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Bonkers Blog November 2013

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28 November - A lull before the next storm

While Bexley council is in ‘best to say nothing’ mode and is refusing to answer awkward questions it is hard to know which is worst. Manufacturing blogs from very little or to put things on hold for a while. Both are likely to see visitor numbers fall under the present 30,000 a month but boring regular readers with recycled news is not an attractive proposition and there may be better ways to use the time.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission upheld my complaint that the Met’s Department of Professional Standards wrongly gave Bexley police a clean bill of health following their failure to identify Bexley council’s obscene blogger. But that complaint related only to the period June 2011 to 23rd August 2011 when Bexley police announced they could make no progress.

Victor OlisaWhat has never been complained about is Bexley police’s further failures over the following year or so. In particular the fact they traced the obscenities to the IP address associated with councillor Peter Craske’s phone line and then took more than six months, possibly as many as eight, before applying for a search warrant. Plenty of time for the evidence to be spirited away.

Borough Commander Victor Olisa said those eight months were spent eliminating me from their enquiries. He actually said in front of Elwyn Bryant and my MP that he believed I may have hacked into councillor Craske’s phone line and set him up. I think he was getting desperate with his search for excuses.

The original plan was to make a further complaint in March this year but Elwyn Bryant had secured a promise from the Crown Prosecution Service the previous month to send him an important document so it seemed sensible to wait for it. Nine months later Elwyn is still waiting and the issue of the CPS’s FOI law breaking is now with the Information Commissioner.

By the end of May the police had promised to reveal some of their own files so it seemed sensible to wait for them too before making an official complaint. That promise developed into a Subject Access Request and now we have the Met police breaking the Data Protection Act by missing the statutory 40 day deadline by four months. I feel there has been enough waiting and a complaint must go to the IPCC about Bexley police’s failures from September 2011 through to January 2013. Blogging effort will be diverted into reminding myself of who was involved in that second failed investigation and letter writing. Bexley police’s self confessed “political interference” must be examined further.

Cheryl BaconThe other outstanding job is updating this website’s Home page which hasn’t changed since April.

I have in mind a permanent record of councillor Cheryl Bacon’s lying following her misjudgment on 19th June. The voters of Cray Meadow are entitled to know exactly what they are getting if they are tempted to vote Conservative and a page devoted to Cheryl may be useful to her political rivals. I have made a start on it but there is a lot yet to be added and it will probably look very different by the time it is edited and finished.

When that is done it will be time to tap into Mick Barnbrook’s experience and compose an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office against Cheryl Bacon, Legal Officer Lynn Tyler and Human Resources Director Nick Hollier, all of whom have either lied, concocted excuses for lies, produced false statements from people who have subsequently disowned them or have refused to consult witnesses prepared to speak the truth.


Lucia-HennisSo that’s it for a while except that I promised to put out a little news item on Sunday. Meanwhile I only have one small statistic to bring to your attention.

Since this current Conservative shower was elected in 2010 they have attracted a total of 49 complaints from members of the public. 48 of those complaints were dismissed as totally worthless.

The one exception was against current deputy mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis who was ordered to take an anger management course after an argument at the Crayford Community and Business Forum ten months before the 2010 election.

Clearly she was soon forgiven.

Note: The reference to Lucia-Hennis proved to be incorrect. Her complaint was before 2010. The complaint upheld was in fact by one councillor against another.

 

27 November - Another thought

Bexley collegeThe latest issue of the Bexley magazine (Winter 2013) is a thinly disguised Conservative election leaflet and it portrays the borough as a wonderful place to be. To be fair there are good things going on and if only the political leadership could stop themselves from lying to cover up their sins old and new I would happily go away and do something else in my spare time. Unfortunately you never have to look far below Bexley’s surface gloss to find things that arouse suspicions and distrust.

On Page 17 of the current issue is a brief feature on the new Bexley College campus taking shape in Walnut Tree Road in Erith. The redevelopment of that derelict site can only be a good thing and Bexley council is claiming some sort of credit for it. Teresa O’Neill was recently seen burying a 50 year time capsule in its grounds.

The only thing that I can find that Bexley council actually did for the college was to stand aside and not use the site itself.

When the council was umming and ahhing over which of three options it should approve for its new HQ; redevelopment of the existing site (cheapest), refurbishing the old Woolwich Building Society HQ (said to be £36 million at the time) or a purpose built town hall opposite the Carnegie Building in Walnut Tree Road (£42 million but with a much longer lifespan); it opted for the site in Bexleyheath. The Labour party’s request to more seriously consider Erith was rejected. Officially that was because it would cost more but as the public was excluded from all meetings related to costs no one can be sure of that. I suspect it is much more likely that Erith is not the Conservatives’ favourite place and there was a deal to be done with Tesco.

Refurbishing the Woolwich HQ was always going to be less than ideal; it was built when data was commonly kept on paper filed in dusty rooms with high ceilings and network cabling was almost unknown and webcasts were science fiction. Not surprisingly Bexley council says the conversion costs have risen to £42 million and councillor Colin Campbell has referred to the public areas not being large enough. I even have an email message from the inner sanctum saying that the Woolwich building is creating all sorts of accommodation problems.

When I repeated what was said at the council meeting which approved the move to a News Shopper reporter he created a headline which got me into a certain amount of trouble with their readers. He shortened the Woolwich refurbishment “might be seen as shortsighted” to something rather more definitive. Maybe the News Shopper reporter had it right. Not only will the Woolwich building always be a bodge and, one must suspect, chosen primarily to serve the needs of Tesco, the brand new three storey college designed for 2014 and beyond cost only £20 million. Less than half what is being spent on tarting up something built 30 years ago.

Now we have Teresa O’Neill planning to cut services to save ten million next year. Maybe she should have listened to her officers who warned that refurbishing the Woolwich was not the most efficient option.

Photograph © by permission of Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich.

 

26 November - An interesting thought

Dave Stringer Teresa O'NeillAmong recent readers’ emails was one which suggested I might be entirely mistaken in my belief that the police were four months late in responding to my Subject Access Request because they had run out of black marker pens with which to redact practically everything. The suggestion was that something close to the reverse might be true; that there is almost nothing to redact.

Given that my contact with the police has been confined to that engineered by the criminals within Bexley council, the only things which can be linked to my name are Teresa O’Neill’s discredited (by the IPCC) harassment complaint and the obscenities uploaded to the web from councillor Peter Craske’s phone line.

According to Bexleyheath police in December last year, the investigation into the latter under Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa produced one of the largest files ever seen in Arnsberg Way until “political interference” brought his investigation to a premature end. However the earlier investigation under Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer was almost certainly a sham.

He tried to end it early offering excuses that did not stand up to scrutiny. FOIs were declared to be not in the public interest and a complaint to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe resulted in a complete whitewash for every useless police officer involved. We know it was an apology for an investigation because the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it and ordered it to be done again.

So the suggestion is that my Subject Access Request will reveal a gaping hole from June 2011 to March 2012 and demonstrate for all to see that Bexleyheath police attempted to bury the crime committed by their council friends. Maybe that’s why the SAR is so late. Why didn’t I think of that?

 

25 November - Answering emails, and occasionally not

Last week I received 255 emails and more than 40 are still unanswered. Some can be answered in a minute or so especially when near identical messages come from several sources. The latter often come from regular contributors and I’d like to think they are used to not getting replies. Currently several are preoccupied with the irony of Bexley council’s obesity campaign (†) but Bonkers as you know very well is above all that sort of thing!

Some of the emails cannot be answered in a minute or two and this one is probably the prime example from last week. I have dithered over it more than a stranger in town dithers as he approaches the newest free for all junction outside the police station.


I was directed to your website via a kind lady on Streetlife.
I am a Journalism student at London Metropolitan and for my second year assessment have been asked to write about local news stories.
I have been enquiring about people's opinions on the new roundabout in Bexleyheath, situated at the far end of Broadway, near the bowling alley.
I was wondering if you would be kind enough to email me your opinion on the new roundabout, be it you think it is a great new feature or if you feel it is dangerous.
I assure you this information will only go as far as my tutor marking it and it will not be published.
It would be such a great help if you could email me your opinion.
Thank you for your time,


If you count the for and against letters published in the News Shopper there can be little doubt that people generally think the new Trinity Place ‘roundabout’ is dangerous. The only letters in favour have come from councillors. But the student journalist asked my opinion not the News Shopper’s letter writers’.

Shared space Shared spaceOf course the new arrangements are dangerous, that is the whole point. Lots of things are dangerous so you take suitable precautions. Driving in fog, standing on a railway platform, riding a bike are all potentially dangerous activities but with suitable precautions the risks are low.

However to call the junction of Albion Road and Broadway a roundabout is to fall into the same trap that Bexley council’s bungling road planners fell into. They at first signed it as a roundabout, than as a T-junction and eventually dodged the issue with the non-specific signs seen here. The theory is that confused drivers go slower and the long established rules of the road can sometimes be bettered.


Pedestrian crossing signsBexley’s planners thought they could get away with no indication of the preferred pedestrian crossing points other than a few red blocks and opened the junction for traffic without the benefit of keep left signs. That was in my opinion rather silly. I expect they were being subservient to she-who-must-be-obeyed, council leader Teresa O’Neill who said the streets should be kept clutter free. She still is in the current Bexley Magazine (Page 6), but practical street design is something else she doesn’t know much about. The planners eventually made some concessions to common sense. Discreet warning signs where pedestrians are encouraged to cross for example.

Probably I should declare an interest. I have crossed that junction very many times on foot without any difficulty but only once driven across it, and only the easy way. Turning left out of Albion Road towards Welling. Another interest to declare is that my son is very much involved in road and vehicle safety. Until last year he co-chaired the European Union’s committee on the subject and is now busy testing cars that can’t - at any reasonable speed - crash into pedestrians or HGVs into cyclists.

I’ve heard all the theories but I am informed that there is not yet enough data to prove them one way or another. You might say we are waiting for a serious accident at Trinity Place. If there isn’t one the junction is good. If there is I foresee it becoming a roundabout again with at the very least an oversized pimple appearing in the middle.


Shared spaceHaving stood watching Trinity Place traffic for quite a while, it seems to me that the dangers come mainly from traffic exiting from Church Road where there is no right turn but which really wants to go towards Welling. The drivers U-turn on the Shared Space and cause an amount of chaos as they do so. Abuse and shaken fists being not that uncommon. I wouldn’t like to be a cyclist in Bexleyheath.

In my view, the Shared Space concept is a bit of a cop out attempting to lay any blame for accidents on those involved rather than road designers who should bear some responsibility. If the term can be taken literally this elderly gent who attempted to cross the junction diagonally would be entirely within his rights to do so. I suppose the big question the student didn’t ask was “should the junction revert to a more traditional layout”. I think my answer has to be No, at least not yet.

Note: The scheme was planned under former cabinet member for Public Realm, councillor Peter Craske. Councillor Craske was supposed to head up the official presentation but failed to show up. The date of the presentation, 21st June 2012, is hard to forget; it was the day Craske was arrested for Misconduct in Public Office.

Topical News Shopper report.

† The Obesity Campaign is sponsored by Bexley’s Health and Wellbeing Board, the Chairman of which is councillor Teresa O’Neill.

