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Bonkers Blog October 2013

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31 October) - End of month trivia

I don’t propose to make a big effort today as by tomorrow October will be consigned to the relative obscurity of last month’s news; if I manage to alter the redirection code correctly.

Subject Access Request
My SAR to the police should have been answered nearly three months ago and a telephone enquiry as to its progress met with nothing but rudeness from the police. Typical!

Guido Fawkes Blog Order Order
It is a little removed from standard Bonkers’ fare but the political blog at order-order.com recently carried an article on MPs who claim rent in dubious circumstances. Local blogger John Kerlen (aka Olly Cromwell) has blogged how local MPs may be implicated. In his own inimmitable style of course.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon
Bacon’s illegal exclusion of five members of the public from the Public Realm meeting last June continues to rumble on. During the month another councillor indicated dissatisfaction with Bacon and Mick Barnbrook has been invited to see Bexley council’s chief legal officer, presumably to discuss his concerns. Maybe the independent standards person thinks that continual lying and the inevitable consequence of it becoming a police matter is not worth their £2,200 fee.

Whilst this may look encouraging, it has to be said that 24 hours after Mr. Alabi issued that invitation, his side-kick wrote to tell me that Cheryl Bacon did nothing wrong because I was shouting my head off. Probably Mrs. Tyler has ensured that her name will find its way on to a police file marked ‘Misconduct in Public Office’.

Travel disruption
A personal moan if I may…

Because I can see my nearest bus stop from home plus the wonders of TfL’s on line bus times I can usually get from my front door to Bexleyheath on a 229 bus in around 30 minutes. Yesterday it took 63. This was in part because the bus was late but it certainly wasn’t helped by the fact it diverted at Erith’s stinking fish roundabout, all the way to Perry Street, more than a mile. Then it came back on the other side of the dual carriageway and cut along the chicanes of Colyers Lane, managing to totally bypass the shopping area of Northumberland Heath. The traders must be very pleased. Bexley council is messing about with the railway bridge at Queen’s Road.

Three hours later I hitched a lift with a friend from Bexleyheath to Bexley Village. Chapel Road was closed and we were diverted down a lane so small that it is not even shown on my 3·5" to the mile map. It exited on to Tower Road opposite the police station which was gridlocked because of the Broadway regeneration works in Arnsberg Way. How long is it now that Bexley council has been bringing traffic to a halt in its main shopping centre? More than a year I think.

That wasn’t the end of the matter. When we got to Bexley village that was closed too. The only good thing to report is that when I went for my return bus at nine o’clock only to find the bus stop out of use, I had to walk a quarter of a mile towards the A2. Half way there I glanced around to see a 229 about to pass me by and resigned myself to another 15 minute wait.

The bus pulled in at the stop 150 yards away and I silently cursed my luck. However it became apparent that the bus was in no hurry to leave so I half ran and half stumbled to it and clambered aboard expressing my thanks. The driver was very kind to a lady who had mislaid her Oyster Card at Clock Tower too. I think the driver of LX60DVY, who was relieved by another at the bus garage, deserves some sort of commendation. He was a black gentleman. Am I allowed to say that any more? A woman has been banned from a branch of Sainsburys for referring to a delivery driver as a nice black gentleman. Madness!

 

30 October (Part 2) - Howbury point scoring

Eco ConNews of Bexley council’s decision to award the running of the Howbury Community Centre to a new company, Eco Learning, formerly known as Eco Computers, is hard to come by but the following information, whilst arriving via a torturous path, would appear to be genuine.

It would appear that the decision was, as might be expected, made by cabinet member Don Massey, the same Phillistine who made the decision to shunt Bexley’s history off to Bromley. It is reported that he was assisted by a council officer named Kevin Taylor, a name which rang a bell with me and when I rediscovered why found he was the subject of a note from a council informer which I judged could not be published here.

The decision was based on a scoring system applied to each contenders’ presentation. Eco Learning pulled out all the professional stops and beat Howbury Friends by 5·5 points on presentation. Is public speaking an essential skill for running the Centre? However on Operational Plans and Vision for the Future, Howbury narrowly beat Eco Learning. (0·5 points).

Where Howbury missed out big time was on financial backing. The voluntary group which raises up to £100,000 a year lost out by 16·5 points to the glossy prospectus offered by Eco Learning (formerly Eco Computers). The maximum possible points is not revealed.

As mentioned the other day, I have obtained the full set of accounts from Companies House and I really cannot see how this can be justified. Plus signs are in very short supply.

More on this next month.

 

30 October (Part 1) - Bexley Adult Education College compromised

After I saw Stuart Crichton address the Public Realm committee meeting last week and tell councillors how well he was doing I thought I’d take another look at what was effectively his CV on the Adult Education College website. I couldn’t find it, yet only a day or two earlier it was prominently displayed and I had quoted from it.

It seemed likely that someone had second thoughts about making Stuart’s history public. Perhaps in true Bexley fashion there is something not quite right about his appointment after all. I dug a little deeper.

A very little probing turned up the fact that Crichton’s predecessor was Malcolm Tite and that he retired in September 2011.
Minutes
“Stuart Crichton to advise on financial matters” looks to be very significant. It has been alleged that Malcolm Tite had allowed debts to build to something like £600,000 and he was reluctant to relinquish control. According to a man who ought to know he was persuaded by a compromise agreement which added £30,000 to his contractual arrangements.

RetirementPolite words were put out for public consumption, the two vice principals kept the show on the road, working long hours and successfully dragging the college up towards a near excellent OFSTED rating and it’s easy to imagine the external consultant on finance and street services walking in to take the glory. All with no educational qualifications. Who needs them if you are part of the network?

Incidentally, Stuart Crichton’s CV is here. Obviously another high achiever.

 

29 October (Part 3) - Bexley council. Offensive and unreasonable

I managed to find time yesterday to make a complaint against Bexley’s Head of Human Resources for accusing me of hostile, abusive, offensive and unreasonable behaviour for once using the word lying when complaining about Bexley council’s constant lying. And so their refusal to issue a simple apology for a silly mistake escalates to yet another level and costs another bundle of taxpayers’ money, the sole reason being to protect one lying councillor. Extract of email to Chief Executive…


In my first email I asked you to interview members of the Committee other than councillor Cheryl Bacon to get at the truth of this matter. I know, because I have relevant email correspondence, that my claim to have said nothing during the meeting will be supported.

Instead of making that most basic attempt to get at the truth you have allowed Mr. Hollier to answer my complaint by reference only to councillor Bacon's statement to Mrs. Tyler. A somewhat circular turn of events as I am sure you would agree. Councillor Bacon made a largely false statement and sooner or later you will have to accept that she did. Refusing to make further enquiries merely illustrates the endemic dishonesty within Bexley council.


Original letter. Index to blogs and documents on the Cheryl Bacon affair.

 

29 October (Part 2) - Bad link

I don’t suppose this one will last long, but Bexley council doesn’t even spell the name of its Chief Executive correctly on its LinkedIn entry. Not just a typo, it’s wrong twice. And where is this place Bexley Heath anyway?
LinkedIn
Click image for relevant page.

 

29 October (Part 1) - Donald ducks out of history

Council cuts are rarely welcomed but Bexley’s proposal to send the Local Studies and Archives service to Bromley has gone down like a lead balloon with various local history societies. It merited a mention on Arthur Pewty’s blog too. There is even a Twitter account for the protest movement.

Some of Bexley council’s budget proposals may be seen in the table below. There are 44 of them in total.
Cuts
The figures refer to the thousands of pounds allegedly saved in each of the next four years. If senior staff were paid the amount that the government has suggested from time to time, three or four of the cuts shown wouldn’t be necessary. If Don Massey and his wife weren’t such a drain on the taxpayer, £41k. would be saved at a stroke.

Petition.

 

28 October (Part 5) - Eric’s been and gone and done it!

The BBC is reporting on air that councils are to be compelled to allow the recording of meetings. Audio recorder ordered from Amazon!

Friday’s blog refers.
Hansard
Today’s Hansard.

 

28 October (Part 4) - How was Howbury buried?

Something I learned at last week’s Public Realm meeting is that the Howbury deal is not totally fixed yet because it awaits a rubber stamp at the cabinet meeting on 12th November.

The first time the subject came up on Bonkers was at the beginning of this month when an anonymous message was received. I have just received another.

It says that about a month ago, the Bexley Village Library supremo, Jonathan Rooks, allegedly one time prominent Conservative, now head of the local Greens, was holding forth in his library within earshot of the public. My informant says that he claimed to know the result of the Eco Computers/Communities/Learning (or whatever its name is today) bid and it would be announced a day or two later.

Eco Learning would run the Community Centre and he would run the library it was said. Probably Jonathan would make a good job of running the library but having managed to get hold of Eco Wotsits’ accounts back to 2008 I’m not so sure they are all they claim to be. Do you really want a company with County Court Judgements against them given preference over a proven group of volunteers who invest £100,000 a year back into the community?

The situation isn’t smelling any better than it did last week. Don’t forget the Howbury Friends petition.

 

28 October (Part 3) - Crime and Disorder

Alan DowningLast Thursday’s Crime and Disorder Committee meeting was not especially notable. Mick Barnbrook had written in in advance to request permission to ask a question but had been refused. Before the meeting commenced he asked the chairman councillor Alan Downing if he might speak to him. Downing said he was not prepared to speak to Mr. Barnbrook except in the presence of another councillor, and no Tories were around at the time. I have no idea what Mick wished to say but whatever it was it doesn’t sit well with Bexley’s ‘Listening to You’ slogan.

In contrast, councillor Mike Slaughter wandered over to me and Chris Attard, the Lesnes ward UKIP candidate for 2014, for a friendly word or two. I have the impression he didn’t know who I was but maybe he was just being discreet.

Total members of the public present was just four. The Youth Panel who were supposed to show up didn’t. Neither did councillor Cheryl Bacon; I wonder why that was.

The meeting itself was just a catalogue of statistics delivered by police Superintendent Peter Ayling and council officers. The chairman made no preliminary announcement; no welcome to anyone, no warning about recording.

Peter Ayling said burglaries were down 10% this year, criminal damage down 12%, violent crime down 16·5% and that Bexley was improving rather more quickly than other London boroughs. Vehicle crime however presents “challenges”.

On the previous day, Wednesday, there had been eight arrests and nine charges centred on early morning raids on second hand outlets. £6,000 in cash was seized along with 700 mobile phones, 20 of which had already been confirmed as stolen.

Recent weeks had seen an increase in the number of robberies, most of smart phones from young victims in the Thamesmead area and they were getting increasingly violent. Fortunately some good police work had led to arrests.

Councillor Steven Hall asked Ayling how many bicycles, vans and cars were available. Not unnaturally the precise figures weren’t available but 54 bicycles, two moto-cross bikes, three Sprinter (riot) vans, two prison vans and “enough” cars were mentioned. There were fewer cars than last year but their availability was increased following revised maintenance arrangements.

Councillor Brenda Langstead asked if Tasers had been used and was told they had been “once or twice”. You’d think something like that would be known more accurately. They had been drawn more often but not used. Peter Ayling said he was “a real advocate of it” but also said he was glad it had never been tested on him. It should be.

Councillor Alex Sawyer asked about the number of crimes committed by persons born outside the UK. No statistics were to hand but it is a “priority given very close attention”. Compared to other boroughs, Bexley had a very low proportion of foreign nationals going through the custody suite. A couple of Romanians had proved to be very prolific offenders in their home country and been sent back there.

Councillor Michael Tarrant asked about the number of cautions but again no figures were to hand.

A lady from the Probation Service gave a presentation on developments there but the delivery was monotonous and I didn’t understand a word of it. I am therefore grateful to councillor Mike Slaughter for stepping in immediately it was finished to pronounce it “gobbledegook”. The chairman said “we need more explanation”. The lady was asked what effect a reorganisation of the Probation Service would have and except that no redundancies were expected she said nobody could know the effect until a successful bidder was chosen in 2014.

Val ClarkCouncillor Val Clark asked if the Probation Service was introducing change for change’s sake and received the odd reply that had the Service been funded properly they would have done the same - but no one knew what the effect would be.

At this the chairman offered a few kindly words in an effort to prevent further embarrassment and sent the the lady on her way. That’s the second time recently that people from the Probation Service have been found wanting.

Moving on to the subject of the Community Safety Partnership, councillor Philip Read asked cabinet member Don Massey if there had been much of a take up by immigrants of the leaflets on learning English and was rewarded with “I haven’t a clue’.

Council officer David Bryce-Smith said that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) had nearly doubled its annual grant to Bexley and it now stands at £210,000. Don Massey had different ideas about MOPAC, He said that both he and the leader were “incensed” by MOPAC and they had created “one gigantic mess”. The Bobby Van for Bromley was funded while Bexley’s was not following near identical bids. Their delaying tactics were “unacceptable”.

On the matter of The Big Crime Survey, councillor Sawyer was concerned about council consultations which were wholly on line and people in the North of the borough were less likely to have access to the internet. David Bryce-Smith said it was done to save money and “resources were limited’.

Councillor Tarrant wanted to know, now that scrap vans had to be licenced, how he would know if they didn’t have one so that he can report them. Tarrant is very keen on reporting people as those of us with long memories know. The answer was that he couldn’t. He’ll have to go back to riffling through dustbins.

The meeting ended just after 21:30 by which time I was the only member of the public still there.

 

28 October (Part 2) - It’s a bit windy

Tree Tree Fence TrainsNo trains. No fence, No injuries.

