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Bonkers Blog September 2013

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30 September (Part 2) - Must do better

Maureen HolkhamThere was nothing new reported on Rhys Lawrie this month. New material came to light but Rhys’s grandfather Trevor judged that it should not be made public yet. For its part Bexley council is still struggling to introduce measures to prevent it doing nothing to help vulnerable children ever again. It makes frequent references to spending more money but finding social workers willing to come to Bexley isn’t easy. Meanwhile the borough does not perform as it should.

It has introduced a new case management system this month (Liquidlogic) but changing managers might have been a better idea, their recent performance is still lacking.

I don’t pretend to know what all this jargon means but for the percentage of child assessments carried out within 35 working days Bexley was ranked last of the London boroughs that provided data. Percentage of referrals going to initial assessment was second to last and for percentage of social care clients receiving self directed support only six boroughs scored worse.

 

30 September (Part 1) - Passing the time

Nurse GossThere is no shortage of blog material right now but stuff put on line on the last day of the month is destined to be tomorrow’s electronic chip paper, so it is best to sit on it today and scratch around for fillers.

Bexley’s magazine is out even if it has not hit your door mat yet. Don’t you think it is a bit thoughtless to put an image of a South London Health Care security pass on the front cover? Just as well that SLHC hits the buffers at midnight tonight.

The Bexley magazine occasionally shows signs of becoming a propaganda rag with news given a political slant but it could be worse. It’s not yet evolved into Greenwich Time.

Teresa O’Neill adorns Page 3 lauding the downgrading of Queen Mary’s Hospital to its ’health campus’ status and “thanks everyone who supported our plan to save Queen Mary’s”. There are two whole pages devoted to it further on. I have the impression that in some respects the reorganised hospital is set up to do what I used to expect a GP to do but now that it is next to impossible to get an appointment within a reasonable timescale the health service is providing one big and well equipped doctor’s surgery in the middle of town - except that Sidcup is as close to the edge of town as it is possible to get. My experience of GP services may not be unique, a number of councillors were saying similar things at last week’s Health Committee meeting.

Page 4 of the Bexley magazine pictures the Magic Roundabout under the heading “A huge improvement” and the comment “A number of people have declared themselves impressed by the changes”. It does of course look better but it may not be as cyclist and pedestrian friendly as people hoped. Page 14 sings the praises of the changes made in Welling which “is being transformed”. Not into a death trap one must hope.

Finally and inevitably the council leader uses the magazine to claim credit for Little Waitrose coming to Sidcup which also got a mention in last week’s News Shopper - for poor parking arrangements.

Nicholas Dowling has shown that all that is needed to get your name into a newspaper is a dud sound recorder and assistance from a headless chicken, for Nick has been featured in the Bexley Times for six of the last eight issues. In the current issue his image is alongside a letter from Bexley resident Richard Shone who says…


Bexley TimesI believe the council has made the decision to record and webcast the meetings professionally for two reasons: to maintain editing rights on the material so that anything they don’t want council taxpayers to know can be quietly removed; and by making the proposed recording methods so expensive that objections to the cost will be raised and they won’t have to allow the recordings at all.


Pedantry compels me to note that Bexley council has not yet made that decision and the precise recommendations to council will not be revealed until November. Some sort of double-cross is not impossible and maybe, just this once, there will not be unanimity in the Conservative ranks. I can only agree with Richard when he says “the council are very good at wasting taxpayers’ money” and “members of the public recording the proceedings the cost would be zero”. Whoever does it, you can be sure the viewing numbers will be very close to zero.

 

29 September (Part 3) - Bexleyheath Broadway. It’s gone to the dogs

Pet shop Pet shop noticeWhat was it that Teresa O’Neill said about the new look Bexleyheath Broadway? Oh yes, I remember…


The scheme which was funded by Transport for London was planned to revitalise Bexleyheath Town Centre.

The key features of this scheme focused on creating a much better physical environment & has already transformed the character of the town centre making it a much more attractive place for business and recreation. We’re convinced this will also lead to further economic regeneration of the Borough’s strategic town centre as early indications are already showing.


Red CrossThat was written only a week after the first stage of the new Broadway opened last June; maybe the council leader should have waited a little longer to see how things panned out. Yesterday the pet shop which has been on Broadway for 25 years closed its doors for the last time, blaming Bexley council. Click the image above for a readable copy of their reasons. It is signed by Dennis Ball. I vaguely remember someone telling me ages ago that the pet shop was owned by councillor Chris Ball’s dad. I wonder if that is true.

Last month the Red Cross charity shop upped sticks and left the Broadway too giving the all too familiar reason. Once again click image to read the note.

 

29 September (Part 2) - You should read Bexley is Bonkers

UKIP David Coburn From Welling I took the bus to Bexleyheath and got off near the Magic Roundabout to see if there was anything new to see. Opposite ASDA I stumbled upon some UKIP people handing out leaflets. This wasn’t entirely coincidental because UKIP gives notice of its activities on Twitter. The other two parties only ever use Twitter to say where they were the day before so I’m not able to treat them equally. I expect they are keen to keep out of camera view.

I have noticed that the Labour people invariably Twitter that people are sick of Bexley council and the Tories Tweet that householders appreciate the frozen council tax. Maybe they should both get out of their own strongholds for a more representative view.

The man shown wearing the rosette is David Coburn who is Chairman of UKIP London. Our paths have crossed two or three times before which may have something to do with him living in the borough - or about to move in, I’m not sure which.

I had a brief conversation with another of their supporters who lived in Kensington. He told me a little of what his council got up to and I returned the favour. He finished by recommending that I read Bexley is Bonkers. I should have asked him if it is any good.

 

29 September (Part 1) - They have spent your money but what has been achieved?

Welling Corner Welling Corner Welling High StreetJust asking for a friend, you understand, but I cannot see any benefit from the recently completed Welling Corner road works and readers have been asking. Maybe another reader knows the answer.

The old photo taken from Google Street View shows pedestrians protected by railings when attempting to cross Bellegrove road. Those taken yesterday show a free for all and a young lad streaking straight across. It is too tempting to do so and those concentrating on looking to their left can all too easily trip down an unexpected kerb.

It would appear to be the new norm, a hundred yards or so further east the same arrangements have been in place for a couple of years. Council leader Teresa O’Neill is keen on reducing street clutter but she should perhaps remember that not all of us would survive a collision with a bus.

I found one of Teresa O’Neill’s statements about the new approach to road safety to be rather worrying. She said “the road surface has been re-laid to remove the distinction between the roadway and the footway and kerbs have been lowered to encourage people to wander across the street”. Whatever happened to the “Look right, look left and right again” that was drummed into me at school?

 

28 September - You wait ages for a joke on Bonkers and three come along together

There is probably not enough humour on Bonkers, joke councillors in abundance but little to tickle the ribs. Until now perhaps.

Bexley Business AwardsBexley council is sponsoring The Bexley Business Awards and just look who has the gall to be offering their advice. None other than three failed Bexley business people.

On the left you see Ian Payne, manager of Bexley’s Business Improvement District (BID) and the man who masterminded a 7% drop in trade in the town centre. By his side are cabinet members Linda ‘Biffa’ Bailey and the ubiquitous Teresa O’Neill chasing another photo opportunity.

The BID is still showing up on the Companies House website as not having filed its accounts.

Bailey and O’Neill are Directors of the wholly Bexley council owned Thames Innovation Centre - a centre of mismanagement that would have gone bust years ago if not supported by the council tax payer. Despite being given more advantageous business terms in the form of contracts, interest free loans and goods delivered through the back door, it has lost money every year since it opened. More last year than the year before. Yes, this threesome are the perfect people to recognise successful local businessmen.

Accounts


If the figures above (scroll to see them) are too horrible for you, try the simplified version below.

Losses
Ian Payne doubles up as Deputy Mayor of Bromley. He is a salaried employee of Bexley council.

 

27 September (Part 3) - General pointlessness committee

Another council meeting last night, the General Purposes Committee and they too were considering the latest accounts. The Agenda was a mere 323 pages instead of 346 at the Audit Committee.

John Watson and Nicholas Dowling beat me into Room 105 at the Civic Centre which had been laid out with desks in a doughnut pattern so that the public could not have a clear view of proceedings. The main council chamber affords a clear view only from the centre of the public gallery and no one is allowed close enough to read name displays which is a nuisance when trying to identify guests and officers. Occasionally the U shaped chamber is turned into ‘a doughnut’ too just to prove they are in charge and assisting public scrutiny counts for nothing.

Geraldene Lucia-HennisJohn brought the visibility problem to the attention of the chairman, councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis. He asked if two councillors could move to the side tables so that he could see them and they did not obstruct the view of others. The chairman said “No”, adding that “councillors could sit where they liked”. The customary lack of consideration for the public proved to be a mistake.

Later and just a couple of minutes before the meeting was due to start Mick Barnbrook showed up and asked much the same question referring to his hearing loss and the lack of microphones in Room 105. The chairman said Mick was late and she had already gone over that ground with the obvious implication he should shut up and suffer his disability in silence.

I have no way of telling just how poor Mick’s hearing is but a friend of 30 years is deaf and if I talk straight at her, communication problems are generally avoided, but if I should be by her side and begin talking she is not even aware I have opened my mouth. Mick seems to be heading in the same direction. He kicked up a bit of a fuss at not being able to half listen, half lip read.

Councillor Aileen Beckwith did the decent thing and removed herself to a more visible position but the boorish pig otherwise known as councillor Colin Campbell immediately took her place to ensure the view remained blocked. Mick retaliated by taking a seat within a couple of feet of the councillors’ tables and Lucia-Hennis, perhaps realising where this was leading, let him stay there. A reasonable chairman would have asked councillors to shuffle around a bit to provide a better view at the outset, but however wrong they are, Bexley councillors will never give an inch. Power corrupts, absolute power has corrupted them absolutely. In the event no councillor said more than a dozen words and two said nothing at all.

The meeting was another occasion for running an eye over the audited accounts but this committee (chairman and five councillors) gave them even less consideration than Audit. The Accounts were nodded through after nine minutes and the meeting ended before eight o’clock despite the delayed 19:30 start.

CampbellDuring the meeting councillor Campbell said he considered the accounts had become far too long for anyone to read, councillor Munir Malik countered that by saying they have become far easier to read and digest. Grant Thornton, he believed, had brought the accounts up to a new level. Labour supporting private enterprise over public bodies? Whatever next? Probably both men have a point.

323 pages are far too many to summarise here but a small number of items came to my attention almost at random. The Broadway Shopping Centre provided a rental income of £1·5 million in 2012/13 and the council’s reserves are earmarked for the Bexley First project. That’s the refurbishment of the old Woolwich Building Society H.Q.

The council’s income from sales and services (such as taking away old sofas and hunting rats) reduced by about 23% in 2012/13 (by £5,934,000.) It’s what happens when you keep jacking up the prices.

A statement of known expenditure for 2013/14 showed another £25 million earmarked for the new Civic Offices. It seems a lot to pay to get rid of doughnut shaped meeting rooms. Getting rid of Lucia-Hennis and those of her ilk requires only a pencil and ballot paper.

 

27 September (Part 2) - Don’t hold your breath

Eric and TeresaEric Pickles has spoken again and today’s headline writers are occupied with his latest wheeze. He wants to put an end to gestapo wagons and CCTV surveillance of parking spaces.

In the past the Minister for Local Government has pontificated on all manner of subjects from weekly dustbin collections to filming council meetings; and what has he actually achieved? The bloggers’ desk. Councils must now provide a place at council meetings for a man to rest his notebook.

In every other area of activity dishonest councils - is there any other sort? - are free to stand behind the Secretary of State grinning while thumbing their noses.