 

24 November - Beware of geeks bearing gifts

Chris Taylor Consultation Bexley council has to cut spending by £10 million pounds next year in order to freeze council tax. Our neighbours in Bromley raised taxes this year and are on course to do it again in 2014. Maybe that is the more honest course of action.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill decided against reducing the number of councillors (£300,000 a year saving) and wouldn’t give Elwyn Bryant’s petition house room (another £300,000) and has blown around forty million on her new headquarters when on the council’s own admission, redevelopment on the existing site was the “highly efficient” option and around ten million pounds cheaper, but we are where we are. Now Teresa has to wield the axe and suddenly there is the usual plethora of consultations.

This week has seen the borough plastered with posters about Care Services. There are two of them in the associated photo.

In all walks of life there is a move by service providers to make their customers do the work. Self service tills in supermarkets, pre-payment only for bus fares - cash not accepted - and pay by phone parking. In Newham my 93 year old aunt is dissuaded from having visitors because parking permits are available only on-line and that is not something she can manage any more. I have to impersonate her, she has no other relatives so it is fortunate that I am only four miles but, thanks to Boris and Big Tess, a 40 minutes drive away. I’m sometimes tempted to make Newham social services pick up the bill for looking after her.

This move towards self-service can be a good thing but it needs to be applied sensibly.

Instead of providing domiciliary care (though agencies contracted at the cheapest possible price) for those who need it, Bexley council is proposing they should drop out of the service totally by just paying the care recipients to make the arrangements themselves.

I asked someone very much involved with Bexley care services if he knew of the proposals and discovered they weren’t as new as I thought. He had already been subjected to a little pressure to make the change but quickly lost interest when the details became clear.

If he had expected to be given a similar hourly sum to that the care agencies have available he would have soon been disappointed. Out of the reduced amount he was expected to be responsible for the tax liabilities of his chosen carers and an administration fee to whoever is supervising the carers. In the event they couldn’t even find suitable carers.

His advice is “Be sure to read all the small print”.

Bexley council is attempting to withdraw from the service to reduce its costs even further and logic dictates that as carers’ pay cannot go any lower without falling foul of the minimum wage regulations, there is only one option for funding Bexley’s cuts. The sick and disabled will have to find the money.

Child centresAnother activity being lined up for changes is the Children’s Centre Service. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but Bexley council says it is planning changes to ensure the centres “provide the best value for money”. It’s their favourite form of words when about to attack residents or services.

The price of Residents’ Parking Permits was tripled because it provided “value for money”. That phrase appears 53 times on this website against various proposals. Using CCTV to chase motorists is “value for money”. Will Tuckley is “good value for money”. The council’s new HQ is “good value for money”. It is a phrase that should be regarded with the utmost suspicion. The closure of two children’s centres (Bedonwell Road and Upton Road) and invitations to private companies to run the others is unlikely to be for the benefit of parents. They will be paying the price of a frozen council tax.


Katie PerriorIt is a superficially attractive Tory goal when an election is due a month after the council tax bill arrives but a Children’s Centre is not a playschool. It provides practical help for disadvantaged families, for victims of domestic violence and learning opportunities for unemployed parents. Some things are not suited to being sold off to the highest bidder but in a month that has seen Bexley council associate itself with a loss making private company rather than the successful Howbury Friends, one should expect nothing less.

Isn’t Bexley council in enough trouble already with children’s services having been condemned by OFSTED and ignored the plight of poor Rhys Lawrie? On the other hand Chris Taylor (Adults’ Services) has been able to state at council meetings that the poor working conditions of Bexley’s care workers are nothing to do with him and the cabinet member for Children’s Services may have seen the advantages.

Those who decide to ‘Have your say’ on Children’s Services may be disappointed to discover that the whole document must be printed out, completed with a pen and posted in to the council by 15th January 2014. It is not an on-line form. That would be far too easy.

P.S. Found this on-line survey specifically on the Bedonwell Children’s Centre closure. Hurry, closes Friday. Also the general children’s centre survey.

 

23 November - For councillor Tandy and other trainspotters

Abbey Wood Abbey Wood CrossrailThere is an amazing amount of Crossrail work going on around Abbey Wood station and alongside the tracks towards Plumstead.

The station car park which has been fully closed for a week has become a dumping ground for cut down trees and on the other side of the railway line the station entrance has been moved and cables are being repositioned.

The official timetable for the next six months includes…


• Piling on the station platforms - (weekend of 7th December).
• Piling and heavy earthworks to widen the trackbed from Abbey Wood station to Church Manorway - (December).
• Felixstowe Road and Gayton Road to be realigned to make way for the new station.
• Footbridge and ramps to Harrow Manorway demolished.
• Work on temporary station and footbridge to commence.
• New footbridges to be provided at Church Manorway and Bostall Manor Way followed by removal of the old ones.


Parking penaltyMeanwhile Bexley council is cashing in by haphazardly dumping cones for no obvious reason and issuing as many penalty notices as it can. Beware!

 

22 November (Part 2) - Complaints Review. No obvious progress

I had hoped to be able to report something a bit more substantial than what has been this week’s fare after Mick Barnbrook went to see Mr. Alabi, Bexley council’s Monitoring Officer, but the meeting may have been nothing more than a time-wasting exercise.

The alleged purpose of the meeting was to progress Mick’s three outstanding complaints against Bexley councillors, all of which are now at the review stage.

The complaints are…


• That councillor Colin Campbell lied on BBC television by saying that a recorder was pushed within inches of Cheryl Bacon’s nose and that anyone could make a recording of any Bexley council meeting, “you just have to ask”. On the council’s own admission, all ten people who had asked were refused permission.

• That at a public meeting councillor Colin Campbell used the word ‘crap’ to describe this website and rather more importantly lied by saying afterwards that he didn’t. Lots of people heard him do so and the word was recorded at the time in my notebook. Can you trust someone who lies about even the most trivial of matters?

• That councillor Cheryl Bacon put a meeting into ‘Closed Session’ and then manufactured a pack of lies about five members of the public present shouting, remonstrating, waving papers and generally running amok, when none of the five did anything remotely like that and councillors have been prepared to confirm it.


Also present at Mick’s meeting was the council’s ‘Independent Person’, a post introduced under the Localism Act.
Localism Act
It became clear at the meeting that Bexley council had done little or nothing towards reviewing Mr. Barnbrook’s complaints in the two months since he requested the first of them. He was asked to restate the complaints which anyone can read on this website. Why Mr. Alabi should make notes from what Mick recalled of his complaints when he had the originals on file is anyone’s guess. Looking for a discrepancy perhaps.

The only thing Mick could usefully add to his written complaint was to read from one of the messages of support that have come from councillors of both parties.

Like Mr. Barnbrook I have no idea what Bexley council is playing at or whether bringing in the Independent Person before the council reaches a decision means she is not truly independent.

Obviously Mr. Barnbrook left the Independent Person under no illusion as to the extent of the corruption within Bexley council and referred to some of the best known cases documented on Bonkers. It is five months since Cheryl Bacon broke the law and almost as long since she launched her defence which has been demonstrated to be lies from beginning to end. Bexley council is still defending those lies and refused until now at least to carry out a proper investigation, far from it, they preferred to sling mud at a complainant instead.

Mr. Barnbrook will no doubt make up his own mind about what action he undertakes next but whatever ultimately transpires some things cannot be undone.

Cheryl BaconWe know that councillor Cheryl Bacon decided on extensive lying rather than admit making a mistake and we know that Mrs. Lynn Tyler and Mr. Nick Hollier decided to turn a blind eye and not look at the evidence against her. Whatever course Mick decides on I shall refer Cheryl Bacon and both council officers to the police with an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office. Whether the names Akin Alabi and Rebecca Sandhu (the Independent Person) are included remains to be seen.

Whilst it is almost inevitable that the police will take no action, perhaps bowing to the “Political Interference” they complained of last time, I shall be encouraged by the fact that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has so far upheld every complaint I’ve made about the police colluding with Bexley council.

I think some people are expecting Cheryl Bacon to stand down now that she is a known large scale liar but I wouldn’t bet on that happening. It would require a Bexley councillor to be a person of honour and those in the upper echelons of Bexley council who might qualify can be counted on the thumbs of one hand.

 

22 November (Part 1) - Lady in Red

Teresa PearceSwitch the telly on quick, came the message. Teresa is talking about Bexley overpaying that college lecturer. I’m afraid I didn’t bother and took a while to catch up with Teresa Pearce MP. She was in fact asking David Cameron to look into the £397,000 pay off to Tony Cotter at Gallions Housing Association and the PM agreed to do so.

It’s a pity that Teresa was not a Bexley MP when Bexley council slipped a cool £300,000 to its Chief Executive Nick Johnson when he departed only to pop up in Hammersmith and Fulham a couple of months later. Bexley taxpayers are still paying his £50k. pension. Without that commitment councillor Don Massey might not be looking to save £41,000 by dumping the borough’s history in a cupboard in Bromley.

Teresa Pearce’s own report.

 

21 November - There must be an election coming

TweetsThe real news famine must be widespread; and as if to confirm it the News Shopper yesterday devoted its front page to a Bexley parking story. I suspect they could do one of those every week. Aren’t they two a penny in Bexley?

The NS report made it clear that Bexley council had returned the motorist’s cheque after she complained that she was attending a medical emergency but that wasn’t good enough for Bexley Conservatives who entered a Tweet exchange with the News Shopper’s reporter.

Parking is council business not the Tories’, there is no reason why they should be involved; unless the forthcoming election is beginning to worry them.

If only Bexley council was as quick to return cheques when the story is not about to be given pride of place by the News Shopper. This email arrived earlier today…


Parking permit refund request dated 14th August. Chased this up and an October email advised that it would take four weeks more for a cheque to be issued.

If the boot was on the other foot I would have been taken to court for non-payment by now.

Have advised council I will give them seven more days, then I will take them to court.

 

20 November (Part 2) - A little about not a lot

In a waiting period, waiting for the results of Bexley council’s budget consultation, waiting to see their latest excuses for councillor Cheryl Bacon’s false allegations against five members of the public, waiting for the Crown Prosecution Service to provide information on “Regina v Craske” promised last February, there is nothing very significant to report.

The best I can do is mention that Mr. Barnbrook is to meet Bexley’s Head of Legal Services about the numerous lies the council has been telling about the Public Realm meeting on 19th June tomorrow.

We know that councillors on both sides of the political divide are prepared to confirm that what Cheryl said was almost totally untrue and we know that Mick Barnbrook is a man unafraid to report politicians to the police. I think we can assume that if Mr. Alabi does not accept that Cheryl Bacon lied and that his department attributed words to a councillor and an employee which they have no recollection of saying, he, and I for that matter, will very soon be penning our complaints to Scotland Yard and the names on the list of those accused of Misconduct in Public Office will increase by two. Mr. Alabi and the Independent Member of the Standards Board. Maybe the latter will then think their £2,200 a year allowance is not so generous after all.

HarassmentMaybe I can also mention my Subject Access Request to the police. It began life in the first week of June and the legal requirement is to provide an answer within 40 calendar days which expired in July.

Three weeks ago I received a letter to say I would have the police’s response within two weeks and a couple of days ago another to say they are still working on it and the deadline will be missed.

In my entire life I have had dealings with the police three times. Twenty years ago when a Bexley officer beat me up after being given false information about me. I received two home visits and a full apology from the borough commander but the rogue officer went unpunished. Then there was the harassment warning concocted at the request of Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill. The Independent Police Complaints Commission declared it had no validity but again no police officer was punished for gross abuse of power. And finally there was the Craske affair.

It doesn’t seem very likely that my criminal record is sufficiently extensive to justify nearly five months of effort to trace it all so I can only conclude there is a shortage of black marker pens with which to redact all the evidence against the criminals within Bexley council.

