campaign of harassment against Mr. Fox. This year he has been subjected only to occasional factual reports. I added colour three times by calling him the council’s ‘premier jobsworth’ and their ‘lie manufacturer in chief’. His excuses were described as ‘lame’. That’s it. I wouldn’t describe it as harassment.

During the day I have had several readers egging me on to withdraw nothing but it is not them who bears the responsibility. Just one suggested I go easy on the personal stuff and I will if for no other reason that it takes up far too much time. But this particular bird has now flown. I doubt there will be any more for a while.

Knowing Bexley council’s usual propensities I took the precaution of passing my ‘shameful blog’ to a contact within the police seeking guidance. I have yet to be told I am about to be arrested.

By the way, Abbie Sampson’s blog has gone off line, can’t think why, it was all innocuous stuff. I suppose I will now have to consider withdrawing my extract. Maybe Abbie will give me some advice on what she would like me to do.

 

21 June (Part 5) - It leaks like a rusty old tub, and is about as frightening

I’ve just returned from watching the News Shopper photographer take some snaps of Nick Dowling and his busted recorder outside the Civic Centre so look out for a feature on their website soon. There was no sign of Mr. Moore taking up my invitation.

The Bexley Times beat them to it, I think they must have nicked the story from Bonkers. Can’t blame them but the NS does things more professionally - I tipped them off as soon as the meeting ended.

Yesterday we had Bexley council in turmoil again. On Wednesday they held a public meeting in closed session contrary to law; how do they get out of that? My suggestion to Nick was that they would simply lie and say they all went home dejected, but Nick pointed out that that would require the connivance of Labour councillors and some of them may actually be honest.

As well as wriggling out of Wednesday they had to formulate a new policy for cocking a snook at Eric Pickles on future occasions. I can now tell you what their considered solution is. Thank goodness for the anonymous messaging facility.


The Chairman should begin by stating that audio/visual recording of proceedings is only permitted with the permission of the Chairman and should also state whether any permission had been granted.
The person(s) concerned should be informed that the Council’s agreed approach requires prior consent from the Chairman of the Committee for any audio/visual recording. If no such consent has been given proceed to stage 3.
The person(s) concerned should be warned that the audio/visual recording is disrupting the meeting and that they are being warned under Standing Order 75(5) that they will be asked to leave the meeting if they persist in recording.
If the person(s) continue to attempt to record proceedings they should be asked to leave the meeting.
If the person(s) do not leave the meeting the meeting should be adjourned if the business is being disrupted.
If the person(s) refuse to leave the meeting room the Committee Officer will establish if there is another room in which the meeting can be re-convened.
Prior to re-convening the meeting the Committee Officer will ask the Hallkeeper to prevent access to the re-convened meeting by the members of the public causing disruption.
The meeting will proceed in an alternative room so long as a suitable room is available.
If a suitable alternative room is not available the meeting will stand adjourned until a later date.


The full version is here. I can’t see any reference to consulting the Government Department to ensure that what they propose is compliant with Eric’s intentions towards local authorities.

 

21 June (Part 4) - For whom the BELL tolled

Just when I thought that life couldn’t get any more exciting I receive an email claiming to be from the BELL maintenance engineer asking me to give him a call. So I did and I am going to see him. He was a BT engineer too so we should be able to speak the same language and I am assured the visit won’t be a waste of time.

 

21 June (Part 3) - They don’t like it up ‘em

I have been in email correspondence with Bexley’s Director of Corporate Services this morning, Mr. Moore thinks my blog about Kevin Fox is shameful harassment.

Apparently going to the police to accuse me of organising an arson attack on the Civic Centre is not harassment. Making up untruths about Olly Cromwell breaking bail conditions and having him dumped in the cells for 24 hours is not harassment and publishing obscenities about four Bexley residents is not harassment either, in fact it must be defended by among other things getting the Chief Executive to intercede with the CPS on the culprit’s behalf. But revealing that Kevin Fox has a pretty girlfriend is harassment.

I accept that I had mischief in mind but the target was chosen with care. It was Kevin who stuck two fingers up to the 2,219 residents who signed the salary petition, it was he who decided to ban photography after first saying there was no rule against it. He sets out to annoy people, I set out to annoy him.

Mr. Moore is insisting I remove the blog, but I have merely brought together various pieces of public information and demonstrated a link between Bexley council and 10 Downing Street. I see nothing illegal in it but will probably modify the blog before long, but it will be on my terms, not by diktat of Bexley council. If Ms. Sampson is not happy to be associated with Mr. Fox perhaps…

You may read the correspondence here. Mr. Moore made no attempt to negotiate, he thinks his word is law. It is not.

 

21 June (Part 2) - Standing Orders

 My learned friend referred me to the law relating to council meetings yesterday. I have since had time to find Bexley’s documentation. If you are interested, read it for yourself. Be prepared to wait ages. Take a look around Sections 74 and 75.

 

21 June (Part 1) - Usual persecutions continue

CEO Car and ticketWhile the politicians make fools of themselves defying government policy and running around like headless chickens the day to day council inspired injustices continue on our streets. The poor devil from Crayford, I think his name is Charles, who bought a parking permit for June, July and August is still getting a parking ticket daily while Bexley council aims to “send it shortly”. These photos were taken by a concerned neighbour on Wednesday.

The CEO is seen writing out his ticket and places it on the windscreen alongside the letter from the council. How much is this going to cost to resolve?

 

20 June (Part 8) - Kevin R. Fox

Let’s finish off a pretty good day by peeing off Bexley council’s senior jobsworth and constant thorn in the side of democracy, big time.

First go to this Just Giving page. Scroll down the page noting Eva [Read], Kevin Fox’s subordinate, Sandra Baxter, John Ferry, Dave Easton and Nick Hollier. All names you have read about on this site; it must be our Kevin. Right down the bottom you will find Abbie Sampson the first giver.

Then float across to 192.com and search for Kevin Fox. You’ll find this…
Kevin Fox
See that name? Abbie Sampson again. Well the bloke’s entitled to have a girlfriend. Who cares?

But who is Abbie Sampson? Google comes to the rescue again. Try it for yourself. Her website comes up top of the list. This is what she says about herself and note the Arsenal links shared with Kevin’s Just Giving page. Not much doubt about the association is there?


I was born and grew up in the Garden of England, staying in my home town of Canterbury to studying Politics and Government at the University of Kent.

After university I joined Penguin Books, having a fantastic time working in the Publicity Department where I was lucky enough to work with some of the countries best authors and managed book tours for Paul Burrell, Nasser Hussain, Gordon Banks, Gillian McKeith and Kim & Aggie amongst others.

I then moved into government communications working firstly at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where I soon became adept at crisis communications during the outbreaks of Foot & Mouth Disease and bird flu. I then held responsibility for communications on the Heathrow third runway proposal at the Department for Transport.

I was appointed to the Strategic Communications Unit in Downing Street in 2008 under Gordon Brown, and then became Chief Press Officer in No.10 Press Office after the formation of the Coalition in 2010. I was also seconded to the Department of Health as Head of Modernisation Communications for the 'Listening Exercise' on NHS reform in 2011.

After returning to No.10 to re-acquaint myself with Larry the Downing Street cat, I decided to embark on a new career outside the civil service. I am now Head of News at the consumer champion Which?.

I’m an avowed fan of the Arsenal, currently walking around rather sheepishly this season with Thomas Vermaelen still on the back of my shirt.

I also enjoy cocktails, Danish drama and am slightly addicted to tattoos (on me, not doing them on others).

You can follow me on Twitter at -
http://twitter.com/abbie_sampson


Quite a girl eh? That puts Kevin in the shade. He works in a down at heel Civic Centre running around after a collection of ne’re do wells and his significant other has run around No. 10, well, doing much the same thing really, but in more glamorous surroundings. Just another example of these political types all feeding off each other.

I think it also explains why Bonkers gets visits most days from Which?

By the way, Kevin’s jobsworth sidekick last night was John Adams. Only obeying orders I suppose but he probably wants his 15 minutes of fame too.

Note: With help from the people of Bexley. When they stand united against tyranny who knows what can happen. Oh, no! Not Pitchforks and Flaming Torches again.

 

20 June (Part 7) - Ladies of the night shift

Wending my way home from the council meeting last night thinking the day couldn’t have got much better I was accosted by two young blonde girls. Well as you might guess it didn’t go quite like that, but I had recognised a couple of Bexley’s domiciliary care workers on their way to their next client. I asked them if they were aware of the tax authorities ruling that their pay and conditions fell outside the law. They told me they were and I gave them some ideas on how they might tackle it.

They were not at all happy with another obstacle put in their way by their bosses. It would make no sense to most people but to stop their rota showing 16 hour shifts they were being double booked for the evening ones thereby reducing the shift to around 12 hours. They then met up with a lot of clients complaining they were late - inevitably. Then if the care worker complains about this malpractice the agency cuts their work to four clients a day and starves them into submission.

One day the press will pick up on Bexley council turning a blind eye to these Dickensian practices.

 

20 June (Part 6) - It’s taken 42 years but fame has finally caught up with Nicholas Dowling

TwitterThe Bexley Times has reported last night’s events in the council chamber. They repeat a council spokeswoman’s lie that “Their subsequent behaviour was so disruptive that it was impossible for the meeting to continue”. In my opinion that is two lies.

I took verbatim notes of what was said and I have reported it word for word below. Nothing else happened, no member of the public other than Nick said a word. Maybe if Nick had actually recorded the proceedings Bexley’s lie could be proved, but most people know by now that Bexley council’s default position is to lie so maybe the lack of a tape doesn’t matter.

The second lie is that it was impossible for the meeting to continue. They could have continued but chose not to - except in camera - probably illegally.

As you can see from the Twitter conversation the News Shopper is on to the story too. With Tim in charge my expectation is that the NS report will be scrupulously accurate. Danny is a young man who studies politics - everyone is entitled to a hobby!

I can’t see Bexley’s corrupt council winning this one. Eric Pickles may be a gasbag but he has gradually strengthened the guidance and the law. It may take another year but eventually Bexley council will have no option.

The likelihood then is that someone with far too much time on their hands will make a recording, no one will ever listen to it, and no one will ever bother to do it again. To realise that takes commonsense and the problem is that no one at Bexley council has any, not even the Labour councillors who studiously avoid comment. They, you might remember, backed the illegal publication of residents’ addresses on the web and with the honourable exception of Seán Newman failed to take an enlightened view of the salaries petition.

Sad to say the only recourse the electorate might have is to vote UKIP or Independent at the next election.

 

20 June (Part 5) - Toxic atmosphere

Today I had planned to provide a little insight into the sort of things that go on within Bexley council under one of the most expensive local authority management teams in the country, but there have been distractions.

From several independent sources extending back almost exactly two years I have been made aware of two employees who didn’t fit into Bexley’s cultures. Their names have popped up again in the context of BELL and Mrs. Baker’s death in April 2012. They were both brought in from other authorities to the CCTV/BELL operation, one report says one was via another Bexley department, and both left well before the BELL operator failed to answer their client’s emergency call. Some reports paint them as heroes and others as villains. I do not know the truth of it but drawing from my own work experience I would guess that they had high hopes of improving procedures but found themselves at loggerheads with the Luddites.

Neither can have contributed to Mrs. Baker’s death unless you consider failing to persuade their bosses to change tack makes them guilty so I am not going to name the innocent, but maybe some people will recognise the initials J. McL. and K.A.

