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Bonkers Blog December 2014

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31 December (Part 2) - Happy New Year? I doubt it

RozzersIt’s a traditional as we head into a new year to look back nostalgically at the old one and I have been considering what might be worth regurgitating here. Unfortunately all the main Bonkers stories lead back to the police but when BiB was created the thought that I might end up crossing swords with the Rozzers never entered my head. Things changed when I discovered that Bexley council and Bexley police are not quite one and the same but they do work hand in glove to an extent beyond what might be reasonably expected.

During the past year Bexley council has become much more astute at covering its tracks. The number of council meetings which I used to attend and report has halved and after Eric Pickles made the recording of meetings a statutory right councillors have not so often insulted residents and hurled abuse at each other. As a result the most noteworthy activities in 2014 have been hang overs from earlier years and are all police related.

The oldest complaint (following the Craske business) dates from June 2012 and has been backed by my MP and the Independent Police Complaints Commission but that cuts no ice with the Metropolitan Police. All they have done about it is apologise for doing nothing. A separate complaint made a year ago met a similar fate. It is stuck in limbo somewhere at the laughably named Directorate of Professional Standards and the officer who is holding things up - I assume under direction from her seniors - is PC Yvonne Weeden. There comes a time when one gets fed up with protecting identities.

An evidence based allegation of Misconduct in Public Office against two Bexley Police Commanders was initially received almost with enthusiasm by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor in January this year but that too was passed to the hapless PC Weeden who must have stuffed it in the pending tray as all she has done since is send me the occasional letter to confirm she has not yet done anything with it.

Mick Barnbrook has had a similar experience with his complaint against the present incumbent of the hot seat, CS Peter Ayling. It’s hard not to assume they are all as bent as corkscrews. I complained about the lack of progress to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime on 27th November and it was eventually acknowledged on 19th December. Another waiting game will no doubt be played out.

The case against Will Tuckley, the council’s Monitoring Officer and their Legal Team Manager has made more progress. It has been suggested to me that if the case gets to court the effects will be “life changing” which I like to interpret as going to prison. Will Tuckley behind bars would be welcomed by many I am sure so stand by for the police to get a high level instruction before long.

Leaving the police for a moment - but not for long - I am concerned by how Bexley council places a succession of unfortunates, too many of whom are petty criminals, into leased premises making the lives of neighbours a misery. Not all are criminally inclined, this poor lady was dumped in a small flat without the means to look after herself, as a punishment. I know that because I contacted Bexley council about it and they told me so.

It’s been reported from elsewhere - but I went to see the evidence - that one of these leased premises appears to be a drug den although it was originally thought it might be a different sort of house of ill repute given the high number of visitors. When a neighbour got out of bed to investigate a disturbance he narrowly avoided being knifed but copped a wine bottle to his head instead leaving him with a nasty gash and lump.

He said that when the police arrived and found a bloodied man recently roused from his bed and his assailant protesting innocence, who do you think was arrested? The police seem to believe that “all parties were arrested to prevent further harm” is a sensible response whereas most people will see it as another example of a total lack of common sense. It is also alleged that the police at Arnsberg Way refused legal representation to their victim. Now we have another law abiding citizen who has the same opinion of the police service as I do. Everywhere you look the metropolitan elite (what a joke) seem to be intent on demonstrating just how out of touch they can be.

BlairI’d like to think that Things Can Only Get Better but last time someone made that claim the downward spiral took another giant leap. In 2015 things can only get worse. We have 39 council cuts to look forward to and as the library protesters discovered, Bexley council listens to nobody.

 

31 December (Part 1) - The clown who frightens children

Tweet The secretive cabinet member Philip Read is at it again, Twittering brainlessly that is.

Another reader sent me a screenshot of his 29th December effort but Read has added a hashtag which allows me to view it despite being blocked by the imbecile.

He says the Labour councillors haven’t been able to justify their criticism of his dubious services. Do they really have to when the signs of failure are on display for all to see?

OFSTED has rated Bexley’s services ‘Inadequate’ and ‘Needs Improvement’ and as recently as last September the Department for Communities and Local Government issued Bexley with an Improvement Notice. London councils publish a comparative list of performance tables. Bexley is bottom or close to bottom in practically all the child protection measures. No senior heads have rolled and Bexley’s reputation has spread so wide that they now have to travel to Dublin to try to recruit staff.

MurphyIf that is not enough proof of total failure in Read’s department try reading how Rhys Lawrie and Ndingeko Kunene died under Bexley’s uncaring noses.