If guidance worked we wouldn’t have gestapo wagons now because they are only supposed to be used where it would be unsafe for the job to be done on foot. Pass some legislation Eric, you know it makes sense.

 

27 September (Part 1) - Audit plaudits

Bexley’s Audit Committee met on Wednesday evening and as befits the sober subject matter the meeting was a sober affair bereft of the fireworks seen the previous evening at the Health Committee meeting.

Chaired as usual by councillor Steven Hall, he probably disappoints the Bexley Action Group members present because of the total absence of petty dictatorship. His committee of four councillors (one was absent) is assisted by Committee Officer Mike Summerskill who efficiently looks after everyone including members of the public. The accounts were signed off within the first 15 minutes and the 346 page Agenda presented to the committee was devoured within the hour. To be honest the latter is a guess as I could only stay for 35 minutes but the committee was well on its way to wrapping up by then. Why the accounts are signed off before the auditors report is heard is a mystery to me.

John Peters, the Deputy Director of Finance, said the council’s reserves had risen above £8 million which councillor Howard Marriner reminded us is only a week’s expenditure. Mr. Peters said there were budget pressures on children’s services. Councillor Malik expressed some disquiet about the PFI contracts and spoke of renegotiation. Mr. Peters didn't seem to think that was very likely and believed the costs were indexed at 3%.

This year the audit was done by Grant Thornton, the Audit Commission having been killed off by the present government. Those 346 pages show that audit costs fell to £213,000 for 2012/13 from £279,000 the year before. My accountancy knowledge is zero but I was surprised to hear they only sample the accounts with the aid of their home-brew software. Maybe that is how their costs can be reduced.

Sue Exton gave a clear and concise explanation of the auditor’s role and findings and she had me fooled for a moment because the performance of Bexley’s management females is usually dire but I was being silly, Ms. Exton is a Grant Thornton employee. She said that her company found no more to complain about in Bexley than they had in other London boroughs. There was some concern that Bexley’s ‘journal authorisation controls’ are lax and my enquiries reveal that is something to do with not having invoices and expense claims checked by senior officers. Well that would explain Ian Clement getting away with everything wouldn’t it? You’d think they would have fixed that by now.

Only two other members of the public were present and as usual I knew the name and address of both of them.

Note: The Health Committee meeting is not yet reported here.

 

26 September (Part 2) - Jobsworth misses a trick

We left jobsworth Adams telling meeting chairman Cheryl Bacon that I was agitating for a better seat and challenging her on the audio recording issue; all complete rubbish and possibly the result of a muddle by Adams, but Lynn Tyler wasn’t to know that and used it to justify my own illegal exclusion from the reconvened Public Realm meeting.

Adams then relates how he approached Nicholas Dowling (I assume it is Nicholas despite the initials NK) and Michael Barnbrook who, it is suggested, is waving the Department for Communities and Local Government guidance at him. I was sitting forward of them all but naturally looked around to watch an important development. I don’t know where Michael was supposed to have obtained the DCLG documentation because like the rest of us he had no idea of Nicholas’s plans for the evening until a minute or two before entering the building, so he would not have come prepared for it. i.e. carrying the guidance. A small point but Adams is wrong again.

I checked this out with Mick last night and he confirms he waved nothing and Bacon and Adams did not address him at all - which is my recollection too.

Much of the remainder of John Adams’ report concerns his activities outside the council chamber and cannot be challenged but what he says of the events inside continue to be wrong.
Extract
“Everyone accept (sic) the public gallery” did not leave the Council Chamber as Adams states. One councillor remained and engaged Elwyn Bryant and me in friendly conversation throughout the 30 minute adjournment. Another of Adam’s numerous errors, however perhaps his biggest error is one of omission.

Mrs. Tyler (Legal Team Manager) has been given the unenviable task of defending the indefensible and has resorted to untruths which should bring shame on her profession. If she had analysed the responses she received surely a half competent legal brain would have picked up the inconsistencies? But apparently not. The only way that councillor Cheryl Bacon can be excused her law breaking is if every member of the public present on the evening of the 19th June was being disruptive and this is what Lynn Tyler has had to claim.
Extract
You might have expected John Adams to lick his masters’ boots by making it clear that Cheryl Bacon had words with everyone but his highly detailed report fails to refer to any warnings to anyone but Nicholas, which is of course exactly right. More reports will be presented soon. Meanwhile John Adams’ report in full.

 

26 September (Part 1) - Stainless steel clutter

The refurbished Bexleyheath Broadway undoubtedly looks smarter than it used to be, I don’t think any of its many critics dispute that but safety concerns have demanded several changes since it was partially opened in June.

This is what council leader Teresa O’Neill had to say about it a few days after it opened.


ClutterIt was carefully designed and implemented after a series of consultations with and support from the Borough’s residents and businesses. The consultation included the Bexley Access Group which represents the more vulnerable members of our community.

This scheme has been designed using an innovative concept of ‘shared space’ which aims to create a better balance of priorities between drivers and pedestrians. The most recognisable characteristic of shared space is the absence of street clutter, such as conventional traffic signals, barriers, signs and road markings.

We’re convinced this will also lead to further economic regeneration of the Borough’s strategic town centre as early indications are already showing. We need to inspire our children and young people to welcome the new environment.


Crossing CrossingOne has to ask, if it was so carefully designed, why so many changes have been made since. There were three attempts to get the road signs at the magic roundabout right. Are they right now? The pedestrian crossings have proved troublesome and more signs appeared this week. See photos taken yesterday evening.

How does that fit in with Teresa’s “absence of street clutter”? Having gone that far why not put in a longer pole, paint it black and white and plonk a yellow globe on it? A flashing light inside it would be a nice touch.

 

25 September (Part 2) - A jobsworth speaks

As well as interviewing councillor Borella about councillor Cheryl Bacon’s mishandled meeting, Legal Team Manager Lynn Tyler also obtained a report from council officer John Adams. His report is neither signed nor identified in any way but it is clear from the content that the writer must be him.

In my opinion John Adams, who I have come across before, is a jobsworth in the mould of Kevin Fox with a gift for getting people’s backs up which is uncalled for. There are Bexley officers who know how to be pleasant and helpful and the name Dave Easton springs to mind, but any of the doormen deserve a mention too. John Adams is an altogether different kettle of fish.

Nicholas DowlingMr. Adams shows his devotion to petty officialdom by providing a time for every aspect of the evening in question and states that at 19:10 he entered the Council Chamber and found Nicholas Dowling checking the seating arrangements. It is only a small point but that cannot be true. I catch the same bus to every council meeting and it arrives outside the Civic Centre just after 19:15. I look through the door and if no one I recognise is inside I usually walk on to see if Nicholas and his Bexley Action Group (BAG) colleagues are on their way. The 19th June was no exception and I met all of them on the Highland Road/Broadway corner. They were a little more animated than usual and as we entered the Civic Centre I learned of Nicholas’s plan to audio record the meeting. I confess to being more than a little surprised, shocked even.

We lingered at the doorman’s desk while Mick Barnbrook, who had learned of the plan only a couple of minutes before me, and I think, Nick explained what was in store and that no one would do anything to embarrass the doorman. Quite likely MIck Barnbrook gave him the benefit of his police experience, he often does but definitely the emphasis was on protecting the doorman from criticism and assuring him there was going to be no law breaking. There is no way any of us entered the Council Chamber much before 19:20, certainly not 19:10 as stated by John Adams. A small point but indicative perhaps of his willingness to make things up.

John Adams says that Nicholas Dowling greeted Elwyn Bryant, Michael Barnbrook and myself as we entered the chamber. No John, that is another small fib. Nicholas met Mick and Elwyn when they parked their cars a quarter of a mile away and me in the street outside. As I said, Adams seems to make things up as he goes along.

On the previous evening the doorman had apologised to me for not providing the blogger’s desk and I told him it didn’t matter because I was not keen on being conspicuous. However as Adams was being awkward I decided that two could play that game.
Silly buggers
The ‘buggers’ comment was fully reported in June, unlike Bexley council I have no wish to be selective with the truth.

On a point of detail I did not ask for a desk for Elwyn Bryant, he is not entitled to one, and Elwyn sat elsewhere. We are barely into John Adams report and we have three bits of misinformation already.

Mal is Mal Chivers, the Hallkeeper (doorman to you and me) who we spoke to on the way in. I apologised to him for reneging on the agreement (no desk) of the previous evening and explained why. He was his usual cheerful self and it was clear that he fully understood.

John Adams continues lying in similar vein, minor stuff but it helps throw further doubt on the overall veracity of his report. He says that Nicholas, Elwyn, Michael and I all complain about the lack of access to the best seats. Those three did but I certainly did not. By then, on Adams’ own admission, I had been provided with a desk and chair in a prime position already. In any case I couldn’t care less about sitting close to the councillors as unlike Mick and Elwyn, my hearing is still reasonably OK. Additionally they have a tendency to whisper among themselves which is distracting when trying to take notes. There have been recent meetings when the Bexley Action Group members have sat in the best seats while I have chosen a solitary existence in the more remote public gallery. I am afraid Adams was definitely mistaken again.

I cannot comment on much of what John Adams says next because I had my own desk and was doing my best to withdraw from the events soon to come. One thing I do recall is that someone, I forget who, asked for Adam’s name. I remember that the BAG people were in front of me nearer to Adams and I said somewhat flippantly that he was the President of the United States, at which Adams smiled. The problems with the Agenda, if there were any, were not apparent to me as I was sitting elsewhere. (John Adams, 2nd president of USA. 1797-1801.)
Ask name
PG is Peter Gussman (another member of the Bexley Action Group) and the member of the public who arrives later can only be Danny Hackett, the Labour party member. The BAG foursome, Danny and I were the only non-council people there.

Something that puzzles me about John Adam’s statement is that he says he put out three copies of the presentation (on Sidcup) but all of them want a copy of the presentation. How can that be true? Three of them already had a copy in their hands. Another little John Adams lie presumably. However that is not the end of it…
Bollocks
Why would I (MK) be asking to sit in the reserved area when I am quietly sitting within a handful of feet of councillors at my specially provided desk? John Adams is obviously a total cretin who has lied to the extent he doesn’t any longer know who is who. Presumably his final reference to MK should be ND. Maybe that explains why I was illegally excluded from the reconvened meeting. Maybe John Adams not only plays silly buggars (sic) but he is a silly bugger. And incapable of telling the truth.

I shall return to John Adam’s tomorrow, covering his report on how the meeting progressed after 19:30, and include a copy of his complete report.

 

25 September (Part 1) - Meeting priorities

Bexley council’s protracted summer holiday is over and the season of meetings is upon us. It began in earnest last night. Top priority and first off the block was fixing senior officers’ pay. The Top Management Review Panel is advertised as a public meeting but in pursuance of the council’s policy of secrecy it had been recommended by a “Proper Officer” that a vote be taken to exclude members of the public from Agenda Item 6. I thought I’d look in anyway and upon arrival found that two members of the Bexley Action Group had had the same idea. They were lurking in the foyer and said they had been told they would not be admitted. The doorman told me he wasn’t sure where the meeting was being held.

Total exclusion was unexpected because the Agenda was emblazoned with the usual guff about audio/visual recording not being permitted without the prior approval of the chairman. Actually that is double guff as this is a meeting which elects its chairman as Agenda Item 1 so prior approval is impossible. But that is, with luck, a past battle duly won by Nicholas Dowling and one more lie doesn’t much matter.