According to several reports both were dismissed for their failure to adopt Bexley’s values, their criticism of the understaffing of BELL being specifically mentioned. K.A. in particular is said by the same people to have been told to pack his bags and was frog-marched to the door. No one seems to know why but he has done pretty well for himself since. When I Google his name it is found on page after page. He must thank his lucky stars that Bexley kicked him out of his job.

Another complaint that has come up more than once over a long period is that people scheduled to attend training courses are disciplined for not turning up for their day job, or being late on shift if it was a night job. As a one off mistake it might be understandable, but several times to different people? Are there no competent managers at Bexley council?

The bitchiness between staff exceeds anything I ever saw in my own working life. I have a written report that when one employee fell out with another, one lady, if that is a word that can be used here, was discovered defecating on the doorstep of the other and when disturbed ran away as best she could with her drawers around her knees. I cannot be sure if there are people at the Civic Centre prepared to do that but there is another one prepared to put the claim in writing. Either way Tuckley and Co. are running a pretty lousy ship.

There is more…

 

20 June (Part 4) - Foul libel

From: Malcolm Knight [mailto:malcolm at bexley is bonkers.co.uk]
Sent: 20 June 2013 13:43
To: 'eric pickles at communities.gsi.gov.uk'
Cc: 'james rea at thisisglobal.com'
Subject: Iain Dale. LBC radio 19th June 2013

Dear Mr. Pickles,

I have received numerous reports that you made a libellous statement about me last night on Iain Dale’s show. The consensus is that you said about www.bexley-is-bonkers.com something like “I have seen that site and some of the comments are quite obscene”. If you have visited my website you will know that there is nothing obscene on it except the copy of comments published via a Conservative councillor’s phone line which accused me of committing indecent acts whilst on council property.

Because of the extreme nature of those comments I have hidden them from view behind a password.

My website is read each day by several parliamentarians and the police. I may have referred to yourself as a gasbag for saying all the right things but rarely seeing them through but I have never written anything approaching an obscenity.

I am honoured to have you as a visitor and you are welcome back at any time. I would be especially obliged if you would do that and confirm that the site is totally family friendly.

You may also care to note how your Bexley party colleagues led by Teresa O’Neill are going to considerable lengths to wreck your party’s reputation. As a 100% Conservative voter since 1964 I find that deeply disturbing. You should too.

Kind regards,

Malcolm Knight

 

20 June (Part 3) - Public Realm report : Round 2

The morning did not go according to plan. I should have known better than to expect anything else but there is more you should know about last night. For a start, what the heck is the Bexley Action Group?

It would appear that John Watson’s Bexley Council Monitoring Group has folded. I was never a member but from what I can gather John is no longer able to commit time to it and has not put in an appearance at its meetings for three or four months. John, the group’s founder, was always a bit proprietorial about its name, hence the new title for the remaining members. As it implies, they intend to ratchet things up a bit having grown tired of mere monitoring. I would not be surprised to see them all put themselves up for election next May.

Bexley Action GroupFollowing last evening’s fiasco in the council chamber it seemed appropriate for the group to hold its inaugural meeting there. See picture.

I’m tempted to join the new group, in fact I have already made a donation to its fighting fund.

Nick Dowling is pleased with the way things went last night and is hoping to be banned from attending future meetings as that will make his story even more attractive to the press than it is already.

Among those 350 people who have sent emails of support and encouragement are some who I consider ‘regulars’ who have built up a reputation for good information and among them is a legal eagle who posts from his chambers or scruffy office and likes to help when he can. I’ve not had time to check this out yet but this morning’s contribution reads as follows…


There is no general power to hold a meeting in private. Under S.O.74, meetings must be held in public unless business of a confidential nature is to be discussed within the meaning of Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, but in that case a motion must be passed making specific reference to that Act (S.O.74(3)).

Under Standing Order 75(6), "In the event of a general disturbance which in the opinion of the Chairman renders the due and orderly despatch of business impossible, he may, in addition to any other power vested in him/her, adjourn the meeting for such period as he/she shall consider expedient." However, there is no power then to resume the meeting in private, if the business to be conducted has not been specified as confidential.

It would appear that your council is in breach of the Local Government Act 1972.


I can see Mick Barnbrook reaching for his green inked complaint pen even now.

No doubt you are expecting the link to the audio file to come up next but my inclination has always been not to indulge in such things. You have to be a bit strange to attend council meetings in the first place, you’d need to be totally mad to want to listen to it afterwards.

As a bit of an audio snob myself I asked Nick after the meeting how he hoped to get a decent recording in a room where it is never easy to hear anything. In my opinion you’d need nothing less than a £600 condenser mic on a boom, not some tuppenny ha’penny apology for a microphone in a matchbox. Nick agreed there was no chance of making a decent recording as he didn’t own a suitable machine and the best he had managed was to borrow one from a friend, which had been dropped and didn’t work any more. He’d not even bothered to put a battery in it. I once thought Nick was some stuffy accountant sort of fellow but he is just a big joker after all.

So now it seems you can get a meeting stopped just by clutching a silver box and quoting Eric Pickles. It might be fun next time for all attendees to secret a silver box around their person and after the police had asked the first box owner to leave and the fuzz had gone away, the next person would produce his box and start the cycle all over again. Any volunteers?

So what if anything is Bexley council going to charge Nick with now? It can’t be attempting to break their ban on recording. Is it a crime to indulge in make-believe and engage an idiot chairman in debate?

 

20 June (Part 2) - Apologies are due

I am seriously behind with my correspondence and I am very much aware that there are emails unanswered after more than a week, including one where I had intended to make a home visit but events overtook things. in the past year about - I lost count - 350 Bexley residents have written to me with comments and suggestions, some of them dozens of times, and I think all have been answered eventually. But it might take time, quite a lot of it.

SiemensThe situation has not been helped by family commitments taking up three consecutive weekends which is usually my ‘catch up’ time - and then there was the broken fridge freezer. Here I am going to go into rant mode and wildly off topic, but I bought a top of the range Siemens fridge freezer the price of which is currently into four figures. It broke down six weeks after its guarantee expired.

From observations and advice from a dealer I concluded that the auto-defrost unit had failed leading to an ice build up which fouled some fan blades which then burned out the fan motor and the ice eventually burst the plastic housing with a loud bang.

The fan and plastic was replaced at a cost of £184 but not before a week went by because the Siemens engineer arrived the first time without a replacement plastic box and the new fan was dead on arrival. He did not replace the defrost unit which may have been the first domino that fell down and all was well for three months. Then the fridge section failed to cool again because the fan had stalled once more.

I let it defrost naturally for a while after which the fan turned making a ratchet noise as it rubbed against the ice. At least it hadn't burned out this time. I called Siemens on their premium rate phone line only to be greeted by the same message as three months earlier. ‘Lines are not open until 8 a.m.’ and each time it was mid-morning or later. I negotiated their website and made an on line booking for a service visit and the first available was for nine days hence - on a £1,000 fridge - so I took up the ‘we’ll call you’ option to let them know what I thought of them.

No call came through so I found and used an email address and they replied to the effect I had confirmed the booking which I had not.

I’ve not been without a fridge since the 1940s when I lived in a prefab (which were equipped with fridges as standard) following an argument with the Luftwaffe. Since then I have seen Frigidaires, Coldrators, Prestcolds and later on Hotpoints come and go to be replaced only when they didn’t suit a new kitchen. The things just went on for ever. But not £1,000 Siemens. So fed up with the thing and not caring if I permanently broke it, it has been in bits on my kitchen floor while blogs are written upstairs and the milk goes off down. I found the defrost unit wasn’t even connected to its power socket and now don’t know if it is broken, hence failure 1, or merely not put back together properly, hence failure 2. But I got it back together OK and it is now working fine, no thanks to Siemens - the same company to whom Bexley has entrusted its CCTV system.

I told Siemens by email that I was going to tell all my friends about it and then they rang to dissuade me, but stuff them!

The moral of the story is don’t buy an expensive Siemens, Bosch or Neff appliance or any other German crud because the company offers zero service. Just get a cheapo from Italy and throw it away and get a new one if it breaks.

And now I am even further behind with the blogging!

 

20 June (Part 1) - The Public Realm Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting that never was

Cheryl BaconLast night’s Public Realm’s meeting promised to be a good one. On the Agenda was the plan for Sidcup High Street and the proposals for revised parking regulations and if that was not attraction enough it is chaired by the utterly useless and occasionally obnoxious Cheryl Bacon. The evening did not start well. As I descended the steps outside Sainsbury’s en-route to the Civic Centre I bumped into the Bexley Action Group so we all piled into the Civic Centre together enjoying pleasant conversation with the friendly doorman and then up the stairs to the council chamber where our problems began.

As the hearing afflicted headed for the best seats their way was blocked by a jobsworth who claimed to be acting on the instructions of Kevin R. Fox. “Over there” he said, pointing at some more distant seats. Mick Barnbrook and Elwyn Bryant stood their ground and the jobsworth disappeared for a short while returning to say Kevin R. Fox had confirmed his instructions. I don’t usually involve myself in Fox’s petty minded nonsenses regarding them as manna from Heaven to a news reporting blogger; however this time was an exception. I said to the jobsworth “If you are going to play silly buggers so will I. Fetch me the reporter’s table to which I am legally entitled”.

A minute later the doorman arrived with a table and I had to whisper my apology to him. Only the day before I had told him that I wouldn’t be needing a table. I think he understood.

While perusing the Agenda just a couple of minutes before the meeting was due to begin I heard Nicholas Dowling’s voice. He was up the front speaking to chairman Cheryl and announced his intention to make an audio recording of the proceedings and was seeking permission in accordance with the June 2013 statement from the Department of Communities and Local Government. (See below, scroll as necessary.)

DCLG guide


Gareth BaconCheryl said that council protocols prohibited it and Nicholas said he believed central government instructions took precedence over hers. As he returned to his seat clutching a silver coloured contraption the size of a matchbox the pompous ass otherwise known as Gareth Bacon called out “You’ll be ejected if you try”. By now it was precisely 19:30.

Cheryl began the meeting with the usual diatribe about no recording and Nick stood up and read out the Department for Communities guidance to members of the public which allows councils no obvious leeway. A quivering voice from the front announced the meeting was adjourned. It was 19:32.

Eight minutes later a shaking voice from the front repeated her outmoded warning. “If you continue causing a disturbance you will be ejected”. Nicholas asked “Why?”. My head was down busily scribbling at the time but I believe it was councillor Peter Reader who said something along the lines of “because it is not a public meeting” implying that that made Eric Pickles’ announcement irrelevant.

At 19:51 Nicholas stood up again and calmly reread Pickles’ statement. Councillors June Slaughter and Peter Reader both repeated the line that this was not a public meeting it was a scrutiny meeting. I expected better of Mrs. Slaughter, until that point all the more sensible councillors had stayed silent.

Three minutes went by before a squeaky voice very hesitantly announced that “as the disruption has not stopped the meeting is formally adjourned until 20:15”. The police were called and all but one of the councillors left the room some glad of the opportunity to “go outside for a fag”.

News reached us that the police had indicated they had better things to do and it might be anything up to an hour before we saw them and at 20:15 on the dot Cheryl and her cronies trooped back in. Cheryl, by now almost unable to speak, restated her position and that the Public Realm meeting is “an executive meeting held in public”. Not apparently a public meeting. She appeared to concede that recording will be allowed at public meetings, it’s just that Bexley council doesn’t hold any. Nick continued to clutch his little silver gadget so at 20:18 she announced the meeting was to be “held in closed session” and the Pied Piper led her rats out again.