I have kept in touch with the lady who lost her child to Bexley’s over-reaction to their history of failure. She had an abusive partner who indulged in practices which are about to become a specific crime.

When it was reported to Bexley police they weren’t interested but nevertheless reported the situation to Bexley’s rotten council. The council failed to provide any support due to lack of staff; instead they took the child away. All of that is well documented. What isn’t is the mother’s contention that Bexley council officers lied in court to support their application. Having seen the names of those involved and being only too familiar with Bexley’s inclination to lie at every opportunity, the mother’s story is the more plausible.

The only help she is getting comes from Labour councillors. Read and his merry band of incompetents are content to see lives ruined while spouting nonsense on Twitter - but it’s Philip Read, you really shouldn’t expect anything more intelligent.

 

28 December - On the fourth day of Christmas

ReadI have never been very fond of the ‘no man’s land’ that exists between Christmas and New Year. It wasn’t so bad when normal life resumed on the 27th for a few days but now most people struggle to keep the festivities going while waiting for the next round of fun to begin in earnest.

Not everyone of course, for some the Christmas spirit will never permeate their cold hearts. One such curmudgeon is Bexley councillor Philip Read, famed for his attempt to usurp this website, maliciously providing the police with false information about retired blogger John Kerlen and taking question dodging at council meetings to a new level.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill has been content to filibuster public question time away in order to dodge the truth, councillor Peter Craske perfected the art of lying during his time as cabinet member but councillor Philip Read adopts the simplest solution of all. He simply refuses to answer questions and mayor Marriner (meeting chairman) pretends he hasn’t noticed.


PatheticCouncillor Philip Read’s Christmas message to his Twitter followers was as shown here. As already noted, Read is, with justification, not proud of his Twitter outpourings so he blocks me from viewing. When one has a small army of informers ready to help out that is a pathetic reaction from a pathetic little man which has failed to prevent his Tweet’s appearance here.

I have no idea what the silly twerp means by “Labour Cllrs dance to the tune of bloggers”. I know that the Tories play dirty with their overwhelming majority but the opposition disappoints me more often than the reverse. They don’t feed me stories and since former councillor Munir Malik left the scene I’ve seen only occasional indications that they might be B-i-B readers. The last time I was in contact with a Lesnes Abbey ward (mine) councillor was on 3rd November. I’m beginning to look towards UKIP for any sign of a much needed rebellion.

Perhaps Philip Read was simply lashing out at everyone who might not be a Bexley council fan. Blogger Hugh Neal (Maggot Sandwich) is occasionally uncomplimentary about what he calls the Watling Street Junta but the only other frequent Bexley based Blogger, The Thamesmead Grump, usually steers clear of political comment preferring to publish a magnificent collection of photos from the borough’s northern territories. The Grump makes a pleasant change from the depressing stuff usually found here.

The suggestion that bloggers cower behind closed doors is supremely ironic. My name has been on the contact page since Day 1 (September 2009), my postal address is clearly shown on the website and known to everyone who does a ‘Whois’ on bexley-is-bonkers.org. I am sometimes recognised when out and about with my camera, who else is mad enough to take pictures of street signs and white lines?

Philip Read on the other hand is the cabinet member for Children’s Services who really did “cower behind closed doors” when the Labour councillors wanted to discuss his brief at a public meeting. Councillor Philip Read is a deeply pathetic and unpleasant little hypocrite. How do such tiny minds come to be elected?

 

24 December - Happy Christmas to all

I hope all BIB readers, councillors and all, have a wonderful Christmas. I am going to take a few days off.

RomaniansThis afternoon I have been royally entertained by my really lovely Romanian neighbours and am now a little the worse for wear having imbibed a couple of glasses of their local liquer. They said it was not very alcoholic but it’s a good job I do not need to drive anywhere.

Their generosity is unbelievable; when I mentioned that Santa was not going to bring my grand daughter the rocking horse she craves (space considerations!) they immediately presented me with one their own daughter no longer used. It was in as new condition and they took a lot of persuading that it was a gift too far.

Time spent with them listening to how us English, Bexley council and police too, treat them and how the family females cannot leave their own house without a male escort to protect them makes me very very ashamed of my country.

Not all Romanians are work shy pickpockets and victims of crime do not deserve to be arrested by Bexley police or abused by Bexley council. Nobody does.

Maybe 2015 will bring improvements. Bah humbug!

 

23 December - Open all hours

The ASDA store in Belvedere has proved to be very popular, I use it quite a lot, though grudgingly. Two years ago I ordered Game of Thrones from Asda on-line because it was a pound cheaper than Amazon. They debited my credit card and then nothing. I waited a few days and then I received an email to say the order was cancelled and I would get my money back within two weeks.