It’s my neighbour’s fence, the tree adjacent to mine is still standing.

 

28 October (Part 1) - Monkeys

I’ll start the week with something that requires no effort on my part; an email from a reader, one I have heard from only once before. On 24th October I mentioned Bexley council’s new budget consultation and how difficult it was to discover what cuts were proposed. I had no time to actually take part in the survey but somebody did and this is how he describes the experience…


Just attempting to complete the council's survey on budget saving of ten million quid or so for the next year and I was diverted to survey monkey to complete it. Two points:

The survey (amongst many things) asks 23 questions about various elements of the budget in the most confusing and misleading way possible by asking me to agree, strongly or otherwise, and variants of like or hate on the most confusing questions possible. It also deliberately misleads as to where funding currently comes from. It makes out that the council funds many things where funding may actually come from central government, the NHS or education services not provided by the council.

Secondly, and what renders the entire exercise useless, is that I could not complete the survey at all when it asked if I worked for the council. I used a Kindle Fire HD and was able to complete every question which had a radio button option except the question which asked do I work for the council. The options being yes, no and I don't know.

Anyway a totally pointless exercise!!


How many council employees do you think there might be who don’t know if they work for Bexley or not?

Incidentally, after my complaint about the number of pages that had to be read the council provided a complete list, available here. Much better.

 

27 October - A big hit

As might be guessed from the late arrival of this blog (22:42) I have been away for the weekend and not having to post anything here came as a welcome relief. The fact is the cost of running B-i-B can be too high. Not the direct costs, they soak up no more than £20 a year, it’s things like the neglected garden and the absence of a paint brush from the house for the past couple of years that can be a bit dispiriting. There has not even been time to look for the envelope the electoral registration form came in and if I don’t renew the TV licence within the next few days the BBC won’t be able to run any more lavish parties or make illegal payments to their top brass. But every so often something happens to make it all worthwile.

Last Friday I answered a Withheld telephone call, I don’t always bother and it was someone from Bexley council who reads Bonkers. I could guess at the department but it would be irresponsible to give any clues. I learnt some interesting things but all I am going to say is that I was told that Bexley-is-Bonkers is “a big hit around here”

So it would seem there is no chance of me being able to give it up any time soon and there is plenty of material to fill the coming week.

 

26 October (Part 2) - About time too

New law It looks like all Bexley council’s huffing and puffing over photos and video has been a waste of time and any councillor thinking of working a fiddle when the subject comes up at the next council meeting can forget it, for Eric has spoken.

There will be a debate in Parliament on Monday to enshrine the right to film council meetings in law. Whatever will we find to talk about it future if councillors like Bacon are not allowed to routinely lie?

Cheryl Bacon must be feeling even sillier now. What reputation she ever had lost for no lasting reason.

Click image for Press Release.

 

26 October (Part 1) - A wet argument

Fat Controller Abbey WoodAccording to the News Shopper our esteemed leader has written to another Fat Controller, Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Network Rail to complain that the plans approved for Abbey Wood’s Crossrail terminus do not include platform canopies.

It is “completely wrong” she said. “It will undermine the otherwise high quality experience of using the new station. This is especially regrettable given both the high profile nature of the project and the collaborative working that has resulted in an otherwise excellent station design”.

It is hard to disagree although to my mind the biggest disappointment is the absence of a cross platform interchange for the travellers who will flood in from further down the North Kent line. Escalators from street level would have been nice.

I doubt Teresa O’Neill really cares and probably this is just a pre-election stunt to get herself into the papers. If she really cared about Abbey Wood commuters getting wet she would have been on the warpath many years ago. As every regular Abbey Wood user knows, the up platform is an elongated saucer.

It was like it when I was a daily commuter - and that is more than 21 years ago - and it is still like it now. It's impossible to get on the train after rain without paddling and thanks to National Rail insisting on the driver's start signals and screens being at the far end of the ten car platform, most trains (five car) make passengers run half the length of the platform to scramble into the rear carriage. It’s Network Rail’s way of showing their disdain for passenger comfort.

Teresa O’Neill has never complained to Rick Haythornthwaite about the minor ocean that engulfs the London bound platform every time it rains nor has her council fixed the flood at the station entrance that has inconvenienced everyone for the past 30 years or more. Perhaps that is why they are so pleased with the new high level entrance.

Click station image for News Shopper report.

 

25 October (Part 2) - How low can they go?

After council officer Lynn Tyler wrote to Mick Barnbrook to tell him that I and others wouldn't stop shouting and waving papers at Cheryl Bacon’s infamous meeting I sent in an official complaint that she was promulgating lies about me.

I told Bexley council that I found their allegations offensive. The complaint may be read in full via the link above but the hardest hitting parts were:


• Mrs. Tyler is guilty of distributing untruthful statements.
• Mrs. Tyler is quite clearly specially selecting so called witnesses who are willing to lie.
• Mrs. Tyler must know that what she said is wrong.
• Put simply, Mrs. Tyler is lying. What she said did not take place nor could it have done.


I specifically asked that councillors be interviewed to confirm that I said nothing at Cheryl Bacon’s meeting and I know some are ready to do that.

Yesterday I received a reply from Nick Hollier, Bexley’s Head of Human Resources. Did he check my story with councillors, did he heck? He read Cheryl Bacon’s untrue statement and on that basis alone said I had no case. I was in effect a liar with my allegation. There will be more about that next week.

Not content with not troubling himself with a proper investigation Hollier decided to abuse his power further. He told me that the four comments I have highlighted above are abusive and warrant action under the council's complaints code. Apparently you are not allowed to complain that the council lies because to make such an accusation falls foul of their rules on vexatious complaints. This is what Hollier said…
Vexatious
As already noted, my letter of complaint is available to be read on line. Unlike Bexley council I have nothing to hide. Judge for yourself whether anything in my letter is abusive.

And where have the words diligently and integrity come from? A diligent legal manager would have noticed that the statements she sent out under FOI did not check out, containing obvious contradictions and fabrications.

Now as well as having to appeal against Nick Hollier’s decision I am going to have to put in a complaint about him for failing to conduct the enquiries I suggested, the fact that they will lead to Bacon’s downfall is irrelevant. He should have done it. The problem, as a Director once whispered to Elwyn Bryant, is that corrupt councillors have the power to sack any employee they take a dislike to, so the corruption is endemic and the high pay is essential to keep most mouths firmly sealed.

 

25 October (Part 1) - A mire of its own making

Bexley council has crossed another line in its determination to cover for the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon, the details of which will be given here as soon as time permits. I have no hesitation in labelling councillor Cheryl Bacon’s version of the events of 19th June as lies; I know that far from “shouting and remonstrating” at her infamous meeting I said nothing at all. Not only are several members of the public able to vouch for that but inside council sources have emailed their support. Not everyone at the Civic Centre is a crook.

Meanwhile I have disappointed Mick Barnbrook by not featuring his email to Bexley’s Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer, and worse still forgetting to add a link from yesterday’s blog to that email. Mick thought I should have included it within the blog because readers tend not to follow links, which the web stats suggest is true. On the other hand I felt the email was too long for the blog, so here’s a compromise; firstly a link to his email and secondly the key points from it are set out below.


Councillor Borella, who was at the meeting last night as an onlooker, also queried the minutes, stating that he had been present at the meeting on 19th June 2013, when she [Cheryl Bacon], as chairman, had taken the meeting into closed session, without taking a vote from the members and that she had excluded all the public from the resumed meeting in another room.

This is a very serious allegation by one Bexley Councillor against another councillor and doesn't reflect the statement that Councillor Borella is alleged to have made to Lynn Tyler, the officer who investigated my original complaint against Councillor Bacon and subsequently cleared her of any wrongdoing.

I am therefore requesting that Councillor Borella be interviewed as part of the review of my complaint against Councillor Bacon and a true reflection of his recollection of the incident on 19th June 2013 be recorded.

Lynn Tyler also allegedly interviewed Councillor Borella and the Clerk of the meeting on 19th June 2013, You should also be aware that the doorman who called the police on 19th June 2013, when spoken to by me in the presence of another witness, was unaware that he had made a statement to Lynn Tyler and when shown a copy of a summary of what he had allegedly said to her, refused to confirm whether it was a true recollection of his comments to her.

None of the six individuals support Councillor Bacon's allegation that a number of members of the public were causing a disturbance in the public gallery and that is why she moved the meeting, rather than the truth, which was that only one member of the public had been responsible for any disruption.

I think I have already placed it on public record that if my complaint is not investigated on the basis of the evidence you have before you, rather than the investigation carried out by Lynn Tyler, the original investigating officer, I will have no hesitation in making an allegation to the Specialist and Economic Crime Unit at New Scotland Yard of Misconduct in Public Office and Perverting the Course of Justice, against all those individuals involved in the investigation and Councillor Bacon for her conduct.


Mr. Alabi as the Monitoring Officer has certain responsibilities and should see through the smokescreen put up by Bexley council in defence of one lying councillor. Mick is quite right in regarding any further malfeasance as criminal. One of my highest priorities is to protect sources who expect confidentiality but if the case goes to the police, the Local Government Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner as seems likely given Bexley council’s dishonesty, I shall have to offer certain information to Mick Barnbrook which will help him prove his case.

Perhaps Bexley council will come to its senses before then. All they need to do is accept that just one person was resposible for the disruption on 19th June. It would be the end of the matter; what can anyone do about the loss of one public meeting now? It would of course label the wife of cabinet member Gareth Bacon as one enormous liar, but I suspect that everyone interested in that already knows it. I also suspect we are about to see Bexley council dig itself further into the mire of its own making.

 

24 October (Part 2) - Councils, criminals and Cheryls

A short round up of some recent developments…

Elwyn Bryant showed me his Crown Prosecution Service correspondence file. It starts with their letters headed Regina v Peter Craske and ends with a refusal to provide a document as it may reveal the subject’s personal details. I know who it went to because former Borough Commander Victor Olisa confirmed he had received it when I met him on 1st March 2013. I think we know who it was about. You couldn’t make it up; Craske in the letter heading but they can’t reveal names! Elwyn is going through the appeals procedure.

My own Subject Access Request to the police is now approaching three months overdue. Police corruption knows no bounds.

On the Bacon front, Mick Barnbrook has taken his complaint about Cheryl Bacon’s illegal exclusion of the public from her meeting to Bexley council’s chief legal officer, Mr. Akin Alabi, citing the known facts and promising him that if Bexley council continues to refuse to look at the evidence he will go to the Specialist and Economic Crime Unit at New Scotland Yard alleging Misconduct in Public Office and Perverting the Course of Justice. The same office which took up his complaint about crooked MPs and led to their jail terms.

I suspect he will have to do it. I have today received a reply to one of my own complaints and, I know I shouldn’t be after the last few years, but I was very much shocked by the depths of Bexley council’s lying and refusal to accept any evidence other than Cheryl Bacon’s. And few would doubt what she is any more.

Index to Cheryl Bacon’s catalogue of wrong doing.

 

24 October (Part 1) - More council cuts. Another flawed consultation process

Bexley council has begun its budget cuts consultation and the details have appeared on their website. Start at this page and be prepared to be amazed at how many clicks are required to access the information which is spread over two dozen pages. Before long they will claim disappointment at the lack of interest.

 

23 October (Part 2) - Woman of the mouth

Cheryl BaconAnother meeting of the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee was held last night and chairman Cheryl Bacon went home £2,200 richer. She gets £8,802 a year for chairing the committee four times a year. This year she must have cost taxpayers far more than that because of the repercussions following her illegal activities on the evening of 19th June though perhaps the most costly thing of all will be her reputation. Yesterday’s meeting didn’t exactly help in that regard.

The meeting started well enough with no nonsensical announcement to the four members of the public in the gallery - plus me at a writing desk - that recording wasn’t allowed. Maybe it helped that Nicholas Dowling wasn’t there. However we’d only been going a minute when councillor Seán Newman objected to the minutes.


Minutes
They did not, he thought, adequately reflect the true situation. The minutes did not record that the public had been excluded nor did it provide the standing order under which the chairman had excluded them. Madam Bacon asked if Seán was going to propose an amendment to which he replied that “keeping the public out is a very serious thing” but his difficulty with an amendment was that he was not present at the meeting of 19th June. Bacon seized her chance saying she was “happy with the reason as read” and pronounced the minutes approved.

With my head in my scribbling book I did not see which Tory hands were raised to approve the inadequate minuted statement, so I cannot name those complicit in Bacon’s lies, only inform you that they formed the majority.

You cannot really blame councillor Stefano Borella being a little late to the party, so quick was Bacon to subvert the democratic process, but he piped up almost immediately after Sean Newman had had his say. Stefano also said the minutes did not adequately reflect the situation. Borella said that chairman Bacon should not have closed the meeting without a vote and confirmed that no members of the public were allowed in. Bacon said she noted his comments but would “take the minutes as a correct record of the meeting”. Like a criminal caught in the act she made her excuse and ran away as fast as possible.

The meeting itself should have been interesting but wasn’t. Yet again anyone who had read the Agenda through in advance would learn almost nothing from his attendance.

Stuart CrichtonStuart Crichton the Principal of Bexley Adult Education College spoke about his good OFSTED report and was planning on obtaining an ‘outstanding’ by 2017. As anyone who has read his ‘autobiography’ on the college’s website will know, he doesn’t come across as stuffy or secretive which makes his Bexley appointment all the more mysterious, but suffice to say he came up with some encouraging statistics last night.