Note: Most readers will know that the ‘flaming torches’ comment (see image above) came from Hugh Neal’s Maggot Sandwich blog and he was not criticised for it. Council leader O’Neill had only one vindictive thought in mind when she called in favours from Bexley police. Stamping on critics who might go on to expose the secret service which she tightly controls.

 

20 November (Part 1) - Feeling safe should be a basic requirement of care users

By the time I got back from yesterday’s abortive shopping trip three readers had alerted me to a report that put Bexley in top position for making social care users feel safe. Should they ever feel anything else? Surely feeling safe has to be a minimum requirement? It’s obviously good to be best of the bunch but not being among those that make care users feel unsafe is not the greatest accolade in the world.

I think I must have said before but I have a friend who is totally disabled, it’s hard to imagine a worse situation, and Bexley council has provided every possible care short of 24 hour attendance. Eight and sometimes more care workers look in every single day. They are employed by contractors to Bexley council on zero hours contracts on minimum pay out of which they have to pay all their own expenses, travel costs etc.

My friend feels safe because ladies of all ages make visits from six in the morning until eleven at night doing their best under working conditions I consider to be appalling. Users of social care feel safe because the care workers rise above the problems resulting from Bexley council’s penny pinching. Bexley councillors have boasted of paying care contractors less than other boroughs. If they have come out on top in some survey or other it’s the care workers who deserve the credit, not Bexley council or cabinet member Chris Taylor.

 

19 November (Part 3) - BHS. BexleyHeath Shopping or Bad, Hopeless Salesmanship

BHS BHSWe are told at council meetings that shoppers have been driven out of Bexleyheath because of the Broadway regeneration work and Bexley council’s Business Improvement manager, Ian Payne must be having a hard time getting things back on track. I cannot say I’m surprised.

Shopping is not my favourite occupation but I have been nagged recently about my threadbare towels and a lady friend from Bromley offered to come over and help me choose some new ones. I persuaded her that we should take the bus into Bexleyheath and had the misfortune to sit behind someone with a fear of soap and water. On arrival we headed into BHS, a shop I have not been in for five, maybe nearer ten years.

The choice of towels was good and appeared to be of good quality but not a single one in the whole department was priced. No staff were to be seen and all the check out woman could say was that they should be priced. I think I knew that.

I found a man in a suit who agreed that no towels were priced but there was nothing he could do about it and there was no one else available to help. We made our way to M&S. They don’t sell towels at all.

I had wondered how long it would take my friend to utter the words, “should’ve gone to Bluewater”. It was 24 minutes after getting off the bus.

So no money was spent and my friend said she will never go shopping in Bexleyheath again. “There is nothing worth going there for”.

 

19 November (Part 2) - Deceit and dishonesty at every level

Rhys Lawrie Rory PattersonWhen news is in short supply I usually trawl back through old papers and emails to see if I have missed something, which is how I found myself going back through the Rhys Lawrie file yesterday. Rhys you may recall was a three year old lad from Erith brought to the attention of Bexley council’s child services but ignored by them. He suffered a lifetime of pain and was eventually murdered. His 30 year old mother’s 16 year old boyfriend was found guilty of that murder.

Rhys’s grandfather, Trevor Rhys, doesn’t believe the boyfriend was even at the murder scene at the time and has accumulated an impressive array of evidence to support his claim.

His theory is that the boyfriend was stitched up to save Bexley council and its Head of Children’s Services, Sheila Murphy, from being the next Sharon Shoesmith, her opposite number in Haringey where the infamous Baby Peter murder took place under the nose of their Social Services Department.

Maybe I am about to add to Trevor Rhys’s dossier of peculiar coincidences and hard to explain away facts. The Serious Case Review (SCR) commissioned by Bexley council was authored by ‘independent’ Rory Patterson - and who the hell is he you might ask.

Serious case review
As you can see, he was credited with being the Deputy Director (of what isn’t stated) in Southwark and Assistant Director in “other London authorities”. What it fails to state is that a previous borough was Bexley. He had been the boss of the current Deputy Director, Sheila Murphy on whose watch Rhys was murdered. Really independent eh? Is it any wonder that no one was found to be at fault, no one lost their job, not until a minion was sacrificed a year later after OFSTED’s damning report and that wasn’t directly related to the Rhys case.

Google turns up more than that about Mr. Patterson. He is mentioned where child abuse victims discuss their experiences.
Patterson
It makes you wonder what exactly goes on in Town Halls and tends to support the common theory that those in charge have to be paid huge sums to keep them quiet. How was it that the police so quickly decided that Rhys Lawrie didn’t die from his 39 injuries and why were vital witnesses not called at the trial? And why was the grandfather told he would be excluded from the court if he attempted to take notes? How is it that the utterly useless Sheila Murphy (£108,708 plus 20·6% pension contribution) survived the neglect of Rhys Lawrie? Friends in high places perhaps? Nothing would surprise me.

The Rhys Lawrie Index.

 

19 November (Part 1) - The Bacon grind continues

With a nice sense of timing, Bexley’s Head of Legal Services has fixed a date for Mr. Barnbrook to meet him to discuss his various complaints relating to the Cheryl Bacon Closed Session affair, or to be more precise, the lies she told to try to absolve herself from responsibility. A nice sense of timing because the invitation arrived on the very same day that the former Labour minister, Denis MacShane pleaded guilty to inventing his Parliamentary expenses claims.

It was Mick Barnbrook who first reported MacShane to the police, the official report confirms it…
MacShane
Naturally the Commissioner ignored the complaint to start with and when he went to the police they looked at Mick’s evidence and dismissed it as worthless. Only after the Commissioner decided there was a case to answer was Mick able to persuade the police to take his complaint seriously.

Yesterday MacShane admitted it all and may well now be on his way to jail where all bent politicians should be.

Mick is just the man needed to pursue the burgher MacBacon for as long as it takes - and he will.

 

18 November - Children’s train rides and juvenile concerns

My thanks to those who have enquired where I am or should that be have been? The answer is, Friday up a tree with a saw, Saturday in Wiltshire and Sunday in Hampshire. Adjacent counties but a two hour drive apart.

Back home there is nothing of note to report about Bexley council; they are not answering any enquiry about Cheryl Bacon, their own lies having made the search for an escape route somewhat problematical. Also we seem to have an early Christmas close down. There is a five week gap between council meetings other than routine planning and licensing committees. The only one in December is Cabinet on the 18th.

Speaking of Christmas, the Broadway festivities last Saturday probably did not do a lot to help the traders.


Just come back from Saturday morning shopping in the Broadway. Bexley council have allowed a proliferation of stands/concessions/stalls/displays even a stage from the Clock Tower all the way down the supposedly pedestrian area leaving very little width in places for actual pedestrians.

Then presumably to rake in even more money the council have allowed another concession for a tractor (dressed up as an engine) plus several coaches to drive up and down the narrow gap between the stalls and the shop fronts. Driver was not best pleased when I stood my ground insisting that I as a pedestrian had priority in a pedestrian area and he could wait for me no matter how hard he beeped his horn!


At last week’s Cabinet meeting it was related how business is down again - the Broadway regeneration being blamed.

TwitterAt the trivial end of Bexley news is this little Twitter exchange between UKIP and the mayor’s daughter Elizabeth Massey. The council’s website confirms the relationship.

Beth Massey appears to be casting aspersions on the integrity and accuracy of this website.

I would hope that the amount of documentary evidence made available would convince most people that what may be read here is likely to be correct or work things out for themselves. Maybe that is why the only time I have been challenged is when reporting a councillor’s dishonesty and the dissenters admitted they were related to him and were self-proclaimed petty criminals. Some of them even waylaid and beat up a B-i-B contributor.

Such is the company kept by Conservative councillors in Bexley.

Beth Massey has yet to respond to UKIP’s challenge. Maybe she knows as well as I do that it was Don Massey who took the lead role in deciding to not accept the 2,219 signature petition on senior salary levels and ignoring the similarly sized petition about the management of the Howbury Centre.

Please Beth, you are a 19 year old studying politics and undoubtedly an expert, so it shouldn’t be difficult for you to tell me exactly where Bexley is Bonkers has attempted to mislead the populace or even made a simple mistake. There must be some somewhere. No one is perfect, Bexley Tories excepted of course.

Beth

 

15 November (Part 2) - Councillor Cheryl Bacon’s lies

BaconIt is more than two weeks since I told Mr. Tuckley, Bexley’s Chief Executive, that I would allow only a fortnight to pass before reporting councillor Cheryl Bacon and others to the police for Misconduct in Public Office. I have not had a reply and Bexley council continues to ignore the mounting evidence that councillor Bacon lied constantly to protect herself from the rather trivial charge that she made a mistake while chairing the Public Realm meeting on 19th June. However I have not yet submitted my file to the police and the reason is as follows…

I became aware within hours of emailing the Chief Executive that Mr. Barnbrook had been invited to see Mr. Akin Alabi, the council’s Head of Legal Services following his very similar complaint and it seemed sensible to wait and see what Mr. Alabi had to say. Unfortunately three weeks have gone by since that invitation was made but still no date has been set.

Meanwhile the council has cancelled two consecutive meetings of the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee. It presumably remains reluctant to censure councillor Bacon for her many lies. The plan to report her and others to Scotland Yard (not Bexley police because they admit to suffering “political interference” when investigating Bexley council related crimes) may be on hold until Mr. Alabi has spoken but it has certainly not been abandoned.

 

15 November (Part 1) - Howbury. The last word?

Apart from accepting the government bribe to keep council tax low, Bexley council appears to do little to please residents. In four years I have never been sent an email which says “Look here, Bexley council has done a good job with this one”. It just doesn’t happen. How do they keep getting elected?

The following is far more typical of messages received…


In so far as there is any truth in what councillors and officers said, it is this: formally, no decision had been taken, but once the outcome of the officer evaluation had been made public it would have provided grounds for legal challenge if councillors had tried to take a different view. Of course, in truth, the councillors will have made their decision in advance, in private. Either way, a stitch-up as usual.

It’s easy to understand why the Howbury Friends, who’ve acted in good faith throughout a protracted process, feel cheated. The slogan “Listening to you, working for you’ has a hollower ring with every decision these charlatans take.


All cabinet meetings are rehearsed in advance which is one reason why most of them are wrapped up in under 30 minutes.

 

14 November (Part 2) - Bexley council. Ok for a fraction of a second but no depth

Cabinet meeting I planned a second blog for today but Part 1 took around five hours, listening to the tape over and over again deciding what to leave out and making sure any quotes are as near perfect as possible. Some of them have been shortened if I am honest as reports like that can get far too long. Now I can’t remember what Part 2 was going to be about. Instead I think I’ll mention the problems of photography in the council chamber, I know from the correspondence files that several readers are interested in photography, we even have a F.R.P.S among them.

The problem can be summed up as poor light, huge range of subject distance and fixed camera position pretty much in line with a sea of faces. After the fiasco of the council meeting I favoured a very short focal length lens (super-wide angle) to maximise depth of field and minimise the focussing problems that arise at wide apertures. Elwyn felt he needed a long lens with a wide aperture but neither of us owns the sort of beast you see behind football touchlines. The best we could muster was a fixed 55mm f1·4.

Maybe the general view shots are best done on a simple point and shoot camera. The embedded file data on the general view below shows it was taken on a Sony at f2·4 and 4mm focal length at 1/32th seconds. Result, everything in focus.