I phoned Asda to protest because the DVD was still showing on their website. They said they had cancelled because the price had gone up but I could re-order at the higher price if I wished. Their call centre man was barely capable of speaking English and was possessed of very few brain cells. He had no idea of the law of contract and told me there was no facility for logging a complaint.

Asda I formed the opinion that Asda’s business ethics are those of a bunch of crooks and vowed never to use them again, hence my grudging acceptance of Asda in Belvedere.

Since then, at their self service tills I have once been short changed and on another occasion my purchases added up to £9.99 but the machine demanded £49.99. However both problems were sorted out without too much trouble.

Asda may or may not be a bunch of crooks but they certainly pay scant regard to any rules or regulations; maybe they have taken a leaf from the book of their official store opener, councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis; she of unlicensed strip show fame.

The manager of Belvedere’s Asda has decided that what is sauce for the Christmas goose is sauce for the gander too and is keeping her store open all night tonight…

Asda
…disregarding the store’s planning consent which curtails activities after 11 p.m. to protect local residents.

Presumably manageress Tracey Cox will have a reasonable excuse when she is hauled over the coals by Bexley council, that they turned a blind eye to Lucia-Hennis so why not her too.

 

22 December - Sucking up dirt

The email from the Network Rail Manager said…


We have some work on next weekend (20th and 21st) but nothing that will make a particularly good photo, most of it digging drainage and crossings alongside and underneath the track. That’s it until the new year.


With so many other things to do pre-Christmas and that library closure report was not exactly quick to prepare, I didn’t bother to look at Crossrail last weekend. The photos below are of minor developments the previous week and not far from the station.

With the North Kent line needing to be realigned slightly towards the south, Gayton Road will have to undergo some changes too. The vehicle in Photos 3 and 4 was unusual, it was a giant vacuum cleaner marked ‘Vacuum Excavation’.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

20 December (Part 2) - Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre. See it come down

Lesnes LesnesOver the three days 15th to 17th December the old Lesnes Visitor Centre came down to be replaced by a soulless glass and stainless steel structure which I have yet to to hear anything good about. However according to the council’s leaflet, Alex Sawyer again, it will provide a refreshment kiosk which, who knows, may be better stocked than the one at the Belvedere Splash Park, and upgraded public conveniences.

Perhaps they will be open for longer hours, but the demolished toilets had always been among the best in Bexley, when of course they had competition. Gareth Bacon closed nearly all the others four years ago. As usual, as soon as the election was safely in the bag, Bacon sold the family silver for enough money to keep him and his lying missus in allowances for two whole years.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

Previous pictures of the demolition.

 

20 December (Part 1) - Library downgrades. All stitched up months ago

Be under no illusions, all councils have suffered massive cuts to the grants handed down by central government, the country has barely begun to recover from the downturn which began six years ago. It’s a fact and there will be consequences.

Another undeniable truth is that the environment in which libraries operate has changed massively. When I was a young teenager I would tiptoe around the town library while adults were putting fingers to their lips and saying “Schhh”.

My most recent trip to libraries were not happy ones and I doubt I shall return. Probably oldies like me are drifting away and the Kindle and i-Pad generation is hard to recruit. So I am not against library retrenchment, only against councils that do not have a clue about democracy. Those which cobble together a policy and put it out for a sham consultation that they have absolutely no intention of accommodating. Worse, will pretend to sponsor a petition which we are expected to believe is a genuine attempt to derail the plans of their own best mates. Does that sound like Bexley? Of course it is. I’ve watched these buggers for more than four years now and they absolutely never shelve a cut because of public discontent and when necessary they will ‘adapt’ consultation figures to suit themselves.

Having already written an informal resumé of Wednesday’s cabinet meeting I shall now fall back on my audio recording and strictly factual stuff.
Library
It has not been the practice historically for petitions to be heard at Cabinet but the across the board reduction in the number of meetings which forms part of Teresa O’Neill’s clamp down on scrutiny opportunities can result in something going out for consultation and being signed and sealed between meetings. The current gap between council meetings is exactly four months. For that reason last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting was the scene of a sham petition process without a hope in hell of it making any impact.

Before Ms. Karen Mensa-Bonsu was graciously allowed to speak for five whole minutes Teresa O’Neill stepped in to say "the petition refers to closure but we are not actually talking about closure” which as I learned later is not strictly correct. Full closure may not be the preferred option, that's to get a voluntary group to run them, but if volunteers cannot be found, or they are found but make a hash of things, then four libraries will close.
Closure
KMB’s case was that if libraries have to be down graded or closed, Blackfen is not a sensible choice.