Councillor questions were of the usual poor standard. “Do you do trade based skills like bricklaying?”. “Yes”. A little better; “What monitoring is done on those who go into work?” “The percentage in full time employment?” Answer: “Don’t know”.

Councillor Maggie O’Neill was concerned that Bexley was doggedly stuck in the bottom half of London for numbers getting qualifications after the age of 18. She was told that improving the position was “an aspiration”. That was accepted as “good news”.

Mr. Frizoni very quickly ran through his annual parking service report. Bexley had not issued any Bus Lane PCNs or Moving Traffic PCNs which had helped put the borough close to the bottom of the London PCN table. The number of tickets issued in error had fallen dramatically, 1,182 last year, only 185 so far this year and though it pains me to say it Frizoni managed to make Bexley’s Parking Services sound like a scrupulously fair minded organisation, letting motorists off fines if it is their first offence or there are other mitigating circumstances. Maybe moving the adminstration to Bromley has introduced some humanity. The merger had made savings so far of £278,000, whether for Bexley or the two boroughs combined was not made clear. 6,000 different people had so far used Bexley’s Pay by Phone system.

Councillor John Waters remarked on footway parking offences being second to and only just behind yellow line offences. The man from Bromley, Ben Stevens, who now runs the joint service said it wasn’t peculiar to Bexley and he didn’t know why people parked on the pavement. He offered laziness as a possible explanation and reminded everyone there is no five minute grace time for footway parking.

Councillor Howard Marriner had noted the very flexible way in which the Bromley team deals with enquiries and offered them his thanks.

Councillor Seán Newman noted that 43% of appeals to PATAS were allowed. Mike Frizoni said that the 57% showed how fair Bexley’s procedures were. Being unfair 43% of the time cut no ice with him. Sean also said that his door to door canvassing in Abbey Wood had revealed an inadequate consultation on the new parking arrangements there and that the impact goes well beyond the consultation area. Cabinet member Bacon said that the consultation was hurried because Network Rail changed their minds about their Crossrail dates.

Rather worryingly for Abbey Wood residents, councillor Gareth Bacon said that Greenwich council was pressing ahead with a “massive” expansion of its part of the Abbey Wood CPZ and although Bexley might object, if it went ahead Bexley would likely have to follow suit to protect its residents. Councillor Newman reminded us that Bexley’s policy is that the affected residents must pay for the installation of a CPZ as well as the illegally high annual charges. Bacon refused to comment on that implied question.

A couple of chaps from NSL Parking Services were on hand to give a presentation entitled ‘Developing ideas to do things better: Using our expertise to make them succeed’. A bit like ‘Listening to you, Working for you’, probably useless waffle.

Neil Hutchings their Account Director for Bexley proceeded to read out the 15 bullet point headings in the paper copy of the presentation, stopping only to say that Mystery Shopping was plain clothes NSL staff asking CEOs questions in the street. While I was thinking what a waste of time his presentation was councillor John Waters congratulated Mr. Hutchings on “a very good presentation”. When asked what had brought about the big reduction in CEO error rate he said it was “a combination of everything”. How very informative.

Councillor Joseph Pollard asked the most interesting question of the evening. “What is the deployment strategy? How do you decide where to send people?” The answer was that a six week deployment plan sets out where everyone will go and when. Two CCTV cars always go to schools at in and out time. Why Pollard was satisfied by that I really do not know.

Sunday nights in Bexleyheath can be parking chaos it was said and we learned there is much reduced enforcement after 8 p.m.

Councillor Marriner remarked on the apparent failure to allow delivery vehicles 20 minutes to load and Ben Stevens from Bromley said the CEOs are instructed to give a ticket after five minutes of inactivity, after which drivers would have to argue their case on appeal. Another council official prepared to break the law when it suits him.

Councillor Newman said that nothing annoyed residents more than CCTV vehicles in contravention of the law themselves. Stevens said they had dispensation to do so. Newman also said that the CCTV cars sometimes take up one of only a small handful of parking bays themselves which is even more unpopular. Chairman Bacon said they couldn’t have it both ways; clearly unaware of the guidance that says that CCTV is not appropriate for such situations. If it was followed and CEOs patrolled on foot the problems related by Sean would not arise.

CCTV cars parking in Disabled Bays is we learned from Ben Stevens “an absolute no no”.

Councillor Maggie O’Neill said better publicity was required for the free Christmas parking days. However although it was conceded that this was true, cabinet member Gareth Bacon said there was no evidence that the free days “drives up trade and if that is so there is no point in doing it at all”.

After that councillor officer Jane Richardson in her usual clear voice read through Agenda Item 10. There is no point in me doing the same so if you are particularly interested may I suggest yout take a look for yourself?

The meeting ended just after 21:30, at least I assume it did. I slipped away as it appeared to be drawing to a close. For the last half hour or so I was the only member of the public there. Let’s hope the council is never silly enough to waste our money webcasting this stuff.

 

23 October (Part 1) - Man of the month

This seems to be the month for new local blogs. John Kerlen (aka Olly Cromwell) has had a few more words to say about Bexley council since he moved back into town. His facts seems to be pretty much spot on but his writing style may not be to everyone’s taste. Olly’s blog.

 

22 October - Howbury. No friends in high places?

Messages keep coming in about the Howbury Centre and the alleged behind the scenes skullduggery that ended up in a private company, Eco Communities, being chosen to run the community activities there. For the last eight or nine years the Centre has been run by a volunteer group called Howbury Friends which is a registered charity. A lady by the name of Melanie Hudson made a powerful case for the Howbury’s retention at a cabinet meeting two years ago. The council approved an £8·6 million investment at the site but with a lot of the land sold off to Redrow Homes.

For an outside company to be invited to apply for the job of running the Community Centre (the messages say that is what happened rather than a proper tendering process) suggests they must have something very significant going for them. A proven track record in the field elsewhere, a stack of money to invest, a magnificent vision for the future or a scurrilous link with Bexley council. It has to be one of those, what other reason can there be for chucking out the tried and tested Howbury Friends?

Howbury FriendsUnfortunately most of the recent messages are anonymous so it looks as though I will have to do most of the research myself. The registered charity, Howbury Friends, is an open book, no difficulty there. It’s not hard to discover what they do, the money they raise and the money they spend on themselves. Up to £100k. a year raised and spent on improving the local facilities. All done by volunteer labour putting in countless hours to benefit the local population. Slade Green is one of the most deprived areas in the country.

Among the Howbury Friends’ activities are; running eleven after school activities for five to eleven year olds, eleven more for those up to 19 years old, over 60’s clubs, games, Tai Chi, First Aid courses, half term holiday activities for families and adults’ keep fit classes. Impressive is it not? But not impressive enough for Bexley council who decided to jump into the unknown. Presumably they didn’t even notice that the name Eco Communities Ltd didn’t exist before the start of this year; it appeared at exactly the time Bexley council gave them a call. Reason enough to be suspicious I would think.

Something definitely smells here and I shall do what I can to unravel it. My guess is that Melanie Hudson is a pain in Bexley council’s backside, organising petitions, nagging and asking awkward questions and they want rid of her. I’ve seen how they treat her at council meetings. She comes from Slade Green so is by definition worthless. When she made that impressive speech two years ago a councillor asked her who wrote it for her; the condescending bastard! The alternative is that there is a close personal or political link between someone at Eco Communities and Bexley council. It may be that Eco Communities is prepared to pile in their millions and not take any profits, maybe that is what impressed Bexley. Given time the truth may be told. If you know it, all information gratefully received.

Howbury Friends on Facebook - Bexley Times report - News Shopper report - Petition to council. (The paper version has more than 1,000 signatures.)

 

21 October (Part 2) - An admirable Crichton?

I asked what I thought was a rhetorical question on Saturday about a Bexley Adult Education College following an accusatory email about its management, and this morning I received an answer of sorts.


The principal is Stuart Crichton who is paid lots of money after the previous principal left huge debts. He was and is the consultant referred to; Google it and you will find he worked for Northgate Kendric Ash and that company first came to Bexley in former Chief Executive Nick Johnson’s time. Check the Bexley payments and find they received millions.

Crichton has no background in running a college but knew the right people at the right time to get appointed. No prizes as to who else tried for the job - no one! But that’s Bexley’s competition rules for you.

Check how much his consultancy firm was paid over the years. Lots again, but you won’t see it in the accounts because he is not an employee. You’ll find him named in committee reports so Ms. O'Neill knows and now you do too. Good luck in finding truthful answers. I am an avid reader.


If nothing else, two emails from people claiming inside knowledge does suggest some malcontents at work. So what does Google say?

Firstly that the college gets reasonably good OFSTED reports and that its principal first worked for Bexley council in 2006 on “street services”. Stuart Crichton “set up a new business with a unique business model that partnered local government. The company was called Kendric Ash … and it was sold for £13 million”.

Someone was very lucky weren’t they? You work for Bexley council on street services and a few years later find yourself running an Adult Education College apparently with no qualifications to do so. It’s a bit like Bexley council appointing a Lewisham based charity to run the Howbury Centre in Slade Green. Another organisation with close links to Bexley council but no proven expertise in the field given preference over local experience.

It may look strictly legal but you don’t have to poke your nose in very far to detect a nasty smell.

Note: The email above has been slightly edited to improve clarity.

 

21 October (Part 1) - Cheats never prosper

Cheryl BaconOn 19th June councillor Cheryl Bacon excluded six members of the public from a Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting. Five of those exclusions were illegal and everyone affected made formal complaints about Bacon. Six weeks later those complaints are either unanswered at the initial stage or unanswered at the appeal stage. Bexley council cancelled last Wednesday’s Members' Code of Conduct Committee meeting; was that pure coincidence?

After Bacon locked out members of the public from her “Closed Session’ meeting the council felt it necessary to remind all councillors of the recommended procedure should someone again try to record a meeting. What the council should also have done was apologise for the mistakes made on that evening but instead they decided that in the time honoured way of Bexley council they should lie, lie, lie.

As a result we now know without a shadow of doubt that Queen Cheryl has in the face of strong competition taken the crown from King Craske for being Bexley council’ biggest purveyor of falsehoods. Her statement on the subject referred to a group of people, shouting, waving, remonstrating etc. nearly 20 times but none of the other carefully chosen witnesses said anything about that at all. For the simple reason it didn't happen. Three, possibly four of the excluded persons said nothing at all during Cheryl’s meeting.

Not only has the incident dragged Bacon into the gutter but she has brought the council’s legal officer down to the same level. Mrs. Lynn Tyler stands accused of implicating a Labour party local election candidate by making his name public in a Freedom of Information response and distributing unsigned, undated notes of her alleged interviews with witnesses without spotting the contradictions and inconsistencies contained therein. Sheer incompetence. One witness (two if an unconfirmed report is true) deny all or some of what has been attributed to them.

My own formal complaint about councillor Cheryl Bacon illegally excluding me from a meeting was sent on 6th September and as yet the council has been unable to provide an answer. For the record…


Dear Mr. Tuckley,

It is now more than six weeks since I registered a formal complaint against Councillor Cheryl Bacon for illegally excluding me from a public council meeting and your council's complaints procedure requires you to answer within five days or give a reason for not doing so.
Since I first wrote to you on 6th September a number of documents relating to the incident have come to light and analysis of them clearly shows inconsistencies from which it becomes obvious that Councillor Bacon invented her story about me and others. Her statement about a group of people (including myself) constantly shouting is simply a lie and not supported by any other witness.
I understand that two of your carefully selected witnesses deny some of what was written in their names and others have come forward to support my contention that during the relevant meeting I said abasolutely nothing. My exclusion was illegal. When are you going to answer my complaint and bring Councillor Bacon to account?

Yours sincerely,


Index to relevant blogs and documents.
The Bacons.

 

19 October (Part 3) - Crossrail news

Balfour BeattyThings are slowly gathering pace in Abbey Wood. Balfour Beatty’s encampment in Felixstowe Road is nearing completion and parking is to be banned nearby before the end of the month, presumably to allow large vehicles access via the new entrance in the forground of the picture.

Around half the spaces in the station car park are now taken over by construction workers but as yet there has been no significant impact on commuter parking south of the railway line.

The new station plan has been approved by Bexley and Greenwich councils. A pity nobody was prepared to give the go ahead for Crossrail years ago. We will soon be able to get across London in 40 minutes, rather less than it takes to cross the Thames to Newham no more than a couple of miles away. Well done Teresa.

 

19 October (Part 2) - Unsubstantiated allegations

I get asked for help on all sorts of things and some are well outside my remit, others make allegations which are unsubstantiated such as Civil Enforcement Officers persistently ticketing cars parked on private land and claims like the one below, which is interesting but cannot be used.


Can someone please explain why a partner of a senior staff member at the Adult Education College in Alma Road was paid to do some casual gardening work when they have permanent employees to do this? Then they spend money on a lavish barbecue to celebrate an OFSTED report. It would be interesting to know how many friends, neighbours etc. are employed.

A consultant supposed to be representing college to bring in more business is paid stupid money with no results evident. We the residents of Bexley are paying for this blatant mis-use of funds.


If you want to shame Bexley council, a bit more detail and documentation please.

 

19 October (Part 1) - The bus stop spotters have been out again

Bus stop Bus stop ParkingWhile various domestic things take priority over blogging at the moment, readers fill the gap.

The three pictures are from locations with a couple of hundred yards of each other and illustrate how varied road marking in Bexley can be. Bus stops are usually marked with a fat yellow line but here we have both double and ordinary single lines.