Empty chamberA member of the public, well Mick Barnbrook actually, who was as surprised by the turn of events as I was - Nick had not announced his intentions to his friends beforehand - twice asked Cheryl Bacon under which protocol or standing order she was depriving him of his right to see the presentation and hear the debate on the plans for Sidcup High Street. She ignored him the first time and said she was “too busy” the second. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall reading that a council must give notice of holding a public meeting in closed session. No doubt time will tell.

So the remaining members of the public and the Action Group sat there waiting to see what would happen next.

At 20:26 two jovial Bobbies showed up, constables Little and Large. I jest, but one did have about ten inches over the other. Mick Barnbrook began to explain the situation to them but they said they were regular Bonkers readers and led us to believe they already knew exactly what Bexley council was like. After a short but pleasant conversation of a type that Cheryl Bacon probably wasn’t expecting, they asked us what we planned to do next, to which the answer was “go home”. So we did, collecting a half of beer each on the way. Well not Nick, he only drinks orange juice and lemonade.

Having made this hasty formal report of yesterday’s non-meeting, some less formal comment will follow after breakfast.

 

19 June (Part 3) - Finance and Corporate Services Committee meeting

It’s not a week since the last Finance meeting which Nicholas Dowling reported but last night it was me who drew the short straw. I don’t think the council expected many observers as there were only two copies of the Agenda provided for public use and none at all of the ‘Performance Dashboard’ which made following all the meeting in detail impossible.

The council was right to assume public apathy, I sat in solitary splendour and was welcomed to the meeting by councillor Philip Read. Philip is one of the better committee chairmen; if he hadn’t proved himself a vindictive wotsit by reporting blogger Olly Cromwell to the police for no reason and causing him to be flung in the cells for 24 hours by Bexleyheath policemen anxious to please their paymasters (†), I might be tempted to say Read is the best. Not that the competition is that great of course.

Even Read is not perfect. He made the standard announcement that I could not film the meeting for fear I might offend myself by getting into the field of view without giving myself permission.

Unlike Nicholas who enjoys analysing all the council’s figures I think I am qualified only to report the highlights. I waited seven minutes for the first of them which was a noisy disturbance on the stairs outside, raised voices etc. One of the Directors promptly closed the connecting door but not before I spotted the culprit. It was Chief Executive Will Tuckley.

Another was the bald statement on page 12 of the Agenda which said “Bexley was recently rated fifth in the country for best environment and infrastructure overall”. Councillor Colin Tandy who is not so doddering as Nicholas suggested wanted to know why and how and where the statement came from. None of the council officers nor the cabinet member knew, not even directors Ellsmore and Moore. I concede the parks are plentiful and nice but infrastructure? No Underground, no Thames crossing, no proper hospital. Surely there must be more than four boroughs nationwide who can do better than that. Councillor Seán Newman made a similar point but was rebuffed by train-spotter Tandy who said we had three railway lines to London and the A2, never mentioning that it leads only to a perma-jam at Blackwall tunnel.

Tandy also asked for elucidation of some staffing reduction figures; interestingly it said there would be a further reduction of eight posts when the BELL service ends at the end of July. I had heard it was being sold off in August.

Councillor Tandy, obviously in fine form, asked about the ratings for various Strategy 2014 projects which are graded red, amber or green to denote the success of their contribution to budget savings. “How far below green is amber?” He got no answer, it was all subjective based on the opinion of the project manager. The opportunities for fiddling were bandied about but Deputy Director Graham Ward said “it would be very difficult to put a formulaic approach in place”.

Councillor Craske, referred to a council sponsored poll which claimed “74% of our residents said they would recommend Bexley to friends or family” and wanted to know what the other 25% (sic) were thinking of. He said our retail occupancy rate was better than elsewhere too. 12% nationally and 8.7% in Bexley. Perhaps he has filled the gaps with betting shops. We have the best schools in the country too. Believe it if you like.

Councillor Maxine Fothergill wanted to know the average cost of keeping a family in temporary accommodation but she went home none the wiser.

Councillor Mike Slaughter wanted to know the fate of Lamorbey Baths and Director Mike Ellsmore said he would come back to him on that. Fortunately Colin Campbell rode to the rescue, saying he had a business interest in it and it was sold six months ago. He went on to say that the council owned more than 400 properties but the value of most had been realised years ago and were now leased for nominal annual sums.

Another useful piece of information from councillor Campbell is that he didn’t expect Bexley to benefit from Business Rates being increased with inflation (RPI). Government he forecast, would come along and snatch the income back through reduced grants. He was similarly realistic on Health spending. Bexley is bottom of the league in London and improving Children’s Services is proving to be very difficult as “good social workers do not grow on trees”.

Councillor Peter Craske wanted to make a political point by talking about an alleged Labour proposal to put all service charges on to the rates. Over councillor Newman’s protestations he indicated that council tax might go up by 17·5%. Councillor Tandy said that Croydon Council did something similar years ago which resulted in a typical Labour mess, as opposed to a typical Tory mess presumably. Craske also said that the council could sell all its car parks to raise money and help reduce council tax, they were under no legal obligation to provide parking spaces. Not sure if he was serious or just likes the sound of his own voice.

Councillor Slaughter is not easily duped and queried the claimed procurement savings on the cost of school meals. Council officer Tariq Bashir said it had been achieved through raising quality which if true should assure him of glory in some more worthy food related post. Slaughter was suitably sceptical as well he might be. Councillor Slaughter also noted the reduced costs of ferrying children to swimming lessons and implied that it was because schools could no longer afford to send children swimming. Or maybe he didn’t because he forgot to turn his microphone on.

Councillor Steven Hall wanted to know if the council had been able to ensure that the main contractor for the new Civic Centre takes on local firms for sub-contact work. Only influence was the answer, although not without some degree of success.

The meeting ended at 20:54.

† He was released on the orders of a judge.
This report is not in chronological sequence because I foolishly scribbled over the Agenda as well as the usual note book. Reassembling things would take more time than is available.

 

19 June (Part 2) - Thinking aloud and no thinking allowed

This BELL business in which a lady unfortunately died has created a fair bit of interest as I thought it would. Reporting it requires me to tread carefully, relying on documentary evidence and trying to put natural prejudices aside, and I fear I may not be very good at that. Perhaps I should explain.

For more than 30 years I tinkered with the works inside GPO and BT telephone exchanges which might be considered to be a bigger version of Bexley council’s CCTV and emergency call system (BELL). The common features are cables, switches, call routing diagrams, that the staff is well trained and the management understands the technicalities. Without that things quickly go pear-shaped.

I am in danger of alienating half my readers here but during those 30 odd years I had twelve bosses, two of whom were female. Neither had the foggiest idea of how a telephone exchange worked but then neither did two of the men. However the big difference was that the females were skivers, disappearing for long periods, shopping or powdering their noses or something, which bothered me not one jot, the less often they were there the better. The problem was that both would occasionally lose all reason and decide to sack someone on a whim. Get a complaint, disagree with someone’s point of view, out the door they went. Not for long usually. The GPO was a Civil Service Department and official dismissal procedures would take months if not years and BT was no different in its early days. However both my female bosses would jump in with both feet and tell someone they were sacked. Rules disregarded, reasons optional.

In the almost four years this blog has been going I have been shown files from disgruntled (obviously) staff who claim to have been unfairly dismissed from Bexley council. An official reason is always given but whether it is the real or justifiable one can be a matter for debate.

The proportion of dismissal decisions made by women is high but perhaps not unduly so given their dominance of Bexley council’s middle management, but what gives me a dose of déjà vu is that a study of the case papers has always revealed inconsistencies and where relevant, total ignorance of anything even slightly technical. I think this BELL case is heading in that direction too but maybe it’s my old prejudices coming to the fore. It’s best you know that and perhaps bear it in mind as things progress.

In cases such as this I generally let the blog run behind the known facts to allow thinking time so it will not surprise you to know that I have already acquired documents which include many of the names working with BELL at the time of the April 2012 disaster.

Maureen HolkhamAn email yesterday asked “I wonder why Maureen Holkham's beaming visage graces your latest item on 'Death by Council Cuts'? I think we should be told!” The simple honest answer is that hers is just one of many names involved but the only one for whom I have a picture. On reflection her inclusion was less than fair especially as no explanation for the picture’s presence was offered thereby allowing unfounded conclusions to be drawn; so I removed it. This provoked another email; "Where has Maureen Holkham gone?" You lot rarely miss a trick.

Ms. Holkham was in charge of Communications (CCTV and BELL) in the months and years leading up to Mrs. Baker’s untimely demise but the responsibility appears to have been reassigned to Adult Care (Tom Brown) in April 2012. Almost certainly coincidence and of no great significance anyway.

I have no evidence that Ms. Holkham was directly involved in the decision to inadequately staff BELL overnight although you would think that an £88,088 p.a. Deputy Director in post since 2007 might be bright enough for the disaster potential to cross her mind. Maybe it’s my prejudices coming to the fore but I am seeing technical incompetence again if over five whole years the Deputy Director failed to anticipate the consequences of an unanswered call. Observing Ms. Holkham at meetings does nothing to boost my confidence levels, nor did sight of a different set of dismissal papers.

If I was a newspaper journalist I might be content to leave the case at this point. That Bexley council allowed one inexperienced operator to handle their emergency call system single handed and that a call went unanswered and a lady died must be a story in itself. The fact that nothing was known of the death until now is indicative of a cover-up which might add colour to that story. But Bonkers is not a newspaper and will not leave things there. Where names are known they will be named. When Teresa O’Neill marched into Bexleyheath police station demanding I should be arrested for “criticising councillors on a personal level” she abused her powers attempting to ensure the secrecy she craves. Any expectation I might cooperate with her ambitions were instantly forfeited.

In the days to come more will be revealed about the way Bexley council manages its affairs. Its senior managers contributed to the death of a vulnerable person, one of 2,000 or more if reports are correct, who pay a fiver a week for the peace of mind that help is only a bell push away. Bexley council failed them and if procedures have improved, there is as yet no evidence of it.

 

19 June (Part 1) - Unintentional career wrecking

Yesterday’s email to Mr. Easton was speedily acknowledged. It has been sent to the Head of Legal Services for an answer. It also provoked a flurry of emails from readers. I am guessing that this one came from one of the small number of assumed council insiders who send anonymous messages. “Your kind words about Mr. Easton are unlikely to help his cause with leading councillors, whereas your antipathy towards Mr. Fox only serves to reinforce his reputation as a hero in their eyes.” Sounds about right to me. There’s honour among thieves.

Another reader has written directly to Mr. Pickles to ask him to read the News Shopper’s report. Bexley council is expert at ensuring it gets maximum bad publicity.

 

18 June (Part 3) - News Shopper reports that Bexley council defies Eric Pickles again

Mr. Easton (Head of Electoral and Members’ Services) is one of Bexley council’s good guys whose unfortunate lot is to be nanny, slave and general factotum to Bexley’s bad guys.


RE: Department for Communities and Local Government - Law changes

Dear Mr. Easton,

We exchanged emails under the above heading last Autumn following the law changes by Eric Pickles' department. I told you I was not interested in the continuous video or audio recording of public meetings advocated by Mr. Pickles but would like to take the occasional photograph.

Mr. Fox replied to my first email to you saying I would not be allowed to take a photograph at a meeting but to my surprise said the protocols did allow photography before a meeting started and I only had to forewarn yourself of my intention.