Official figures show Blackfen to be the fourth most used library (visits) which is not what the consultation document said. All libraries have suffered a decline since 2010, Central is down 21% and Welling 35% but Blackfen is down by only 14%, no more than Sidcup and Erith which are to stay open. Over the past year Blackfen has not noticeably declined and Northumberland Heath and Upper Belvedere Libraries, also scheduled for closure (or whatever) have actually increased.

For use by children, Blackfen is second only to Bexleyheath’s Central Library, perhaps because it is within walking distance of six schools. It is well placed in the town centre, helping to bring in trade and is the only public meeting place in Blackfen. There is a large car park nearby neither of which apply to Sidcup and Welling.

Community libraries have a restricted range of books and none in ethnic languages and are not entirely free to use. Volunteers do not have the expertise of professional librarians. Blackfen, Ms. KMB said was too large a library to be successfully run on a volunteer basis and unlikely to offer other council services such as parking permits, neither was skilled IT assistance likely to be on call.

In summary KMB said that Blackfen was more used than Welling and in terms of cost per visit was the second least expensive in the borough and more of Welling’s 1·5 mile circle lies outside the borough than does Blackfen’s. Ms. Mensa-Bonsu received a round of applause exactly 300 seconds after she started speaking - but not from a stony faced cabinet although Teresa O’Neill did manage a rather condescending and school teacher-like comment about hitting the five minute mark so precisely. I felt sorry for those who had come to watch the spectacle. Unused as they were to the ways of Bexley council they probably thought they were in with a chance of influencing a decision which in reality had been made weeks ago. The cabinet were there solely to destroy every argument KMB had put forward.

SawyerCabinet member Alex Sawyer who is charged with making cuts to library expenditure congratulated KMB on obtaining more than 3,000 signatures. He may have meant well but again it sounded condescending. He agreed that the library was the heart of Blackfen’s community, “do you not accept or acknowledge that libraries run by a community group in the community can better serve that community than the council can with a one size fits all library”. KMB thought that “Blackfen was too big and busy to be effectively managed by a community group”. The usage figures in the consultation document were simply not true and the wrong “down grading” decision had been made. “Welling has been losing customers at a rate of knots” and Blackfen has not been. The decision “is disgusting”.

Sawyer who admitted he preferred Wikipedia to libraries, came back with another condescending remark. “You are making your points very well if I may say so” and went on to admit that “Blackfen Library is an undoubted success” but experience of community management in Bexley village has shown “it can increase footfall”. This was a bit of a lame argument. Bexley was a part time, 16 hours a week library and is now a part time 25 hours a week library. There is little scope for increasing the hours of a full time council library. Ms. KMB said only that community management is a second class option. Councillor Sawyer had not shot any fatal holes in the petitioners’ argument so cabinet member Don Massey took over the bombardment.


SawyerDon Massey began by trying to attack KMB’s figures, “I’m pretty certain they are not correct”. This is exactly the same tactic he adopted three years ago when Elwyn Bryant had his petition rejected on the grounds that the salaries figures he presented as examples of grossly excessive pay were all wrong. It was in fact me who argued strongly that his figures should be exactly those shown on Bexley council’s website or they wouldn’t listen to him. It made no difference, they still claimed that Elwyn’s figures were wrong.

If petitioners or indeed the population at large wants to argue with Bexley council they really must not assume they are dealing with reasonable people. They are not. The central core is made up of proven liars, unscrupulous businessmen and those ready to commit criminal acts in the sure knowledge that Bexley police will always come to their rescue.

Massey wanted to know if KMB had visited Bexley and Slade Green libraries. She had but at Bexley was only able to speak to the council employed librarian. The volunteer turned up late and was taken up with another matter and never seen again. In Slade Green no one could be bothered to offer an appointment.

When that line of attack failed to do serious damage Massey changed tack and referred to a leaflet put out by the Bexley Civic Society. It apparently said “it may be worth remembering that Bexley library was closed some time ago and is now open as a community amenity“. “Would you now accept that is a false statement?“ Massey asked. Surely that is desperate nit picking on his part and shows just how shallow his mind must be? Everyone would know what the Civic Society meant by their statement, pedantically it only closed as a council run library and was immediately reopened under new management, and secondly why was KMB being held responsible for what the Civic Society said? Pathetic point scoring to make himself look clever in the eyes of his equally pathetic colleagues.