Why would anyone not extend the parking bay another 15 inches to the kerb? Presumably because every once in a while someone will do the obvious and incur a fine.

 

17 October (Part 2) - Berks in Bexley? Probably not this time

Following the decision of the High Court that it’s illegal for councils to profit from their residents’ parking schemes, a Berkshire council has decided to abolish such charges. Bexley increased its charges to enable it to subsidise services elsewhere, it said so. Abiding by the law is not Bexley council’s strong point so I doubt you will be seeing an outbreak of honesty here any time soon.

 

17 October (Part 1) - Bexley council future cuts

Bexley’s cabinet met on Tuesday this week and there was a suprisingly large audience peaking at around 25 at one point. Two of the regulars mentioned here countless times, a handful of Bexley council employees and best part of 20 school pupils. There may have been four or five ‘ordinary’ members of the public present; no more. Several non-cabinet councillors adorned the reserved best seats.

I had read the Agenda beforehand and learned nothing much new by going to the meeting apart from the fact that all the proposals were approved unanimously after very little comment. As cabinet meetings are a charade with everything fixed earlier this is no great surprise. The two big topics of the evening were pay rises for staff and ways to plug the £38/40 million budget deficit over the next four years.

CutsLeader Teresa O’Neill told us that the council had saved £61·5 million since 2006, “most of it from efficiency savings” and now it had to save £10 million next year and much the same in the following three years. The demographics she said “were going the wrong way” and for both adults and children she was planning a “prevention agenda” which appears to be jargon for early intervention to prevent big problems arising later. There was to be some use of reserves.

A public consultation will start on 21st October and run through until 16th December. Let’s see if anyone notices.

Mr. Ellsmore (Director of Finance) then said the same thing and added that the council had made an advance payment into its pension fund. The claim was it gives an interest rate advantage.

Councillor Campbell said that “what marks out this council is innovation” - crap can be miraculously turned into trash - but after his 90 second speech I asked myself what he had said that added anything to our knowledge. The answer was absolutely nothing.

Councillor Katie Perrior (cabinet member for Children’s Services) said it had “been an incredibly difficult year but there has been steady progress”. Bexley was compared favourably with other boroughs and the future was “innovative and exciting”.

Cabinet member for Adult Services, councillor Chris Taylor said his future plans included preventing people going to “institutionalised homes” and instead stay at their own home. He particulary praised the council’s domicilliary care staff.

Councillor John Fuller (cabinet member for Education) said that Collyer’s School will soon take 100 autistic children back into the borough’s care. At present they are schooled outside.

Councillor Munir Malik asked if the council had lobbied for a bigger government grant but leader O’Neill responded only with a put down based on Labour’s 40% council tax rise ten years ago.

The meeting moved on to pay rises and duly approved a 1% across the board increase following a three year (four year for senior staff) pay freeze at a total cost in the region of £400,000 a year. No one mentioned the Agenda comment that chief executive Will Tuckley planned not to accept his rise. Maybe those 2,219 petition signatures, which Bexley council refused to even consider, against his quarter million pound pay is having some belated effect.

The discussion on Children’s Services’ performance saw Deputy Director Sheila Murphy praising the improvements, the better assessment statistics and the very good training. 28 people had been offered social services jobs and she looked forward to further improvements when they are in place. Just who was it who let things get so bad that it needs 28 social workers to fix the problems? Someone pass Sheila a mirror.

Katie Perrior quoted some much better adoption figures than were achieved last year but modestly claimed only to be “plodding along but definitely getting there”.

On Adults’ Services Director Mark Charters said they had been subject to “a very good review” and councillor Chris Taylor said Bexley had been voted top London borough for adults in care feeling safe.

Director Paul Moore said that compared to London averages Bexley showed “a strong performance with strong delivery”. No one at the meeting who had missed the week’s headlines would ever believe that Bexley was rated bottom of the UK heap by OFSTED.

The meeting ended at 20:03, just 33 minutes to digest the plans for the next four years and wave them all through. With efficiency savings like that in prospect the £40 million target should be reached with ease.

On the way out councillor Stefano Borella kindly wished me good night and hoped my bus would be along shortly. I think I managed to get out a few words of acknowledgement through the symptoms of yet another flu-like cold. However I rather hope he keeps his thoughts about buses to himself in future. I waited longer for a 229 to Thamesmead than I sat watching that meeting.

Note: The detail of potential cuts may be found on pages 31-33 of this pdf document available on the council’s website.
This is the first blog delivered from a new much faster computer. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and the time saved from its faster running is never likely to exceed the time wasted since last Saturday.

 

16 October (Part 2) - Brainless

Silly sign MapAnother Frizoni Folly spotted by a reader. Bexley council promised us that it would not move to 100% Pay by Phone parking but it would appear that it is going out of its way to make anything else impractical. In Abbey Road, Bexleyheath, just off the Broadway, a sign informs locals and strangers alike that they may pay two streets away. I know where Lion Road is but Sandford Road did not ring any bells. Hence the map; click for larger view.

By the time you've walked to Sandford Road, found the machine and worked out how to operate it, then get back again at least five or six minutes will have gone by, the route to Lion Road involves crossing a busy Broadway. There must be a good chance you’d find yourself with a ticket by the time you get back.

I’ve seen a fair bit of stupidity by Mike Frizoni (Deputy Director of Public Realm Management, £108,622 per annum) over the years but this one surely takes the proverbial biscuit. As my correspondent said, “Totally Bonkers”.

 

16 October (Part 1) - Shameless

Bexley’s Deputy Director of Children’s Social Care, Sheila Murphy (paid £108,708 a year with 32 days annual leave) gave no hint of the day’s news headlines at last night’s cabinet meeting. She referred to various performance aspects of her responsibility as “good” (three times) and very good (once). Another comment to come my way is not so flattering…


The standard of child protection services in Bexley is a disgrace. How can Bexley justify allowing Will Tuckley, Mark Charters and Sheila Murphy to stay in their jobs, let alone increase their already inflated salaries? Surely at least one of these people must take responsibility for the shambles over which they have presided?


To which the response must be “When did you last see someone in public office stand down after a monumental failure?”

 

15 October - Is anyone surprised?

Bexley worstI am still bogged down in computer problems but progress is being made. However the lunchtime news is reason enough to fire up an old machine. Bexley is among the very worst authorities in the country for child care. Did anyone who read the Rhys Lawrie story ever believe otherwise and councillor Campbell’s comment from last week was an obvious warning? “Some of the things going on in Children’s Services make you wonder what the heck is going on”.

What was cabinet member Katie Perrior’s role in all this?

Click for BBC report.

 

14 October - If you put your foot in it, rejoice over the 16 pence a year you’ve saved

I have known better weekends and I don't just mean the weather which according to device I have that measures total daily light levels, yesterday was the dullest day since 24th March.

The old computer which can be reluctant to start looks like being replaced with one that is reluctant to switch off, due, if Google can be believed, to some obscure BIOS or driver incompatibility. It will probably fix itself in time as drivers are updated. It is certainly fast; 33 seconds from switch on to web access which isn't at all bad for a Windows machine, even if it is twice the time my Acorn took nearly 20 years ago. However enough of that, has anything happened over the weekend?

Not much by the look of things. An amount of moaning about the dog mess that despoils Bexley’s parks and nearby roads. That is of course mainly down to dog owners but it is perhaps worth reminding readers that it was councillor Gareth Bacon who decided that those owners should go unpunished. He thought saving £15,000 on the dog warden contract because it wasn’t making money was a simple financial decision. Quality of life and your carpets count for nothing.

Gareth BaconBacon is quite obviously a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. It was him who closed almost all the public toilets too. It’s not impossible that Bexley council will decide to spend more than £15,000 on web casting its meetings in a totally unnecessary face saving exercise having been shamed into doing something by Nicholas Dowling’s dictating machine. The comparative worth must be obvious to all.

Looking forward to the coming week I see that the Cabinet is set to approve a 1% pay rise for everyone at the Civic Centre. They have not had a rise in the past four years and few employees will have fared worse than that so this is not unexpected for the lower paid staff. Not so sure about those from £58,200 upwards (the point at which government guidance dictates that the details should be published †) and maybe the Chief Executive agrees, for Will Tuckley has said he won’t accept his pay rise.

The Cabinet will be considering the measures needed to plug the £40 million black hole to 2018.

† Almost needless to say, this is another piece of government guidance that Bexley council ignores.
16 pence. A rather simplistic calculation based on Bexley’s 92,600 dwellings. (2011 census.)

 

12 October - Old computer heading for the skip

There is not going to be a lot going on here over the weekend because I am just about to tear this computer apart, salvage a couple of newish bits from it and build a brand new one from components that arrived yesterday. This PC has been intermittently unreliable for a year or more and there have been too many BSODs (technical term) recently which a Windows reinstall has failed to cure. It will probably take an hour or so to assemble the new beast and all weekend to download updates and reinstall programs. Meanwhile, while clearing the deck for the operation I came across some statistics on enviro-crime which somehow got hidden under the pile of papers which is fast becoming my own personal enviro-crime.

Bill postersDuring the financial year 2012/13 Bexley council removed 43 vehicles from the public highway. No penalty notices were issued. Similarly no penalty notices were issued for graffiti, probably because no one is silly enough to tag their name and address on them. No penalty notices were issued for dog fouling because the council doesn’t get involved in that sort of thing any more but ten people were fined for fly posting.

Fly tipping and littering attracted 154 penalty notices and 13 more were issued to unlicensed waste carriers. Street traders received another 21.

In total £96,000 was collected from the culprits. With our idiot government proposing a 2,700% rise in the ’skip tax’ from next month it looks like the fly tipping problem can only get worse.

 

11 October (Part 2) - Corrupt councils

CorruptionAn organisation called Transparency International UK has published a report on corruption in UK Local Government. It is perhaps more of a report on the potential for corruption and certainly far too long to summarise here. However perhaps Page 33 is topical, it provides councils with ideas on how they could gerrymander the new electoral registration system. See the associated image.

It could happen here in Bexley under the Conservatives. When the Boundaries Commission proposed changes in Bexley two years ago, local Conservatives proposed amendments which were quite obviously designed to give them an advantage at Labour’s expense. The Commission quite rightly jumped on it and threw the Tory proposals out.

Never underestimate the capacity of Conservatives locally for unbridled dishonesty. Who would do so after reading up on the Cheryl Bacon affair? There’s barely a word of truth anywhere in her report.

 

11 October (Part 1) - Read about the money

Philip ReadThere was a Finance and Corporate Services Committee meeting last Tuesday chaired by councillor Philip Read. He started off well enough with a welcome to the members of the public - all three of us - and ran through the usual recording not permitted tripe as dictated by the all powerful Teresa. Once again councillor Jackie Evans was missing and we all know why.

We were told that all of the Performance Indicators were showing green (Key Indicators Pages 8 to 16), although the documentation showed the occasional amber tinge. In reply to a question about bad debts we learned that 66% of council tax is paid by Direct Debit and councillor Malik asked the Finance Director if there were any worrying trends developing. It was presumably Mike Ellsmore who replied - I couldn’t quite see after moving from an embarrassingly squeaky seat - who said that he “sometimes hold my breath at the speed at which we chase up late payments” and he was asking his staff “to look for more innovative solutions”. Thumb screws perhaps? Mr. Ellsmore repeated what we have heard a dozen times before, that providing Children’s Services is putting a lot of pressure on the budget.

The responsible cabinet member made his report. Campbell said that Welfare Reform had provided “a very difficult first three months”. That's the 5% minimum council tax the poor have had to pay since April and the cap on housing benefits, bedroom tax etc. Fortunately, said Campbell, the Department of Work and Pensions had got their forecast for Bexley badly wrong. Instead of the expected 300 plus families affected there were only 162. “Vulnerable adults” he said “were dealt with very sympathetically but that may not be sustainable long term”. Despite that he admitted that “a very large number” had been taken to court.

Campbell again mentioned the looming £40 million black hole, ten million next year and 30 more by 2018. His plan to side-step it involved protecting front line services and possibly “stopping doing some things”. Children’s Services being a drain on resources got another mention and in what may be a rare moment of honesty Campbell said “some of the things going on in Children’s Services make you wonder what the heck is going on”. A rich endorsement of Bexley’s many failings in that area if ever there was one.

Peter CraskeMoving on to Agenda Item 8, councillor Craske suggested that the cost of answering individual Freedom of Information requests should be published. The complaints officer, probably Suzanne Lloyd but she was too far away to positively identify, said that she was looking into that possibility for the future. Makes you wonder how they were published in the past. Plucked out of thin air presumably.

Councillor Malik queried the big drop in the number of complaints recorded compared to last year but the answer was pretty straight forward, complaints about missed bin collections are no longer logged as complaints, neither are parking appeals. Nothing has actually changed but it looks better that way.

For Agenda Item 9, chairman Read went off on some flight or irrelevant fancy about the International Monetary Fund and the UK economy. He said it illustrated how well Bexley has coped with the economic crisis. Councillor Munir Malik asked if that has allowed the regeneration of the borough but I don’t think he got an answer.

Later Munir was critical of the council’s website. Councillor Gillespie related how he spent ages looking for a council tax registration form on the web, but eventually gave up. He was advised that was an inspired decision - the form is not there. Council Officer Graham Ward blamed the sub-contractor, for now you have to ask Capita for a form. For some inexplicable reason the Agenda referred to the longer time that people were spending on the website (up 13%) as a good thing. Councillor Gillespie may not agree.