The two further down were f1·8, 55mm and 1/125th. Fifteen times the file size and four times the resolution (megabytes) of the Sony but almost zero depth of field as illustrated by the associated photo. DoF is inversely proportional to the focal length. Maybe the answer is two cameras but I suspect the novelty of photos in the chamber might wear off before the technique is perfected.

The audio recordings have proved to be very satisfactory. It’d be better if the flimsy table didn’t constantly creak but for its intended purpose the quality is good enough.

 

14 November (Part 1) - The party of business shows how to do the business

CabinetThe main item on the Agenda for Tuesday evening was the acceptance of Eco Communities to run the Howbury Community Centre. It was never likely to be an honest debate and it wasn’t, the tone was set before the meeting started when the Eco Communities representative in the public gallery was greeted like an old friend by council officers and some Conservative councillors alike. The large contingent of Howbury Friends was ignored.

At the outset council leader Teresa O’Neill was at pains to point out that the decision to appoint Eco Communities had not yet been taken. Maybe it hadn’t but it soon became clear that cabinet members were not at liberty to vote any other way.

Environment and Wellbeing Director Peter Ellershaw said his officers had gone through a process that would result in Eco Communities taking over management of the Howbury Centre in September 2014. Mr. Ellsmore added that the process involved writing to 40 community groups of which seven expressed an interest. Five were invited to put in business plans but only two did so. “An officer team did the individual scoring. Scores were weighted.” 34 ‘areas’ were scored, though only the six point summary is available for public consumption. Openness and transparency to the usual standard then. On finance, Director Mike Ellsmore said, Eco Communities “scored significantly higher”. “Start up funding, contingency funding and the robustness of the cash flow statement” had impressed him.


ScoresCabinet member Don Massey repeated the explanation of ‘the process’ stressing each one was different and that ‘local’ could not be defined and that Lewisham based Eco Communities/Greener Bexley had a good reputation.

Their bid was better than Howbury Friends’. “Social enterprise finance”, Massey said, “was not going to give massive financial strength, cash balances or reserves. You have to examine what they are based on. To be honest Howbury Friends answers were not convincing to the panel. They left a lot of doubt and uncertainty. In contrast, the Greener Bexley people were far more convincing on the finance side and backed up by their financial assumptions. They made a lot more sense. One bid was a lot better than the other”.

At the end of Massey’s speech a few people in the stalls jeered and chairman Teresa O’Neill immediately jumped on them claiming that they were preventing cabinet members hearing which, as the minor disruption was only during the interval between speeches, was of course the sheerest nonsense.

As already noted, this was a highly theatrical meeting and the first thespian on stage had me fooled for a minute or so. Councillor Gareth Bacon seemed keen to explore the possibilities for voting in favour of Howbury Friends. “Were all the bidders made aware of the process before it was taken further than the written representations?” Mr. Ellsmore didn’t seem very sure. A hesitant “It was my understanding that they would have been, yes”.

“If a decision was taken here tonight to reverse the decision how strong a grounds would we have to resist judicial review?” asked the Shakespearean Fool Bacon. Legal Officer Akin Alabi replied. “The options are” he said, “to appoint Greener Bexley or commission further work. The council would be at risk if it overturned the decision”. This strikes me as very odd given that the leader had by then said several times that no decision had been made.

“Are there any grounds for rerunning the process?”, asked Bacon. Ellsmore and the female lead combined to give a very protracted “No”.

Supporting actress Katie Perrior entered stage left praising the achievements of Howbury Friends and saying how “the council respected them a great deal”.

Dame Linda Bailey “recognised the disappointment of Howbury Friends but Greener Bexley would work with Job Centre Plus and came out top on getting people back to work”. “So do we” said he audience but Biffa said she would vote for Greener Bexley. No one ever believed otherwise.

The spotlight then fell on councillor John Fuller, referring back to the Belvedere Community Centre he said they “used the exact same procedure”. Who shall we believe? Fuller’s “exactly the same” or Ellsmore’s “each are different”? Fuller said it would be difficult for the council to go against the recommendation. Let’s hope he never becomes chairman of the Planning Committee.

Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour) said Eco Communities selling point was funding and referred to a cloud being over it. I suppose he meant their £53,000 debt and County Court Judgment. He was at a loss as to how and where they obtained their claimed experience in running community centres. He queried how a decision not yet taken could be judicially reviewed. Chairman O’Neill reaffirmed that no decision had been taken but changing the decision that had not yet been made would put the council at risk. Heads Eco wins, tails Howbury loses. Just to be sure she repeated that the decision had not yet been taken.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour) said that “the proposal had caused quite a stir”. Gathering several of her sentences together; Howbury Friends look after 100 children after school for £1 per session. They ran their services in an old run down building and now that new premises are available it is to be given to a new Lewisham based group which isn’t sure of its name. Their accounts show more debt than cash and they plan an £8 a session charge for after school activities in an area well known for its low incomes. Elsewhere Eco Communities “had made 75% of its staff redundant after four years of spending more than what was coming in”. Chairman O’Neill made some condescending remarks about Howbury Friends but said that “in a procurement exercise they had not won but can still work in the community centre”.

Brenda Langstead (Labour) said that Howbury Friends were not given a level playing field with an undeclared ex-Conservative councillor behind the rival bid.

FalseCouncillor Katie Perrior was concerned about the £8 charge and requested clarification. Councillor Don Massey had learned his lines well. He went straight to the highlighted section of his script and read from it that “the £8 is one example of a fee. It does not relate to anything being proposed for Slade Green”.

Thus reassured, Katie bowed out, her starring role of feigned concern satisfactorily completed.

Massey countered the disregarded 2,000 plus signature petition by referring to one lady who had phoned him to relate a grudge against Howbury Friends. Having signed the petition she now wanted to change her mind. He told us why but had no excuses for the other 1,999. Massey went on to say that Eco Communities had committed themselves to run all the Howbury facilities at or below present prices. “I can’t say fairer than that, it is on their bit of paper.”


BorellaCouncillor Stefano Borella wanted to say something about the preferred bidder’s links with Bexley council but the chairman stopped him in his tracks; so he moved on to Eco Communities financial status. Referring to the poor situation revealed by Companies House records, “it made him think how on earth that score was arrived at. One could argue that such a scoring system [weighted but otherwise unrevealed] could be set up in a certain way. Down the line they could raise charges to a more sustainable level”.

Gareth Bacon said that “the council did not have a cat’s chance in hell” of withstanding a judicial review. Funny he pretended not to know earlier on and councillor John Fuller chipped in with some irrelevant history about Belvedere. Councillor Chris Taylor said he “was uncomfortable with what councillor Borella had said, inferring (sic - implying you nitwit) that the process was corrupt”. He asked that councillor Borella “rephrase” his statement. Stefano said “you said you set a process up, every process in a different way, and you set the scoring system up the way you wanted, and that is all I said”.

The chairman ad-libbed to Mr. Ellsmore “the procedure was a set process, wasn’t it?” and the Director required the services of the prompt. Belatedly fumbling his lines he said, “Err, umm, err. It was set up under thirty four different headings by the procurement team, so, umm, I’m, I’m one hundred percent confident that it wasn’t set up for an end result”.

Deputy leader Colin Campbell was impatient for the final curtain and urged a vote, “I am entirely happy with the process”. Every cabinet member promptly hurled the residents of Slade Green into the orchestra pit. Quelle surprise!

Previous council meeting report.

 

13 November (Part 4) - Council meeting finally wrapped up

The multi-part report on last Wednesday’s council meeting never quite reached the end, I’m afraid the change from note taking to SD card has done absolutely nothing to speed up the process and I can no longer listen to the radio while doing it. After deputations, questions and motions most members of the public went home, including the regular attendees, Elwyn Bryant, Mick Barnbrook etc. However I wanted to hear what councillors might say about the new protocols on recording meetings and remained at my post.

To get to that point I had to sit through many other things, including the leader’s self congratulatory address and picked up a few snippets of information that might be interesting.

Councillor Seán Newman indicated that not everything in Teresa’s garden is rosy, the Broadway regeneration has driven shoppers away (Bexley BID report) and Bexley is in the bottom four London boroughs for low paid jobs and the bottom eight for housing benefit claims. Despite the leader “waxing lyrical’ according to the MGI (McKinsey Global?) report Bexley has not improved at all. Seán’s conclusion was that councillor Linda Bailey’s tenure of the regeneration portfolio had been a failure. Bailey’s reply was “I am not going to lower myself by answering that part about failed. Councillor Newman should be ashamed of himself."

Councillor Alan Deadman suggested there were insufficient disabled parking bays close to Abbey Wood station. As a local resident I always considered the number of disabled bays in Wilton Road (at the end of which is the station) to be excessive. They are often the only empty ones. Councillor Gareth Bacon said the number wasn’t changing during the Crossrail works.

The council then spent 29 seconds debating, approving and voting on the Financial Plans and Budget Strategy 2014/15 and moved on to Agenda item 11 (parts ‘a’ to ‘o’) which included the protocols for recording meetings (part ‘c’). Approval of all but one of them took 25 seconds so I was disappointed to hear no comments on recording. The exception which took a little longer was Public Realm, and in particular the developments at the Howbury Centre in Slade Green. Councillor Stefano Borella took the opportunity to sing the praises of Melanie Hudson and the Howbury Friends, a lost cause if ever there was one. He then digressed to the matter of Cheryl Bacon’s Closed Session meeting and the falsified minutes. The mayor said it was not relevant and made him sit down.

42Councillor Langstead asked the mayor to have the Slade Green residents’ Howbury petition put on the council’s website as was the Waitrose petition. Councillor Teresa O’Neill said she would not. Brenda Langstead protested but to no avail. As was obvious at that council meeting, management of Howbury was already a done deal. We certainly know that now.

In the closing moments of the meeting which ended at a couple of minutes past ten, councillor Chris Ball (Labour) said the way the council operated is very different to what it was 15 or 20 years ago and he considered now was the right time to begin the process which would lead to a reduction in the number of councillors from 63 to 42 and “reduce significantly the amount of money we spend on members’ allowances”. Teresa O’Neill said the same thing four years ago but the gravy train proved to be far too great an attraction. She refused to discuss the issue on Wednesday evening and said that councillors’ allowances had been frozen, as if that in some way compared to a reduction in number.

 

13 November (Part 3) - First pictures of Bexley’s cabinet in session

Top tableI was quick to condemn the arrangements made for photography at the council meeting last week where no usable photographs of the council in session were taken due to the absence of any clear view, so maybe I should be just as quick to say that at last night’s cabinet meeting things were much better; in fact perfectly acceptable.

No one tried to direct photographers to any particular position but a table was thoughtfully laid out in a central position in front of the public area.

I contented myself with a notebook, pen and audio recorder but Elwyn Bryant was snapping away. I do not propose to go out of my way to find unfortunate poses in the council chamber; if Bexley council has chosen the path of righteousness at last then maybe we can begin to forget their previous ambitions to imprison bloggers. You may on the other hand think an image of Teresa O’Neill dressed up in a burglar’s uniform is an unfortunate pose.

 

13 November (Part 2) - Another back door payment?

August payments
Companies HouseIf you think that paying a six figure salary to an employee bypassing the PAYE system looks like a fiddle, what about this?

Who Ambassador Environmental Services are I have no idea but they were paid £2,635 in August. And where the cheque is banked is another mystery because Ambassador Environmental Services went bust three years ago.

Bexley’s auditors said there were lax controls in place for signing off invoices and the like. Looks like Sue Exton knew what she was talking about. A nice little earner for someone.

Not as nice as the Director of Finance’s £141,892 of course.