So there we were standing in the foyer refused access to a public meeting again and contemplating more complaints about illegal exclusion when Mr. Hollier, the Head of Human Resources, sauntered by. Mick Barnbrook spoke to him and explained the situation. Mr. Hollier said he would make enquiries and report back as soon as he could. He was as good as his word. At 19:34 we were led into the Board Room and given a nice comfy chair of a type you don’t see in the Council Chamber. Councillors Colin Campbell, Peter Craske, Teresa O’Neil, Alex Sawyer and opposition leader Chris Ball were there along with Chief Executive Will Tuckley smiling broadly. The Agenda indicated councillor Kerry Allon would be there too but I confess to not noticing him; maybe he had popped out for a fag again.

The election of the chairman took the inevitable course and Teresa took up the role. She almost immediately asked for a vote on exclusion of the public but if there was one I must have blinked. There was a sort of low level grunting sound after which we were shown the door. We had enjoyed the comforts of the Board Room for exactly two minutes.

This was no more than a very small victory for democracy. A matter of principle. Bexley council, or maybe it was just the wicked witch, had assumed that the vote would go the way it did and the public might as well be totally excluded. Another demonstration of disdain for democracy that the voting procedure had to be forced on her. It looks like Mr. Hollier’s wiser counsel has prevented another round of complaints. Perhaps he deserves a pay rise.

 

24 September (Part 3) - The Labour line on councillor Cheryl Bacon’s ‘Closed Session’ meeting

The following report - and some yet to come - is based on Bexley council’s response to Michael Barnbrook’s Freedom of Information request which he submitted following Lynn Tyler’s letter of 23rd August. The one where she claimed that councillor Cheryl Bacon did nothing wrong when she excluded members of the public from the Public Realm meeting on 19th June 2013.

Mrs. Tyler’s latest covering letter reveals that the one Labour councillor she interviewed was Stefano Borella. I have not yet seen any evidence that she interviewed a Conservative councillor in addition to the predicted Cheryl Bacon as claimed in her first letter. It also repeats the lie that councillor Bacon spoke to “a group of persons” who were sitting “near to one another”. She admits that Bacon did not speak to “one other member of the public who was sitting apart from this group of people”. It is possible that that one other person was me at ‘the bloggers’ table’ but it could be Mr. Danny Hackett who if I remember correctly was sitting several seats to the right of that group, behind me and possibly in the row behind ‘the group’.
Letter extract
Mrs. Tyler confirms that no member of the public gained entry to the reconvened meeting in Room 105 which is not surprising given the admission that councillor Cheryl Bacon announced it was a “Closed Session” and told Mr. Barnbrook specifically that he was not allowed in. No one else asked after that. So how did councillor Borella describe the meeting?

Stefano says he arrived early at the meeting and noted that Mr. Dowling and Mr. Knight (me) were present. He reports that “Danny Hackett, a Labour party member was also present separate from the other group” thereby implying I was with the group which wasn’t true. I shall assume he did not intend to do that but Mrs. Tyler may have drawn a different conclusion.

Councillor Borella then accurately reported how Nicholas Dowling sought permission to record the meeting relating how Nicholas was “not aggressive”. This is in stark contrast to councillor Colin Campbell’s lies on TV when he referred to it being “quite obvious from the beginning they were there to disrupt the meeting. They have a history of disruption and they stuck an iphone about six inches from the face of the chairman”. But a Bexley cabinet member lying non-stop is not exactly news is it?

Borella believed Nicholas was recording the meeting which is fair enough, it wasn’t until the end of the meeting that I discovered otherwise when I asked Nicholas for a play back. However he is alleged to have said of “the group sitting together“ that “one or two of them kept up a running commentary”. Not all of them you will note and if it were true it should be remembered that the meeting was for the most part in adjournment. However there was no constant commentary from any of them. I looked on in amazement at Mick Barnbrook who said not a word because he is no shrinking violet and has been known to address the chair directly. However this time he did not. The only comments I was aware of is that Elwyn Bryant twice walked over to speak to me directly which I found a little embarrassing. As I have said before, councillor June Slaughter was no more than a few feet from me and I could feel her eyes on me for much of the time. She said nothing but her look said it all.

Borella then says that Cheryl Bacon “announced that she was going into a closed session meeting” and that “council staff looked for Danny Hackett to inform him that he could attend the reconvened meeting”. This will be useful information when I take my exclusion to the Local Government Ombudsman. I have a statement to the effect I was not part of ‘the group’ and an admission that Cheryl Bacon did not feel it was necessary to speak to me, yet I was not invited to the reconvened meeting.
Borella
Bexley Action Group Council chamberThe fact is that the statement is a lie although I concede that Lynn Tyler claims only that Stefano Borella said it was his understanding. While waiting for the police to arrive I spent much of the time speaking to Danny, mainly about his forthcoming candidate selection meeting. He considered himself illegally excluded from the public meeting the same as I was and was present when the photographs to show that all the members of the public had been left unsupervised in the chamber were taken, The alleged disrupters evidently trusted not to wreck the place.

It is notable that Mrs. Tyler has twice assured Mr. Barnbrook that no member of the public was unlawfully excluded from the reconvened meeting and arrangements were in place to ensure that those other than ‘the group’ could attend but no one actually did so, not even Danny Hackett, the Labour party member. Did Danny refuse to attend out of solidarity with fellow members of the public or is Lynn Tyler engaged in frantic efforts to shut the legal stable door long after the horse has bolted?

Letter extract
Mrs. Tyler conducted her interviews six weeks after the ‘Closed Session’ meeting.

More to come on this…

Lynn Tyler’s summary of her interview with Labour councillor Stefano Borella. It is important to recognise that this is not a signed statement by Stefano Borella. When lying it makes sense to leave as many escape routes as possible.

 

24 September (Part 2) - The Bexley Lie Machine has gone into overdrive

To cover up for councillor Cheryl Bacon’s mistake on 19th June Bexley council is having to invent ever more fanciful lies and inevitably get themselves into a steadily deepening mire of contradictory information as liars always do. I now have nine more pages of A4 typescript to wade through and I really don’t know where to begin. Almost nothing Bexley council has written is truthful.

While I prepare the first installment for publication I will refer you to the last set of lies and the complaint to Will Tuckley it provoked. Somehow or other I’ll get some sort of preliminary report on the most recent set of lies distributed by the unfortunate Mrs. Lynn Tyler for later today.

 

24 September (Part 1) - The Craske affair

The IPCC may have declared that the police didn’t take my complaint about their investigation into Bexley council’s obscene blog seriously but the other parts of the establishment continue to do their best to sweep the corruption and political interference under the carpet.

Elwyn Bryant spent more than six months trying to get the Crown Prosecution Service to fulfill their promise to supply him with information before giving up and making a complaint to the Information Commissioner. They told the CPS to provide Elwyn with a proper response within ten days and that deadline is now a week overdue. My Subject Access Request to the police is now nearly two months overdue. I suppose that ought to go to the Information Commissioner too. They are all as bent as each other.

 

23 September (Part 3) - Parking enforcement. The tricks of the trade

On BBC 1 (London and South East) this evening at 19:30 is yet another exposé of the evil tricks that NSL and similar companies employ to ensure maximum revenues for councils more than happy to act outside of the law. Not specifically Bexley related but the Notomob crew have once again been instrumental in bringing it to your screen.

BBC web page.
iPlayer.

 

23 September (Part 2) - Closure of Bridleway 250. Secrecy and lies

CCTV KeypadIt is not legally possible to take Bexley’s unlawful closure of Bridleway 250 to the Magistrate’s Court for another week and a bit and I am not yet sure whether this will be done by local people or an interested charity on their behalf but meanwhile Bexley council has been answering questions - or perhaps that should read, not answering questions.

In response to a Freedom of Information request they refused to say which officers had reached the decision to allow a single individual to continue to block the highway. However they were prepared to say the police representative at their meetings was the Sergeant on the St. Mary’s Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) who is not difficult to identify.

Conveniently the council took no minutes of their meetings but the conclusions reached were disclosed. The female SNT Sergeant is said to have referred to a “History of Crime” at Mount Mascal Stables but it is impossible to judge whether she was mistaken or Bexley council has lied. An FOI to the police does not reveal a “history of crime”; just a single burglary.

Something that is a Bexley council lie is their assertion that “the gate had been erected many years ago”. This is presumably offered as an excuse for allowing the blockage to continue. Other council correspondence refers to installation in the early 1990s when CCTV of the type in use, not to mention the electronic entry system would not be available. Numerous local residents will tell you that the gate appeared during the lead up to the 2012 Olympics and given the state of the gate pillars; still looking like new, that would appear to be a more believable story than Bexley council’s. Masonry standing under trees for 20 years would surely be weathered with both algae and moss in evidence. The photographs show none.

Bexley council was also asked to justify its use of Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to override the provisions of the Highways Act when the former expressly forbids such use. As you would expect, Bexley council has not troubled to answer that question.

 

23 September (Part 1) - First customer hits Abbey Road

White lines Parked car Empty roadA bad start to the day. I woke up, glanced at the clock which said 6:01; so got up and went about the usual things at a leisurely pace intending to have a blog ready for 9 a.m.

When I was ready for the trip to the paper shop it was 8:50! Must remember to put my glasses on when reading the bedside clock in future, it must have been 8:01; but I inadvertently did someone a favour.

As I went along Abbey Road right next to the new Pay & Display machine a man was calling out to a householder across the road standing in his doorway. “Can I park here all day?” was the gist of the question and the reply approximated to “Dunno”. So I explained that he had to pay £3.80 for two hours and pointed at the sign. The driver didn’t understand it so I went into the subject in a bit more detail and he then raked through his small change for £3.80. He never said a word about the exorbitant price but with wife, two children and luggage in tow perhaps it was worth paying for the convenience of the nearby station.


PCN I returned to the scene at 1 p.m. expecting him to have got a PCN by then because his ticket receipt was not ideally placed, but despite being the only sucker in the entire road willing to pay £3.80, all was well.

A little further along the road someone was less lucky. He'd parked where there are no yellow lines but there is a ‘Residents Only’ sign 50 yards away which he had no reason to be looking out for, there being no yellow lines. The stupid thing is that if he had parked on the opposite side of the road which is identically marked he’d have been OK. Councils do like to confuse people in order to line their pockets.

 

22 September (Part 2) - Cops at the shops

Cop Safer transportThe police have been heavily promoting their open day outside the Broadway Shopping Centre held today and I suppose I should have looked in but it hasn’t got much to do with Bexley council, the weather is foul for the time of year and what would I do there anyway? I doubt they would want to discuss political interference in the Craske case. However Bonkers’ readers may be made of sterner stuff and I believe the subject may well have been raised.

If these photographs are a guide, the event may not have been as well supported as it should have been. I assume the first photograph is of the officer who left an eight month gap between getting a street address from a certain IP address and knocking on the appropriate door. The other picture is of four Safer Transport Team officers.

As readers will have noticed, there has been something of a famine for the past week so far as significant Bexley council malpractice is concerned but I am pleased to be able to report, all of that is about to change. Councillor Cheryl Bacon has kindly ridden to the rescue with a number of untruthful statements. I think I may have to serialize them over several days.

 

22 September (Part 1) - Blogging competition

CompetitionBonkers may have competition from an unlikely source. The fine words you see here come from none other than Bexley council anxious to get in on the blogging scene.

You may read all about it here; after presiding over a catalogue of failure in both the adult and child care spheres someone seems to be keen to spend £5 million on hiring new staff. Unfortunately most of the senior management is just the same as it always was and the BELL case illustrates perfectly what happens to staff who spot potential problems.

 

21 September - Not a big spender

Bexley council is proud of spending less on domiciliary care workers than any nearby borough and it never seemed likely that it would be the biggest spender nationally on child care. The last thing Bexley council does is care so it is not very surprising that the recent Daily Telegraph report was wrong. Councils are expert at wasting money but £3 million pounds a year on each child had to be a mistake - and it was. The real figure is now said to be £192,400 per year.