So I wrote to you explaining what I had in mind, and maybe it was over more than one email, but I said I would be happy with a wide angle shot, without the use of flash, from a position of your choosing and with you or a delegated substitute to review which if any photographs could be used. The proposal was tantamount to handing you the camera and telling you which button to press.

Mr. Fox, unreasonable as ever, replied on your behalf to say that despite the protocols to which he had referred me, he would not allow any photographs to be taken. I often think that Mr. Fox is on a personal mission to destroy any vestigial reputation that Bexley council might still retain and I should have reported him to the Ombudsman but sometimes the pressures of time preclude even the most obvious courses of action.

As you will know, the Communities Secretary returned to his theme last Friday and made it very clear that he expects councils, even disreputable ones, to open up their meetings to bloggers and the like and left little room for doubt on what was expected of them. I had planned to write to you to ask what Bexley council would be doing to ensure compliance but I see the News Shopper has beaten me to it. The newspaper's report is that the leadership of Bexley council remains defiant. I am afraid I am seeking a more specific and personal response.

I hereby formally request to be allowed to take photographs during any council meeting, (not video or audio; as already stated I have no use for that) in accordance with the recent instructions from central government.

I seek the council’s official response and reasoning to both that actual request, and separately, to audio/visual recording should I, or someone else, seek to make one.

Upon receipt of your reply it is likely that I will forward it to my MP with a request that she hands it personally to Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. In the Spring of 2011 following Bexley council's decision to change its Constitution to counter government guidance she agreed to pass my complaint to Mr. Pickles personally and since Bexley council remains intent on maintaining its position among the country's least democratic, I have few doubts she will agree to act as messenger again.

Please accept my apologies for writing to you in a manner that is perhaps less friendly than we would both wish. Because this correspondence will likely be seen by others, and possibly misunderstood, I wish to fully acknowledge and place on the record that you have always treated me with the utmost respect and courtesy and do your best for residents in what I imagine to be difficult circumstances. No personal criticism of yourself is intended nor would it be justified. Nevertheless I must demand a comprehensive reply.

best regards,
Malcolm Knight

 

18 June (Part 2) - The elderly are failed by one Bexley system while motorists are pursued by another

While Bexley council mismanages its emergency call out system a better oiled part of the council’s machinery continues to operate as normal. Parking enforcement continues with its mission to maximise revenues. Here’s a quick update on last week’s reports.

PCNThe Crayford driver ticketed on the 12th because he was still awaiting delivery of his Residents’ Permit valid from 1st June has been given another Penalty Notice; the third by my reckoning.

Comments and photographs have come from a concerned passer-by and reports here have been entirely based on his information. However the driver himself has also been in touch. He appears to be a patient man and merely hopes they will be cancelled.

The man from Erith who was ticketed by BBL559 while hunting for the proof of residency demanded by the target seeking CEO did not believe in merely hoping. He fired off several complaints and FOIs. His complaints to Will Tuckley and cabinet member Gareth Bacon have gone unanswered but his ticket has been cancelled as a gesture of goodwill. As a gesture of goodwill it appears to have failed miserably. Bacon seems to be developing a reputation for not answering letters from those who fund his £76,000 of councillor allowances.


Townley RoadTownley Road continues to provide parking stories, this time not the fact that it is empty all week because of phone only parking, but because it is well used on Sundays.

In London parking on the pavement, even a tyre on the kerb by an inch, is not permitted except where appropriate signage exists. It doesn’t matter if a car obstructs the footpath much less than a tree, lamp post or bus stop, or it eases the passage of traffic. It’s not allowed, intelligent application of the law doesn’t come into it, it’s purely a decision based on maximising revenue. Nothing else matters.

The unfortunate driver of the car parked next to a tree was not aware of the rule and thought he was helping fellow motorists. If he wasn’t such a helpful chap he would be £110 better off. If he wasn’t such a helpful chap he wouldn’t have been in Bexleyheath on a Sunday at all; he had come to help out with a problem that had developed in one of the Broadway shops. He’s not going to come to Bexleyheath again so once again Bexley council helps drive another local business to the wall.

Did you see this News Shopper report? Don’t all laugh at once.

 

18 June (Part 1) - Death by council cuts

I imagine that some of Bexley council’s staff are unhappy with the way their employer handled the aftermath of the death of Barbara Baker who subscribed to the council’s emergency call pendant scheme known as BELL, as a bit more information has drifted my way.

It would appear that both the CCTV surveillance team and the BELL operators used to be in the Civic Centre occupying rooms either side of a corridor. Staffing levels were minimal and overnight one would look out for the other should there be a need to visit the toilet or the kitchen. When it was proposed that Siemens take over and move out with the CCTV equipment, staff pointed out that it would be necessary for Bexley council to schedule a second BELL operator through the night to cover absences and, I would have thought, the not impossible scenario of someone falling asleep in the early hours.

Bexley’s management argued otherwise and any members of staff who put their case more forcibly found themselves in various forms of hot water. That seems to be the way of Bexley council, I’ve seen it before in cases I have not yet obtained permission to publish.

On the fateful day, or rather night; the emergency call came through just after 1 a.m., a new operator was on duty and his training is said to have been incomplete or otherwise inadequate. To avoid a lengthy description every time he is mentioned in future I am going to call him Andy. For reasons that are not yet fully apparent, the computer system went into a sort of stand-by mode when Mrs. Baker’s call was not immediately answered. Andy was not sufficiently experienced to recognise the symptoms and it was five hours before he took any remedial steps - by which time the unfortunate lady was dead.

When the manager came in later in the morning, Andy was immediately sacked for switching the system effectively off. Others said that he could not have done that (no permissions on the computer) but, it is alleged, the manager was in panic mode and wouldn’t listen to reason. Is instant dismissal legal?

It has been suggested that the system engineer examined the server logs which showed exactly what happened and they proved that Andy could not have committed the operational error for which he was dismissed - although I suppose he could simply have fallen asleep. But no one has suggested that.

Maybe Bexley council was concerned the logs might be incriminating because lockers, cupboards and desk drawers were searched (even locked ones with no staff in attendance) in an effort to secure all copies of the server logs and one or more were taken away and never seen again. Destroyed presumably, making ultimate proof of any Bexley council cover up difficult to obtain. Maybe something else will turn up.

 

17 June (Part 3) - Undesirable elements

CraskeNewham council lost its court battle today to stop its 84th betting shop opening. News reports said that there were more than 20 gambling dens in Green Street alone. When I was a lad Green Street was a nice place to shop; but I digress.

Several news reports carried the story of how high stakes gambling machines attract “undesirable elements” and the ITV report was particularly good. To illustrate it they showed this picture; must have been one of their stock images because the report didn’t mention the name of the players or that Craske is PR man for the betting industry.

Click for ITV video report. 1 m. 25 secs. is the place to look.

 

17 June (Part 2) - Land grab?

Abbey Wood station Bridge over railway Close up of notice Yarnton Way bridgeWhen Greenwich council made a mistake and installed a speed hump a few feet over their boundary with Bexley, Bexley got all stroppy and insisted Greenwich remove it despite the protests of its own residents.

It’s a good job Greenwich council is not so childish because Bexley is not above exceeding its authority either. There has been a Bexley council CCTV sign outside Abbey Wood railway station for the past 18 months. Abbey Wood station as is relatively well known situated within the borough of Greenwich, not by much it is true, but it would seem that Bexley council expects Greenwich to obey the letter of the boundary law but forgive its own little indiscretions.

Presumably Bexley’s petty minded officials will go ballistic if they take a stroll along the Green Chain Walk from Lesnes Abbey to Southmere Lake which runs a quarter of a mile inside the Bexley boundary. Throughout its length Greenwich council has put up warnings to dog owners. Many of them have been quickly defaced to the point of unreadability but some remain as the associated images prove. Perhaps Greenwich is as Bonkers as Bexley.

Note: Final three photographs taken today. Click any to enlarge.

 

17 June (Part 1) - Corporate boredom

Even the most exciting of council meetings have their boring bits and at some of the more obscure ones the bore quotient can reach 100%. If I see ‘Finance and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee’ on the council’s calendar it’s not much of an incentive to head for the Civic Centre.

My colleague Nicholas Dowling has a special interest in the money side of council affairs and isn’t so easily put off. He had read the Agenda to last Thursday’s meeting in advance and decided that it would be difficult to stretch the meeting out for longer than ten minutes and he lives close by so he became Bexley council’s almost solitary observer. This is his report…


I thought I’d wander up and see what was afoot at the Finance and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee and as usual I was not part of a big crowd; there was one other member of the public present and I think he was a guest of the Labour councillors.

Noting that there was one Agenda item to be nodded through I was not expecting a lengthy affair; and I was not wrong. Starting at 7:15 p.m. chairman Philip Read sped through proceedings in four minutes flat - and that included a nice jibe from councillor Stefano Borella enquiring why such a paltry meeting had to be held anyway. It transpired the reason was councillor Read’s failure to notice that the item on the Arrangements for Undertaking the Committee’s Business had not been put to the vote at the previous two minute meeting held on 22nd May 2013. This is precisely the sort of incompetence expected of a Bexley councillor trousering a £7,689.92 special allowance on top of his councillor’s pay!

Colin TandyWith this faux pas dealt with we moved rapidly on to the Business Rates Retention Scrutiny sub-group meeting which started at 7:21pm. It was left to the doddering councillor Colin Tandy to nominate the rogue councillor Peter Craske as chairman of this august body – it appears that the dastardly councillor must serve more purdah before his sins are fully forgotten but his cronies want to sling him another allowance to make up for last year’s fall in councillor income.

His chairmanship was far from exemplary and the meeting was definitely one of the most amateurish affairs I have attended; more akin to a brainstorming session without too many brains being engaged. There was little or no structure to the meeting, the Agenda points were addressed at whim by all and sundry and frankly nobody had a great deal to say of pertinence to the matter in hand.

Peter CraskePeter Craske launching into a clearly unprepared and off the cuff introduction to this sub-group was almost immediately interrupted by his sponsor councillor Colin Tandy and Peter allowed Colin to launch into a lengthy ramble regarding his interpretation of the Finance Department’s background paper on business rates retention. Suffice to say he managed to regurgitate it quite well, although I am not sure how he believed he was enlightening his peers who had all clearly read it for themselves.

We then had John Peters, the Deputy Director of Finance and Mike Ellsmore the Director of Finance and Resources expand on things a little by pointing out that there was no new money on offer and that ratable values were not going to be set by local authorities; the gist of the deal being that for every £1 achieved above a set base business rate of monies already collected, 30 pence would accrue to the council’s coffers. On the other hand, we were reminded that there is a potential £140 million black hole owing to outstanding appeals to the business rates dating back to 2005. Fortunately it turns out that the two incinerators that Bexley council permitted are jackpot business rate ticket items as are large retail units – the proffered example being Tesco on the Civic Centre site. So now we start to see the method in their planning madness!

Bexley, we were informed, had achieved a paltry 6% business rate growth in ten years with the main reason for this being put down to poor or inadequate transport links into and out of the Borough. Still nothing succeeds like failure in local government and Will Tuckley can be rightly proud that his vastly expensive leadership over much of that time has resulted in Bexley being able to go cap in hand to central government and qualify for a £13·8 million top-up for being unable to raise its assessed need from local business rates. Funny how none of the Conservative councillors chose to dwell on the reason for this windfall. I wonder if our glorious leader Teresa O’Neill will highlight this ‘success’ in her next Pravda report to the council?