Maxine FothergillCouncillor Maxine Fothergill was asked to report on the findings of her Finance Sub-Committee. Chairman Read said some of her recommendations were already in use. I don’t think he meant they had been instantly implemented, I got the impression she had wasted her time, but I could be wrong.

Councillor Malik was concerned about how some chairmen saw their roles and criticised the quality of debate. He believed some chairmen saw their committee as a “personal fiefdom”. This suggestion did not find favour and the volume rose several decibels. Read put himself firmly in the ‘personal fiefdom’ camp by wagging his finger vigorously at councillor Malik and threatening to exclude him from the chamber under some obscure standing order or other. The row subsided almost as quickly as it arose.

Dave Easton, Head of Electoral Services, then delivered what was probably the most generally interesting report of the evening. The Electoral Roll registration system, he said, was moving to an individual based arrangement from the long established address based system. It should reduce electoral fraud and the switchover will be a big operation with plenty of publicity and Road Shows. Councillor Craske thought Mr. Easton’s report to be good and “very comprehensive”. For the first time in my life I am going to agree with Peter Craske.

Finally came the brief discussion of Business Rates. Councillor Craske summed things up by saying that “we have replaced a system that was complicated with one that is even more complicated”. Now that’s embarrassing; two endorsements of Craske’s opinion within the space of two paragraphs.

The meeting lasted 63 minutes.

 

10 October (Part 2) - Why are we waiting?

I made a big mess of the new Index to things relating to Cheryl Bacon’s Closed Session meeting when I put it on line on Monday. Four of the important links were wrong. It is fixed now.

Whilst checking it I noticed that my complaint about that meeting is more than a month old. The council’s correspondence promise is that email will be answered within five days or a reason will be provided if that goal cannot be met. I’ve not heard a thing. Probably they’ve not been left much wriggle room for original new lies. Why don’t they just accept that Cheryl made a mess or blame it on someone giving her bad advice? End of story. I realise they might have to admit that her tall tale about a rowdy group of pensioners was nonsense - no other council witness supported her - but everyone knows that already, so overall it doesn’t make a lot of difference. ‘Councillor lies. Official.’ It’s no longer big news in Bexley.

This week I heard councillor Craske complaining that answering complaints and Freedom of Information requests costs a lot of money. If they answered them honestly a reduction in the number of repeats and reviews might be a money saver. Just a thought

 

10 October (Part 1) - There was no need to lie, but it was the preferred option

It must be fairly well known by now that when Bexley council is in a deep hole it will lie like crazy, the Cheryl Bacon affair proved that. It also proved that they aren’t very good at it, their version of events didn’t even begin to hang together. Inevitable I suppose when there was not a scintilla of truth in Bacon’s story.

Lying to attempt an escape from a big error of judgment is to be expected of Bexley council but it is so deeply embedded within their culture that they lie even in circumstances many people would think should be shrugged off for being too trivial and not worth the bother. A case like that has been running in parallel with the Cheryl Bacon fiasco. A case in which any intelligent person would say “it was a minor slip up, so what?” rather than indulge in unnecessary lying. Intelligence must be in short supply at the Civic Centre.

NoteA month after councillor Bacon’s illegal Closed Session meeting there was a Full Council Meeting. Resident John Watson asked a question about councillor Colin Campbell’s notorious TV appearance in which he did little but lie and in doing so referred to this website. Colin Campbell snapped back “I don't read the crap on Bexley is Bonkers”. It was the first time I had heard the words Bexley is Bonkers uttered in the Council Chamber and whether or not Campbell thinks it is crap or not doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The object of the site is to make the dishonesty of Bexley council as widely known as possible and in passing, to annoy the hell out of the blighters.

The ‘crap’ remark was jotted down and much as I hate to show you my appalling ‘balanced on a knee’ scribble, I think I have to. Campbell’s remark went on the blog next day. What I didn’t realise until very recently is that Campbell’s four letter word provoked a complaint and a couple of months later Bexley council answered it.

I would have guessed that they would say that use of that particular ‘C’ word does not offend against any code of conduct. After all, Legal Team Manager Lynn Tyler said only six weeks ago, when excusing Campbell’s lying on TV, that prevarication (lying) by councillors is acceptable as it is not specifically prohibited by their code. Neither is use of the ’C’ word.

Prevarication
But I was wrong. Bexley council decided that their preferred method of rejection of the “crap” complaint was to lie.
Lies
Their excuse this time is that Campbell did not say “crap”, he said “trash”. He categorically denies using the word which rang out across the council chamber for around 100 people to hear. I might have thought mayor Sharon Massey, who chairs Full Council meetings, took a reasonable and pragmatic view if she didn’t consider Campbell’s comment offensive, but Lynn Tyler, in her usual incompetent way goes and spoils that by also claiming that mayor Massey didn’t hear it. What is it Lynn? Did Sharon hear it and was unconcerned or did the mayor not hear it at all? Lies always make a muddle, why bother with this one when there is another way out? Why is Tyler still in a job?
Massey
At least the situation with Campbell is clear. He has chosen to reinforce his reputation as the Craske replacement, Peter having been fairly subdued since his narrow escape from justice. In the true tradition of any lawyer anxious to avoid the truth, Lynn Tyler failed to ask the two people sitting closest to Campbell that evening, Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley. Teresa will no doubt be just as pleased with Campbell this time as she must have been with his TV appearance.

It was a bit of a storm in a teacup but it served a useful purpose. It helped prove that Bexley council only has one solution for every problem; a big fat lie.

CampbellThis is probably a reasonable time to conclude another Campbell/John Watson story…

Before the General Purposes Committee meeting began a couple of weeks ago, John asked the chairman if two councillors could kindly move to one side as their position blocked the view of the other committee members. Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis donned her little black moustache and said “No”. Campbell thought he should show his disdain for any member of the public, to say nothing of his true character, by changing his position to ensure the view was even better blocked.

Since then, while I was with John, a councillor whose identity should probably be protected, apologised, if that is the right word in the circumstances, for Campbell’s behaviour. The adjective used was “ridiculous”, “utterly ridiculous” if I remember correctly. So we can probably conclude that the cancer that goes to the heart of Bexley council is not universally admired from within.

 

9 October (Part 2) - Wanted! One honest copper

The Bridleway 250 closure continues to be pursued and a visit to the Magistrate’s Court cannot be far away now. Mr. Barnbrook has been looking into every aspect of BW 250 and its history. He knows that the offending gate is quite new and not 20 years old as Bexley council suggests and he refused to be fobbed off by the arrogance of Mike Frizoni who dodged his questions.

Along the way Michael Barnbrook has discovered that a police sergeant went along with the council’s excuse that the bridleway should be closed to reduce crime - do not extend this logic too far or every road will be gated before long! - and that there has in fact been almost no crime at Mount Mascal Stables. However Mick wanted to know when the crime took place and thought it might be worthwhile checking on what the police sergeant actually did agree to. He sent off appropriate FOIs to the police.

Thamesmead It must be common knowledge by now that Bexley police works hand in glove with Bexley council to cover their worst excesses and the bridleway case is shaping up no differently.

The Borough Commander, no less, replied to the FOI. “We can confirm that the Sector Sergeant for the area attended the meeting. The Council sent minutes to the Sector Sergeant who destroyed them after reading.” That’s very professional isn’t it? Does anyone believe it? Probably not.

For Mick’s question about the time of the crime at the stables, Peter Ayling has fallen back on the tried and tested “We cannot provide further details to which the incidents related to as the information could assist with the identification of third parties”. All he wanted was the time of day, Mick already has the crime statistics. My guess is that the crime took place while the bridleway was open. But that wouldn’t do the council’s excuse for breaking the law a lot of good. It is hard to tell where most dishonesty occurs. There’s probably a higher proportion of wrong ’uns in Arnsberg Way than in the population at large.

 

9 October (Part 1) - More bus stop silliness?

ThamesmeadThere is no prize for submitting photographs of confusing bus stop locations but that hasn’t stopped a total of five submissions in the last month or two.

The bus stop shown is in the middle of a line of parking bays. It doesn’t look a very good place for a bus stop, isn’t it a bit close to the junction? It's not uncommon to have two or even three buses queued at busy stops. Let’s hope TfL sorts everything out before Bexley council issues too many penalty notices are issued.

Click image for a larger and more complete view.

 

8 October (Part 2) - Website proliferation. Everybody’s doing it

ThamesmeadTwo new Bexley related websites have come to my notice within the last couple of days. One is not new exactly, it has merely come out of a long period of hibernation but may be of interest to those of us who live in the borough’s northerly extremities. Its name is ‘A Take on Thamesmead’ and carries a banner not unlike some of those to be found on BiB.

There is a lot going on in Thamesmead at the moment, much of Tavy Bridge is presently a heap of rubble and the site aims to keep residents up to date. If I see anything especially interesting I’ll link to it from here. It is already listed on one of the BiB menus - that’s all pages apart from the BiB blog itself.

UKIPThe second website should be of interest to Northerners too and I suspect, political nosey parkers everywhere. It is as far as I know, the first UKIP sponsored site in Bexley.

During the last election period, when Bonkers was in its infancy, I commented on, or at the very least referred to, both Labour and Conservative leaflets and I may well do so again as May 2014 approaches.

The local Labour party websites have not been very well looked after and are horribly out of date. The Conservative ones are too often propaganda sheets and when Teresa O’Neill or Peter Craske are involved they can be, as you might expect, crammed full of untruths. Did they really think anyone was sufficiently gullible to believe their lies about the local Labour party being unaware that there was a railway station named Bexleyheath? Who in their right mind makes up lies like that?

After looking at Bexley Conservative websites, UKIP’s seemed much more modern and a breath of fresh air, but maybe I am biased because some of it bears a passing resemblance to Bexley is Bonkers. That is not a complaint, anyone is welcome to nick any part of BiB. Maybe it would be best if I refrain from further comment and just give you the link?

UKIP Lesnes Abbey website. Click the image to see the whole leaflet in all its glory.

 

8 October (Part 1) - What’s the big secret?

Quite a number of my conversations with readers and residents centre on the big question surrounding Bexley council. Why do they do it? What are they hiding? What is it that drives Bexley council to report critics to the police, prosecute one of them for using a four letter word and embellishing the story in the hope it would result in a criminal record, call in favours at the highest level to protect their own home grown criminals, pay Mike Frizoni a bonus every year, not answer some questions at all, lie over others, hold underhand meetings with landowners, refuse to allow the recording of any meeting, decide not to keep minutes of critical ones, arrange cosy meetings with the CPS attempting to influence them, swear everyone to secrecy when top managers take decisions that result in the death of children and old ladies. You name it, Bexley council has done it.

Then yesterday the Bexley Times revealed that Bexley council is bribing employees to keep quite. A million pounds plus on gagging orders. Just what is it that they are hiding? Maybe Mick Barnbrook’s suggestion of paedophilia at a council meeting caused such a fuss because it hit a nerve. Mick’s example seemed more than a little unfortunate at the time but on the other hand Bexley council knowingly chose to harbour one, a paedophile that is, at their Thames Innovation Centre. Perhaps a million quid for silence is not so very far fetched after all.

These emails received yesterday might shed a tiny bit of light on it. The first is unedited…


I am one of the people who have signed compromise agreements with Bexley Council in recent years. Under the terms of the agreement, I am not even permitted to tell you who I am, what I used to do for Bexley Council, or how much I was paid to keep my mouth shut - let alone ditch the dirt on Queen Teresa, Prince Will and all their cronies.


This one was not anonymous but has had to be edited for obvious reasons…


I can tell you that Bexley East child care team is in such a mess because records are tampered. If you do not believe me ask T*** D*** or B****** T***** (if they are still working for Bexley). There are a few deaths that can be directly attributed to Bexley council. I have tried getting information under the Freedom of Information Act but to no avail. My family has been broken as a direct result of Y****** M***** and K**** F*********. They can sue me if they want but they won’t because it will bring too much to light and as you know Bexley are a bunch of cover up cronies!


Something else to dig into! On a lighter note someone has noted a run of the mill rewrite of Bexley history…


Are you sure you have the correct meeting here - Public Realm on 19th June? The minutes of this meeting are on the council’s web site, and there is no mention of any disruption or adjournment. It appears that this meeting proceeded as normal and in public. Some mistake, surely?


As I said, everything about Bexley council is based on a massive lie. Perhaps I am in line for a million pound pay-off to shut me up! None of these emails are more than 24 hours old.

 

7 October (Part 3) - Hush money

You say an innocent few words to a newspaper reporter and before you know it you are front page news. One day I will remember that lesson. In the meantime take a look at the Bexley Times. Bexley council goes to enormous lengths to protect its secrets. I wonder why.

I don’t mind being quoted at all; always good to see Bonkers given a free plug!

 

7 October (Part 2) - More invented excuses to help councillor Cheryl Bacon out of her hole

When Bexley’s Legal Officer, Lynn Tyler, first wrote to Mick Barnbrook to say that councillor Cheryl Bacon was fully entitled to exclude him and five other members of the public from the Public Realm meeting held on 19th June she said she had obtained statements from Cheryl herself plus one councillor from each of the two parties and a council officer.

The gist of Tyler’s letter was that Nicholas Dowling and four old men were running riot and shouting constantly and loudly and therefore the exclusion was lawful. When the witness statements showed up later under Freedom of Information legislation it was found that the only statement that referred to anything like that was Cheryl Bacon’s. I have concluded she made it all up to save her skin. Why Lynn Tyler chose to disregard the other witnesses is anyone’s guess; maybe she was told what to do, maybe she is another natural liar. My money is on the former.