 

13 November (Part 1) - In case you weren’t convinced

SC PartnersSomething from one of those director check websites that should have been added to yesterday’s blog. The link between SC Partners and the Principal of Bexley Adult Education College.

Bexley council is paying the Principal of its Adult Education College through the back door.

I am indebted to John Kerlen (aka Olly Cromwell) and several others for this one, but John was first!

 

12 November (Part 2) - Pure theatre

Howbury Friends Charity CommissionAt the end of an obviously staged sham debate by Bexley’s cabinet this evening, Howbury Friends’ bid to run the Community Centre was thrown out in favour of an out of borough chameleon company that changes its name more regularly than it files its accounts.

The interlopers were judged to have “scored significantly higher on financial stability and robustness of cash flow”.

Howbury Friends’ record as provided by the Charities Commission is shown here in yellow, the financial state of the new company, Eco Communities, may be obtained for a small fee from Companies House.


Eco CommunitiesAccording to Bexley council, making up to £100,000 by voluntary effort over each of the past eight years counts for nothing compared to a company £53,000 in debt fronted by an ex-Conservative Bexley councillor.

Councillor Stefano Borella was accused of suggesting corruption, which he denied - the audio recording will reveal the truth - but it would be surprising if the word did not cross the mind of more than just one councillor.

I doubt this will be the last we have heard of this shabbiest of decisions by the shabbiest of councils.

 

12 November (Part 1) - Keeping it off the balance sheet

Linda BaileyThe appointment of Stuart Crichton as principal of Bexley’s Adult Education Colleges definitely looks a bit odd. First he is a consultant being awarded lucrative contracts by Bexley council, then he’s shuffled into a new job for which he has no obvious qualifications and allegedly ponces off the backs of long serving deputies.

Then the story goes around that courses that don’t make a profit are quickly closed down. It’s not my area of expertise but I would have thought that financially speaking, educational courses are a matter of some you win and some you don’t, otherwise no obscure subject would ever be taught.

Interpreting Bexley’s ‘Over £500’ expenditure is no one’s idea of fun and an inexact science, but there are reasons to believe that SC Partners might not be unconnected with the mysterious Mr. Crichton. Does he get college principal pay on top of his consultancy fees or is what is on the council’s spreadsheet just the half of it? And if it is simply ‘salary’ as stated, shouldn’t a school head’s pay be subject to PAYE?


SC partners
As far as I can tell from earlier months, the £5,850 is paid monthly and the £18,000 is some sort of quarterly bonus. Nothing in Bexley is totally honest open and translucent but for those with influential friends in high places, the gravy train still runs on schedule.

 

11 November (Part 3) - Tories vote against the celebration of ethnic diversity

Full council meetings are very often blessed with motions. Maybe blessed is not the right word though motions might be. Personally I would be more inclined to regard them as a curse; they take up a lot of time and I have little idea why councillors propose them. Perhaps it is to allow them to pose like an MP in the Commons and spew out their thoughts while pretending they are Very Important People. There have been lots of them in Bexley over the years; recently motions have applauded the idea of a tunnel at Silvertown, praised gay marriage and deplored the cost of energy. Frequently the subject has little or no bearing on Bexley or at least none which the council can influence, but they do it just the same for their 15 minutes of glory.

Last Wednesday councillor Alex Sawyer stood to “acknowledge the positive contribution of most immigrants” but “urged the government to greatly reduce immigration levels”. It could have been a tightrope walk beneath which was the yawning chasm of racism but Alex did not get close to falling into it.

Some key facts from Alex’s speech…


• 92% of Bexley residents who responded to a survey placed immigration at the top of their list of matters of concern.
• Local resources are already stretched and cannot be stretched a great deal further.
• Most immigrants have made Bexley a better place.
• In 1997 there were 327,000 immigrants, ten years later 596,000 were coming in to the country every year.
• Foreign nationals in Bexley have doubled in the past ten years.


His theme throughout was that government should work more closely with local councils to ensure the views of residents were heard.

In seconding the motion councillor Alan Downing took the opportunity to take a swipe at the Labour government for its lax border controls and general encouragement to all and sundry and many will agree with him, undoubtedly the Blair years changed the character of the country for ever.

AmendmentCouncillor Munir Malik then piped up with an amendment. It looks to be an entirely reasonable amendment to me. I might be surrounded where I live by people who speak with strong foreign accents but I’ve yet to meet one who I’d like to see the back of, although I would be happier if certain Africans learned to use their refuse bins.

In the ensuing debate councillor Seán Newman suggested that Alex Sawyer’s speech was in response to the UKIP threat to Conservatives. Maybe he is right

You’d think that Alex Sawyer would welcome the extra paragraph. Who wants to see racism and xenophobia? Nobody you might think, but you’d be wrong. Bexley council, well the Conservatives anyway, do not want to put a few extra words between it and racism and xenophobia. With the honourable exception of councillor Peter Catterall every single Tory voted to reject the amendment.

Why do they do it and risk being labelled racists? Probably for the sole reason it was a Labour amendment. Everything from Labour must be ridiculed and voted down. Peter Catterall was kicked out of the cabinet a couple of years ago presumably for an excess of integrity. Now he is standing down altogether. I suspect you can understand why.

 

11 November (Part 2) - Gallions Housing “rapped”

My comment about Gallions Housing Association lavishing all the money they are grabbing from their tenants in dubious circumstances on a failed Chief Executive, was, it would appear, inadequately researched. I am grateful to the Thamesmead residents who have added to my store of knowledge.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Regulation Committee, whoever they may be, has said that Gallions has failed its ‘Serious Detriment’ test by failing to comply with gas safety regulations at one of its properties. More to the point, the HCA is not too happy about Gallions paying its former Chief Executive, Tony Cotter, the highest salary in the country on a per property basis. Mr. Cotter is on record as saying that housing associations should adopt “a more commercial approach”. You can see what he meant by that.

Further report at the Inside Housing website. Bexley council appointed councillor Melvin Seymour to keep an eye on Gallions. A whitewash expert if I remember correctly.

 

11 November (Part 1) - They didn’t remember

Poppy MayorOur MPs were all out at the war memorials yesterday, James in Sidcup, David in Crayford and Teresa in Erith. The mayor went to East Wickham church but where were most of our councillors? Not in Bexley, that is for sure.

The service at the Bexley memorial was as you might imagine organised by the Ex-Servicemen’s Club and the local churches. They asked the police if they would be present and were told ‘only if you pay’. As a further respectful gesture they gave a warning that if any part of the 200 strong gathering strayed into the road, it would be regarded as an offence. So the traffic couldn’t be halted even for two minutes.

No councillors there either. Alan Downing, Colin Campbell and Colin Tandy all had more interesting things to do.

 

10 November - Question time

After the deputation from Howbury Friends at Wednesday’s council meeting the mayor allowed questions. As she had rejected every single one from members of the public lacking political affiliations and those from Conservative party candidates are designed only to win favour with cabinet members, I do not intend to give ‘public’ questions further air time. Instead I’ll launch straight into councillors’ questions. The first came from councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour Party) to cabinet member Linda Bailey (Nasty Party).

Biffa Bailey“Could the cabinet member live on the minimum wage?” Biffa replied “I live within my means” to widespread groans from the public gallery. Councillor Langstead then asked Biffa if she would care to join her and councillor Chris Ball in making such an attempt. Four seconds later Brenda got her answer. “No.”

Don MasseyCouncillor Borella asked cabinet member Don Massey how many Slade Green residents are excited by his preferred Howbury bidder. Donald didn’t know but said they had “every reason to be excited”. Stefano said that was not the feedback he was getting and went on to ask how a rejection of a local volunteer group fitted in with Localism. “It is not decided yet” Massey said; “but the panel felt that in three out of five sections the Eco Communities bid was superior”.

After councillor Peter Craske provided his leader with an opportunity to taunt councillor Munir Malik, councillor Melvin Seymour asked for “an update” on the proposal to relocate local historical services to Bromley. Cabinet member Don Massey said no decision had been made but it was not a statutorily required service. He proposed that more of the services be provided on line in future. Councillor Maggie O’Neill asked if anyone had considering moving Bromley’s services to Bexley but Massey told her he “does not believe Bromley are into that. It is not on the table”.

The mayor then announced that the 19 minutes (four stolen from the public questions session) she had allowed for councillor’s questions had elapsed, so the remaining 25 went unheard. It would have been interesting to know how paying three years’ worth of senior staff pension contributions up front (Munir Malik’s question) at a time when the council has a £38 million black hole will benefit residents, but sadly we will probably never know.

 

9 November (Part 3) - She can’t stop them coming. The lies that is

Following the decision to allow recording at council meetings Bexley council issued a press release. It contained one massive lie.
Press Release
Really? Never been opposed? What is the truth of the matter? This perhaps? (FOI response.)
The truth
And what happens if someone doesn’t ask permission? This FOI question and answer sheds some light on the matter.
FOI
That was of course the notorious occasion on which John Kerlen was caught with a video camera in the assembly area outside the council chamber and was set upon by councillor Biffa Bailey for his pains. John Kerlen was subsequently banned from attending any future council meetings. Then Bexley council pulled its masterstroke and had him arraigned before the beak on trumped up charges. Ultimately found not guilty but not before one councillor perjured himself in the witness box and another made up a story that ensured John spent 24 hours in the cells. "We have never been opposed to the principle of recording meetings.” Ha bloody ha!

O'NeillMore recently Nicholas Dowling produced an audio recorder in the council chamber. The police were called and Cheryl Bacon has told a hundred lies to hide the truth. As we stood as the mayor exited the chamber last Wednesday I took a second photograph (Part 3 yesterday) from my designated position from which I could see almost nothing while sitting down as instructed. In the background is an out of focus Teresa O’Neill. Does it look as though she approves of my lens?

Please stop lying Teresa, I’m finding it hard to keep up.

 

9 November (Part 2) - Abbey Wood, a foreign land

My nearest shopping road is split down the middle by the Bexley/Greenwich boundary. The shops are not up to much, I’ve only been in two of them this year, same last year, though I do use both frequently. There is a Post Office too which is useful.

You can always tell when you have strayed into the Socialist Republic of Greenwich because the litter bins are overflowing and the footpath is ingrained with gum and other detritus. On the other hand you can park on the Greenwich side of the road with little chance of seeing a warden, unlike on the Bexley side where shoppers must be on their guard constantly. Occasionally Bonkers has to stray across the boundary for news of interest to those of us in Bexley’s Northern Territories.

Abbey Wood Post Office
It would appear that Greenwich council has slung out the proposal to build flats on the Post Office site.

Cross Quarter
Not to be confused with Crossrail but the plans for a hotel and a Sainsbury’s supermarket on Harrow Manorway, close to the railway station, have been approved after overcoming a few bureaucratic obstacles.

Gallions Housing Association
This one may bring a smile to the faces of some Bexley council watchers I could name. Gallions handed over £397,000 to its Chief Executive Tony Cotter when he left the association, most of which he was not entitled to and it has been ruled that it broke charity law. If the decision is upheld Gallions’ governing board members will have to stump up the money themselves.

You may read all about it here.

And what has this to do with Bexley council? Well Gallions is under the watchful eye of Bexley councillor Melvin Seymour. James Spencer is involved too. Where does the buck stop?

 

9 November (Part 1) - The Cheryl Bacon Index

I have been looking for missing documents to add to the Bacon Index but not everyone keeps all their emails securely. Two referrals to the Monitoring Officer have been added, one under the Barnbrook/Cheryl Bacon heading (4th September), the other under Barnbrook/Colin Campbell (23rd September).