Nigel BettsSo did anybody have any ideas to raise extra business rates? No, not really. However, councillor Nigel Betts did want his hairdresser to actually pay some business rates as this astute businessman was using all sorts of reliefs to mitigate any liability. How dare he? Warming to his theme Nigel’s next thrust was to target businesses that operate from residential addresses. Never let it be said that Tories want to encourage small business and kindle the spark of entrepreneurial spirit. No helping hand from Nigel as he wants you to pay tax and, yes, much more tax.

You could see the look of horror on Mike Ellsmore’s face at this suggestion. No doubt he was thinking about how difficult it would be to define, let alone track and trace these home outfits, and concentrating a lot of effort on these low value businesses. They are bound to be small operations if they are based in a shed, garage or spare room. It cannot be cost effective. Luckily his colleague John Peters came to the rescue with a very plausible point that if you charge business rates you cannot then charge council tax and you would also lose any new homes bonus as well if that had previously applied. There was a collective sigh of relief from the other Conservatives as they realised that they could legitimately ignore this vote losing suggestion from one of their own!

Following on from the earlier point about poor transport links in Bexley, Labour councillor Seán Newman saw a great opportunity to suggest, with a beaming smile, that it would be splendid idea to promote a bridge over the Thames as this would undoubtedly enhance ratable business values and provide more business rates to the council. The red faced chairman, councillor Peter Craske turned a deeper shade of beetroot and was for some reason rather dismissive of this point.

Councillor Newman then came up with the best idea of the meeting by suggesting that council officers could get back to them with regeneration ideas and costings in order that they could better understand the effects of improved transport links on business rates and ratable values. This seemed to make Mike Ellsmore cringe as he claimed it was a fairly futile exercise to try and guess the economic effects of redevelopment. However, the idea did seem to have some cross party support. I guess we will have to just wait and see if anything comes of Sean’s brainwave. I mean who would have the audacity to try and use real evidence to make a decision here in Bexley? Next they’ll be demanding accurate forecasts and real targets? Crikey, where will it all end?

Mike Ellsmore then masterfully steered the sub-group towards looking at reliefs on the business rates and no doubt this is the kind of tinkering that will keep councillors and their officers suitably happy. I suspect that it won’t generate a great deal of extra revenue but if maintaining the status quo and their own salaries and perks is a primary motivation, it was a job well done.

Luckily the ruddy chairman, councillor Peter Craske wanted to democratise business rates - which I must confess had me rather bemused. Still, this blue sky thinking was later explained to all and sundry as a quid pro quo to local businesses in that if you could get them to pay more business rates then you could offer them more development and services. Obviously it was not explained or considered how you would regenerate down at heel areas with this cart before the proverbial donkey approach but then why let a little matter of detail get in the way of the only suggestion you can come up with?

Peter Craske having heard enough of his group for one night glanced at the clock and went into splendidly vague mode. He wasn’t sure if they would need a further three or four meetings to finalise a report; nor could he say what it would be about, but rest assured he was going to go away and work on something and get back to them all at a point, yet to be determined, in the future. The meeting was closed by 8 p.m., a staggering 39 minutes of very poor meeting. I was far from impressed but not really surprised as I my expectations are always low. The whole sorry affair was a complete waste of time and will produce absolutely nothing of merit. They really do need to do better!


There, I told you it would be boring didn’t I? Not even Nicholas can spice it up.

 

16 June - Crayford Fun Day

Cllr. Marriner Fun Day Duck race Duck raceI have been away for a couple of days and couldn’t look in on the Crayford Fun Day as I did last year. Like with the Erith Riverside Festival there is no obvious support by Bexley council. Fortunately a willing volunteer showed up to cover for my absence and his report follows…


A great day, with lots of people of all ages enjoying the sunny, windy with showers in between, day. The strong man event was a great attraction and the many charity stalls and local dance clubs provided an enjoyable day.

I arrived about 1 p.m. due to work commitments and after he official opening David Evennett, M.P. However the lack of support and presences of local councillors was a let down. The only councillor I saw was Howard Marriner adorned by his Rotary Club bib. [Same as last year]. I had expecting our deputy mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis to be there, Crayford being her patch' and to show the people of Crayford her mayoral outfit. Maybe she had other commitments.

No sign of councillor Melvin Seymour either; maybe he was out painting! Perhaps Bexley council could engage him to repaint faded yellow lines or better still, paint some road markings in Bexleyheath! So we all know where we are supposed to be!

Nevertheless it was a good day which would be better with more support from some of the traders in the town.

I heard that the ‘cafe in the park’ for want of a better name, has found someone to reopen it. However I feel that the restrictions in place about what may be sold and when will again make it unviable.

 

15 June - Broadway. It’s terrific! Or should that be terrorific?

No footpath Parking next to crossingAccording to council leader Teresa O’Neill the new arrangements in Broadway will “lead to further economic regeneration as early indications are already showing”. Where it shows she doesn’t say, however she does say the changes have resulted “in a higher quality and more usable street area with enhanced road safety’.

Maybe it is unfair of me to highlight Arnsberg Way which is currently blocked to pedestrians by building materials. No provision has been made for safely crossing the road but at least it is only temporary. Unfortunately the parking bays in Broadway aren’t.

No one needs reminding that pedestrian crossings are marked on each side with lengthy zig-zag lines where parking is prohibited so as not to impede the view. Bexley council has thrown all that out of the window. The car shown is legally parked in a Disabled bay right next door to a shared space pedestrian crossing place. View very much restricted. What is Teresa trying to do? Kill more residents?


WalkStanding on Broadway with my camera has got me into many conversations with curious passers-by. The condemnation of the scheme is universal and I have encouraged some to write to Teresa with their views. She needs to be brought down to earth because at the moment she is telling enquirers that at “the Civic Parade on Sunday a number of people there said how terrific the changes were”.

I’m not sure when that could have happened because I and a friend or two shadowed O’Neill on her walk from Christ Church to the Clocktower where she sat within the VIP’s enclosure and when the ceremonials were concluded went and stood by her limousine waiting to be whisked away. I have loads of photographs and she kept close to councillor Colin Campbell, David Evenett MP, Will Tuckley and young Master Perrior. I suspect the true number of people who complimented Teresa on the road began with a big fat Z.

 

14 June (Part 3) - Blockbuster Eric

TelegraphHe’s taken his time about getting there, but Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, has just announced that Bexley council’s block on all forms of recording of their meetings will be busted by law. The council’s premier jobsworth, Kevin Fox, will no longer be able to say that photography is permitted by protocols but he personally refuses permission and the cretinous former mayor Alan Downing’s repetitive announcement that he prohibits photography to protect members of the public is exposed as the lie it always was.

The only negative I see is that I will never know whether newly appointed mayor Sharon Massey would have been stupid enough to pursue the same course of action. Now I must rely on more subtle indicators of whether she will represent a break in the long line of disappointing mayors.

Note: The Department for Communities has now issued a press release.

 

14 June (Part 2) - Fatal clangers

BELLOver the last few months a trickle of anonymous but alarming messages about Bexley council’s Emergency Link Line (BELL) have found their way into the Inbox. Anonymous messages are always difficult to handle because it would be all too easy for a malevolent council to set me up, but gradually the evidence, such that it was, began to stack up into a plausible story. On 6th June I felt confident enough about some of it to float a speculative story, mainly in the hope of flushing more information out of the woodwork. The tactic seems to have worked.

I am now absolutely sure that Bexley council was knowingly using substandard equipment with dangerously depleted staff levels and as a result one (possibly more) of Bexley’s BELL clients died.

The unfortunate lady was Barbara Baker of 26 Meadows Court - pictured last week - who in April last year pressed the button on her emergency necklace and got no response from the Control Room in Bexley’s Civic Offices.

The lady died, two Bexley employees were sacked, and the manager who put them in an impossible position was left to carry on and arrange the cover up. Management competence fully up to Bexley council’s usual standard and involving names I have heard before in similar, but less deadly, circumstances.

A number of named councillors are similarly involved.

 

14 June (Part 1) - You read it here first

Chris TaylorBexley council is content to allow its care workers to be paid less than the minimum wage. It turns a blind eye to staff not being paid for travelling between jobs. It is illegal but when did the law ever stop Bexley council? It was reported here in some detail in April and the man to blame is councillor Chris Taylor.

Yesterday afternoon The Guardian newspaper covered the same ground. It has quoted HMRC who confirm that the payment practice does not “cover the working period from a national minimum wage point of view”. So Bexley council is implicated in yet another criminal act.

From observing care facilities provided to a disabled friend I noted that most visiting carers stayed for just a minute or two over a multiple of 15 minutes and then left in a great hurry. They conceded that they are paid in 15 minute segments or part thereof so a 31 minute session provides 14 minutes of paid travelling time. When your working conditions are so appalling, working the system is the only way to survive. Chris Taylor was paid £22,309 last year for master-minding Bexley’s illegal scheme which is at least 50% more than the most industrious care worker can expect to receive. He works just a few voluntary hours a week

 

13 June (Part 2) - Bexley council. Penalizing motorists at every opportunity

PaidThere has been an unusually large number of parking related enquiries in recent days, nothing like the silly case in Lewisham where a jobsworth ticketed a hearse which had stopped outside a church to allow the pall bearers to remove the coffin. Such things do happen in Bexley but not this week as far as I know. Three reports have involved Residents Parking Permits and two are nearly identical. The complaint is that Bexley does not remind residents when their permit is about to expire, not even an email to those who made the purchase on line.

Nick Dowling suffered that but as he is at work by the time the restricted hours commence and is on his way home at the time they end, he escaped a fine (†). A Crayford resident was not so lucky. A passer-by sent me the associated photograph taken yesterday. Details have been obliterated but the receipt attached to the windscreen reveals that Bexley council took payment for a three month permit commencing 1st June on the 10th and that the permit would be “sent to you shortly”. Not shortly enough to prevent a fine a day until the permit turns up.

A resident of Erith was ticketed by Civil Enforcement Officer BBL559 because he stopped on his own crossover point to open the gate to his drive. The CEO demanded proof that the driver was entitled to stop in front of his own drive - i.e. that the car and house was his and while the homeowner went indoors to find some documents BBL559 left the scene and the driver with a trip to PATAS (Parking Adjudicator).


Controlled Parking Loading BayFinally a visitor to Bexleyheath drove into town and noted that it was a ‘Controlled Parking Zone’ from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Great, it was past 6:30 so OK to stop for a take-away.

The motorist picked her way very carefully through the temporary traffic lights of Arnsberg Way and around the mess that is the Graham Road junction, all the while “making eye contact with pedestrians” and the hazardous features which “encourage people to wander across the street” - both being official quotes from Bexley council - and duly parked in a loading bay outside Wimpy convinced that all was well because it was nearly 7 p.m. An expensive mistake.

The central area, whilst ringed by the the 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. zone, is further restricted until 7 p.m. I walked the motorist’s route yesterday and there is nothing to say the times are different in Broadway apart from a few small signs. If you had previously spotted the large 5:30 p.m. sign on the way in and have not passed another large sign bearing any different time, why would anyone go looking for more parking traps?

The lady’s email ends “I won’t be spending money in Bexleyheath again, and Wimpy has lost a customer”. I have quite a lot of those now. Meanwhile Bexley council is in denial, I've seen their latest excuse sheet.