The council’s rebuttal of the Telegraph’s figure taken from Department of Education data naturally includes the proud boast that they are spending less than most councils. I hope that isn’t a recipe for more Rhys Lawries and Barbara Bakers (BELL).

Nice to know that Bexley council has never felt it necessary to correct anything reported here.

 

20 September - An unexpected present for my birthday

Dave StringerI told all my friends and relations not to buy me anything for my birthday and most of them have followed instructions but I have received one from an unexpected source. At the end of last year I complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission that the Metropolitan Police had failed to properly investigate (i.e. whitewashed) Bexley police’s failure (i.e. not doing much at all and screwing up, perhaps deliberately, what they did do) to properly investigate Bexley council’s obscene blog. And the IPCC has agreed with me. It was not a proper investigation.

That original complaint was against Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, his sidekick Tony Gowen and various underlings and originally went to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe on 7th June 2012. Everyone was said to be beyond reproach apart from the most junior member of the team who was “offered guidance”.

Now it all starts again. We are back to June 2012. There is to be a repeat of, let’s be absolutely clear about this, the enquiry into why Dave Stringer and Co. achieved nothing. Not a reinvestigation of the original crime. It would appear that the IPCC may not be too happy with Bexley police’s admission of “political interference”. How Bexley’s police must rue the day they agreed to help Bexley council cover-up a crime.

The complaint to the IPCC is not currently available on-line.

Obscene blog Timeline. (Requires an update.)

 

19 September - Walk for an extra two or three minutes or pay £3.80. What would you do?

Abbey Road signs Abbey Wood signsThe half expected Abbey Wood parking chaos following the Felixstowe Road closure didn’t materialise, at least not on the south side of the railway, confirmed by people living between five minutes and 15 seconds walk of the station. The fact that the station car park is still open will be a factor but my guess is that the users of Felixstowe Road car park come from Thamesmead and they are just as loath to cross the Harrow Manorway viaduct as southern dwellers are.

The lack of parking problems has not stopped Bexley council pursuing its money making schemes and it is now apparent how many of the Abbey Road residents’ parking bays will become pay and display. All of them (†). The published traffic order didn’t say. It will be interesting to see how much money is collected in parking fees. Not as much as in fine revenue I suspect.

Mike Frizoni’s (Deputy Director of Public Realm Management, £108,622 per annum) malign influence on the borough is spreading like a cancer. Every week he announces several more roads which are to have parking restrictions imposed and this week the centre of Sidcup gets the Frizoni treatment. Following the removal of all yellow lines in the centre of Bexleyheath - replaced by a single sign on each of the entry points - the same arrangements are to be applied to Sidcup.

† Some extra while lines subsequently appeared, restricting the paid parking spaces to a short section adjacent to each of the four ticket machines. Rather badly painted it should be said, not solid white but in one instance at least, more of a chalky dusting.

 

18 September - Readers’ recent comment

No time to prepare a blog yesterday so how about some comments from readers? All of these received within the past 36 hours.

A comment on Lyn Tyler’s letters


The extent to which Bexley Council will lie is ridiculous. It knows no bounds. Why would you put blatant lies in writing full stop? Let alone to someone who runs a website that will only publicize your lies to the voting masses. What morons.


About Broadway’s roundabout, T junction, free for all, or whatever it is…


BikeAre aware of the TFL traffic survey currently being done at the magic roundabout in Bexleyheath?

I was speaking to the chap from TfL, very friendly, and he told me he was counting bikes all day. What a lovely job, but hopefully something good will come of it. I have heard that Bexley is shortlisted for funding from TfL for cycles. When I spoke to him (around 10:30) he said that “only eight bikes have passed towards Welling and only four towards the Broadway”. He said in other areas such as Elephant and Castle it would be in the 100s.

Interestingly enough he was under the impression that the junction is a roundabout and the crossings were zebra crossings. If TfL do not know, how is the public meant to?


About the bosses lining their own pockets


How can these people be worth so much of our money?! I thought I might get some enlightenment from the papers for the "Top Management Review Panel" next week, but of course everything worth looking at is kept secret. What is the point of this charade if all the important information is withheld? Why not just do the whole thing in private, instead of pretending that some sort of public scrutiny has taken place?

ESMI was left puzzling over one of the few statements the public are allowed to see, which told me that “ESM had been progressed” during the year.

What is "ESM"?! The European Stability Mechanism? The Electron Scanning Microscope? The European Society of Mycobacteriology?

Nothing in these papers tells me, and a search of the council website also reveals nothing. What an insult! They keep most of the papers secret, and one of the few things allowed to appear in public is rendered worthless by the use of meaningless acronyms!

Roll on 2014. Let's see if anyone standing for election is prepared to boot these charlatans off their gravy train once and for all!


It’s true! Bexley council’s web search facility has no idea what ESM is.

 

17 September (Part 2) - Only obeying orders maybe; but inventing, truth bending and sinking in the council’s own mire

PrevaricateMr. Barnbrook is fond of using the word ‘prevarication’ which is really just a posh word for lying, a little less harsh perhaps but much the same sort of thing. He accused councillor Colin Campbell of prevarication following his shameful appearance on the Sunday Politics Show. The one where he claimed that Bexley council allows filming, “you only have to ask”. A lie if ever there was one as a subsequent Freedom of Information request proved. (See image below.)

Residents have asked for permission to film on ten occasions within the past two years and everyone got the standard brush off.

No permission
Mick Barnbrook’s complaint that Campbell had lied, sorry, prevaricated, on national TV because no one has ever been given permission to film a council, cabinet or committee meeting was met with another quotation from the rule book…
Protocol
So Lynn Tyler, Legal Services’ Team Manager comes out with the same old garbage about the rules allow filming but it's up to the chairman - all of whom are under instructions from she who must be obeyed. Then Tyler gets really desperate…
Irrelevancies
Totally irrelevant nonsense from someone who should know better and who now looks like an idiot. What is an awards ceremony to do with council meetings?

As part of Mr. Barnbrook’s case he referred to his own recent request to film a meeting which was turned down by Mr. Hollier, Head of Human Resources…
Refusal
Ms. Tyler is really clutching at straws now. Just because the council leader refused a filming request doesn’t mean it’s the norm she says. In the real world, the leader allows no dissension, everyone knows that. However thanks to Tyler’s weasel words, Councillor Campbell did not stray from the truth - to quote the dictionary - when saying that anyone could film, just ask. But it certainly wasn’t the whole truth.

By the end of her letter Ms. Tyler appears to totally lose the plot. She knows that she must maintain the pretence that everyone at the meeting was being disruptive because if that was not the case she must acknowledge that councillor Cheryl Bacon acted outside the law; so Tyler repeats her previous lie about group disruption…
Police
Bexley Action GroupYou have to wonder how Ms. Tyler knows that, she wasn’t there and neither was any councillor or council officer. By the time the police arrived the only people present in the council chamber were four members of the Bexley Action Group; Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant, Nicholas Dowling and Peter Gussman. Also present, having been refused access to Cheryl Bacon’s illegal ‘Closed Session’ meeting, was Danny Hackett, the Labour party candidate for Lesnes Ward at the next council elections, and me.

I can tell you exactly what happened when the police arrived. Mick Barnbrook stood to apprise them of the situation and was stopped in his tracks by a smiling Bobby who said they knew everything about Bexley council because “I read Bexley is Bonkers”.

Cheryl BaconHaving thus broken the ice we had a friendly chat about the undemocratic ways of Bexley council and then they asked us what we planned to do next. I said we were going to go home, so we then stood and made our way to the exit. The police did not eject us, as their own press release said; “No offences had been committed” and we were sitting quietly in a public building. The police were not at liberty to sling us out and no council official was around to ask them to do so.

Mrs. Lynn Tyler is prevaricating on an industrial scale. Whether she is inventing these things on her own initiative or under instructions I have no idea but I see no alternative but to make a formal complaint about her to the Chief Executive. No one but Nicholas Dowling put a foot wrong at that meeting and some councillors have been kind enough to acknowledge that fact. It’s about time our lying council learned when it is wise to stop digging.

At least there is some satisfaction in knowing that the two policeman who attended the Civic Centre and read this blog will now have absolute proof that Bexley council lies constantly.

Complete Lynn Tyler letter.

 

17 September (Part 1) - Confusing or what?

So you drive up to one of your favourite parking spots two minutes walk from the shops, pay - or not if it is after 17:30 - and when you come back you have a parking ticket. It’s Bexley so you shouldn’t be surprised.

Pay by phone Pay by phone Bus standThe reason is that Bexley council has introduced a new bus stand while the bus terminus by the Clocktower is disrupted by the Broadway regeneration.

Any decent council would place a shroud over the parking signs so that no one was likely to be encouraged to park where they shouldn’t. As it is, at a quick glance it looks like just another shared use parking bay.

The location is North Road, part of the one way system from Woolwich Road to Arnsberg Way. The larger images prove more conclusively than the thumbnails that the pictures are all from the same location.

The letter to residents didn’t come from Frizoni’s department. Makes you wonder if Bexley council even bothered to get a legal traffic order.

 

16 September (Part 3) - Felixstowe Road car park closed. All’s well at 7 a.m.

Bexley Stables Slades Livery Vicarage Road Horse Transport

Early birds were OK for parking in Abbey Wood this morning. The station car park was still open but perhaps the ticket machine was turned off, but there were certainly no barriers, unlike Felixstowe Road, closed for Crossrail works. Free parking was pretty much all taken by 7 a.m. So far so good.

 

16 September (Part 2) - Pleading poverty but doing OK thank you very much

Pay freezeThere has been a pay freeze at Bexley council for four years, there has been in many places, but Bexley’s top brass appears to be getting restless. (See document extract.)

My heart bleeds, it must be hard to get by on something between ten and twenty thousand a month and I am glad to note that “there is no evidence at this stage that recruitment and retention has been significantly affected amongst Hay graded employees as a result of nil pay awards”. Hence the recommendation by Bexley council’s senior staff to continue to cap the salaries of Bexley council’s senior staff in 2013/14. “In view of the Council’s on-going financial position and the requirement to continue to deliver very challenging expenditure reductions as detailed under the Council’s Strategy 2014 Programme, a nil salary award is recommended by the Management Board for Hay graded employees for 2012/13.”

All fine and dandy and publicly available information. What has actually been happening?

For that we must fast forward to the yet to be published 2012/13 accounts.
Pension rises
The pension contribution paid as a percentage of salary has gone up quite nicely for all four Directors. A couple of thousand extra in your pension pot is not to be sneezed at. Lots of people would be glad of a contribution like that as their annual salary. I wonder what the new salaries are.

Well the Chief Executive’s didn’t move at all between 2011/12 and 2013/13. Neither did Peter Ellershaw’s (Environment and Wellbeing). Same for Paul Moore (Customer and Corporate Services). Mark Charters (Education and Social Care) got a £3,169 leg up and and Mike Ellsmore (Finance and Resources) did even better with an extra £5,175 (†). Not bad going for people on a pay freeze and preparing the ground for that to change.

Strange that a flat rate percentage pension contribution has resulted in all round Director level increases without all of them seeing pay increases. But thank goodness they all got an extra something, otherwise Bexley might not be able to “retain excellent staff who we need to deliver the significant challenges ahead”. It’d be a shame if Bexley was no longer able to hit the headlines for most expensive child care, poor child care or leaving old ladies to die; all because it stopped paying very nearly the highest public authority salaries in the country.