KMB reminded Massey that the council’s proposals included full closure even though that may not be their preference. Massey confirmed she “was quite right” but he still demanded to know if the Civic Society’s statement was correct. A display of mind blowing pedantry and small mindedness while the audience muttered about hairs being split and “nothing to do with us”.

The council leader invited councillor Peter Craske the petition sponsor to speak. Instead of speaking on behalf of the petitioners he asked Karen M-B why she thought the library was a valuable resource for the community. Hadn’t she spent the past 18 minutes telling the purple faced drip that?

She mentioned the scrabble, chess, reading groups, coffee mornings, computer lessons and stitch crafts. Quite a lot of the users come from Welling because Blackfen has so much more to offer. Craske managed to get away without actually speaking up for petitioners or running the risk of his leader’s wrath. He knows how much he owes her following the events of two and three years ago. His arrest for Misconduct in Public Office and the subsequent “political interference”.

Labour councillor Joe Ferreira rather cleverly asked one simple question. “Had the petitioners come across any resident who was in favour of the council’s proposals?” They had not.

Ainge Toni Ainge who is Deputy Director of Leisure and Arts and wife of the Director (nepotism and its potential for corruption is never far away in Bexley) read out the council’s proposals referring to the reduced usage and the minimal statutory requirements. She did not add a lot to the debate. She had done her job and was presumably reluctant to rework it in the light of the statistics etc. put forward by the petitioners. Like Massey, she believed the petitioner's figures were wrong, or as she preferred to put it, out of date. She confirmed that the consultation responses did not support the council’s money saving plan but recommended the consultation be disregarded and the plans adopted. It’s Bexley style democracy and loyalty that should guarantee another salary bonus.

Cabinet Member Gareth Bacon responded with his ritual comment about the “unprecedented level of central government funding for local government”. It is a well understood message which has no bearing on KMB’s contention that it was wrong to contemplate closing Bexley’s second most successful library to save not a lot more money than Bacon extracts from the public purse each year.

Bacon maintained that swapping Welling for Blackfen would result in fewer residents being within 1·5 miles of a library. His only other point, if you can believe that one, is that community management could continue with all the ancillary services if they so wished. He said he would be voting against the petitioners. For any serving Tory councillor to vote against the leadership would be unprecedented, so what hope the deputy leader?

Don Massey chipped in with the fact that he had visited all the libraries. If he was expecting a round of applause for his diligence he would have been disappointed. He went on to throw doubt on the council’s own library usage figures used by KMB. Crayford and Thamesmead had suffered some day closures during the year.

The sour faced Cabinet member Linda Bailey has never displayed any redeeming features and is resolutely anti every aspect of democracy. Naturally she wanted to announce that she is not herself a library user and would vote against the petitioners’ wishes.

Fuller Cabinet member John Fuller spoke highly of the community libraries in Blackheath, Lewisham and Sydenham some of which offer full council services. John Fuller is the only cabinet member who can be relied upon not to make silly political points and stay within the bounds of truth and relevancy - as far as I can remember anyway.

Cabinet member for failing Children’s Services, Philip Read, who is everything that Fuller is not spoke next, launching into a nostalgia fest about horse drawn milk carts which did not go down well with the audience. He said he would support the council’s plans. At that point the battle was effectively lost.

Sawyer came back to round things off for the cabinet making another condescending remark about KMB’s success in gaining 3,017, if worthless, signatures. Members of the audience tried to interject but she who must be obeyed quickly shut them up.


LabourThe Labour councillors spoke at some length in support of council run libraries. They mentioned how the consultation process was poor and how it did not allow a full range of expression - they never do. That is why the petition was far more successful in terms of responses.

Councillor Joe Ferreira questioned why the council still believes it is ‘Listening to you, working for you’. The council leader was visibly bored by being told some home truths and eventually asked Ferreira “have you finished?” and went on to remind him that she had won the election in May so his opinion did not count for anything. Cue groans from the audience who had by now realised that their supposition that Bexley council was the seat of local democracy was wrecked beyond repair.

Seán Newman went through a list of libraries, including mobile libraries, closed by Bexley Conservatives and was concerned for Belvedere and its pop in parlour and the opportunities closure of the Splash Park will give (sale of land for housing etc.) for a serious loss of amenities in the area. Community libraries in Bexley had so far proved to be elitist he said to some applause. Teresa O’Neill could only answer that a Labour administration once closed a library.