† Nick wonders what sort of ‘business’ makes no attempt to get repeat orders. Would Bexley council be so lax with Council Tax reminders he asks. I think Nick overlooks one important point. Non-payment of Council Tax may result in a court penalty which goes to central government. Non renewal of Parking Permits has the potential to offset the punitive costs of Bexley’s inflated salaries. I know of one resident who forgot to renew and got three tickets before receiving his permit. Uniquely in ‘business’, bad customer service is a nice little earner for councils.

 

13 June (Part 1) - Officially recognised. A £3·5 million disaster zone

No entry No actual crossing No dual carriagewayMessages expressing alarm and disgust at what Bexley council has done to Broadway continue to arrive. The complaints are generally safety related and some parents have vowed not to take their children to Bexleyheath again on the grounds they have taught them that they are safe on the paved areas and will get instantly splatted if they venture on to the road. Now they cannot tell one from the other and Bluewater is the beneficiary.

Whilst everyone accepts Broadway looks passably OK, but not nearly as nice as the plans shown at the public consultation, it is widely regarded as a death trap. We have a road which looks like a dual carriageway but isn’t, road markings that look like a Zebra crossing but is just a pretty pattern and a dual carriageway with no preceding roundabout to guide traffic in the right direction. To any qualified traffic engineer the dangers should have been blindingly obvious but no one at Bexley council was clever enough to predict it.

Now the reality has hit them they have rushed into panic mode. Warning signs everywhere. ‘No entry‘ reminders for motorists who see the Magic Roundabout as a T junction - which by design it is. A warning that pedestrians may be crossing (it doesn’t work, no one stopped for me) and a sign on the make believe dual carriageway to say that it isn’t what it appears to be. Bexley’s senior staff get almost the highest local authority salaries in the country proving you don’t have to pay peanuts to get monkeys.


ASDA cornerAnother correspondent is concerned about the ASDA crossing where the road is now a right angled bend instead of the former gentle curve. This she says is forcing buses into the middle of the road as it is not realistic to expect them to follow the outer contour precisely.

This forces eastbound traffic ever closer to the toes of waiting pedestrians. I shall watch this more closely when I am next on site but meanwhile the tyre marks shown on the associated photograph may indicate that this bend is indeed too sharp for the constant procession of buses and was possibly designed by the idiot responsible for the Wickham Lane roundabout. In true Bonkers Bexley style, buses couldn’t get around it.

The Broadway scheme was the brainchild of councillor Peter Craske, architect of far too many of Bexley council’s transport disasters.

 

12 June - Didn’t they do well for themselves?

I have previously unfavourably contrasted the way that Bexley council advises residents of the large sums of money which finds its way into councillors’s pockets with the admirably clear manner in which Dartford council does the same thing. I am pleased to report that I won’t be able to do that again as a Dartford-style list has now been made available by Bexley council. Click or scroll the image below.

Allowances

It is interesting to note that councillor Craske was paid £3,079 in additional allowances when he was only in his cabinet post for a month before “Personal Reasons” forced his premature exit. What the additional expenses were that some councillors claimed I imagine only a Freedom of Information request will discover.

 

11 June - Never trust a policeman

In January this year the father of a teenager assaulted and badly injured in a school playground concluded his account of the Bexley police malpractice which wrecked any chance of a prosecution. There were similarities between his experience of Bexley police’s dishonesty and those of Elwyn Bryant and myself following the internet crime traced to a councillor’s telephone line. The same police officers were involved, both crimes were linked to friends and associates of the investigating officers and the outcome was much the same. The victims were either blamed or investigated for the crime committed against them. In layman's’ parlance, Bexley police corruptly organised a cover up.

The father whose story was published here remained anonymous at the time in order to protect his son’s identity but after Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, refused to comment on the role played by Bexley police, he decided to go public. As a result the News Shopper has provided some welcome publicity for this further example of serious wrong doing by Bexley police, primarily under Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer.

I imagine that the need to maintain good relations with the police constrains main-stream journalism somewhat but the Shopper’s report, good though it is, doesn’t expose the underlying reason for Bexley police engineering another of their cover ups. In the words of the injured boy’s father “the investigating officer shared close friends with the assailant’s family”.

The Shopper obtained the following comment from Bexley police: “A line has now been added to the crime report clarifying the victim’s position”. I much prefer their response to the District Judge in Dartford County Court. “It is very dangerous indeed to start requiring the police to correct their records, as this would damage their integrity”. It is a nice clear statement that so far as Bexley police is concerned, justice doesn’t matter so long as their pretence of integrity is maintained.

Turning justice on its head would appear to be a Bexley police speciality. Mrs. Grootendorst who successfully exposed her victimisation by Bexley council in Bromley Crown Court was arrested and charged by Bexley police for trying to retrieve property stolen from her. During a scuffle she was knocked to the ground by the alleged thief but it was she who found herself destined for an appearance before the beak while, she claims, the police regularly dropped in for tea at the home of her assailant. Once again the case collapsed for lack of evidence and two years later she is still in negotiations with the police over her wrongful arrest and the storing of her DNA samples.

I am reluctant to publish police stories which do not have at the very least, a tenuous connection to Bexley council, but the comments that continue to arrive very strongly suggest that just because Stringer and Olisa have been transferred to other unfortunate boroughs does not mean that Bexley police is now under good and honest management.

 

10 June (Part 2) - Respect - and the lack thereof

Campbell Downing MarrinerFollowing yesterday’s unveiling at the Bexleyheath Clocktower a councillor asked me in a roundabout way how I was going to report the event. “Respectfully” I said, there is a time and a place for criticism and ridicule and a quasi-Royal event is not one of them.

I was surprised at how few councillors had bothered to put in an appearance. I’m sure some would have had long standing commitments elsewhere and family responsibilities, but half of them? It seems a bit far fetched that so many were occupied elsewhere but a council employee with whom I struck up a conversation told me they were only expecting 30 to 35 to be there. My own photographs clearly show only 26, there may have been a few more.


Massey Hunt CraskeWhether this shows a lack of respect cannot be judged without full knowledge of the facts, but an absentee rate of 50% or more at such a prestigious event seems a little strange to me.

A reader has been having similar thoughts about the respect issue and sent me some photos to illustrate his point. As you can see from the small selection here, councillors were immaculately turned out. Colin Campbell instinctively knew that his aversion to neckwear was not appropriate when meeting the Queen. Betting man Peter Craske was wearing his Ascot Royal Enclosure suit while seeking out friends in the crowd and a well tailored James Hunt was happily handing out song sheets for those who had forgotten the words of the National Anthem; but standing there like a man dragged unwillingly from his bed, was cabinet and GLA member Gareth Bacon. Tieless, open necked, blue sports jacket, brown trousers and black shoes. Off with his bloody head!


Bacon BaconAs my correspondent says; whatever was he thinking of?

Note: The photograph of James Hunt is my own. Remainder by Disgusted of Thamesmead.

 

10 June (Part 1) - Bexley parking services. On your side

Car in Disabled bay Car parked at bus stop Driver exifThe News Shopper carried a story two months ago set in Appold Street, Erith where Bexley’s parking contractor, NSL, thought it was a sensible and considerate thing to do to park their car in a Disabled bay while two not very Civil Enforcement Officers went walkabout down the street issuing penalty notices where they could.

In Welling High Street Bexley’s gestapo wagons frequently lurk late at night monitoring anyone who might be tempted to slip into one of the struggling small businesses for a pint of milk or a take-away. I’ve seen them hiding in their camouflage grey vehicles between other parked cars watching a bus stop across the road.

Hiding between parked cars at night without visible warning signs is arguably sneaky. Their legal obligation is to try to eliminate illegal parking not raise as much money as possible. A small piece of cardboard strapped to a lamp post is barely adequate at the best of times, let alone late in the evening and at last the message seems to have got through to the numbskulls who run Bexley’s parking services.

In a new initiative to give ample warning to errant motorists without the need to tape notices to lamp posts they have hit upon a very effective solution. Occupy the bus stop themselves. Sheer genius, what could be simpler?

So that Bexley council and NSL can identify their star employee (just visible in his blue shirted uniform in Photo 3) the vehicle registration number and photo details are provided (location on bus stop, click to enlarge). Surely such a bold initiative should not be allowed to go unrewarded?

Photo by a Welling resident.

 

9 June - Mayor on display in public for first time - and a new bust of the Queen gets a look in

Clocktower King George V William Morris Queen behind the flagThere were very few people standing outside Christ Church waiting for the great, the good and the downright disreputable to emerge and there was not a single Union Jack or rotten tomato to be seen. By the Clocktower things were very different, still nothing red or white or blue in evidence, apart from the big flag draped across the Clocktower, but there was a much bigger turn out than last year and every space was occupied by those anxious to find a view not obscured by a policeman.

Few will have succeeded but it was nevertheless a thoroughly good show so far as one could judge from the back of the crowd and a sound system not good enough for the non-military voices.


Dave Easton Mayor Sharon Massey Mayor Sharon Massey Mayor Sharon MasseyFor the precision arrangements Bexley council should presumably thank their organiser Dave Easton, Bexley council’s Head of Member Services, who was frequently seen directing proceedings with waving arms and walkie-talkie.

Mayor Sharon Massey looked alternately apprehensive and serious but nevertheless made a fine sight in all her robes and regalia.

I attended not just because she looked cute or because the parade is an important civic event, especially this year, but for the opportunity to restock on photos of councillors. Since they are so keen not to be photographed at other times it seems only just that they should get the attention of a moderately long lens (135mm for the technically inclined) while on their best behaviour at events such as this. It should be said that several of them take this in good part, including some whose names might surprise you - and quite a lot don’t.


Speeches Unveiling Unveiling UnveiledAfter marching from Christchurch to the Clocktower and some commendably short speeches Major David Hewer pulled the string. Everything worked perfectly after which the assembled throng was encouraged to sing the National Anthem.

Few could be heard despite Bexley council having gone to the trouble of printing and distributing the words, second verse and all!


Mayor and husband singing Deputy Mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis Removing the debris The QueenDeputy Mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis was happy to mingle with the crowds after formalities ended looking rather more relaxed than Mayor Sharon who rapidly disappeared into her limo. But then she didn’t have the weight of responsibility on her shoulders and has a pub to go back to.

 

8 June - Queen Elizabeth comes to Bexleyheath tomorrow

Clocktower Queen's box Queen's bustTomorrow is the day of the Civic Parade, the highlight of which will be the unveiling of a £20,000 bust of the Queen which will fill one of the remaining two empty plinths on the Clocktower.

The main events will be the church service (Christ Church, Broadway) at 10:30 a.m. after which there will be a march to the Clocktower where the bust will be unveiled by Major David Hewer OBE.

With any luck someone will have remembered to wind up the clock, it wasn’t working when these pictures were taken on 2nd June.

 

7 June (Part 2) - Hypocrisy and irony

News Shopper headlineBexley council seems incapable of getting on with its neighbours in Greenwich or for that matter its residents.

The former first became obvious to me two years ago when councillor Peter Craske said that a Greenwich councillor had blocked his County Gate proposals for his own selfish and personal reasons. He made the front page of the News Shopper but his complaint later proved to be groundless.

Since then they have fallen out with Greenwich over the Thames crossing proposals and ridiculed their supposed high parking charges when the truth was that all Greenwich shopping centres were cheaper for parking than Bexley’s. Craske is involved with both issues.

More recently Greenwich put in speed humps near Glenmore Road (which is in Bexley) and mistakenly strayed over the boundary. Instead of reaching an amicable agreement with Greenwich council, Bexley upset their own residents by insisting Greenwich rip the offending humps away.