Elwyn Bryant has told me he recalls using the word ‘debacle’ in a complaint made a day or two after he was shut out of Cheryl’s public meeting which casts a little doubt on what was written on 5th November. On the other hand for that word to turn up in a council response nearly five months later makes coincidence a distinct possibility. Or maybe the confusion in the Civic Centre knows no bounds. Either way, I didn’t write what Mrs. Tyler claims I did.

 

8 November (Part 4) - Planted questions

Please forgive me if I think rigging council question time and planting questions is fairly small beer. It doesn’t really compare to the council leader marching off to the police station to suggest I might impale councillors on farm implements and burn down their HQ. Nor is it in the same league as impersonating me on the web and filling their criminal page with obscenities, neither does it trump unlawfully shutting me out of a public meeting and then lying about it; but it does demonstrate Bexley’s underlying predisposition to dishonesty and deception.

I don’t get upset about it because all Bexley’s fiddling around with democracy is grist to my mill and hopefully another few hundred web hits, time constraints ensure that formal complaints come from elsewhere.

You don’t have to be clairvoyant to guess that Michael Barnbrook put in the first complaint about all his questions being rejected and every single one tabled coming from an election candidate and the Tories could easily have put their questions directly to their mates in the Conservative Club.

Conor Lucking’s admission to Mr. Barnbrook that he only asked a question because councillor John Davey (Lesnes ward) asked him to is particularly damning. It was overheard by would-be UKIP councillor for Lesnes, Chris Attard. Chris commented on his blog and complained to councillor Davey. He replied as follows…


Many thanks for your email. Using this criteria, I would guess that you would put yourself in the category of a non-genuine resident as I understand that you are standing for UKIP and yet you asked a question at a Council meeting! Is this one rule for you and another for everybody else?


Chris AttardChris Attard did indeed put a question at last April’s meeting so Davey’s response might have been appropriate were it not for two things. April was fully two months before UKIP accepted Chris as a candidate, and more importantly, how can any UKIP person plant a question in the manner indulged in by Tories? By definition Tory activists have access to Bexley council’s ruling party; no UKIP candidate has such privileges, they are no better off than you or me. Maybe councillor John Davey cannot see the difference; after all he is not very bright. If he was this website would be unlikely to exist at all.

Andy Smith, the Labour ‘plant’ is not in the same category as Conservatives Tosin Femi-Adedayo and Conor Lucking. Andy has no access to the inner circle either. Tosin F.A. refers to herself as The Female Boris. What? With hair as dark as hers? Tell us a joke in Latin, Tosin.

Teresa O’Neill takes a similar line to Davey. She too has told Chris that her stooges are ordinary members of the public. Rubbish, they’ve all been groomed by the local big-wigs and passed the selection processes. You can’t do that without getting your foot well and truly over the threshold. Either O’Neill is no brighter than Davey or she takes us all for idiots.

Take a look at Chris’s UKIP site (News) and read the whole story.

 

8 November (Part 3) - Recording council meetings

Deputy Mayor and councillor Don MasseyThe mayor‘s generous decision to allow “filming” at last Wednesday’s council meeting before the revised Constitution was formally approved was, as far as I know, totally ignored, in the literal sense at least. I am not aware of any video recording being made but I did have a bash at making a sound recording.

With only a few hours notice I dug a couple of old microphones out of the loft and knocked together a makeshift stand for them; I doubt anyone would appreciate the real thing stuck in the doorway which is where I had to agree to operate from.

I decided to record on four channels simultaneously in the hope that at least one would produce the goods. In the event, microphones pointing at councillors’ backsides were perfectly adequate, the voices are clear if not always as loud as they might be, but the dynamic range created by bangs on my desk had to be accommodated and there is such a thing as a playback volume control. I made one silly mistake and overlooked the obvious fact that four channels would fill the memory card twice as fast as stereo so I had to nick the reserve card out of my camera half way through the meeting. Silly when I had a larger card going spare at home and I should have known that a two and a half hour recording would get close to flattening two fresh Duracells. Things will be better next time.

One advantage of the notebook and pencil method is that the highlights are written down and anything I cannot remember is lost for ever. Now I have a surfeit of information and transcribing it takes ages. I suspect we are about to see more council meetings reported one Agenda item at a time.

The photography was useless due to the council imposed position having no view of the proceedings. It’s going to take a bit of practice to choose the best of many auto-focusing options or maybe I’ll go for an extreme wide angle lens for its extensive depth of field and rely on an excess of megapixels to blow up the main subject. I hope Teresa O’Neill doesn’t report me for that comment, it’s probably worse than pitchforks! Maybe a simple ‘point and shoot’ with its huge depth of field is the better option, but there again the poor lighting may defeat it. I suspect I will rarely bother, who wants to see their mugs anyway?

 

8 November (Part 2) - The Howbury Friends deputation to Bexley council

mayorThe first item on Wednesday’s Agenda was the deputation by Howbury Friends (HF), a group of unpaid volunteers that has in just a few years raised nearly half a million pounds for their community. Bexley council is proposing to throw them on the scrap heap in favour of their apparently penniless business partners Eco Computers/Communities/Learning. Mrs. Melanie Hudson put the HF case to a council which has clearly already made up its mind.

She told us of the HF’s vision for the future which involves 35 partnerships with other charitable organisations such as Charlton Athletic Community Trust and The Big Local. A minimum of £1 million pounds of funding over ten years had been secured but Mrs. Hudson related how cabinet member Don Massey had praised Eco Communities’ track record of running similar facilities elsewhere when scant evidence of that exists. After the mayor asked Melanie to “wrap up”, councillor Brenda Langstead was invited to speak.

The Labour councillor asked how much money had been raised for Slade Green - answer, well over £400,000 - and enquired about the numbers helped - well over 500 a week. Mrs. Hudson said they have only one part time member of staff and huge numbers of volunteers.

Councillor John Wilkinson said he had been at a meeting in Slade Green and no one asked questions about the Howbury Friends situation, insinuating that no one was interested. Mrs. Hudson said that her petition had raised more than 2,000 signatures in Slade Green. May I remind Melanie that it was cabinet member Don Massey who proposes rejecting the HF bid who also took the decision to put Elwyn Bryant’s 2,219 signature petition straight in the bin unread?

Cabinet member Don Massey was next to speak asking Mrs. Hudson why she objected to an outside enterprise being brought in and proceeded to reel off a list of their achievements which I am not alone in being unable to verify. He seemed to particularly relish telling Mrs. H. that Eco Learning scored a lot higher on financial standing apparently ignorant of the true position revealed by their filed accounts and Mrs. Hudson asked how Eco Learning managed to score higher on Finance. Answer came there none.

Melanie HudsonCouncillor Stefano Borella (Labour) asked Melanie what the impact on the local community would be if the Lewisham based group took over the community centre. She said one big difference was that Eco Learning planned an £8 charge for after school clubs and Howbury friends charges only £1. No one can afford £8 and it will lead to increased crime levels, she said. The whole community will suffer.

’Biffa’ Bailey embarked on a political speech referring to the £8 million found by Bexley council for Howbury improvements and asked if HF had sat down with the preferred bidder to discuss plans. Silly question; of course the HF’s committee had met the Eco people. They said they could easily get help by offering to pay, including the existing volunteers if necessary.

Mrs. Hudson reminded Biffa that the council’s £8·6 million investment came from selling off the old site for £14 million. Slade Green had in effect funded the council, not the other way around. The audience cheered Melanie on while the council was reminded that half the £8 million went on schools which is a statutory responsibility. HF one BB nil. The mayor at this point said that Mrs. Hudson was making a political speech and told her to stop and very soon afterwards the mayor said that time was up. With all the most influential cabinet members anxious to put Mrs. Hudson down, the way the vote will go come 12th November cannot be in much doubt.

Is it just me that thinks of Theresa May and her ‘Nasty Party’ comment every time councillor Linda Bailey opens her mouth? I find it hard to imagine a nastier woman.

Eco Learning is apparently the new name for Eco Communities, adopted earlier this year in a further effort to impress Bexley council.

 

8 November (Part 1) - Common sense disabled

Conservative councillors in Bexley can be totally dismissive of petitions and deputations as was seen again on Wednesday and it reminded me that the same attitude was to be seen at last week’s planning meeting. The redeveloped, in my opinion wrecked, Black Horse development in Sidcup still flounders from one crisis to another and the latest idea is to turn it into an Adult Education College. For those unfamiliar with the territory, the Black Horse is next to and pretty much part of the Waitrose building in downtown Sidcup where, as is well known, car parking space is at a premium.

The proposals in that regard at the Black Horse are, to say the least, rather unusual. College staff are to get priority, they will have an alocation of six spaces. At the end of the queue are dsabled students. Their two spaces are to be put as far from the college as is possible. On leaving their vehicle a disabled driver will have to somehow travel across the whole length of the underground car park, up a slope, turn to go up another slope and then turn again and go through the entire length of Waitrose’s car park to the back door of the college - and on the way out all the way back again.

The planning department recommended it and when the planning committee was told about it they were not in the slightest bit interested and waved through their approval. Priority for staff and to hell with the disabled? Our friend Stuart Crichton couldn’t be behind this could he?

 

7 November (Part 4) - Two more firsts

Today was not the best day to ‘house sit’ at a friend’s place to await the Openreach man due to install fibre broadband this morning. He turned up in the early afternoon and then I was lumbered with installing a network printer on every machine on the network. Easy, but very time consuming. Spending a total of 116 minutes on Bexley’s congested roads is not my idea of fun either.

So any chance of a council meeting report today has evaporated but what are these two extra firsts? One is a blog submission from Mr. Barnbrook; he supplies Bonkers with loads of material but this is the first time he has prepared it for publication. And what is the second first? His subject matter. For the first time at a council meeting, Bexley rejected every single question from genuine members of the public and accepted questions only from political stooges.

They’ve been close to it before, two of the previous meeting’s questions came from political plants who could have asked their questions at the bar of their local Conservative club any time they wanted. But that wouldn’t give an opportunity for political grandstanding by a cabinet member. Last time it was Lesnes ward candidates Elizabeth Anderson and Keima Allen licked the cabinet members’ boots. This time it was Conservatives Tosin Femi-Adedayo and Conor Lucking, aided and abetted by Labour hopeful Andy Smith. Let Mick Barnbrook tell you what happened before the meeting had even started…


Intending to complain about the continued use of political plants to exclude public questioning, I approached my ward councillor Katie Perrior before the meeting and asked if she would take up a complaint on my behalf if I wrote to her? She asked me what was my complaint.

I said it was the fact that three council candidates were asking questions in the period set aside for ordinary members of the public thereby denying them the opportunity to engage in the democratic process. She said she would not accept my complaint and when I asked Why? she said “It is of no interest to me”.

I then spoke to a young man and asked him if he was Conor Lucking, a candidate in next year’s election. He said “yes”.

I said why are you asking a question at the meeting when there are other forums open to you to obtain the same information?”. He replied, “Because councillor John Davey asked me to”.

Councillor Philip Read spoke to Miss Tosin Femi-Adedayo before the meeting and again during question time.


As mentioned earlier today, John Kerlen who was sitting immediately behind Miss Femi-Adedayo, has reported the incident and with additional facts and it really ought to be read in conjunction with the above. It is remarkably free of rude words, by Olly’s standards anyway.