Councillor Stefano Borella made a number of points including the fact that Bexley Conservatives said not a word about their proposal to cut library services in their election Manifesto. The audience responded, no one else did.

Councillor John Husband wanted to know what would happen to the displaced librarians. There was no answer to that either.


Slaugter Councillor June Slaughter who is one of the few remaining Tory councillors still clinging to a shred of integrity named a string of authority run libraries which have been “enhanced by considerable capital expenditure and they [the councils] wondered why Bexley is in such a different position”. Teresa O’Neill responded only with, “OK , thank you” and moved swiftly on. June would not be popular at the after meeting drinks party, but she probably isn’t anyway. The councillors must know by now, June was happy to support me in the case now being investigated by Greenwich police. An honest politician, whatever next?

UKIP councillor Lynn Smith asked why the council cannot use some of it reserves. Teresa O’Neill said that community management brings greater resources to libraries than the council could. I failed to see the connection.

After Alex Sawyer was allowed to engage in a one direction trade of political insults with the opposition Teresa O’Neill asked if everyone was in favour of the plans that they had decided on ages ago. They were.

Twelve whole seconds to agree! They couldn’t even be bothered to find a proposer, a seconder, or even raise their hands. Is that even legal? Whatever the case it was all a foregone conclusion.

Incidentally, I do try to be fair to both sides in these reports so I feel duty bound to say that I know someone living in my road who has joined Lewisham Library. It's quicker to get to by public transport than Bexleyheath Central and he says it is better than any Bexley library. I can’t help thinking that it’s a mistake but his Greenwich Library ticket has opened the door to free swimming for pensioners too, so maybe Ms. KMB should get across there to see how it is done.

However as a demonstration of how Bexley council will listen to no one, shout down all opposition and manipulate or invent statistics to favour their ambitions, the library consultation and debate was something of a classic. There will be many more in the months to come.

 

18 December (Part 2) - Cabinet meeting. That’s another Conservative con too

O'NeillThere was only one item of note on the Agenda of last night’s cabinet meeting and Mick Barnbrook and Co. had asked me to join them for a Christmas drink afterward so I only ever planned to stay for the presentation of the Blackfen Library Petition. This is not going to be a detailed report, one will come later, because I have less than an hour to write it before I have a shopping date with a 94 year old!

Bexley council has proposed that more of its libraries are turned over to privately run groups like Bexley village and Slade Green libraries have been. Failing that they will close. Blackfen is potentially for the chop and Karen Mensa-Bonsu had organised a petition against it. She easily gathered 3,017 signatures and persuaded Conservative councillors Peter Craske and Alan Beckwith to sponsor it. From one point of view that was a good move - without councillor sponsorship Bexley council would have resorted to their usual practice of refusing to accept it. On the other hand it indicates a failure to recognise that all Bexley Conservatives are working for the greater good - of each other.

To expect Peter Craske to work honestly at all would probably be a mistake but to expect him to work against his friend councillor Alex Sawyer who is the library chopper-in-chief is really not very clever. Has everyone forgotten that Craske connived with Sawyer at the inappropriate People Scrutiny meeting to engineer an excuse for Sawyer to espouse his plans for closing the Belvedere Splash Park? Anyone who doesn’t believe it will close is again someone who has not followed the way Bexley council operates.

Ms. Mensa-Bonsu was allowed to speak against Blackfen Library moving out of council control for five minutes after which she was questioned at length by all the cabinet members one by one. Several of them were honest, sort of, by saying straight away that they were going to back the potential closure.

Councillor Don Massey took issue with Karen because some group not closely connected to her had put out a notice which referred to closure and Massey said that was a false allegation. Ms. Mensa-Bonsu said that the consultation document actually mentioned possible closure and in any case she cannot answer for what other organisations might say. Later on council officer Toni Ainge confirmed that closure is an option and that cabinet member Don Massey is just a mischief maker or maybe not as bright as he thinks he is.

When Karen Mensa-Bonsu tried to correct another cabinet inaccuracy, leader Teresa O’Neill rudely shouted her down with a comment to the effect that the public is not allowed to point out that a cabinet member is spouting rubbish.

The Labour opposition were as good as they usually are. Seán Newman, Stefano Borella and Joe Ferreira made some valid points but their leader Alan Deadman said not a word. To be fair the Tory monolith will always roll over them because as the arrogant Fat Controller herself never ceases to remind us, she won the election, so there!

After about an hour and a half the leader decided the cabinet had done a decent job of making themselves look totally undemocratic and suggested they approve the proposal to cut library services. They sort of mumbled unanimous agreement in a totally unprofessional manner and couldn’t even be bothered to stick their hands up.