Now Bexley Conservatives are using their website to highlight another spat with Greenwich. Greenwich council wants to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone around Avery Hill near Falconwood station which is very close to the Bexley boundary. Bexley claims, perhaps with justification, that it will displace parking into Bexley and they have organised one of their petitions. (It’s a pity they don’t accept residents’ petitions.)

The solution, some might say, is for Bexley council to put a CPZ on its side of the border but that isn’t possible because Bexley has a policy of no more new CPZs. They may have realised that charging three times as much as the previous Labour administration to park outside your own home is not a vote winner.

Bexley council’s preferred solution to the Falconwood conundrum is to invoke the same law to try to stop Greenwich council in its tracks that Greenwich used against Bexley two years ago and was labelled “disgraceful” for its pains by Peter Craske. Now he is one of the councillors behind the new campaign. Clearly Craske doesn’t do irony.

News Shopper commentWhat is needed is for reasonable people to sit down together and work these things out in a civilised fashion, but Bexley’s ‘swivel eyed loons’ regard everyone on Greenwich council as ‘loony left Trotskyists’. Instead of doing what is right for residents they would rather use their party website to score political points.

The reference to residents in the opening sentence is an allusion to a debate being played out on the News Shopper’s website. No one there likes Bexley council either, but I am a little concerned that ‘batey’ will soon find herself in the hands of the cops. Her remarks seemed just a little too close to ‘pitchforks and flaming torches’ to me. Maybe, as before, I will find myself threatened with arrest just for repeating it.

 

7 June (Part 1) - Rumours

Teresa O'NeillIf there is one word that sums up Bexley council, or maybe I should say Bexley’s Conservative leadership, it is secrecy and lies. OK, that’s two words but whichever you choose the other flows naturally from it.

Over recent months political parties have been choosing their candidates for next May’s elections and smaller parties and independents have been considering where they might stand the best chance of causing an upset. Some have addressed direct reselection questions to their existing councillors and party associations and the responses have fallen into three categories. I’m not telling you, the decision has not yet been taken, and no reply.

It’s all too predictable for a council or local party with much to hide and as the elections loom, much to fear.

Across the borough borders things are different. Greenwich Tories have begun to put their candidates names for May 2014 on their website. Going in the other direction, Dartford Conservatives put the mobile numbers of their councillors on the party’s website. Contrast that to the secretive liars of Bexley who claim Section 32 Exemptions to the Localism Act to allow them to remain as close to anonymous as legally possible.

Here in Bexley, the Conservative party’s websites continue to carry little but lies and propaganda, either about opposition councillors (Labour claim there is no railway station in Bexleyheath) or Greenwich council - the latest of which probably requires a blog of its own.

Despite the secrecy, a very few details of possible councillor moves has drifted in my direction. They are that…


Councillors Sandra Bauer (Labour), Colin Campbell, Alan Downing, Katie Perrior and June Slaughter will not stand for re-election.
Cabinet member John Fuller will slip across to Christchurch ward replacing James Spencer whose fate is unknown. The very marginal Lesnes Abbey ward is a near certainty for a Conservative wipe out.
Chris Taylor, personally responsible for so much misery in the care services, is said to be replacing Katie Perrior in Blackfen & Lamorbey. Presumably child care costs have finally proved too much for this successful business woman.


I must emphasise some of the above is little more than tittle-tattle from a variety of sources and some one wouldn’t have predicted. Another message told me that Alan Downing picked up the £4,260 sinecure of Cabinet/Scrutiny Liaison Member but I still haven’t found confirmation of that in publicly available records.

It’s not much to report but Teresa O’Neill runs a very secretive ship, she has a lot to hide.

 

6 June (Part 3) - County Gate, CPZ permits, Phone only parking, Broadway. One common factor - Peter Craske

One of my correspondents says about the Broadway rejuvenation, “councillor Gareth Bacon is publicly responsible for the Environment and Public Realm”…


While the Broadway is Frizoni's professional disaster, it is councillor Gareth Bacon who is publicly responsible as cabinet member for the Environment and Public Realm. He, one of the highest paid councillors in the UK (if you take in the GLA), is ultimately responsible as he signs off Frizoni's plans. His £76k is more than Teresa Pearce MP on £65k.


and he is now for his sins, but the real crime was as you might expect, perpetrated by councillor Peter Craske. His name is all over the original documentation.
Craske signs off
Craske's presentationIt was Craske who was supposed to present his scheme at the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting on 21st June 2012 but he was unavoidably detained by Police Commander Victor Olisa who was too new to the borough to know that you are not supposed to do that sort of thing to council members - he soon learned.

In his absence someone else made the presentation, someone from the design consultants if I remember correctly, and everyone was suitably impressed, me included. At the time I said “David Bryce-Smith (Deputy Director (Development, Housing and Community Safety) is master-minding the project which given the disasters imposed on other parts of town, the obstacle courses, the non-negotiable roundabouts and artificially created congestion, whether it be his scheme or Frizoni’s, it doesn’t bode well, but on paper at least the latest wheeze looks rather nice”.


Albion Square ASDA CornerAnd it did look nice, nicer than the reality because the colours have been lost along the way.

Craske’s report said that residents and businesses had been consulted; “the report was placed on the council’s website … A consultation leaflet was produced and distributed, explaining the purpose and nature of the scheme. A short questionnaire was included for completion. Exhibitions of the drawings were held at the Bexleyheath Central Library, the Broadway shopping mall and the Civic Offices.”

I confess I didn’t notice and the council report does not reveal how many did. But suffice to say the pretty pictures and promise of more trees were “welcomed”. How many respondents were qualified traffic flow design engineers will for ever remain a mystery. Craske had all the evidence he needed to splash £3·5 million on his legacy to Bexleyheath.

It may have been better to stop and think how one might guide traffic coming from two directions on to the left side of a dual carriageway. A roundabout would do the trick, but a town square? No I don’t think so.


Shared space?Eastbound traffic that has safely traversed two ‘shared spaces’ picking its way through pedestrians slowly but surely; why should it expect the third shared space to be any different? It looks the same as the other two, why is slowly and surely not good enough for this one?

The straight road with a wide central reservation looks like a dual carriageway. Some drivers will believe it is a dual carriageway and drive accordingly.

Did none of councillor Craske’s staff think about that? Surely he should have worked it out for himself but maybe he spends so much time defending gambling for his employers he sees life itself as a game of chance.

Maybe as this morning’s correspondent says, it really is time that this miserable shower of self-serving wastrels were given the order of the Bexley Boot.

As usual, click any image for enlarged copies - and see how different the plan put before residents is from what has been delivered.

 

6 June (Part 2) - Broadway balance

News ShopperMaking things up to embellish a blog entry would be a very silly thing to do. Being found out would damage any credibility built up over several years. If some readers knew the statement that (aesthetics excepted) absolutely no one has commented favourably on Broadway was untrue because they had written in praise of it, the rot would set in. Proving yourself a liar may be Bexley council’s way but I don’t want it to be mine.

However in the quest for total honesty I must now admit that a plus point for Broadway has been submitted. I give it to you totally unedited to see if you agree…


I have a favourable comment: surely to goodness this fiasco will finally make the people of Bexley see sense, and sweep this miserable lot out of power at next year’s elections.


I trust this will bring joy to all those councillors who fell for councillor Peter Craske’s promise of “People-friendly, business-friendly, better streets”. For it is the phone parking genius and parking permit price tripler who takes the credit for what we see today in Broadway, not the current incumbent of the Public Realm hot seat, Gareth Bacon.

 

6 June (Part 1) - Ring any BELLs?

Metal studsDire predictions of imminent death on Broadway were excluded from yesterday’s readers’ comments. To do otherwise might be tempting fate and one reason for publishing the Broadway pictures is to try to make things safer by illustrating that putting your baby and buggy into the path of a bus is not a good idea. The Broadway scheme may not have intended to put lives in danger but that is what ill thought out plans and policies tend to do.

Could Bexley council’s budget cuts be a case in point? They happily squander a £3·5 million grant on a Magic Roundabout and equally happily cut services wherever they can, especially those hidden from most people’s view. The delivery of hot meals to the housebound disabled, squeezing the domiciliary care budget paying staff at a minimum level and nothing for travelling while on duty. And budget cuts to care home providers which forced some to halve wages. Could these hidden cuts result in death too?

What if a reduced budget caused staff cuts to the point that vital personnel are left on duty alone and then they fall ill, or simply need the loo? And just at the wrong moment, the alarm sounds while they are locked in the lavatory. What if an elderly Tom, Dick or Barbara closely confined in their little haven of care pressed the emergency button in vain which no one heard because the call of nature took precedence? And someone died.

Suppose something like that happened in Bexley; what do you think they might do?

My guess based on recent history is that the bean counter who created the fatal situation would immediately sack the person who went to the toilet. The police would take an interest in an unexplained death but drop the case as soon as they realised their friends in the council were implicated and the council would stonewall the family. FOIs would claim ‘not in the public interest’ immunity. Then when the case died down a manager would get promoted and the responsible councillor would be manoeuvred into a safer seat to preserve his skin at the next election.

Just wondering, obviously, things like that simply don’t happen in Teresa Town; or do they?

 

5 June (Part 2) - Readers have their say

Metal studs Oil stains U turnsThe ‘Rejuvenated’ Broadway has caused an unprecedented number of people to reach for their keyboards and you may wish to read what fellow readers are saying.

There has been no favourable comment to report but with a minimum of editing, the brickbats may be seen below…

Photo 1: The metal studs in the road (see reader’s comment below). Photo 2: Only day two but already covered in oil. Photo 3: It’s a circus out there! (Click any to enlarge.)