Out of dateNote: Excluded from the salaries listed is ‘Benefits in Kind’ ranging from an extra £1,262 to £10,621 each. Also Mr. Ellsmore’s ‘Emergency payment’ of (†) £8,823, paid in 2011/12 but not in 2012/13.
The figures shown are not yet publicly available. Hence no links. The last time Bexley council updated its website to reflect current senior staff payments was January 2012. Maybe they aren’t happy to trumpet the truth too loudly.

Example shown. Click for original page.

 

16 September (Part 1) - Sign of things to come?

Ticket machine Blocked drive Road blockSo Felixstowe Road car park is shut and so is the station car park and car using commuters to Abbey Wood station will be inconvenienced.

Bexley council has not yet opened up the extra parking bays it has stolen from residents who have already paid for them and won’t do until next Monday.

Meanwhile local residents could be seeing more and more of this sort of thing.

 

15 September (Part 2) - Minor site change

By request the facility to declutter the banner image has been extended to Mobile viewing mode. Either on a per page basis from the Info button at the bottom left of the site banner or via either of the Configure pages. See menu above.

As the loss of the ‘Bexley Council is Bonkers’ logo leaves the site in a somewhat anonymous state the logo is transferred in faded form to the page background. Decluttering from the Info panel now forces the Info panel to close.

 

15 September (Part 1) - I nominate Nicholas Dowling for forcing a Bexley council climbdown

Bexley websiteBexley websiteIt’s my birthday on the twentieth and I arranged a little party for next Friday. Looks like I got the day wrong.

Maybe it's not me but just another Bexley council peacock up?

Click image for Bexley council’s web page today. Tomorrow they will see this and fix it.

Title note: Forcing a Bexley council climbdown.

 

14 September (Part 2) - Home alone?

The only explanation I can think of for the reported three million pounds a year for each Bexley child placed into care is that either a decimal point has slipped or that Bexley’s care home is fully staffed but has only one resident.

Why is it that Bexley is so often in the news for being bad or unusual in some way? Perhaps the way it is run truly is bonkers. It seems a bit odd that Bexley is one of only 14 UK boroughs which has no ’in borough’ care facilities and I wondered why.

HoblandsGoogling around I found that it wasn’t always so. There used to be a care home in Carlton Road, Sidcup called Hoblands. By all accounts it mysteriously disappeared some thirty years ago. Children, staff; they all disappeared from view. Maybe the web extract shown throws some light on the reasons why.

Have you read it? Nasty eh?

But it could be far worse than that. If you go to the National Archives website to see what they have on Bexley council’s Hoblands children’s home you might be in for a shock.

What Bexley council covered up must have been really horrible; the files are locked away until 2047. That's 75 years from the date of the dark events which must have been around 1972.

That date ties up very nicely with the associated web extract. Read the whole thing and you can date it to 1971. However an elderly resident has told me that Hoblands didn’t close until the mid nineteen eighties. If that is true it suggests that yet again Bexley council always covers up or turns a blind eye and carries on. Employing paedophiles (TIC), failing old ladies in care homes (BELL), ignoring the plight of little Rhys Lawrie. All have a common theme. Thoroughly poor management paid grossly inflated salaries and Deborah Absalom, Mark Charters and Sheila Murphy are merely the most recent incarnations.

You can begin to understand why Bexley council’s mantra is ‘say absolutely nothing about everything’. It’s the only safe way when there is just so much to hide.

Note: The web extract shown is a composite of two sections. Click it for original (long).

 

14 September (Part 1) - Fantasyland

Dear Mr. Barnbrook,

I have considered your complaint that you were excluded from the Public Realm, Community Safety, Economic Development and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 19th June 2013 and having spoken to the Chairman I can confirm that she did indeed refer to the reconvened meeting as being in Closed Session. This was a mistake for which the Chairman and I would like to apologise.

Mr. Moore, Director of Corporate Services, immediately issued instructions to all councillors within two days of the mistake being made and I can assure you that there will be no repeat of this procedural error.

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Tyler
Legal Services Team Manager


And Michael Barnbrook replied…


Dear Mrs. Tyler,

Thank you for your letter advising me of the steps taken to prevent a recurrence of what was an illegal act and I am happy to accept your assurance that nothing like it will happen again.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Barnbrook


How nice that would be if any of that was true. Unfortunately Bexley council will never admit it can be wrong. I have so far seen 16 pages of reply to various complainants and apart from the extract shown below, every one of them is crammed with wall to wall lying. With each letter Bexley council digs itself further into the mire.

Closed Session

The latest missive from Mrs. Tyler is a corker (details next week) and she summons up even more statements without a shred of substance behind them. Many man hours must have been expended by Bexley council trying to lie themselves out of a hole and to my knowledge there are two letters still to be answered.

Inevitably the case will go to the Local Government Ombudsman sooner or later. How very different things would be if Bexley council was honest. If they had put their hands up and admitted their mistake the whole subject would be over and done with and half forgotten. Lots of money saved and It’s not as though anyone would be able to do anything about Bexley’s law breaking. For a start they have their tame police force to protect them.

Click extract above to read one of Mrs. Tyler’s letters.

 

13 September (Part 3) - Bexley well behind the times

The lady whose wheel clipped the kerb and burst a tyre while trying to negotiate the road works in Welling put in a claim because the newly laid kerbstone had a razor sharp edge. It still has, I went to look only a week ago and I suggest the doubters follow suit.

Unfortunately the lady decided against pursuing the claim because of the intrusive nature of the questions on the claim form. In particular she didn’t like the fact it was asking for the name of her employer where her duties include driving. I decided I should get hold of a copy of the form to see for myself and not finding one on the web took myself along to Bexley council’s Contact Centre. They explained it was not on the web nor did they hold a copy locally because it is issued by the council’s insurer. I begin to see the lady’s point. Tell an insurance company that you have clipped a kerb and they will likely increase your premium.

While at the Contact Centre I thought I would look around and I was reminded of my trip to an Industrial Tribunal a couple of years ago. I was there because Bexley council sacked the receptionist at the Thames Innovation Centre after she reported post and money being misappropriated, not to mention that the manager was a paedophile (later convicted). Bexley council tried to make out that the receptionist was sacked for not keeping the brochures in the foyer up to date. It wasn’t even her responsibility but they were desperate for a good story.

The Tribunal’s summing up made it absolutely clear that they considered the receptionist was unfairly dismissed but they could not find in her favour because she had not worked at the TIC long enough to be protected by the law. The council must have put out a press release that the receptionist had not been unfairly dismissed and Bexley’s failure to tell the whole truth was picked up by the local papers and unwittingly reported in an extremely biased way. They knew no better because they had not sent a reporter to hear the verdict.

So what has that got to do with the Contact Centre? It’s the brochures stupid!

Creepy House Swimathon

CharltonThere for my delectation were brochures advertising art at Hall Place until 18th August, Bexley Environmental Challenge, closing date 30th April, Bexley in Bloom, applications closed 7th June, a course at Charlton football ground in May 2013, Parkwood Aquathlon at Sidcup Leisure Centre which took place on 21st July, the Creepy House summer reading challenge ending on 7th September and a Swimathon running from 26th to 28th April 2013! What a mess. They have staff sitting around all day to answer questions, there was nothing for them to do when I was mooching around, but they are content to let the place go to pot!

 

13 September (Part 2) - Still waiting, still hiding

Companies HouseIan PayneBexley council has lots of things it would like to keep secret and will bend the law if necessary to keep it that way, but sometimes the law doesn’t play ball.

Companies House is quite happy to disclose that Bexley’s Business Partnership is now more than two months overdue with its accounts. It’s probably another TIC style money pit.

TIC: Thames Innovation Centre
BID: Business Development District. The manager is a full time employee of Bexley council

 

13 September (Part 1) - Bountiful Bexley

Daily Telegraph According to the Daily Telegraph today, the average council spends £4,000 a week looking after vulnerable children in care. Having read the Rhys Lawrie papers I would have guessed that Bexley council was spending very little on child care, but no, apparently it spends more than £3 million per child per year.

That is literally an incredibly high figure, it’s more than ten times what Will Tuckley, Chief Executive, spends on himself.

Something doesn’t sound right.

Click image for full report.

Another Telegraph report says that only 14 councils are so uncaring of their vulnerable children that they place all of them in far flung care homes outside their own boroughs. Bexley is one of them, now that I can believe.

 

12 September - Minor updates

Parking problems
Ticket machine installation Ticket machineNext week two of the three car parks adjacent to Abbey Wood station will be closed as Crossrail prepares to demolish the 28 year old station and build a temporary replacement. Where commuters cars will be displaced to only time will tell, but Bexley council is intent on more misery for local residents.

The houses near the station are nearly all pre-war and many are entirely without off street parking facilities and compelled to pay the illegally imposed £100 Controlled Parking Zone charges. Bexley council announced it would rob them of more spaces a couple of months ago and yesterday it began the installation of Parking Ticket Machines in Abbey Road.

Residents and commuters will be left to fight over spaces while Bexley council cashes in, either through extra fines or the £3.80 flat rate charge for use of the space. Gradual reduction in the number of residents bays is not confined to the area around Abbey Wood Station, exactly the same has happened around the centre of Bexleyheath where residents who are forced to pay £120 a year for a permit find themselves unable to park because people are shopping seven days a week.


Police FOI response
A Freedom of Information request seeking the time the police received a request from Bexley council to attend the Civic Centre on the evening councillor Cheryl Bacon decided to hold a public meeting in - her words - “Closed Session” was initially rejected because it might reveal personal information. An appeal resulted in a long email - four pages of A4 when printed - saying the same thing. It stated that there is a danger that saying anything at all might reveal who made the call so they confirm their original decision to say nothing.
FOI response
What a load of nonsense. Everyone involved knows who asked for the police to be called and I could tell you the name of the man who made the call - the doorman. The names of all the councillors present is a matter of public record and all the names of every member of the public present can be found in previous blogs. The police, for some reason best known to themselves, are determined not to upset Bexley council by co-operating with a simple request by a critic of Bexley council.

Mick Barnbrook has sent all the correspondence to the Information Commissioner. It is by no means certain they will rule in his favour. When I asked for the date the police made enquiries about Bexley council’s obscene blog, the ICO ruled it wasn’t in the public interest to tell me. Some might agree that was in fact true because it later transpired that the police had lied; they had not made the enquiry at all.

Even if the ICO overrules Bexley police’s FOI officer and asks her to provide an answer, it is not difficult to imagine there will be a quick call to Bexley council to ask them what answer they would like the police to give.

Police SAR request
I didn’t mention it before, but I made a Subject Access Request to the police three months ago. The law says they must respond within 40 working days. I am still waiting. But that is nothing, it is nine months since my complaint about Chief Superintendent Stringer’s failure to investigate Bexley council’s obscene blog was acknowledged by the IPCC. Result? Total silence.

 

11 September - Two rotten boroughs, but which is worst?

On Sunday this website will be four years old. It didn’t start with any long term plan, it just sort of evolved. At the outset the blog was an occasional add-on to the main pages but there can be little doubt that the tail soon began to wag the dog. The site is now clearly divided into two bits accessed directly by the .com and .info variants of the domain name. Essentially the blog and the supporting pages.

For good or bad I don’t think there is any other borough based blog that has taken the same path as Bonkers and I feel that must be due to Bexley council being different to any other in London.

Most days I look at a Greenwich blog and two in Barnet, one seems to specialise in parking issues and constantly trips up NSL and Barnet council at PATAS - the Adjudication service.

CommentThe nearest blog in style is probably The BarnetEye but Roger Tichborne its author seems to think Barnet and Bexley councils are alike. I respectfully disagree with Roger.