I must apologise for the brevity of this report, it is all from memory and a whole load of detail is omitted. Tape analysis must wait for the weekend. There has been a bit of a domestic crisis in my street this morning and I have been doing what I can to help out; all the available time rapidly disappeared.

 

18 December (Part 1) - Con and Don

WasteAt the last Cabinet meeting on 14th October, cabinet member Don Massey announced that he plans to charge for garden waste collection. It’s a bit of a con trick because getting householders to separate garden from kitchen waste will make it more valuable. At the Places Scrutiny meeting a week later Massey said separation would save the council £444,000. So it’s a win win for him. He will charge residents for what has always been included in the council tax charge and he will sell the stuff for more money. Genius eh?

Massey went on to ridicule Bromley council which charges £60 a year to empty their 240 litre bins - that’s twenty five pence a litre per year if you fill it up and that’s easy enough because they encourage neighbours to share. See leaflet extract shown.

Massey thought that £35 a year would be a reasonable charge in Bexley, Bromley is a bit of a rip off he implied and probably he is right.

Massey So it’s out for consultation that Bexley council will introduce another stealth tax. Forget the consultation bit, as the library closure campaigners found out last night, all these things are settled well in advance of any consultation, no Conservative councillor will ever listen to residents, and I say that having studied the results of every consultation since 2010. Nothing ever changes. “Listening to you, working for you’ is another of Teresa O’Neill’s lies.

So why is this blog entitled Con and Don (Massey)? Err… it’s because he is trying to con you into thinking he might be a decent human being, considerate of your wallet. He may be talking about reducing Bromley’s £60 waste collection charge to £35 but Bexley only provides 140 litre bins. So that’s twenty five pence a litre per year. Exactly the same as in Bromley. Do yourself a favour. Never ever believe a word that any Bexley Conservative councillor says.

Whether Bexley encourages neighbours to work together is not yet known, but unless neighbours share, Bexley will prove to be much more expensive than Bromley and one household will not be able to fill a bin every week. Bromley has cheaper council tax and lower car parking charges so cheaper bins will not come as any great surprise. It has ‘cheaper’ top salaries too. Maybe there is a connection.

 

17 December (Part 3) - An extra £4.41 a ticket is one helluva temptation

What did I say about more emails about parking than any other subject?

This is one from today’s postbag. It comes from someone who used to be a Bexley council employee but is now only a part time worker.


ParkingI was passing by Barclays Bank, opposite Asda in Bexleyheath a bit before 3.00 p.m. [yesterday] and saw a tradesman politely challenging a Parking Attendant about a penalty notice on his white Transit type van.

He was pointing to the signpost and his van and clearly dressed for manual work while the back doors of his van were wide open. He’d been busy loading or unloading. In short, no one sensible would have slapped a penalty notice on his van.

All I could do was wait for the Parking Attendant to leave and then I offered a few (probably useless!) words of empathy but I did tell him to check out your website. But maybe he was too upset and angry to have heard me properly.

It's got to stop; this sort of behaviour is just ridiculous, but what can we do?


All the time central government deprives councils of funds and councils are unwilling to ease up council tax for fear of the electoral consequences, dishonest honest councils like Bexley will tempt parking contactors with extra money for additional parking penalties. £4.41 a go in the case of Bexley. Until it all stops, traders and residents alike will be asked to fill the funding gap.

Mr. Ben Stephens, Parking Manager, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, Kent, BR1 3UH. Wear the blighter down.

Note: Photo is library picture from 15th November 2012. Why do Bonkers readers always forget their camera phones?

 

17 December (Part 2) - Heras what a proper fence looks like

Photo 1 is what Crossrail calls an adequate fence. Photo 2 is what Keanes Ltd., the contractor demolishing the Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre calls a decent fence. Photo 3 is what the Cross Quarter (Abbey Wood) contractor regards as being a reasonably good fence and Photo 4 is the fence that shields the old Civic Centre in Broadway.

Crossrail Lesnes Abbey Cross Quarter Civic Centre, Albion Road

Harrow Inn site, Abbey Wood HerasPhoto 5 is what Bexley council has told the Erith and Thamesmead MP is an entirely adequate fence. They say it is a Heras fence.

Photo 6 is one of the lower priced products from Heras. Maybe someone should notify Heras in case they want to pursue Bexley council for damaging their reputation. Bexley council is very obviously talking out of its rear end again. Or lying to an MP.