• My office window overlooks the new roundabout. I am wasting far too much time looking at the chaos unfolding below. Mesmerising.
• The paved strip in the middle of the road is viewed by pedestrians as a refuge. I had to completely straddle this while passing parked cars thereby coming into conflict with oncoming traffic who see the black tarmac they are on as ‘their side’. I can see some frayed tempers and broken bones on the horizon when there are a couple of buses parked opposite a delivery lorry.
• Driving past ASDA I thought the casual visitor might go straight up the pedestrianised area. There was a nice big gap in front of me, nothing to say I had to turn left and nothing to say I couldn’t continue on.
• I was heading towards where the roundabout used to be. There are no give way signs, no clues as to right of way and a strip design to encourage pedestrians to walk out into the traffic.
• You asked what is the expenditure of £3·5 million supposed to do for Bexleyheath? My answer is “nothing”. Do shoppers decide where to shop based on the prettiness of the pavements, the street furniture, the nice shiny new tarmac, etc? Or do they base their decision on the fine selection of shops, the availability of parking space/cost, etc. I think I know the answer there.
• This nonsense regeneration type stuff is a waste of time. Yes, it looks much nicer, but at £3·5 million for a little bit of visual attractiveness off-set by months of inconvenience? No thanks!!
• I am stuck on a bus which has taken 37 minutes to get from the bus garage to the Clocktower due to some incident in Arnsberg Way. Been speaking to the driver. His concern is the central reservation, the cobble bit in the middle. People are waiting on this to cross the road. Which makes sense, as in normal crossing of roads one would wait on the central refuge. How long before an accident happens?
• The idiots run the asylum.
• Your photos today [5th June] highlight all you need to know. £3·5 million wasted. Farce!
• What a shocking waste of money! I think a lot of people have got fed up with the queues caused by the roadworks and gone to Bluewater, where there is a better selection of shops and free parking. I don't think a change in road surface in Bexleyheath will pull in the crowds!
• I don't know if you noticed the metal studs, marking out the crossing. These are dome shaped, in the wet this poses a risk to motorcyclists. Metal studs were historically used at old ‘Belisha’ style crossings, but flat ones; and even they weren’t good.
• The ASDA corner is now a much sharper turn. As you are aware from other roadwork schemes Bexley Highways Dept. does not understand vehicle steering geometry and that when making a sharp turn the rear wheels follow a much tighter curve than the front wheels. This applies to all vehicles but is especially pronounced for buses.
• They have left the bus stop which was opposite ASDA down by the Albion Road magic roundabout. Residents who live the other side of Albion Road used to cut through between Primark and the Pizza Place when catching a bus to the station. Now they may as well continue walking.
• I haven't been to Bexleyheath shopping since the road works started. I've got into the ‘Bluewater habit’ and given this new road layout it’s a pedestrian accident waiting to happen, I have no plans to change that. Parking in Bluewater is free, there is plenty of it and the shops are better and more plentiful than BH. Add to that the anti-car policy of the LBB Parking Gestapo - Pay By Phone (have they actually ever used it?) and the 15 minutes extra on the A2 to Bluewater is actually cheaper than going to Bexleyheath. Sorry Bexleyheath - you won't be seeing my money for a long long time.
• A bus came around the corner and its rear wheels very nearly ran over my toes. With no separation or protection for pedestrians this is an accident waiting to happen. Perhaps next time it will be a child in a pushchair pulled under the rear wheels of a bus. Would Mr. Frizoni like that on his conscience - assuming he has one of course?
• £3·5 million would be better spent on reducing parking costs and improving its availability. Offering free rental to businesses might have boosted Broadway as a shopping centre; cobbles won’t. Better still, use some of the money to give Bedonwell School a proper pavement.
• All buses used to come around to one of the three adjacent stops by the Clocktower thereby enabling hopping on the first suitable one to come along. Now the powers that be have diverted some routes to the Arnsberg Way bus stand area. This cannot be seen from the Clocktower (or vice versa) so it is no longer possible to catch the first bus of whichever route goes your way.
• I’m thinking the painted cycles on the road is a prediction of what a bicycle will look like after it has been run over by a car.
• Great postings today [4th June], chaos as any sensible person could have predicted. A question; does no one in Bexley council drive?
• The only good thing to come out of all this is that the empty shop units can now be filled with solicitors specialising in personal injury claims.


Plus one or two held over because they require a response or correction. As stated above, there has been no favourable comment. If you have one, apart from it maybe looking better, please send it in. Everyone else has missed it.

 

5 June (Part 1) - Toe the line or lose it

The new crossing outside the ASDA superstore is a technically better one than what went before but unfortunately it doesn’t make for safety, not with Bexley council’s design skills and the way too many people are using it anyway.

Lulled into a false sense of security by a pavement that appears to extend right across the road with nothing but some red stones to designate the edge of the road, people on phones, with buggies, on sticks and with friends alongside to talk to, assume magical immunity from being bumped up their rear ends. And it doesn’t help that a few drivers don’t even notice the red lights.

Bus drivers must hate it, sooner or later someone is going to come a cropper - oh, I forgot, someone already has.

Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open
Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open
Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open

Note: all images enlarge when clicked.

 

4 June (Part 2) - Is it a roundabout, a T junction or a dodgem car rink?

Road narrowedI think I am fairly well acquainted with the theory that says if you deliberately make a road unsafe it may force users to be more careful and reduce accidents. Around 30 years ago I had a neighbour and commuting companion who worked for the Ministry of Transport (as I think it was then) who explained it all to me when I commented on a new roundabout which obscured views from all directions.

Then four years ago when Bexley council made Belvedere’s B213 very much narrower than before they referred me to a Transport Research Laboratory report which said reduced widths could make roads safer. Through family connections I managed to get the head of the department that wrote that report to come and look at Bexley and to summarise, he said, “yes it’s true but you have to do it right and your council doesn’t even seem to have tried”.

I suspect this is the crux of the matter in Broadway. Would you trust Mike Frizoni (Deputy Director of Public Realm Management) to get anything right? I’ve asked the same road safety consultant about what has been happening in Broadway and he was very guarded in his reply. Basically the jury is still out. The advocates of ‘shared space’ will rustle up favourable statistics and the doubters will do the reverse.

This blog liked the look of the original Broadway plans but the proof of the pudding will be in the crashing. Has Bexley council taken sufficient account of human failings? Today’s observations suggest not.

I accept the work isn’t really finished, Broadway has been rushed open to ensure that Teresa O’Neill can strut her stuff along fresh tarmac at next Sunday’s Civic Parade. As a result the present situation is dangerously incomplete. Approaching the horizontal dartboard outside Trinity Chapel from the East there is no indication whatever that you are about to encounter a roundabout (Photo 1 below). This error is compounded by a yellow sign that tells you to go straight on, and as if there is not enough confusion the entrance to Albion Road is open but marked by a large No Entry sign (Photo 3). This is confusing no end of people especially those approaching the road from the West (Welling and Crook Log). Around 10% of vehicles coming from that direction were doing U turns. (†) Others were veering to their right and then going straight on.

A senior council officer has confirmed to me that they expect problems at the outset but “people will get used to it”. What other organisation would foist an unsafe product on their ‘customers’ and be content to see them suffer injuries because their design work was faulty or manufacture incomplete? What happens to strangers to the town who have no chance to “get used to it”? Are they expendable?

If a pedestrian wants to head further West there are currently no authorised legal crossings points to achieve it as the man attempting a diagonal crossing found to his cost. He had to run back.

Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open

I said to one lady who had stopped to give her views, “How long before the first accident?” She said I'd missed it. A woman was hit by a bus a couple of days ago on the ASDA crossing because she thought the crossing was all part of the pavement.

Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open

Despite the stripes, the image above is not of a pedestrian crossing. Drivers are not obliged to stop. I saw the driver of a 422 bus use his horn at two old men who weren’t nippy enough for his liking. As you can see, people wander across anywhere engaged in texting on their phones.

Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open

Because Bexley council hasn’t thought to tell westbound drivers whether a roundabout or a T junction lies ahead, drivers don’t know who has priority. The drivers of the cars in the final photograph above had stopped to yell choice words at each other. As I walked away I missed getting a picture of one vehicle coming from the Welling direction which (correctly?) followed the coloured circle into Albion Road, being overtaken by another which took the more direct route across the ‘bulls eye’. As a man said to me while watching the chaos, “what happens when it snows and there is no roundabout?” Sorry, that is far too technical a question for someone like Mike Frizoni. Please respect his limited abilities.

ASDA crossing pictures tomorrow. Silly people risking life and limb and babes in buggies.

Note: all images enlarge when clicked.
† Some will have exited Church Road which does not allow a right turn. The old roundabout allowed a simple reversal but now it looks like a dangerous U turn.

 

4 June (Part 1) - Accident waiting to happen

Broadway BroadwayYesterday eight people contacted me about Sunday’s pictures of the ‘revitalisation’ of Broadway. Every one of them was complaining; not about the pictures but what was variously described as a glorious waste of money to an accident waiting to happen.

I was away yesterday but today I managed to get to Broadway to take another look. It was fascinating and occasionally shocking. Some people cross roads pushing buggies, yapping on the phone or enveloped in a headphone induced trance without being aware of the dangers all around them.

While loitering with intent to take photographs, I overheard many conversations about the new road and absolutely none were complimentary. I mentioned to a few people who stopped to chat the cost of £3·5 million, and there was a general preference for fixing potholes instead. Shopkeepers were particularly upset having suffered serious trade loss and denied compensations. As one said, we are never going to get the money back, people have got into the Bluewater habit and no one will be queuing up to see a few oil stained road blocks.

Later today a lot more photographs will form a Part 2 blog.

 

2 June (Part 2) - Urban clearway

The Broadway was open for two way traffic this morning just in time to be shut again for next Sunday’s Civic Parade. Maybe I was taken in by the magnificent artists’ impressions (†) but I find myself a little underwhelmed by it. What is the expenditure of £3·5 million supposed to do for Bexleyheath? Make it more attractive to shoppers presumably, but having seen that black expanse of fresh black tarmac pretty much devoid of traffic I couldn’t help thinking it looked rather like an airport runway stretching towards the distant Shooters Hill. Casual parkers won’t be too happy, I noticed four spaces for blue badge holders but the rest were loading only.

The demarcation between road and footpath leaves something to be desired - see photos five and six - and I imagine that in slippery conditions straddling the tarmac and the cobblestones will test anti-lock braking systems to their limits.

Maybe it’s not finished, but it isn’t clear what those bicycle markings are all about.

Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open Broadway open

Click any picture (and then the left/right arrows for more) for enlarged views.

Note: The Broadway is not an Urban Clearway as may be implied by the title, but it is a Restricted Parking Zone. Basically, if you have no Blue Badge, forget it and go somewhere else.
Compare the artists’ impressions with the photos above; the road is nothing like the same colour for a start.

 

2 June (Part 1) - Down by the riverside

River Festival
Erith Festival Erith FestivalThe gods looked more kindly on Erith’s Riverside Festival this year than last when it was a total washout. Organiser Garry Taylor and his team once again did a fine job. I asked him if Bexley council had given any help but he gave little away apart from dark mutterings about ’elf ‘n’ safety.

I spotted councillor Edward Boateng among the crowds, and separately Erith & Thamesmead MP, Teresa Pearce; not quite unrecognisable behind a rather glamorous pair of shades. Garry said that councillor Peter Catterall was expected later.

This event is sure to be better reported by Hugh Neal on his Erith blog before the day is out, so keep an eye open for his pictures.

P.S. If you visit Hugh’s blog… I have always hated wearing sunglasses and should never have allowed SpecSavers to sell me Reactolights. Never again, I can barely see to cross the road on a bright day. And that's my bus pass in my shirt pocket whatever you might think.


River Festival

 

1 June - Secrecy always prevails

Allowances A common theme that runs through the way Bexley council chooses to conduct its affairs is secrecy; why is open to conjecture. There have been indications that it is to hide illegal activity for which the simplest defence is to crack down on all information, just to be sure nothing incriminating leaks out. Probably complete openness would embarrass those councillors who are in it only for the networking and money making opportunities their position provides. A simple example is the matter of their own allowances.

As reported two weeks ago, in order to fully comply with their legal obligations, Dartford council published the name of every single one of their councillors in the local newspapers alongside what job they do and the money they are paid to do it. Last week Bexley council made their own lame attempt to do the same.

Hidden away on page 56 of last Wednesday’s Newsshopper was the list of allowances seen on the left - only smaller.

Nowhere is there any indication of who gets what. Don’t bother looking at councillors’ Register of Interests, there is nothing there. The only way you can dig the information out is to search meeting agendas and even then it is not all in one place, some is in separately published appendices to agendas. Clearly Bexley council is none too keen on making the information public, which presents a unique selling point for this website.

All but one of the allowances listed in the table have been allocated to the names on Bonkers’ list of councillors so you can quickly see who is pocketing what.

The list is available in alphabetic sequence or electoral ward sequence. The content of both is identical because all the information is pulled in the chosen sequence from a common source.

Despite much scouring of documents I have yet to discover who is the lucky recipient of £4,260 for being the councillor responsible for Cabinet/Scrutiny Liaison.

Click image to double its size.

 

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