One of the odd things about Tyler’s letter is that she spoke of four witness statements but the Conservative councillor’s witness statement was missing from the subsequent FOI pack. Maybe it told the truth and had to be disregarded.
Tyler letter
So I am left at present with only one more witness statement to look at. Not that it is a proper witness statement, it is neither signed, dated or even written by the witness. It purports to be that of the Civic Centre doorman. I am not convinced he had anything to do with it, so I am not going to mention his name, at least not in a form that would be discovered by search engines.

The statement is wrong in several respects but it comes from a man who cheerily bids me Good Evening when I go to council meetings. To see something so blatantly inaccurate supposedly coming from him is not an easy thing to accept. I was not sure how it could be handled here but Mick Barnbrook came up with a plan. Being rather less adventurous than him, I had misgivings but agreed it had to be done. Mick asked the doorman, all casual like, if he had been interviewed by anyone about the events of 19th June. He said “No”.

Mick then produced a copy of the alleged statement which the doorman had not seen before and he began to read it. After a a very short time he returned the copy to Michael indicating he did not want to read any more. He was no longer his cheery self.

The doorman was then asked if it was correct that he asked the police to eject a group of people. “Not a group of people, just one”, he replied. Like every other independent witness, he failed to support Cheryl Bacon’s ‘group’ assertions. The encounter, which I witnessed, did nothing to persuade me that the statement provided under FOI was anything other than a complete fabrication by Bexley council.

GroupIf you have been following this sorry saga very carefully you might have noticed that Legal Team Manager Tyler made no mention of the doorman’s statement in her letter of 23rd August. This will be because Mick Barnbrook did not mention the doorman in his first complaint on 23rd June. Lynn Tyler’s reply came on 23rd August and Mick asked for a review five days later. Only then did he mention that no council staff accompanied the police to the Council Chamber. They were absent immediately before the police’s arrival, while the police were speaking to those excluded from the reconvened meeting and while those people left the building.

In all probability Tyler was unaware of that but instantly knew the hole had to be plugged. A false statement attributed to a defenceless doorman was the only way out.

It is remarkable that the doorman’s ‘statement’, of which it would now appear he was unaware, so very neatly plugged the gaping hole. How very convenient! None of the statements are dated and signed which one might think is the minimum expected from a competent Legal Officer.

The statement which the doorman had apparently not seen before was headed with his name and is uncontroversial until it gets to this bit…

Doorman's statement
If there was another doorman on duty that night then no one saw her but the important thing to note here is that on an evening during which the councillors and officials were running around like headless chickens, phoning senior officers at home for advice and eventually deciding that a Closed Session meeting was the solution, we are asked to believe that someone was sufficiently cool headed to tell the second doorman to look out for one lonely Labour party member. It just doesn’t ring true does it, total panic all around but the one thing that might save them from criticism was fully catered for? It has to be manufactured rubbish especially when you consider that Danny Hackett was there for all to see and no one approached him at all - and then there is the doorman’s reaction when asked if he knew what had been said in his name. Nothing quite makes sense.

The next bit is likely nonsense too.
Doorman's statement
The best that can be said about this is that two events separated by 30 minutes have been run into one. The doorman did come into the chamber at about ten to eight and asked Nicholas Dowling to stop recording. Perhaps it would have been better to ask Nicholas if he was recording given his recorder was a dud. I do not recall the doorman actually asking him to leave, surely the natural question would be to ask him to stop recording? But maybe he did. What he didn’t do is accompany the police officers into the chamber around eight twenty five. No one remembers seeing him, he was after all said to be some distance away, outside Room 105, at the time making sure no riotous old men tried to enter it.

The policemen arrived unaccompanied. If the doorman did request members of the public to leave and they refused the police would not have been able to report, as they have, that no offences were committed. None of us present were likely to risk a Breach of the Peace charge; why does Bexley council suggest we did? Because it is the only way they can get Cheryl off the hook, that is why.
Doorman's statement
Hang on a mo! What is all this? The doorman has just said everyone left the Civic Offices and now we are supposed to believe he was at the back of the building outside Room 105 in case someone came in off the street an hour late. Now that would be a first. And once again we have that emphasis on a doorman being fully aware that Danny Hackett was to be allowed in. Does anyone really believe that a would-be Labour councillor willingly chose not to go to a council meeting and instead joined a group of allegedly disruptive old age pensioners? Of course not, the whole set of excuses is a farce invented by a dishonest council officer and an even more dishonest councillor.

When Mick Barnbrook put some of the above inconsistencies to the doorman he was a little lost for words and said only one thing. “If that is what it says, that’s what must have happened.” The man has been put in a very awkward position by his employer and should have every reader’s sympathy. I suspect his Good Evenings to me might be less cheery in future.

Answers to my complaints against both Bacon and Tyler are still outstanding, they will be difficult to answer, especially as I have not yet revealed all the available cards. Mick Barnbrook is expecting the review of his complaint to produce another white wash. If that happens he is determined to take the case to the police. Misconduct in Public Office for Bacon and Perverting the Course of Justice for Tyler.

Index to relevant documents and blogs.

 

7 October (Part 1) - Beware the Electoral Registration trap

My Electoral Registration form was delivered on Friday and I was surprised to see that the Edited Register box was not ticked, I felt sure it was delivered ticked in previous years but assumed I must be getting forgetful. Not only that, the new guidance note implies that the omission of the tick is deliberate.

Then the messages started to trickle in, I was far from being alone, lots of people believed that their opt out from the version of the Electoral Roll which is sold to marketing companies used to be carried forward from one year to the next. So watch out when you complete your form!

If you do the natural modern thing and renew your registration on line or via SMS, the tick omission will be perpetuated. If there is no tick on your form, and indications are that that is the new norm, and you don’t want your details sold on to all and sundry, then you will have to send the form back in the provided envelope. It might be a good idea to include a note to the effect that your decision should be regarded as permanent. The guidance note allows that.

I’m tempted to think this is a cynical ploy to raise revenue and perhaps I should check things with the authorities but they have carelessly printed an incomplete phone number on the Bexley form.

 

6 October (Part 3) - Many rats doing a runner

I wondered why John Davey, Conservative councillor for Lesnes Abbey ward was grabbing a photo opportunity in Crayford last week and now we know; Davey should be toast in Lesnes ward in 2014 and deservedly - and he must know it. But he is not the only rat leaving his ship, there’s a good deal of shuffling going on and some of the members of the public who have filled the News Shopper’s letter page boosting Bexley council are revealed for what they are. Conservative stooges. Megan Clement, Rob Leitch and David Leaf come to mind.
Tory list
Are extra family connections coming to the fore? Who is Natalie Read? Who is Irene Reader, Christine Bishop or Christine Catterall? Where is Peter? Can it be coincidence that new lesser known females on the block are relegated to the traditionally Labour strongholds while spouses get relatively safe seats?

There are only 19 wards and 56 candidates shown above. Has Conservative party membership fallen that much?

 

6 October (Part 2) - The cashless society

Cash machine Cash machineThe weekend is the time to cover the relatively inconsequential so to keep the Crossrail followers up to date here’s a couple of pictures of the only change that might impact on passengers introduced so far. The hole in the wall has become a literal hole in the wall..

And for a minor update of the Craske/obscene blog investigation; the Crown Prosecution Service failed to respond to the Information Commissioner’s instructions to release a copy of their final advice to Bexley police - which we know they ignored - and the Commissioner has escalated its case a notch, which will no doubt mean another long delay. Someone is very anxious indeed to cover up the corruption that leads all the way back to Bexley council.

 

6 October (Part 1) - Be careful where you park

Bus stop Ticket machine The co-siting of parking ticket machines and bus stops is not as uncommon as one might think, here’s another one, this time in New Road, Abbey Wood.

In these newly introduced shared parking spaces, a residents’ permit holder may park where he likes. What happens if he parks over the poorly painted line that marks the end of the Pay & Display area? He is presumably in the clear but the Pay & Display customer who finds a space on the far side of him will be unaware of his mistake. Entrapment seems to be what parking is all about.

 

5 October (Part 2) - Another week, another shop lost from Broadway

BID manager Closed ClosedThis time it’s the Salvation Army shop, ‘The Booth’, named after the Army’s founder William Booth. it closed yesterday for reasons unknown but continuing the recent unfortunate trend.

It would appear that council leader Teresa O’Neill was a little premature with her comment last June that tarting up the Broadway “will lead to further economic regeneration of the Borough’s strategic town centre as early indications are already showing“.

Shopping Centre manager Ian Payne is being given a hard time and the last published figures showed that trade is down 7% compared to last year.

 

5 October (Part 1) - Silvertown tunnel protest in Greenwich

While TfL scratches its head about a new Thames crossing for this part of the world and tries to reconcile the wishes of residents and Boris’s political friends in Bexley and nimby isolationists, down the road in Greenwich the natives are getting restless and climbing up lamp posts. Bexley residents who give a damn might care to look at their website or even go to their meeting in Maze Hill on 16th October. Maybe their efforts will inspire Bexley residents to make their views known to Bexley council on all manner of things; at the moment they just do what they like which is for the most part, looking after themselves.

 

4 October (Part 3) - Cheryl Bacon is alone in referring to shouting. No other witness does so. Strange that!

It’s time to hear from councillor Cheryl Bacon again to see what other false statements she can come up with to justify her illegally held Closed Session meeting. I’ll start with this…
Bacon statement
There she goes again, “more shouting from the gallery”. The woman cannot stop herself. Non stop lying. The only thing that approached shouting came from Cheryl Bacon’s husband Gareth who isn’t even a member of the Public Realm Scrutiny meeting. Twice he called out something to the effect that if Nicholas recorded the meeting he would be “ejected”.

Mr. Barnbrook is accused of speaking to councillor Borella. That implies he went over to speak to him as the reverse certainly didn’t happen. Councillor Borella does not mention that in his report, neither does he ever use the word “shouting”. The worst he can come up with is “running commentary”.

There is a good reason for councillor Stefano Borella not mentioning a conversation with Mick Barnbrook. No such conversation took place. I have been able to ascertain that Elwyn Bryant exchanged a few words with councillor Borella. Both he and I were speaking to councillor Brenda Langstead during an adjournment and apparently Elwyn went on to speak to Stefano. I did not see that.

BaconThe important part of the extract above is that Cheryl Bacon (CB) is persisting with her lie that a group would not stop shouting. She uses that word or similar ones 19 times in her statement yet nowhere in the other three reports I have to hand does anyone refer to anyone making a loud noise at all. Councillor Borella’s reference to “running commentary” is neither qualified nor criticised.

Stefano Borella said that there was no aggression and councillor John Adams never refers to shouting either. Let me be very clear on this point. Cheryl Bacon was either in such a panic at the time, her voice had risen to the level of a squealing piglet, that her memory of the moment is hopelessly confused, or she is an outrageous liar.

It is a matter of some concern that when Mr. Barnbrook made his first complaint against councillor Bacon, the council’s legal officer Lynn Tyler, replied exonerating Bacon of all wrong doing because she only excluded disruptive members of the public. Tyler’s response quite deliberately ignored the evidence and takes into account only what Bacon said to protect herself. Some might consider that to be a clear case of Misconduct in Public Office by Lynn Tyler. Many of us know Mr. Barnbrook well enough by now to confidently predict his next move.

Bacon statement
“Closed Session” means only one thing. The public is not allowed in, and they weren’t. I appreciate it places him in an embarrassing position and I am sorry about that but I phoned Danny Hackett to see if anyone made any attempt to contact him and invite him to the reconvened meeting. He confirmed that no one did so and that he was not hiding away. I have irrefutable evidence that he remained in the Council Chamber until just before the police arrived. He may have wandered outside to the water dispenser or the veranda but both are only a handful of yards from the chamber door.

Cheryl Bacon conveniently couldn’t see him. Only Danny and myself absolutely certainly made neither a sound or a gesture during the meeting. Why was Danny given supposedly favourable treatment over me? The answer is that he wasn’t given favourable treatment and that was illegal.
Bacon Statement
I was watching Mick intently during this period and I can tell you that Mick was right up alongside Cheryl Bacon. He did not shout and why should he? His head was barely a foot from hers. He was calm and didn't even speak loudly.
Bacon statement
More ‘group’ nonsense in a further attempt to lessen Cheryl’s crime. “No members of the public attempted to enter the room.” Common sense dictates that would be because Cheryl made it very clear that no one was allowed in.

The Hallkeeper’s statement will be analysed next week. Finally more ‘group’ nonsense…
Bacon statement
The council’s note of what councillor Cheryl Bacon is alleged to have said is available in full here. If only she had said “I overreacted, I made a mistake, it won’t happen again” she would have come out of it with reputation unscathed. Now we know her true character and it is not pretty.

 

4 October (Part 2) - The more the merrier

I heard from the author of The Thamesmead Grump. I do sort of know him after all because he has sent me a few emails in the past. He is anonymous on his site only because of a problem with the blogging software. It’s good that there is someone else on the scene, maybe Bexley will compete with Barnet one day where the number of bloggers is close to double figures with a couple of sites run by councillors. Probably Bexley councillors broadcasting directly to residents is banned by Teresa the leader.

The Welling information site mentioned yesterday has been belatedly added to the Bonkers’ menu. I had forgotten that there was a menu item specifically provided for links!