If a Barnet blogger sends an email to all 63 councillors they may not all reply but some at least will do so. Roger sent such an email only a few days ago and got only eight replies, but that is hugely better than what always happens in Bexley. Send a message to all 63 here - there is a facility to automate it on Bexley’s website - and the response is always the same. Teresa O’Neill will reply saying she has instructed all her disciples not to respond. They are not allowed independent thought.

This is confirmed by the fact that no councillor ever votes against the leader’s line in Bexley; votes are always unanimous. If a Tory councillor should linger and engage in polite conversation when out paths cross in the council chamber they scuttle away if Teresa O’Neill should come into view. One once muttered something about being burned alive by Teresa if we were spotted passing the time of day.

There have been meetings where it has been made absolutely clear that decisions taken at Scrutiny Committee meetings must be approved by the leader beforehand. Teresa O’Neill’s evil influence is everywhere.

Another difference between the two boroughs is that in Barnet the police are independent. When councillor Brian Coleman (Barnet) assaulted a woman who had criticised him he was convicted for it. Criticising councillors has seen me threatened with arrest at the request of Teresa O’Neill

O'NeillIn Bexley when homophobic obscenities were directed at me and traced to a councillor’s IP address, the police informed me at a meeting that their investigation had failed due to “political interference”. You can guess who arranged that.

In Barnet the bloggers are upset because their council has handed over all its services to Capita in one go. In Bexley that has been slipped in over several years, albeit to a variety of contractors, but the end result is the same. There is nothing much left for the Chief Executive to do and we see appalling things happen of which the most recent is the fate of domiciliary care workers being paid illegally low wages.

Recording has long been a feature of Barnet’s meetings but secrecy and a lack of democratic input is a major feature of Bexley. Questions to council are restricted to an hour a year for the near 300,000 population. In Barnet they hold meetings devoted to questions. Six every quarter.

In the final six months of 2013 Barnet council scheduled 124 meetings, Bexley managed 73. They never meet on Friday either, in Barnet they are not so work-shy.

Barnet has two Health committees compared to Bexley’s one which inflates the meeting numbers a bit and so do meetings for engaging with the public but the main committees all meet more often than in Bexley. That’s fewer opportunities for public scrutiny in Bexley and it’ll be easier for Teresa to be pulling the strings.

To quote Boris Johnson, if you hold views different from Teresa you can “get stuffed”.

 

10 September (Part 2) - Early intervention

LeafletIt must be the in phrase. Director of Social Care, Mark Charters, used it three times in the first four paragraphs of his reported interview with CommunityCare at the beginning of the month, and now it is the main theme of Bexley council’s latest Press Release. “Early Intervention’. It is a nice ‘sounds good’ phrase but I imagine it might generate a certain amount of rage when Trevor Lawrie reads it. Early Intervention by Bexley’s failing care services might well have saved his grandson from a life of pain and an early death.

It’s always possible Bexley council has learned something from their mistakes I suppose. The previous director Deborah Absalom left soon after Rhys died. It might not be coincidence, but in political circles the same old attitudes prevail.

Cabinet member Chris Taylor is not afraid to boast at council meetings - twice in my presence - that Bexley council has been paying its care workers less than any other nearby borough. Illegally below the minimum wage in some cases.

Freezing council tax is all very nice and looks good on an election leaflet, but it comes at a price. People die. No one answers emergency calls, no one can afford to put a warden in sheltered housing - but we can afford £100 million for a Boris bike track.

 

10 September (Part 1) - Quiet around here

There is nothing going on that I know of worth reporting. Apart from the exceptional meeting of the Constitutional Review Panel (and ignoring the regular planning meetings which have to carry on) there has not been a ‘proper’ council or committee meeting since 17th July. While Parliament has returned to their green benches and school children to theirs, Bexley council won’t end its holiday until the end of the month.

Box ShopIt’s scraping the barrel for news I know, but Bexley council has been Twittering, on promoting a Box Shop being expanded in Sidcup today. I had to look up what that is all about but it is apparently like a very up market bazaar. The sort of thing that used to be held in the church hall when I was a kid and to which mothers would flock, most of them with a tea towel tied around the head which was some sort of early 1950s fashion statement.

I’m not qualified to comment on shopping, to me it’s something to be done reluctantly only when there is no alternative - so there is no way I would go to Sidcup for any shop and wouldn’t pop in the Box Shop even if I was passing by. But it looked quite attractive when I did and Bexley got a ‘Highly Commended’ in the category ‘Best Campaign to Support Local Trade’. Not an independent assessment unfortunately, it is judged by other councils.


Welling bus laneCyclists can be an angry lot, and one at least was not at all happy with Bexley’s mini-Holland cycling initiative. While ridiculing the proposal for lifts on hills he correctly points out that there is a hidden foot path up the notorious Knee Hill and it wouldn’t take much to make it cycle friendly. However the council is content to let cyclists - and the occasional pedestrian - mingle with the traffic on a road with no footpath. In fact they make it compulsory by restricting access to the path with ridiculous gates that make passage by wheelchair impossible too.

Then the cyclist’s wrath moved on to Welling. "If they were serious about cycling they would have replaced the old bus lane with a cycle track”. It is, says my cycling friend of the mini-Holland plan, just a publicity seeking farce before the election season funded by Boris’s £100 million of tax payer funded generosity. And I thought I was cynical! But so very true nevertheless.

 

9 September (Part 3) - Cheryl Bacon’s illegal meeting. It’s not over yet

When councillor Cheryl Bacon panicked and put her meeting into Closed Session nearly three months ago she committed an illegal act and certain people are keen to see that Cheryl shouldn’t get away with it. Mick Barnbrook wasn’t slow to put in a complaint and naturally Bexley council had to find a way of getting Cheryl off the hook - an art in which they are well versed. This time they came close to making up more lies than I have ever seen in one letter before. Apparently everyone at the meeting including me was guilty of continuous disruption.

Mick wasn’t the only complainant, I’ve recently been informed there were two more, both of which were ignored. Following a complaint one has received a belated reply, the other is still waiting.

At Cheryl Bacon’s fiasco of a meeting I took up my ‘Bloggers Seat’ which the council is now compelled to provide me. I did so because I go there as a reporter and wished to dissociate myself with anything that might be deemed contentious. I do not intend to be part of the news, I only report it. That special seat is nearer to the closest councillor than it is to the general public and I know that councillors know that I sat there doing nothing. Yet Cheryl barred me from her meeting for no reason other than her being in headless chicken mode. The response to Mick Barnbrook’s complaint says everyone was disruptive. Absolute rubbish and I object to being used as an excuse for Bexley council’s law breaking.

So I did something I have not done for three years. I made a formal complaint to Bexley council. As always, the most interesting thing might be seeing what contortions they tie themselves in rather than putting their hands up. I have some evidence that Bexley council is lying but I doubt it will stop them lying again.

 

9 September (Part 2) - Little Waitrose, Sidcup

Waitrose WaitroseSo Waitrose eventually came to Sidcup last Wednesday following a campaign taken over by Bexley council. Clearly a good thing in principal to inject some life into a town spoiled in the past by a succession of poor council decisions but not so good perhaps for those who live nearby who now find themselves saddled with a £120 per annum Residents’ Parking Permit.

Nice photo opportunity though! Let’s hope it is a success.

 

9 September (Part 1) - The Black Horse, Sidcup

Black HorseIt hardly seems possible but Sidcup’s historic coaching inn hasn’t had a mention on Bonkers since last year. Other groups know its history better than I do but in summary Bexley council said the facade should be preserved but the developers tore it down claiming safety issues. The real reason depends on which theory you subscribe to but a concrete smasher placed next to it couldn’t have helped, nor would hanging scaffolding from it.

Bexley council has quite properly served enforcement orders and after a long delay things are showing signs of movement. I got the impression from reading the Sidcup Community Group newsletter that there was now something to see but as the photograph shows, it was barely worth the visit. The horrible badly built plastic imitation facade has gained some scaffolding poles and a bit of net.

Maybe in another year it will be worth another visit. By then there could well be a mobile phone mast on its roof for such a plan is now lined up for council approval.

 

8 September (Part 2) - Flash, Bang, Wallop, what a picture!

Christ ChurchFrom a reader passing by Christ Church…


Those concrete 'globes' outside Christ Church in Bexleyheath Broadway always were an accident waiting to happen. I was there yesterday afternoon at about 3:15 watching the bride and groom leaving the church and go into the front church gardens where they were having some photos taken.

The photographer set about his business and needed to get a little further back so he did so and went headlong and backwards over one of the globe-stones and cut his face.

It was a nasty fall and maybe an expensive one with a fancy camera in hand.

The globe-stones have always been dangerous, especially for the partially sighted, because they are so low down and out of eye-level vision. We are used to kerbs and other common ground objects but stone globes are few and far between.


Note: Flash, Bang, Wallop, what a picture! Song from the 1967 Musical Film, Half a Sixpence.

 

8 September (Part 1) - More site news

You can’t please some people. Following the introduction of the Information box providing details of each banner photograph I was told that the photo would look better if not cluttered up with slogans and carousels.

Well it took a lot of site restructuring but such a facility is now available within the Information box. Open it and click the obvious place and the clutter will disappear. It is deliberately made ‘fragile’. Except on ‘Configure pages’ the clutter return after almost any page action.

When in use the page will temporarily adopt its default appearance which means that permanently saved Mobile and other non-standard modes will be lost, but only until the next page is loaded or the current one is refreshed, once again the Configure pages are exceptions!

If the uncluttered appearance is chosen via the Info box from one of the Configure pages, the uncluttered style is saved. This will override any permanently saved Mobile or other non-default mode. To restore the banner to normal, revisit a Configure page and choose another of the available options.

The number of different banners available at any one time has been increased from ten to 21.

 

7 September (Part 2) - Bourne Road in trouble again

Bourne RoadI can’t remember a time when Bexley and Bexleyheath have not been subject to constant traffic disruption, it must be around three years since it was relatively clear. Before the so called Broadway regeneration started, the western end of it was disrupted by gas main replacement that went on, because of various unexpected problems, for more than a year, and there have been water main problems too, and Bellegrove Road was in a big mess for ages. It’s never ending.

Perhaps that is why several readers have been complaining about the Bourne Road bridge over the A2. There have been massive jams for about three weeks and there are no advance warning signs to encourage alternative routes. However it’s not something that should be blamed on Bexley council, this time it is Transport for London.

This is what it looked like in the heavy rain (below) at 1:30 today. Delays are far worse during the evening rush, but even so the queue on the A2 slip road extended back out of sight.

A2
A2

 

7 September (Part 1) - Site news

Bexley council announced at the Constitutional Review meeting last Tuesday that it is now getting 1·5 million visits annually to its website which is nearly five times as many as Bonkers and quite a lot of the latter would appear to live outside the borough or maybe not know it very well. A few ask what or where the banner images at the top of each page are. I thought I should find a simple way of answering the question.

At any one time ten different banner images may be in use across the site from a choice of over 30, although some are so outdated that they are not likely to be seen again.

InfoDuring the past week a red Info icon has been overlaid on the banner image. It automatically detects which banner image is being displayed and clicking on it - or somewhere nearby - will create a pop up information window.

It requires an updated style sheet which each page should load rather than use the old one but it may be cached which will cause a problem, but as the new system has been in place for three days now and no one has complained, I assume it is working OK. Several people have confirmed it is.

 

6 September (Part 2) - On yer bike Teresa

Bexley council issued a press release last Tuesday about their being shortlisted for a slice of Boris Johnson’s ‘Cycling Vision’. It, along with Ealing, Enfield, Kingston, Merton and Newham will be seeking a share of Boris’s £100 million. Possibly Richmond and Waltham Forest will get a look in too.