Mr. Barnbrook’s rejected question queried the payment of allowances to a councillor who is unable to fulfil her obligations due to ill health; she was not at last night’s meeting. By hiding the fact from the public, depriving them of representation and making payments without justification Teresa O’Neill ought to be guilty of a criminal offence. Maybe she is.

List of Conservative candidates for the 2014 council elections. Four of them, if they manage to get elected, have ensured themselves a warm welcome on Bonkers.

 

7 November (Part 3) - A Bexley First

It was good of the mayor Sharon Massey to allow ‘filming’ of last night’s meeting before the proposal to allow it had been formally adopted and I decided in advance I would accept all the conditions that were likely to be imposed. I’ve never been convinced that recording council meetings is a worthwhile exercise; I can see it might stop the sort of lying that followed June’s Public Realm meeting, but beyond that I really can’t see the point. A few photographs might be nice.

Recently the council has been providing a desk for me to sit at and write my notes and most of the time I don’t use it because you cannot see who is speaking from it. Last night they insisted I did if I was going to take photographs. The desk is so far offset from the centre of procedings that another couple of feet, literally, would put it outside the chamber. It is lower down than all the councillors, it is lower than almost all members of the public and affords a view only of councillors backs of heads and backsides. I could have taken a telephoto shot of councillors John Fuller, Katie Perrior and Chris Taylor but chose not to. No one else was within vision.

Poking long lenses into people’s faces is not something I want to do in what is after all their domain. I asked to go to the back of the public gallery which is up high and provides a good view but permission was refused. I was also told that standing up from my lowly position might be interpreted as disrupting the meeting.

I grabbed two shots of the mayor, one of her entering the chamber and another leaving it, but even that was less than satisfactory as hidden behind the door I had no forewarning of her approach. As a result the picture of her is not too bad but it is hardly a credit to the photographer.

RecorderThe audio recording could have been better too. I chose to record four channels simultaneously. Two mics pointing in the general direction of the councillors’ behinds (which may be appropriate) and two picking up local sounds. A loudspeaker was not far away. The result has something of the bathroom about it. If I repeat the exercise I'll have to take a blanket to put over the table and I had to take quite enough clobber already. Just like I thought, a pencil and notebook is so much easier.

If the DCLG is reading this I would say that Bexley council may be within the letter of the law but not the spirit. Filming from a position that provides no view is not a lot of use. When I brought my concerns to the appropriate officer at the end of the meeting he said "but the press always sits there” to which I replied “yes, but they have never been able to take photographs before”. The penny showed every sign of dropping. Maybe things will improve later.

 

7 November (Part 2) - Farce about Ace

Mainly because there is something else I must do and partly because recording was allowed at last night’s council meeting there is unlikely to be a council meeting report here today. Fortunately someone else has wasted no time in reporting it, or at least one aspect of it. John Kerlen (aka Olly Cromwell) has dipped his keyboard into his pot of vitriol already. He was the first to spot that the Conservatives have been planting questions again and to the total exclusion of genuine members of the public. He has given his opinion on his blog. Actually, if what I have heard can be confirmed, things are rather worse than he describes.

 

7 November (Part 1) - Broadway bodging

Hole Paving ChurchOn my way to last night’s council meeting I passed these new ‘holes’ in the newly regenerated Broadway. It would appear that extra tactile paving for the blind is being installed, or maybe the existing paving is being relaid.

There have been rather a lot of changes to Broadway since the original design, not least of course that the colours are not what was put before the public during the consultation.

 

6 November (Part 2) - Recording council meetings

The proposal to allow the recording of Bexley’s meetings goes before the full council tonight and to be honest I suspected there would be some sort of fudge or double-cross. However when I looked at the Agenda yesterday which begins with the words “Audio/Visual recording of this meeting is not permitted without the prior approval of the Chairman”, Appendix 11(c) on Page 83 seemed reasonable to me. True they retain the right to stop recording, but it is their building and no one knows exactly how things will pan out in practice. Caution is obviously necessary but it looks like a reasonable start, assuming the council passes the proposals put forward by the Constitutional Review Panel.

Among those interested in recording there has been a debate about whether it would be acceptable to record this evening’s meeting but I am always one for playing a straight bat on these things and waiting for the vote was clearly the right thing to do. This view eventually prevailed.

Council chamberElwyn Bryant thought he should check out the legal position with Eric Pickles’ office. It was obvious to him the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has been taking a close interest in the Bexley situation and they said he should be allowed to take photographs at this evening’s meeting. He reminded them of Bexley council’s tendency to call the police. They knew all about that too and made their view on it very clear. Thus encouraged Elwyn phoned Bexley council only to be given the inevitable “No”. He thought that was the end of the matter, he couldn’t use his camera at one more meeting. So what?

Then yesterday the DCLG rang Elwyn. A combination of a strong ethnic accent and Elwyn’s less than perfect hearing made for a difficult conversation but he got the firm impression they were telling him he should photograph this evening’s meeting. In view of the council’s refusal on Monday he decided not to bother but at 9 a.m. this morning a call came from Kevin Fox who organises Bexley council meetings. The mayor, he said, had authorised recording at this evening’s meeting. Certain arrangements were to be put in place but in principal the ban on recording was lifted.

When I was a teenager I made a stereo tape recorder out of plywood, bent aluminium sheet, plus lots of valves and badly soldered wires. It sparked an interest in audio visual recording which has lasted to this day. I shall now have to clamber into the loft to see if there is a microphone up there that could be pressed into use on a hand held recorder.

If I succeed in making a recording do not expect it to be available here. It will be an aide-memoire to complement my inadequate speed writing skills; that’s all. As far as I am concerned, nothing much is likely to change. Maybe the quality of photographs will improve over the one above obtained by a visitor from Oxford.

Have you noticed how Mayor Sharon Massey is now half way through her term of office and has yet to get a bad report on Bonkers? Looks like she’ll get through another month unscathed.

 

6 November (Part 1) - More readers’ comment

It’s probably a little lazy to rely on readers’ comments for a second consecutive day but sometimes the schedule gets rather hectic and there are several things I must do before this evening’s council meeting. I shall take my camera in the hope the banner wavers outside the Civic Centre will provide a picture or two for the report. Maybe the police will be there to show us that they still happily dance to Teresa O’Neill’s tune.

Yesterday’s postbag told me that not issuing parking permit reminders has claimed more victims than three and that the idea of universal water meters is not universally welcomed, especially by those with long-term medical conditions. But it’s not an obvious Bexley council issue though you can bet your life they knew it was coming and said nothing. The following message which I have again rewritten slightly to protect sources quite clearly is a Bexley council issue…


Sorry for being unable to give my email address but I have close connections with Bexley council and councillors so I’m a bit paranoid. You know how they are. To be fair to council officers, they're working under a reign of terror from above, with Teresa O’Neill and her allies constantly peering over their shoulders.

Anyway, what I wondered is whether you have reported the councillors to the Standards Board for England, or if you have reported their lying lawyer to the Law Society? They have a duty to uphold professional standards, I would send them a pack of evidence and ask them to investigate.

Good luck with the blog, keep it up!


I’m afraid the Standards Board for England has been abolished. Eric Pickles has this quaint idea that councils are comprised of good upstanding people who will always do what is right and can set their own standards, when the plain fact is that in Bexley the council is run by a secretive coterie of people little better than small time crooks.

I had a meeting with Mick Barnbrook last week to discuss ongoing issues and in one of the inevitable digressions he reminded me that the only time we have dented Bexley council is when matters are referred to outside bodies. The Local Government Ombudsman, the Information Commissioner, the police in the hope they are not too often subjected to the “political interference” they admitted to in the Craske case. We agreed that complaining to Bexley council and getting the usual runaround of lies is not the way forward. Whatever Bexley council tries on next in their attempt to wriggle Cheryl Bacon off her hook, her name along with that of Nick Hollier and Lynn Tyler will definitely be going to Scotland Yard and Lynn Tyler’s will additionally be reported to the Law Society for aiding and abetting a crime. Akin Alabi¹s too if he doesn’t intercede soon.

 

5 November (Part 2) - Councillor Cheryl Bacon exposed due to council error. More evidence that she lied

Cheryl BaconI was a little slow to analyse Mrs. Tyler’s most recent excuse sheet for councillor Cheryl Bacon’s unlawful exclusion of members of the public from the Public Realm meeting on 19th June. The fact is I read her conclusion, noted that Bacon was found not guilty by the failed lawyer employed by Bexley council and assumed the same old lies had been trotted out. How wrong I was.

Bexley council’s standard practice with complaints is to summarise the complaint at the start of their reply. The summary provided to me clearly showed that Mrs. Tyler had muddled me up with someone else. Someone prepared to say “The member of the public allegedly at the centre of the “debacle” was not preventing the meeting from occurring… [he was] sitting quietly reading the guidance about attending public meetings issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government”. That statement is clearly about Nicholas Dowling and looks likely to have come from a councillor. If so I know which one it it is but I hope you will understand that the name has to remain secret - at least until the file goes to the police.

So from right inside the bear pit you have confirmation that Nicholas Dowling did nothing to disrupt the meeting other than clutch a non-functioning match box sized recorder. The other members of the public present did even less, certainly none of the shouting waving, remonstrating decribed by the deluded, law breaking, caught like a rabbit in the headlights, Cheryl Bacon.

Whilst Bexley council can take six weeks to fail to answer my complaint, they allow only three to respond to their nonsense; so I have had to get a move on. My request for a review went in this morning. The general drift was…


Mrs Tyler's reasoning is puzzling. She finds councillor Bacon was not in error when she decided against a vote before moving into Closed Session. This is irrelevant, I did not mention or complain about voting.

Mrs. Tyler has said that councillor Bacon was not in breach of any Standing Order. Once again irrelevant as I made no such complaint.

Mrs. Tyler makes reference to a "debacle" and a "member of the public reading the guidance about attending public meetings issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government". My complaint did not include the word debacle or the phrase about the DCLG nor did I make any reference to "councillor Bacon prevented the meeting from continuing". Not a word of Mrs. Tyler's summary is true, a fact easily confirmed by reading my complaint again. Mrs. Tyler would appear to be creating fictional complaints to suit her lame excuses.


The whole thing may be read here. The main Index to the Cheryl Bacon lying saga has been revamped to hopefully make it easier to read. I shall attempt to locate the missing documents in due course.

 

5 November (Part 1) - News

Residents’ Parking Permits - a warning
In the past three months three people have told me that Bexley council no longer sends out renewal reminders for their £100/£120 residents’ parking permits. Two of them were fined as a result. Saving the cost of a stamp and issuing one or more £65 fines is obviously good business. The managers who decided that this change was a good one can only be described as “scum of the earth”. Be warned!

Water bills
Two people tipped me off about a BBC news item also reported by the News Shopper but I cannot find any direct Bexley council connection. However it may be worth mentioning that Thames Water is plannning for Bexley residents to be guinea pigs in a roll out of Smart Meters.

Thames Water, like all the utilities, are basically con-men and they would have you believe that metered water can be a lot cheaper, especially for people like me who live alone in a Band E house. When everyone is on a meter paying potentially lower bills do you think that Thames Water will be happy with the reduced revenues? No of course not, they will just whack up the per litre charges to compensate.

These smart meters are going to be wi-fi equipped. What good that is to people like me who don’t have a smart phone and network cabled the house ten years ago, so have no need of wi-fi, I don’t know. Unlike most people my mains water stop-cock is not out in the street, it's about 25 feet inside my boundary in my front garden. Don’t be surprised if a large lead bottomed flower tub is placed on top of it.