 

4 October (Part 1) - Vote Conservative, get the opposite

Every couple of weeks the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles stirs himself and makes some populist comment; sometimes sensible, occasionally not. Last week he turned his attention to what he called spy cars, the little revenue generators that more often than not are operated outside the guidance. They are supposed to be used only where an Enforcement Officer couldn’t safely do the job on foot.

The comment got into the local papers as Pickles intended it to and Bexley councillor Gareth Bacon felt it necessary to compete in the hot air stakes. He said to the Bexley Times that “90 per cent of the time they operate in and around schools to make sure people drive safely and take children into consideration. They are extremely identifiable. The purpose is for people to see them so they abide by the road laws. They’re not there to trick people into getting parking tickets.” Makes you wonder if Gareth Bacon is competing with his wife is some sort of exaggeration competition.

Spy carThe cars operate from dawn until late, certainly until after 10 p.m. and school duties cannot take up more than two hours a day. Where does Bacon’s 90% come from? Does he take the cars off the road at the weekend and during school holidays? Who is the biggest bacon bonce?

I use my car as little as possible and I may not often be on the road at school times but I have seen spy cars within recent weeks in Abbey Road (Belvedere), Bexley Road (Erith town centre), Broadway (Bexleyheath), Erith Road (Northumberland Heath), Fraser Road (Erith), Gayton Road (Abbey Wood), High Street (Welling), Maidstone Road (Footscray) and North Cray Road (Bexley) and all of them were monitoring bus stops. I was so surprised to see one outside a school that I stopped to take the associated photograph. (Cleeve Park School.)

One has to wonder sometimes if Bexley council supports the Conservative government or not. They disagree over the use of their gestapo wagons, they are opposed to transparent governance and resisted Pickles’ guidance at every stage, they told him where he could go over weekly refuse collections - perhaps rightly - and Bexley is the only London council hell bent on thwarting the government’s ambitions for increased infrastructure investment. The Thames crossing.

Then there’s the high executive salaries, way above those advocated by government plus their failure to observe the guidelines over their publication. You might be forgiven for thinking that Bexley councillors are only Conservatives at election time to get themselves into power. The rest of the time power-crazed ego trips and personal income becomes the priority.

 

3 October (Part 4) - Strategy 2014 – You couldn’t make it up but Bexley council can

I have been sitting on Nicholas Dowling’s account of his visit to Bexley council when he previewed the soon to be published accounts for too long. Nicholas first became interested in Bexley council accounts when councillor Peter Craske indulged in fiddling the numbers to show that a residents’ parking permit cost £250 to issue which he then used to justify his tripling of the charges. As Craske put it himself, the reason was “to avoid making further spending reductions in key services elsewhere”. An illegal act as proved by the Barnet case in the High Court.

Probably it is easiest if I just let Nicholas speak for himself while I get back to digging into councillor Cheryl Bacon’s game of make believe.


For some time I have had serious concerns around the so called £35 million savings trumpeted by our Conservative councillors. (See blog for 1st March 2013.)

Following my trip to the Civic Offices I no longer have any doubt at all about the questionable efficacy around the fig leaf of so called savings. During my time there I was able to to unearth several Strategy 2014 fabrications.

I based my modus operandi on the infamous quote from the film ‘Jerry McGuire’ of “Show me the money!” and queried a few of the so called income generating Strategy 2014 business cases last updated in January 2013. See http://www.bexley.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=11755&p=0.

One must be careful not to investigate anything too large as there will otherwise be unmanageable wriggle room for unscrupulous interpretation and misrepresentation; at which our beloved Bexley council is so adept.

When I submitted my requirements for the 2012/13 accounts I believe I caught Bexley council out. I asked for the advertising income received in that year, a question which encompassed the following three Strategy 2014 business cases:


2014/006.06 Advertising on the council’s website (supposedly generating £6,000 of savings in 2012/3);
2014/006.07 Advertising in council car parks (purportedly generating £3,000 of savings in 2012/13);
2014/006.08 Lamp post banner advertising in selected areas (notionally generating a further £3,000 of savings in 2012/13).


I was more than surprised when the figures supplied by the finance officers only showed income for the first of these business cases – and even here at a grand total of only £2,376.39. It fell a staggering £3,500 or 58% short of the stated savings.

Accounts

As presented, the other two cases had generated zero income and therefore could not have contributed any savings at all regardless of the specious claims in the Strategy 2014 update. I think we can safely classify these cases as performing in the ‘piss-poor’ category but Bexley council claims they are all ‘green rated’; i.e. on target and performing exactly as planned.

Don’t take my word for it, how about this comment from Dick Passmore the Head of Finance Environment and Corporate Services when I suggested the aforementioned Strategy 2014 business cases would be more accurate if red ringed and highlighted for councillors and the public at large:


“You asked about the income from two business cases included in Strategy 2014 which were 2014/6.07 (Advertising in Car Parks) and 2014/6.08 (Lamp post banner advertising) with a target income of £6,000 and £5,000 respectively in 2012/13…
The sources of advertising income were both investigated and it was found that they would not generate the required net income at this stage.”


It doesn’t look as if he cares, the misinformation is lightly dismissed!

Tricky Dickie’s words sound a klaxon warning that one should take everything in Strategy 2014 with a huge pinch of salt. Also bear in mind that in the latest Strategy 2014 update document Teresa O’Neill trotted out the now demonstrably false claim that she was ‘delivering our planned savings’. Why is she so deluded? Perhaps she should permit more genuine scrutiny of her council officers as they clearly knew that some of the business cases were not being followed at all. Then she wouldn’t look like such a bare faced liar.


Do you think the same applies to her Editorial on the Bexley magazine about the NHS changes introduced two days ago, Nick?

 

3 October (Part 3) - Grumpy Old Men

Hugh Neal (Maggot Sandwich) and I may have acquired a partner. A new Thamesmead based blog recently came on line which might serve as light relief from the Cheryl Bacon and council shenanigans served up here.

I note that the author, whose identity is a complete mystery to me, has referred to me by name and labelled Bonkers a political blog, not that I mind either. Probably I am naive but I had never considered Bonkers to be ‘a political site’; I have had a go at all the parties at one time or another but maybe sitting on the fence is being political too. LibDems and Greens may have escaped my attention but that is because I have always regarded them as two faced non-entities unworthy of comment. Probably I have just lost 0·5% of my readers.

The Thamesmead Grump has been added to the Bonkers’ menu list of local blogs. I’ve not yet done the same for another local website recently brought to my attention because I’m not convinced it is a blog, the last update was more than four months ago. A lot of work must have gone into it and there is a wealth of information about Welling with lots of nice photos. Worth a look. I’ll have to think where I place a permanent link.

 

3 October (Part 2) - Absolutely mad

Parking meterOn some days the web site name seems more than usually appropriate, whoever made this decision must be well and truly bonkers.

In Welling High Street, opposite Tesco, some thoughtless clown has decided that the best place for the Pay and Display parking ticket machine is to bung it right in the middle of a bus stop. Some luckless soul, unfamiliar with the wicked ways of Bexley council, might be deluded into thinking it is legitimate to park next to a parking meter and help fund the salary of a fat cat.

It’s another picture (from a reader) that requires you to view the larger one for a decent view.

 

3 October (Part 1) - Things to avoid

There are a few subjects I’m not keen to cover on Bonkers and one of them is cycling and cyclists. Too divisive, you either love it or hate them.

CyclistI find cyclists on the pavement, even locally where it is allowed, a nuisance, all their bells are broken for a start and you can be in danger when getting off a bus. But cycling in the road is dangerous too, not much doubt about that, all of which I suppose means I should be keen on Boris’s mini-Holland schemes but I’m not. Too expensive in times of austerity. So I’m a confirmed don’t know.

Neither do I know where I stand on the latest story to come my way, that the police, or the plastic variety masquerading as policemen, are going around issuing fixed penalty fines to cyclists riding on the pavement in Bexley. Certainly there can be no dispute it happened once near Crook Log, what I’m not sure about is the story that it is part of a one month campaign of attrition - in which case i think I am against it. That sounds like a target has to be met and cyclists are easy game. Chasing targets always leads to unforeseen consequences, whether it be in the NHS or on the streets of Bexley.

Meanwhile it might be wise to avoid riding a bike on the footpath.

 

2 October (Part 3) - Councillor Cheryl Bacon must be desperate

BaconI didn’t have to dig much further into Mrs. Lynn Tyler’s account of what councillor Cheryl Bacon is supposed to have said about me and others to find another big fat juicy lie. If only Bacon had had the sense to admit that her one big mistake on the 19th June was to announce a “Closed Session” things would have blown over by now. Oh, I almost overlooked a vital fact, she has admitted it, she just won’t admit it was wrong.

Nobody disputes that Nicholas Dowling was breaking Bexley council’s anti-democratic rules when he tried to follow the Department for Communities & Local Government guidelines and councillor Bacon may have been entitled to exclude him from proceedings, but that is not good enough to get her off the hook. The lying Cheryl must tar everyone present with the same brush because that is the only way her illegal decision can be excused.

In the past I have seen both Elwyn Bryant and Mick Barnbrook call out or jeer during council meetings. Some chairmen, the pen jabbing Alan Downing for example, get mightily wound up about it but to others it is water off a duck’s back. On the night in question Mick said absolutely nothing, I’m not so sure about Elwyn, I know he came over to speak to me twice during the several adjournments. Let us assume for the sake of argument that their previous behaviour has warped Cheryl’s mind and she sincerely believes they were not following the rules. That still leaves Peter Gussman, Danny Hackett and myself unaccounted for.

I make it an absolute rule never to say anything at council meetings because I know they will be looking for any excuse to exclude me and partially cripple Bonkers. if any of the usual crew are whispering among themselves, I move away from them.

On the evening of the 19th June I sat in solitary confinement, as confirmed by council officer John Adams, and spent much of the time staring at the nearest councillor trying to read her facial expressions. I know Danny Hackett said nothing and Peter Gussman told me he said nothing either. So what does councillor Cheryl Bacon have to say about us…
Bacon statement
A lot of commotion eh? Sitting together? In fact much of the first 20 minutes of that evening was silent, each side waiting for the next move.

Here is the next significant lie in Cheryl’s report…
Bacon statement
Note the constant emphasis on the words ‘group’ and ‘those’ because it is of paramount importance to Bacon that she maintains the pretence that Nicholas was not the only disruptive element. She spoke to Nicholas it is true and he was flanked by Elwyn and Mick, so she may consider that she was addressing them too, but I was sitting elsewhere and so was Labour man Danny Hackett. All of us were excluded from attending the reconvened meeting. Cheryl Bacon is either misreported to suit a dishonest council or she lied to Mrs. Tyler, Team Leader (Legal).

More references to a noisy group followed…
Bacon statement
I could name some councillors who will be amazed at Cheryl’s nonsense but to identify honest councillors within a council run by leader Teresa O’Neill might be the kiss of death for them - so I can’t. Danny has shown me an honest streak so maybe he will put something on the record.

There is more of Cheryl Bacon’s desperate verbal flailing to come but that is probably enough for one day, if you have heard one of her lies you you might consider you have heard them all.

 

2 October (Part 2) - Crossrail news

I am quite often asked about Crossrail developments, the line is very close to home and I am a nosey blighter, so here's a few observations before I get stuck into tearing Cheryl Bacon’s statement apart.

Station car park No parkingThe predicted Abbey Wood parking problems have not yet materialised, at least not to the south of the railway line, and a quick glance during my twice daily trip along Abbey Road has still only revealed one £3.80 ticket lying on a dashboard. But maybe that is all about to change.

Abbey Wood station car park which was scheduled for closure on 15th September is still open, there were 73 cars in it last Monday afternoon but the contractors are there erecting a new fence across the adjacent pub garden. Closure cannot be far away.

The Thames Water works in Abbey Road which were the subject of a Traffic Order two months ago are finally due to start tomorrow. There will be no free all day parking available anywhere in Abbey Road for two days. That is likely to cause problems; one can only hope the station car park doesn’t close the same day.

Bexley’s Abbey Road Traffic Order didn’t make any sense unless you knew the area inside out but it would appear that Thames Water is taking things a step further. Their notice says parking will be banned in Carrill Way too which normally takes some of the Abbey Road overflow. There was nothing about that in Frizoni’s Traffic Order.

RailwayAlong the railway line itself there is a lot going on. The track has been fenced off on both sides with blue painted scaffold poles presumably to protect workers who are even now busy clearing the scrub from either side of the track. Excavators are at work in what were people’s back gardens. The fence extends both east and west of Abbey Wood station for quite a distance.

Under the bridges towards Plumstead there are men at work doing what I cannot say, but no doubt there is a considerable amount to be done on the infrastructure to accommodate the overhead electricity supply which I don’t think has been seen south of the river (Eurostar and high speed excepted) since the 1920s.

All of these scenes require the larger version for a clear view of what is going on. Click to see.

 

2 October (Part 1) - Bexley council’s website. Uniquely tacky

I heard councillor Colin Campbell say not long ago, I think it was at the Constitutional Review Panel meeting, that visitors to the council’s web site had risen to one and a half million a year and the News Shopper yesterday reported a figure of 150,000 a month. More than Bonkers but the time spent here is longer suggesting that people visit Bexley’s site because they have to and they come to Bonkers voluntarily and are less keen to get away as soon as possible.

Only a few days ago while engaged in a little research I visited every London borough’s website and whilst I accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder I would put Bexley’s site near the bottom for attractiveness and accessibility. I think one of the reasons for it looking so tacky is that it is the only council website to carry advertisements. Whose bright idea was that? Campbell’s I think.