BikeThere is no denying that Bexley council’s provision of cycle friendly routes goes no further than a contract with a purveyor of green paint. Their cycle lanes variously head for nowhere, stop and start without obvious reason, direct cyclists through 90º bends from pavement to road, include halt signs randomly, go down the middle of the road or circumvent bus stops and litter bins; now they are aiming to be more ambitious.

If Boris Johnson on LBC radio this week was not hallucinating, Bexley council has been somewhat carried away with its blue sky thinking. Their plan involves “power assisted bike lifts” up hills. According to Boris, there could be more than one winner. At a cost of £100 million there will certainly be a lot of losers!

I wonder which hills are to be so blessed. Knee Hill sounds appropriate for a leg powered vehicle. Gravel Hill sounds rather inhospitable for bikes. Maybe giving all cyclists a little engine to strap on the front wheel would be cheaper than bike lifts. Then they could add an extra couple of wheels to minimise falling off. Something more comfortable than a hard saddle wouldn’t be a bad idea. Maybe call it a Bexley carriage, Hackney has got one, why not us?

Links:-
Bexley council - Greater London Authority - Evening Standard - This is London - LBC Radio

 

6 September (Part 1) - Filming and photography. What next?

Councillor ReaderIt’s not yet in the bag, before the go ahead is given Paul Moore’s people are going to have to draw up some sort of protocol on recording meetings to take account of a number of points raised by the Constitutional Review Panel. Councillor Reader who made it clear he was against any form of public involvement in recording, wanted some protection for speakers at his planning meetings. No one said anything about speakers at full council meetings but I suppose the same will apply to that. Council leader Teresa O’Neill said that any children present must be protected and councillor Ball said that junior council officers must be protected from cameras too.

Then the protocol will have to go before the full council in November and based on Tuesday’s comments, a lot of councillors are not going to like it. On the other hand, Nicholas Dowling’s little protest got Bexley council into all sorts of trouble. National news coverage and a letter from Eric Pickles. Had the decision gone the other way last Tuesday several people from out of town were prepared to repeat Nicholas’s stunt and when the meeting was adjourned and reconvened another rebel would identify himself and bring those proceedings to a halt too. Fortunately Teresa O’Neill has realised the game is up and as she rules the council and Conservative councillors are not allowed independent thought, it’s a pretty safe bet that recording will be approved.

And what happens after that?

Well nothing, I would guess. Except at planning and full council meetings it is rare to see anyone there apart from the usual suspects whose names regularly appear here. There is no obvious reason why that should change. Webcasting may even cause a decline.

I don’t think Nicholas even owns a camera and he is one of the elite, like me, who manages to get through life without owning a mobile phone. His Dictaphone is broken and he has little enough time for council meetings, let alone listening to one all over again. You can rule Nick out.

Mick Barnbrook has a mobile phone and if someone tells him which button to press he can take a photo with it; but he has yet to discover how to get the photo out of the device. We can probably rule Mick out too.

Elwyn Bryant owns an elderly Canon DSLR but is not particularly interested in taking photos of council meetings. What would he do with them? Teresa O’Neill framed on the mantelpiece is surely a perverse minority interest and certainly not Elwyn’s. So in practice scrutiny meetings are unlikely to be recorded in any shape or form.

Occasionally there is a good turn out for planning meetings and full council but planning meeting’s are generally unexciting and sometimes well over three hours long - you’d have to be mad to film them!

Full council meetings may be different, there is a bit of spectacle. The man with the mace, the mayor and her robes; if you are lucky, Will Tuckley in his wig and possibly Teresa in her tracksuit. My own plans are unchanged. When I was last refused permission to take one photograph I had promised to be totally unobtrusive. I cannot see that changing. It will be tempting to get a picture of Peter Reader for wanting to ban photography totally but most likely you will see little more than a new panorama of the assembled council as a banner at the top of this page.

The people I am in touch with are all determined to make Bexley council look as silly as possible by largely ignoring the new rules. Bexley council has been dragged into the news headlines and before the television cameras and proved themselves liars and fools. No one with any sense is going to dilute that reputation by providing Bexley’s disreputable council with any excuse for claiming they were in the right all along.

This council has been soundly defeated by the Information Commissioner who forced a climb down on the publishing of residents’ addresses on the web and now they have been totally humiliated by Nicholas Dowling and Eric Pickles over the question of recording. It should be left at that and not provided with any excuse, such as over intrusive photography, behind which Bexley council can shelter. Sorry if that disappoints you, I know that an adverse reaction to recording will be one less thing to castigate the crooked council for, but it must remain the case that the unreasonable, the disruptive and the criminally inclined sit on the council benches, not in the public gallery.

TweetThings are definitely changing. If things carry on as they have this week, Bonkers will whither and die. I can’t really see the council leader and her gang trooping into the police station again to lie about me threatening violence and arson. She’d have to be even more stupid than I think she is to tread that path again. Neither do I expect to see a Bexley councillor lying in a witness box again, that trick gave them unwanted national publicity too.

Fortunately for those who have grown attached to Bonkers, the stream of lies to cover up incompetence and probable corruption continues unabated. Retirement is probably further away than my conversation with Tim MacFarlane (News Shopper) implies.

 

5 September (Part 2) - Bridleway 250. Still blocked

Bexley council is continuing to support the illegal blocking of Bridleway 250 with the connivance of Bexley police - but it wasn’t always so.

A letter sent by Bexley council to the culprit only a year ago and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act makes it very clear that erecting a gate across the bridleway is a criminal offence and it seeks a meeting to resolve the matter.
Letter
The letter, whilst the names are redacted, is quite obviously addressed to the owner of Mount Mascal Stables.

The council, in its usual incompetent way, has got in a total muddle over dates. The gate erected in 1988 was removed but replaced by a bigger and better one about three years ago. This fact seems to have passed Bexley council by, as have several others.

Whatever could have happened in the past year to persuade Bexley council officers that a criminal act is OK by them?

Click extract for complete (redacted) letter.

 

5 September (Part 1) - Tavy Bridge demolition in its final stages

Tavy Bridge Tavy BridgeIn December last year Bexley council approved the demolition of the ugly tower blocks in the Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead and replace them with, err, prettier tower blocks housing even more people in the same space. Several councillors were not at all keen on the idea, Michael Slaughter, Val Clark and Sandra Bauer among them.

I took some photos before work began and now it is all rubble.

 

4 September (Part 2) - Photography is banned in Bexley

Gipsies GipsiesNot only photography but parking is currently banned in Bexley’s Thanet Road car park. I went there this evening before a meeting with the Bexley Action Group and found that a gang of Irish travellers had taken over. They had set up three caravans, it may have been four, I wasn’t allowed to stay and look.

They were not only forbidding parking but they didn’t want anyone invading their new abode on foot either. Anyone carrying a camera was a paedophile and from six inches away their leader bellowed that if I lingered a moment longer both my camera and my face would be smashed. I took a couple of photos while beating a hasty retreat, they are not too sharp as a result.

I think Bexley’s Enviro Crime Unit has a problem, but maybe they will happily condone the invasion of a public space like they did with Bridleway 250.

 

4 September (Part 1) - The Constitution reviewed

Well I suppose I got that wrong. A week ago Elwyn Bryant opined to me he thought that the proposal to allow filming at Bexley council meetings would go through, and I reminded him that it was Bexley council we were dealing with and in the past it hasn’t mattered how tight a corner they are driven into they will concoct some implausible story to excuse their secretive and occasionally criminal ways and more often than not will simply lie.

There was an average turn out for the meeting, just me, three members of the public and Tim MacFarlan from the News Shopper. You might be forgiven for thinking the only people who cared about the issues to be discussed were councillors, for never have I seen so many crowd the public benches.

Those I noted were Linda Bailey, Sybil Camsey, Alan Deadman, Geraldene Lucia-Hennis, Howard Marriner, Don Massey, Sharon Massey, Seán Newman, Philip Read, Melvin Seymour, Chris Taylor, John Wilkinson and Simon Windle. Several had brought along their spouses or partners. On the Panel were councillors Chris Ball, Colin Campbell, Peter Craske, Ross Downing, Teresa O’Neill and Peter Reader. Three senior council officers were in attendance.

Teresa O'NeillThe meeting was clearly rehearsed beforehand, at least in part, and the proof came early on. Council leader Teresa O’Neill sat at the head of the meeting room table and launched straight into Item 1 of the Agenda. Appointment of a Chairman. The assembled sycophants obediently elected O’Neill as Chairman and in under a minute she had rattled through the formalities until she got to Agenda Item 6, the main business of the evening, ‘Photography, Recording and Filming of Council, Executive and Committee Meetings’. The Chairman then read from a long written speech which was basically an extended version of what she had put on the Conservatives website earlier that day. Lucky it was Teresa who was elected or we may have had an off the cuff rambling speech from someone less well versed in the black arts.

The leader’s speech covered the obvious points that more and more people were using the website and expected to find everything council related there. She was however concerned about webcasting in that it required investment and whether people should be expected to pay for it when the facility might not be much used. All very reasonable.

After that Paul Moore the Director of Customer and Corporate Services had his say. He said he had “wanted to progress recording for over a year as it goes right to the core of democracy” which sounds more than a little hollow in the light of events during that year. Referring to the new Civic Centre he suggested that “the time might be right to test out different approaches”. His overall tone seemed to be heavily in favour of both webcasting and what was being called 3rd party recording. Presumably he realises more than most just how damaging something like the Cheryl Bacon fiasco is to the council‘s reputation.

The Chairman made a brief comment about how meeting chairman would always be able to “terminate it if it impedes a meeting” and then handed over to councillor Colin Campbell. There was not much doubt on what he thought of the proposal, he was wholly behind it. Campbell didn’t want to spend the money “£20,000 a year soon begins to add up” he said but thought it should probably be done none the less. Intriguingly he indicated that he new Council Chamber might not be big enough and CCTV to an overflow room might be necessary, but if webcasting proved to be a total waste of money it could be reviewed after six months. Sounds like sense.

Councillor Peter Reader said he could see some advantages for webcasting planning meetings which he chairs but he saw no need at all for any form of 3rd party recording. Councillor Ross Downing said he was right, there was no need for 3rd party recording at any meeting.

Councillor Craske said no one he had ever met had asked for webcasting and joked that “politics is show business for ugly people. It might be cheaper to courier out DVDs to the few people who would be interested”, however webcasting had his full support. “Personally I don’t have an issue with filming, that’s fine. Let’s crack on and get on with it”.

Councillor Chris Ball said his experiences still showed that “no one knows what we do; whatever we can do to show the complexity is money well spent. Most people haven’t got a clue. Definitely do webcasting.” He thought protocols should be drawn up about “cutting and pasting”.

Another of councillor Ball’s concerns was the need to protect junior officers but “members are fair game, a video will make no difference to me. We absolutely should agree photography etc. It is incumbent on us to make it successful.”

Councillor Campbell thought it might be best if webcasting was live only as that avoided any issue of manipulative editing. Ross Downing said that third parties must not edit but Peter Craske said all that need be done was to park a master copy on the council’s website. Peter Reader came back to say he really would prefer not to have third party filming. Then the councillors in the public gallery were invited to have their say, not members of the public of course.

Both Don Massey and Sharon Massey made it clear they were against 3rd party filming, Don in particular appearing to be somewhat paranoid about mischievous editing but went along with the idea of a trial period. Sharon was keen to preserve “a master copy, we need a record of what went on”. Funny she was never bothered about that before. Are we about to see an end to post-meeting lying?