Protests scheduled
I was hoping the Howbury Friends might be out in force at tomorrow evening’s council meeting with banners and the like. For all I know they may be but the Historical Societies will likely outnumber them. They are not taking cabinet member Don Massey’s proposal to shift our history out to Bromley lying down and quite right too.

My suspicion is that this idiotic piece of penny pinching is a sacrificial lamb, just like councillor Craske’s Lollypop ladies were three years ago. They dropped the plan and claimed it justified the fatuous ‘Listening To You’ slogan.

 

4 November (Part 2) - More Howbury stuff

At no time have I been in contact with the leaders of Howbury Friends which is probably a good thing; their association with me probably wouldn’t go down too well with Bexley council. However there has been a steady trickle of whispers from people who should be in the know.

The involvement of Jonathan Rooks who runs Bexley Village library with the new Eco Communities company is not fully explained. Apparently his organisation, Greener Bexley, grew out of a charity called Frobloms. Someone from Lewisham claimed that Eco Communities had no library experience in that borough, as the company had claimed. Maybe their predecessor Eco Computers took away old library computers for recycling, because that was their business activity. One can only surmise that Greener Bexley was co-opted to plug the library hole in Eco Communities’ bid.

It is reported that the new company told Bexley council it was sufficiently well funded to be able to lower The Howbury Centre rents paid by voluntary groups. Their accounts cast some doubt on their ability to do so and they were presumably ignorant of the fact that some rents are already waived completely.

Eco Communities said they would be able to run Child Care for as little as £8 a session. Howbury Friends charge £1. Eco Communities said they would be able to pay the volunteers for their service. The volunteers said they did not want to be paid.

The new company’s name is still in doubt. Sometimes it is called Eco Communities and at other times Eco Learning. The people concerned are all the same so it probably does not matter except to illustrate the labyrinthine manoeuvrings helping to conceal the truth.

The above information is from more than one source, documented only in the sense that the sources are well connected locally, have been reliable in the past (except the one from Lewisham who is new), and submitted the information in writing.

 

4 November (Part 1) - Bacon headed

MisconductThere’s no need to repeat the Cheryl Bacon story is there? On 6th September I complained about her locking me out of a public meeting and her subsequent cock and bull story about why she did it and on 25th October I received a reply. I must confess that such is the pressure on time due to running this website plus a load of personal chores to sort out I only got around to reading it this morning. I was shocked.

Mrs. Tyler, who has the unfortunate job of covering for councillor Cheryl Bacon’s lies and misjudgments has changed her tune. She previously stated that Bacon admits to announcing a ‘Closed Session’ but made arrangements for Labour Lesnes ward candidate for the 2014 election to be specially sought out and allowed admission while the rest of us were excluded for shouting etc. Mick Barnbrook made two pleas to be allowed in and was told ‘No’ once and ignored the other time.

The Labour man says no one came looking for him and he wasn’t hard to find, but should I now interpret Mrs. Tyler’s letter as meaning I was a favoured person too?
Letter
I don’t know what to make of it. We have been told (untruthfully) that the doorman asked us all to leave and when we refused were kicked out by the police when in fact the police merely asked us what we planned to do next and it was me who said “We’re going home”.

Now Mrs. Tyler appears to be telling me that the doorman didn't ask us to leave, he was on the floor below ready to welcome us into the room to which the meeting had been reconvened.

This beggars belief. I need more time to pick Mrs. Tyler’s letter apart, it looks to me that she has sent me a reply based on a complaint sent by someone else. She refers to me complaining that councillor Bacon failed to call a vote and that action never occurred to me until I heard councillor Borella make the point at the subsequent Public Realm meeting. I didn’t make that complaint or even use the word ‘vote’ in my complaint, yet Tyler insists I did. It must be pandemonium and panic in the Civic Centre now that they are well and truly caught lying again. I need more time to study the implications. See you later.

 

3 November (Part 2) - Eco Communities beat Howbury Friends on Finance by 16·5 points

In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Eco Learning was Eco Computer Systems Limited, then this year it became Eco Communities Limited, just in time to bid for Bexley council’s Howbury Centre contract. Then on 13th February 2013 the same people opened a new, legally speaking, business called Eco Computer Systems. Why the chopping and changing? To give Eco Communities an instant five year history to prove they were neither upstarts nor fly-by-nights. But are they?

In 2008 there was a turnover of £1,930 and the company made a loss. Then the turnover more than doubled and the losses increased but by 2011 turnover had fallen to £3,213 and the losses skyrocketed. More than £25k. In 2012 creditors were owed £53,335.

If you check out Eco Communities at a Credit Agency you will find they score 19 points out of 100 and are noted “Cash transactions preferred”.

This doesn’t look too good either…
County court
And this from the company that Bexley council rated 16·5 points above Howbury Friends who can raise a £100,000 in a year without having to pay company directors.

 

3 November (Part 1) - What do they know?

Bexley MagazineThe website www.whatdotheyknow.com provides a facility for submitting Freedom of Information requests and having your reply published on their website automatically. It occasionally reveals interesting stuff about Bexley council, however a few weeks ago it provided more of a giggle than anything truly insightful. After successfully using the site for some years, Bexley council decided its IT system was unique in that it was unable to communicate with whatdotheyknow.com.

There was a similar response to another FOI a month earlier that may shed more light on Bexley’s imaginery problem. In true Bexley fashion it was never answered.

The relevant FOI eventually revealed that the Bexley magazine costs around £72,000 a year. I wonder if that includes the editorial and distribution costs? Speaking to the delivery person not so long ago I was told that they not only get paid for their little job, they earn a small pension too.

List of Bexley council’s What Do They Know entries.

 

2 November (Part 2) - Crossrail news

Station sign Flats lose ground House being demolishedAbbey Wood’s station car park is currently half closed and a fortnight on Monday it will be shut completely. How that will affect commuter parking in adjacent streets remains to be seen but so far the effect on the south side of the tracks has been minimal.

The same cannot be said for every nearby resident. The flats to the north, built only five or six years ago have lost what little garden they had to provide room for the terminal track. Sold at the height of the housing boom, their value had already fallen considerably from that peak, enough to be the subject of an article in one of the London evening papers at one time. Whether the Crossrail effect will come to the rescue of their owners is debateable.

On the other side of the line a house is being readied for demolition. I’m glad I live nearly half a mile away.

 

2 November (Part 1) - Blocked Bridleway 250

The blocking of Bridleway 250 overnight is still making waves but the issue is getting quite complicated. Let me see if I can summarise it.

A Form One, which is the formal request to unblock the highway was submitted to Bexley council and they refused to take action. They said that a police sergeant approved of the closure under Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 which places an obligation on councils to do all that they reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder.

However that Act begins with a paragraph which says it in no way overrules other legislation. eg. the Highways Act, but Bexley council, and so they claim, the police too, chose to disregard that.

So far the police are refusing to talk about it and claim they destroyed the minutes relating to their meeting with the council.

Form Four has been served on Bexley council announcing the intention to take the case to the Magistrates’ Court.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barnbrook believed it appropriate to ask the Crime and Disorder Committee at their last meeting if the decision to abuse Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act had been scrutinised by them. He was refused permission by council officer Kevin Fox to ask the question.

Mr. Barnbrook has therefore taken guidance from Section 19(4) of the Police and Justice Act 2006 under which if a member of a local authority operating executive arrangements (Kevin Fox) declines to refer a matter to the Crime and Disorder Panel, the person who asked him to consider it may refer the matter to the executive of that authority.

The necessary reference to Mr. Tuckley has now been made and his response is awaited.

 

1 November (Part 3) - About turn

Last July Bexley council’s planning committee was pretty scathing about an application to put more than 20 acres of polytunnels behind North Cray Road. Councillors Don Massey, Mike Slaughter and Val Clark in particular all put the boot in. The application was “ridiculous and condescending“. It “beggared belief”. The claims made for it were “tosh”, it was “a blot on the landscape” and would have “significant visual impact”; and last night they nodded it through with barely a whimper. Minds had miraculously been changed and one can only guess at what deals have been done.

If it was a blot on the landscape in July, it will still be a blot now.

 

1 November (Part 2) - Bonkers’ readers are on the ball

Nothing went according to plan today so I have to take the easy way out and get readers to write the second blog.

The anonymous contact facility brings forth the occasional gem and I am convinced that some come from inside Bexley council. In fact I think I can detect one of the correspondents from his writing style. I could be wrong but just to make sure no one else is able to do the same thing I am going to rewrite one received earlier this week.


Good to see the top men at Kendric Ash - the company established by Nick Johnson's good friend Kenneth Mander and fattened up for sale through lucrative contracts with Bexley council that no one else was allowed to bid for - continue to thrive in Bexley. Who says crime doesn't pay?


You will need a good memory to make sense of that one; failing that click the link. Nick Johnson is of course the former Chief Executive who retired on health grounds on a £50k. pension which we are still paying, plus a £300k. golden goodbye, and a couple of months later took up a similar job at Hammersmith and Fulham on even more money.

Another contact form user, not anonymous this time, gets straight to the heart of the Cheryl Bacon affair


For Christ’s sake, why don’t they hold their hands up over the Cheryl Bacon affair and say sorry, we were wrong? Job done.


Exactly right. They should have admitted the mistake within days. Instead they cobbled together excuse notes which looked like they had been fabricated with the sole intention of covering Bacon’s backside and lashing out at members of the public. Now we know that they were exactly that because the control freakery at Bexley council is not totally effective. The lies are effectively proven and if the clowns in charge have any sense they will admit it. If they do so now the matter will be over, no one I know of is looking for a grovelling apology, just an admission that I and others said and did nothing to disrupt that meeting.

If that admission is forthcoming it will forever label councillor Cheryl Bacon a liar but if the council carries on as it is certain documents will go to the police to prove she is. She really shouldn’t have done it, and sheep elect people like her in Bexley because she wears a blue rosette. Frightening isn’t it? And in the past I did just the same!

 

1 November (Part 1) - “Lying”. The word is hostile, abusive, offensive and unreasonable

Cheryl BaconAs you know, Bexley council lies its socks off as normal practice and never more so than when it decides to defend a senior councillor. It’s not Peter Craske and a blog this time; it’s London Assembly Member Gareth Bacon’s missus Cheryl; lying like she was born to it. Very silly when a simple apology for her misjudgment would have ended the matter.

When the lies extended to providing my name to other members of the public - albeit ones I know pretty well - telling them how I had to be excluded from a committee meeting because of my rowdy behaviour I thought things had gone too far and made my first complaint in three years.

Almost needless to say Bexley council took a full month to do nothing about my complaint other than check councillor Cheryl Bacon’s statement which was the source of the lies complained about. For using the word “lying” once in my complaint I was threatened with Bexley council’s vexatious complaints procedure. The top brass at Bexley council must be either idiots or their job security is under threat from corrupt councillors. So I complained about the letter writer and then escalated the original complaint as required by Bexley’s procedures. Here is a flavour of the latter…


Mr. Hollier replied a month later but had only looked at councillor Bacon's statement and found it supported Mrs. Tyler's version of events. He failed to interview any other person as requested which is why I am seeking a review of my complaint. Viz. that Mrs. Tyler failed to properly analyse the four statements included in her FOI response to a member of the public and that her letters to that person and others included untruthful references to my bad behaviour, some by name. The review should include the originally requested interviews with councillors.

I think it is only fair to inform you that further developments have resulted in email correspondence from both political parties supporting my position and the council appears to have just one statement by the guilty party supported by Mrs. Tyler and Mr. Hollier, neither of whom witnessed anything.


The email may be read in full here.

 

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