According to the very latest accounts from Bexley council, whilst the claim is that web advertising generated a saving of £6,000 - saving on what? - the actual revenue was only £2,376 and 39 pence. Bexley council’s use of the word savings in its accounts is always very strange to say the least. This time it would seem Bexley has the tackiest website in London to raise just enough money to cover what councillor Cheryl Bacon gets for chairing one Public Realm meeting - and making an ass of herself.

I don’t know how widespread my view of Bexley’s website is, but I had to go back less than two weeks to find this in my postbag…


Jeezuz wept, have you ever tried to setup an online account with the council? It's, for want of better language, "a f**king clusterf**k" and I can't see where to logout. Never seen anything like it and I've signed into much more important websites than the council’s.

I have never seen anything like it. I really haven't. I'm still not sure whether I've registered or not. I tried logging in. It's not recognising any of my details.


Perhaps this is an opportune moment to say I am sinking under the weight of emails. I usually spend Saturday morning wading through the week’s mail but last Saturday was taken up with a photo sortie. I’m finding that if I don’t answer mail immediately, and that is not always possible, it can get lost, especially if it is sent via the Contact Form because every single one has the same senders name (Contact Form) and subject (Contact form at Bexley is Bonkers).

 

1 October (Part 5) - Councillor Cheryl Bacon. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I have begun to analyse councillor Cheryl Bacon’s statement following her illegal exclusion of the public from a public meeting. Her only chance of escaping the attention of the Local Government Ombudsman was to apologise and admit a mistake or to lie, lie, lie and hope, hope, hope. Being a Bexley councillor there was only one real choice and Cheryl doesn’t disappoint. Here is the first paragraph of the excuse sheet written following a meeting with Mrs. Lynn Tyler, Legal Team Manager.
Cheryl Bacon's statement
The first letter on this subject came from Mrs. Lynn Tyler before the documents on which it was based became available under the Freedom of Information Act. I assumed at the time that Mrs. T. had been simply misled by a council liar but it is now apparent that things are not that simple.

John Adams, the Committee Officer, had provided Mrs. Tyler with a statement to the effect I was sitting on my ‘blogger’s table’ and Bacon says I was sitting with the infamous group. You’d think a half decent legal officer would have spotted that discrepancy and resolved it before launching into a letter designed to conceal an illegal procedure.

I have already asked the Chief Executive to interview people better placed to know the truth and I think the time has now come to ask if Danny Hackett would confirm whether any of the named persons, me in particular, took any part in Nicholas Dowling’s recording activities.

Apart from the obvious lies I am struck by the fact that the normally secretive Bexley council is so cavalier about bandying around the names of people it doesn’t like in these FOI disclosures. None of the names have been redacted. Another of Bexley council’s lies said that Danny Hackett, the Labour party member, was specially selected to attend the reconvened meeting, he will tell you otherwise, but the point is that Bexley council deemed him to be entirely innoocent of any wrong doing. So why is his name being blackened to some extent by being freely included in documents available to anyone under FOI? Should someone complain to the Information Commissioner? Probably.

 

1 October (Part 4) - The Howbury Centre

To Mr. Anon who said yesterday…


Suggest you make contact with Howbury Friends in Slade Green and find out a thriving local community group has lost out in a bid to run the new community centre in favour of Bexley Libraries that has no contact in the area. Smells of corruption to me. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Howbury-Friends/133145066699221


Yes I have already been tipped off about that and it appears to stink big time. Bexley Libraries is Jonathan Rooks who is a Green Party bigwig. I was half promised some insider info on that but until it comes and I can study the detail there is not a lot of mileage in it for me.

 

1 October (Part 3) - A question answered

Welling CornerAt the weekend I asked if anyone knew what advantages had accrued from four months of still unfinished work in the centre of Welling. I felt there was sure to be an expert out there who could throw some light on why pedestrians had been put at what would appear to be additional risk of impact by road vehicles.

I have been told the theory is that railings can act as a cheese grater when a lorry gets too close to a cyclist - and it looks better without them. Why don't I just post the complete message for simplicity?


I've been reading your site for a while and really enjoy it. You do a lot of good work.

The criticism of removing railings and clutter I don't agree with however. They are ugly, costly to maintain when damaged, dangerous to cyclists who have been squashed against them by traffic, and I don't like the philosophy they embraced - that being that people are too stupid to cross a road so must be herded like sheep.

They aren’t present throughout most European cities and removing them along with the ridiculous amount of clutter and signs can improve the appearance of areas no end. Having said that, if Bexley do their usual job of taking ages to do it and spending lots of money then that must change. It isn't hard to send some guys down on a Sunday or the weekend and cut the railings down in a couple of hours. Keep up the good work.


Welling CornerI still can’t see why the pedestrian access points have to be offset on each side of the road. When I crossed there last Saturday morning there was no traffic coming from any direction so I walked straight across - and promptly stumbled down the unexpected kerb.

My earliest photos (see left) of the Welling works date from May and they were well underway then, so it seems that chopping down the railings has taken at least five months. I’m sure Bexley will tell us that it hasn’t cost anything because Boris is paying.

 

1 October (Part 2) - Another rubbish story

Rubbish RubbishFor the past four years or so I have been plagued by a succession of neighbours who rent the house next door for a few months and move on. They have all been nice enough people, maybe one exception who the police were hunting for drug offences, and they all have one thing in common. They must have been brought up in some place where it is the norm to dispose of rubbish by opening the door or window and aiming it in the general direction of the front garden.

One has two options; leave it until it becomes a small mountain or clear it away yourself. Which is what I did yesterday morning.

Whilst Bexley council cannot be blamed for Photo 1, maybe it can for Photo 2. This communal bin has not been emptied for, well I’m not sure, but at least three and a half weeks.

My guess is that the contractor has deemed it contaminated and refused to take it away. It almost certainly is contaminated, it would be nothing new, but while Serco argues with Bexley council or whatever they do, the affected residents - not me - are left to live in squalor. But then maybe it’s of their own making. It can’t be doing Bexley’s recycling statistics an awful lot of good.

 

1 October (Part 1) - Healthy debate. Councillors perform lobotomy on NHS

Leader While waiting to see if the public was to be allowed into a public meeting last Tuesday evening one of the more approachable councillors indicated he wasn’t feeling 100% but couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment. Join the club I thought and it proved to be a bit of a theme for the evening; five or six councillors made the same complaint.

Today marks the first day of Oxleas NHS Trust taking over Bexley’s health services. There will be just two NHS managed premises in Bexley, the old Sidcup Hospital and the half forgotten ‘cottage hospital’ in Erith which gets a new lease of life.

I missed the first eight minutes of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting because I was at the Top Management Review Panel in the Board Room - for a couple of minutes until they went into secret session anyway. By the time I got into the Council Chamber, David Sturgeon from NHS England had just drawn his presentation to a close and was facing questions. Councillor John Davey suggested that smaller organisations were more likely to pick up local problems than big ones. Mr. Sturgeon had presumably been extolling the virtues of ‘going big’. He agreed with councillor Davey that “that is a challenge” - as if the NHS has not got enough of those already.

Mr. Sturgeon was not the only NHS presence, far from it. There were three ladies two of whom were called Sarah and because the name plates are not visible from the public gallery I am not going to attempt to distinguish between them here. Suffice to say that if you thought Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and Daily Mail headlines have the monopoly on poor NHS managers then you really should have been in Bexley’s council chamber a week ago.

Councillor June Slaughter asked “What are the specialised services and why are they commissioned directly by NHS England?” “Because they are the low volume, highly specialised ones” came the answer. Well you’d never have guessed that.

Councillor Eileen Pallen complained that GPs do not offer appointments within a reasonable time and was brushed off with the answer that they are all subject to quarterly review. I wonder how that accounts for people like me who have been known to give up and in one recent case go to A&E instead? Chairman councillor Ross Downing made the same point. She said that Bexley had a very poor ratio of GPs to residents and when they get no response go to the urgent care services. She said she had also heard that some people have been removed from a GP’s list because their treatment was too expensive. This was said to be “not normal”. We learned that in Bexley all GPs have an ‘open list’ which means that catchment area is the only valid restriction.

Councillor Gill MacDonald (Labour) said that she never gets to see a GP only a practice nurse and was told there are no limits on the number of patients any single GP can take on. Councillor Roy Ashmole observed that many Bexley doctors practice in converted houses and space is a problem. He was told that London has historically had a lot of single handed GPs and they typically have lists of 1,500 to 2,000 patients.

Councillor Peter Catterall said that in his experience you’ll never see your own doctor, at best a locum. I think I see a pattern developing here. He was told that there are no KPIs on this. (Key Performance Indicators.) One of the Sarahs said that patients who don’t like it should change doctors. It was about the third time that the NHS representatives had come up with that lame answer.


ServicesThere was then an argument over a suggestion that Haematology is leaving Queen Mary’s and going to the Princess Royal in Bromley, that the Paediatric Assessment Unit was suffering clinical safety issues, overnight Elective Surgery is going to Lewisham and Hydrotherapy to Darenth Valley. It would appear that there is no smoke without fire but it was denied that Diabetes care was going and Hydrotherapy facilities will remain at Sidcup although it was acknowledged that Darenth Valley was better equipped. So presumably we can guess what might come next. The current closure of Sidcup’s Hydrotherapy pool is apparently only temporary due to a fault.

Councillor Pallen questioned the very recently announced closure of the Crayford Walk-In Centre and the suggestion that people would be happy to go to Erith Hospital instead when it is turned into an Urgent Care Centre. No doctors, just nurses in charge of diagnostic equipment is the plan. No one seemed to be over-impressed by that or the suggestion that walk-in clients should go back to their GPs.

Councillors showed signs of becoming impatient with the NHS managers and whilst managers might be able to pull the wool over councillors’ eyes on medical matters, on the subject of bus routes they were less of a pushover. The NHS report claimed a bus ride from Crayford to Erith Hospital would take only twelve minutes. This ridiculous figure was in danger of discrediting the NHS’s report to the council totally. There is no direct bus service and last time I found myself stuck in Crayford - late in the evening it is true - buses ran hourly. At any time you’d have to change in Bexleyheath, wait for the 10-15 minute interval 229 and sit on it for ten minutes, more if there is a driver swap at the garage, followed by a five minute walk. The NHS report said that Crayford to Sidcup would be 22 minutes. Again there is no direct bus service to the hospital. The 492 almost gets there in a scheduled 43 minutes, but for the infirm it’s still quite a long walk from Sidcup town centre. Was the projected saving of £1·4 million an equally flawed figure? (†)

Councillor Pallen thought the whole report “feels very very rushed” and was told by the cream of local NHS management that “we have to move quickly”.


Magazine extractThe normally mild mannered councillor James Hunt reminded us that NHS reports, and he specifically referred to the one on A&E closures, were “cobblers”, “absolute rubbish” and “a pack of lies”. Patients would not now be going to Crayford if it was convenient and possible for them to go their GPs. “Quite frankly” he said, “I would like to see this stopped. How many local GPs were consulted?” He repeated the word of the moment, cobblers.

James was told “it would be wrong to stop it”. Sarah had spoken, her word was law. He was reminded that a walk-in centre is not an A&E and then Sarah Something complained about his language. Chairman Downing mildly rebuked James and he apologised for his reference to shoe menders.

Next, councillor Stefano Borella (Labour) launched his attack during which he suggested the Crayford to Erith train might be a better bet than a bus. Stefano may have forgotten that it runs at half hour intervals and not in the evening or on Sunday but it is not such a bad idea at other times. Councillor John Davey agreed with the many concerns. He thought it would “potentially increase the number in A&E” and reminded us of the law of unintended consequences. Councillor Slaughter was not to be left out of the fray. “What annoys is changes to services with no one having a say. Residents deserve better”.


Cllr. AshmoleThe inoffensive councillor Roy Ashmole raised the temperature further. “I am not going to say that what we have now is wonderful but I’m not convinced that this plan is either. New strategic plans come one after another” and he implied they had all failed, “and this is not a strategic plan, it is not even costed”. The NHS reference to Sidcup as ‘a hub’ and Erith as ‘a spoke’ is “all gobbledegook”. He said he was “very upset about the plan and this is not the answer”. Referring to James Hunt’s use of the word cobblers he said that was a mild description compared to the one he was tempted to use. To mark his confidence in the new system that starts today, he said that if he had sick children he would just call 999.

So this is what councillors actually think about the scheme which council leader Teresa O’Neill has splashed across the cover and two pages of the Autumn 2013 Bexley Magazine. The truth is rather different from her version of events but almost no one will know because attendance at the meeting was three members of the public, the News Shopper reporter and me. By soon after the half way stage I was the only sucker left in situ. My guess is that the NS man had his story with the first use of the word cobblers and, in possession of more sense than me, duly scarpered.

On the plus side, Bexley councillors now know what they have to do to appear to be super intelligent and masters of their brief; invite along some managers from the NHS. The two Sarahs, by the way, were Valentine and Blow. While Bexley council disallows photography with zoom lenses and addresses guests only by their first names, more positive identification must remain a forlorn hope.

† Isn't this Crayford Erith business a bit academic? Surely Erith due to its more central situation will just pick up a different clientele? The move will likely please as many people as it annoys.
NHS England was due to deliver its report on a new GP surgery for Crayford the day after the Health Committee meeting. It confirmed that it would go ahead by December 2014.

 

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