Of the members of the panel, the chairman offered no opinion, but two out of five were against 3rd party filming. Of the other councillors who spoke, 100% were less than enthusiastic about it. It fell to councillors Campbell and Craske to propose and second the proposal that webcasting and 3rd party filming should be permitted and put before the full council for approval and that is what will happen. No one is likely to upset Teresa’s plans but there are indications that not everyone will be happy.

 

3 September (Part 2) - Victory for Nicholas

If it wasn’t for Nicholas Dowling and his old Dictaphone, Bexley council wouldn’t have been so forcibly pushed to the position it reached tonight - with all due credit to the assistance provided by Cheryl Bacon’s supreme idiocy of course. However tonight the stage was set for a move towards a reversal of the current position - you can film a meeting subject to the chairman’s permission while the chairman is under instruction never to allow it - to something close to the reverse. You can film a meeting unless the chairman finds a reason for disallowing it. In essence that is to be the new arrangement. The recommendation has to go before the full council on 6th November but in all probability that will be the position from there on. With a few caveats, it is true, and they will be reported in more detail tomorrow.

Councillor Peter CraskeThe meeting was sensible and civilised and although more than a few councillors were not at all keen on members of the public being let loose with cameras, credit where it is due. Councillor Peter Craske was the clear leader in talking good sense closely followed by councillor Colin Campbell who both backed the proposal to the hilt, with councillor Chris Ball not far behind. Director Paul Moore made a convincing case for webcasting and 3rd party filming.

Leader Teresa O’Neill may have looked as though she had swallowed a wasp but didn’t actually say anything that could be seriously criticised. The same cannot be said of every councillor present. Details later.

Peter Craske not only advocated photography, he posed for this picture when our paths crossed in the street not long ago. I suspect it was more an act of insolence and defiance than a friendly gesture but it was nevertheless an act which tended to enhance my opinion of the old blogger. Though that may not be saying a lot!

Note: The term filming includes all forms of audio and visual recording, plus photography.

 

3 September (Part 1) - Will sense prevail or are they just casting around for a face saver?

As you may have guessed, I had to be away for much of today, not that there is much to report with the council barely functioning. Maybe there will be something interesting to say after this evening’s meeting.

Meanwhile you may wish to see what Bexley Conservatives are saying about possible changes to their current thoroughly dishonest policy on recording meetings - you only have to ask, but you will definitely be refused. Click here. That web page includes the paragraph “In addition [to webcasting], anyone wishing to film a council meeting will be able to do so, as long as they do not disrupt the meeting or attempt to film members of the public or children without their permission”. Sounds reasonable, but this is Bexley council, things may not be that simple.

Perhaps someone will Tweet the proposal that will go before the full council in two months time during the meeting, if not the decision will be reported here later this evening.

News Shopper report.
Bexley Times report.

 

2 September (Part 4) - Defy, fudge or obey. That is the question

Tomorrow evening sees the long awaited meeting of Bexley council’s Constitutional Review Panel, the panel which at its last meeting in April 2011 decided it would be a good idea to break the Data Protection Act. This time its members are even more disreputable than the last lot. The central question of the evening will be whether they comply with government policy, come up with a useless fudge, or continue to defy Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, outright.

One of the things that no one in Bexley has asked for is webcasting but it is seen as a way at paying lip service to democracy while actually doing nothing to encourage ‘citizen journalism’ as Pickles sometimes calls activity via social media.

Experience elsewhere is that no more than two or three people per borough bother to tune in to webcasts, meetings are nearly always a bore and even more so if the public gallery is empty. And then there is the matter of cost, something up to £20,000 for maybe 80 hours. (Bexley council figures.) Around £500 per meeting for no good reason other than a possible temporary face measure for those determined to hold on to as much control as possible.
Webcasting
As can be seen, the control freakery is top priority, as it always is for Bexley council.

While no one has expressed an interest in webcasting, a very few, well one resident anyway, appear to advocate do-it-yourself filming. Personally I cannot see the attraction and as the people who regularly attend committee meetings generally consist of me and members of the Bexley Action Group I think it is reasonable to assume nothing will change whatever the council decides. There is an interest in doing what is not allowed but there is no fun in doing what is permitted.

Nick Dowling took his audio recorder to the shambles which was Cheryl Bacon’s meeting simply to make a point. If he had seriously wanted a make a recording he would have ensured he borrowed a recorder that actually worked.
Recording
If the first decision is that webcasting makes unnecessary “recording from outside of the council” all these options become academic.

Next is the only item of interest to me, the taking of the occasional photograph. I regard even that as a likely five minute wonder. Take a few pictures at half a dozen meetings, realise they are all much the same. Don’t bother again. Taking along my longest telephoto lens for a tight close up of the biggest villains might sound attractive but I bet that common sense would soon prevail. Here’s Bexley’s alternative proposals…
Photography
One thing is for sure. If Bexley council fails once again to take heed of government advice and fall in line with the norm for local authorities it will be, to quote a comment overheard in the chamber, “another PR disaster” and Bexley council will continue to hog the headlines, not to mention being held up as a bad example by government ministers, for all the wrong reasons.

Surely a sensible council doesn’t spend £20,000 on something unlikely to prove popular and instead lets residents do it for free - if they can be bothered. At least until the next elections when the incoming council can take stock and review the situation at another Constitutional Review Panel meeting.

The only problem I can think of with that is that I will be short of blog material. Oh wait! Mrs. Lynn Tyler wouldn’t be able to write a load of codswallop about what happened at Cheryl Bacon’s Public Realm meeting if someone had a decent recording of it. Bexley council deprived of the opportunity to lie? Hmmm. They aren’t going to like that are they?

 

2 September (Part 3) - Caring Charters

The reports of how Bexley council takes pride in paying its care workers less than surrounding boroughs provoked quite a lot of correspondence and maybe that is not surprising given that Bexley has one of the highest proportion of unpaid carers in London. Paying care workers less than the minimum wage, taking the lack of paid travelling time or payment for expenses into account, is unethical, illegal and calculated to drive down standards - but it’s what Bexley does through its approved contractors. I recently learned that charities providing the same service as a relief to the unpaid carers pay their staff nearly twice as much as Bexley does.

ChartersThe Director of Social Care in Bexley is Mark Charters and he has written an article about the work he does in the borough. Maybe those with an interest in the subject would like to read it. Ignore the opening comment “We must be more open with local residents”, it’s not all bad however the emphasis remains on “cutting costs”.

 

2 September (Part 2) - An apology

The monthly blog changeover requires eight code alterations and for the second consecutive month I overlooked the one on the main index page, or Site intro as it is called on the Menu. That change used to be automated so that it flipped over without intervention from me but the automation was too often defeated by browser history caching; now that it requires monthly attention it fails due to a surfeit of senior moments! Thanks for the reminders.

I'm not sure why people persist in entering the site that way, www.bexley-is-bonkers.com should be so much simpler but, oh dear, that can get snarled up in the history cache problem too. Maybe there are just too many options. At least navigation via the menu should always work.

 

2 September (Part 1) - Neighbour from hell

There can be few things worse, within a domestic setting at least, than constant noise from a neighbour. Long ago I lived in a flat from which I could hear every intimate noise from the couple above and when I graduated to a semi found myself at the opposite end of the argument. For me, Sunday was a day for DIY and my neighbour believed it was an excuse to stay in bed until the afternoon. Since then the likelihood of noise problems has been a significant factor for me when choosing a place to live. The end of my cul-de-sac could hardly be more peaceful without returning to my country roots. Others are not so lucky.

A couple of months ago an occasional correspondent said…


I've just had a very interesting conversation with the emergency duty officer at the council. I'm currently suffering from a very serious noise disturbance. I rang the council who put me in touch with 101 [police] who could not care less. I was passed back to the emergency duty officer, having been told it is one hundred per cent the council's responsibility to deal with noise complaints. The poor officer informed me that he was inundated with noise complaints at the weekend. “There is a huge number of them, well, noise complaints naturally occur at the weekends, don't they?” the officer presumed.

“However, the council saw fit to cut environmental health cover at the weekends”, he said. I gather nobody has listened to him on this, he was keen that I raise it with the powers that be.


Sunland AvenueIt must be hell for those affected, some people have no consideration and feel that non-stop riotous parties are their right. Another occasional correspondent who lives in Sunland Avenue, a little south of Broadway and Crook Log, has the same problem and been in frequent contact with the Environmental Health people since the end of last year at least. He was asked to log the noise nuisance but Environmental Health then appeared to lose interest. (A possible reason will become apparent later.)

As the weather heated up so did the noise nuisance and the police became involved but this neighbour from hell was no respecter of other people’s rights, he retaliated by building a wall to block out the affected neighbour as far as possible. Unfortunately that neighbour was not at all pleased to see the wall was built right up against his detached house - on his land! This was a step too far for my correspondent and on 18th April he hand delivered a letter of complaint. It was ignored, so my correspondent sought the assistance of a solicitor.

The solicitor wrote on 31st May and his letter was ignored too. He wrote again on 2nd July with the same result and with patience fast running out wrote another letter on 9th August, recorded delivery of course, and that too fell on stony ground.


The next stage is the engagement of a builder to remove the offending wall. A fourth solicitor’s letter has been sent to confirm exactly what is proposed…
Letter
…and as you can see it is a model of reasonableness and politeness. However it firmly reiterates the fact that the trespass must be reversed.

Some neighbours evidently think they can do whatever they like, just like some Bexley councillors do. But that is no coincidence. This neighbour is a Bexley councillor! Not one you know much about, he has been barely mentioned on Bonkers but is one of the eleven who believes he is under threat from Bexley residents. He hides his address under the provisions of Section 32 of the Localism Act.

I’m tempted to use Olly Cromwell’s epithet from when he pictured an unidentified councillor’s house and ask “What sort of…”. Oh, perhaps not. Incidentally, Olly moved back to the borough over the weekend after a two year absence. Maybe we will see him in the council chamber again.

 

1 September - Felixstowe Road. Crossrail taking over

Car park Car park Car parkI had expected to see rather more heavy machinery parked in the Felixstowe Road car park by now but there are still two weeks to go before work is due to commence on the temporary station leading to the demolition of the 28 year old one.

It’s going to be a very big job, sooner or later the existing tracks will have to be realigned to allow for two island platforms and you can’t put a kink in a railway track so there will presumably have to be a very gradual migration of the tracks towards the south extending half way to Belvedere and the same towards Plumstead.

How that can be done without extended suspension of the service I have no idea, but then I am not a railway engineer. But my grandfather was - for the Southern Mahratta, Bengal Nagpur and Rajputana-Malwa railway companies circa 1890.

The Lesnes Abbey Labour Party has been sending out a questionnaire to nearby residents. It asks…


• Are you in favour of Crossrail coming to Abbey Wood? (Yes)
• Has Bexley asked you about their proposed car parking changes? (No)
• Do you support the extension of the current CPZ? (Not sure. Let’s wait to see what happens. Then if necessary residents must be very clearly told about the charges which Bexley council currently levies at an illegally high rate.)


Abbey Wood station Abbey Wood Post OfficeMy answers in parenthesis. Yours may be sent to yourviews at lesnesabbey.org.uk if you feel strongly about the issue. Remove spaces and insert @ obviously.

A pity that “The listening council” has done nothing but slap a £3.80 a day charge on what used to be residents’ parking bays.

If you have read this far you may have an interest in this forgotten outpost of the borough of Bexley, in which case the imminent loss of the Post Office building might concern you. Greenwich council is due to consider plans for flats on the site and comments must be in by next Tuesday. They will only be interested in the flats, not the closure of the Post Office.

The Public Toilets are going too. Where will the graffiti artists go now?

Bexley council is still happily accepting a 'bomb site' on the opposite corner having rejected plans for flats there. They prefer the rats.

 

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