 

17 December (Part 1) - Bexley council fails its residents yet again

Thamesmead Binsey Walk, Thamesmead was the scene of another very nasty crime last week, fewer than two months after the knife murder in Wolvercote Road less than half a mile away.

The police have been mounting extra patrols in the area following the murder but it has not deterred a knife wielding rapist. Despite community meetings and the optimism expressed by politicians, charities and some residents, there can be no denying that Thamesmead is not the safest place in the borough.

Despite that, Bexley council has treated it as if it is a peaceful sleepy suburb, there is not a single council operated CCTV camera to be seen anywhere. Nowhere else in Bexley is the council’s long term policy of neglecting the north more apparent.

Money was piled into Bexley village following an argument outside a kebab shop during which a man was shoved and tripped over a kerb, banging his head on it with fatal results. CCTV was quickly deployed. The same privileges were afforded to Crayford with no preceding tragedy. For Thamesmead - nothing. People die and seventeen year olds are raped. Bexley council has a lot to answer for.

The attacker is described as black, of average build, approximately 5ft 8in tall and around 25 years old wearing dark blue jeans, black Adidas trainers and a dark hooded coat.

Teresa Pearce MP has asked Bexley council what progress has been made towards installing CCTV since cabinet member Alex Sawyer admitted that Bexley council had ignored all previous requests for CCTV at the public meeting in November. No prizes for guessing the answer to that one.

News Shopper’s report. (Subsequently arrested and charged.)

 

16 December (Part 2) - Bexley parking services. Up to their old tricks again

Abbey Road PenaltyAfter the Abbey Road resident told me about the daily nightmare of parking there and my reminder of how Bexley council is deliberately profiteering with their inadequate signage, I thought I might revisit the scene of their daily crimes.

The basic problem is that there is a very long parking bay with a £3.80 for two hours ticket machine at each end. However neither the machines nor the signs on poles mention that non-residents may only park very close to the machine. It’s a trap and typical of Bexley council.

My short walk did not go unrewarded. As usual Bexley council had helped itself to another £110 - plus of course the outrageous £4.00 for two hours parking. Bexley’s machines don’t give change, legalised theft is right up their street.


Paid ticket StephensAs may be seen from the large version of Photo 1, Honda RY07 ZZW is parked about four car lengths from the ticket machine but that is not close enough for Bexley and the driver was not a clairvoyant; so is fair game to a council as dishonest as Bexley.

What annoys me just as much is that one of the Lesnes councillors lives in the next road to me and can’t be much more than five minutes walk from where Bexley council is cheating on a daily basis. You would have thought he might have noticed by now.

In the early days of BiB I used to email the councillor who supposedly looked after Lesnes Abbey ward, Conservative John Davey, who would systematically ignore me. Looks like Labour is not a lot better.

The paid ticket was displayed on the driver’s side, which may be a mistake if the CEO is particularly lazy. The photos are framed so that they all include the blue colour. Hopefully it will add to the driver’s evidence if he sees this report. Probably he won’t, there is a Barking and Dagenham Residents’ Permit behind the windcreen.

All complaints to Mr. Ben Stephens, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, Kent, BR1 3UH. Wear the blighter down.

 

16 December (Part 1) - Bexley police. Up to their old tricks again

Some readers have first hand experience of my occasional tardiness in responding to emails. It's not just that I get rather a lot, that is not the real problem, it is the ones that are complicated and hard to follow and would take days to investigate properly that are most often neglected. Sometimes they don’t really have any connection to Bexley council either.

One such saga has been arriving in stages all year but it’s not been mentioned before because it is about Bexley police and for a change, not about them covering up for Bexley’s criminally inclined council. On the other hand neither is the corruption surrounding the Daniel Morgan axe murder and neither was the young lad who was severely injured at school by someone with friendly connections to the police. In that case they reversed the assailant and victim roles to get their friend off the hook. When Dartford Crown Court exposed Bexley police as liars they pretended to make amends by telling the victim that action would be taken against the dishonest police officers, but they were lying again. Not so much as a single knuckle was rapped.

The new case has similarities to that one.

A brief summary is that there was a marital dispute; usual thing, husband runs off with another woman. The husband subsequently broke into the wife’s house through a window and removed property. Bexley police said that was not a crime.

Following that incident the other woman accused the wife of assault.

The wife had taken a brief holiday in the USA at the time but as she returned through Heathrow she was taken aside and arrested. Can you believe it? A lady returning home to Bexley, unaware of the charges against her and who could easily be picked up when she got home, was intercepted as if she was a big time crook passing incognito through Heathrow.

The police papers suggest that an officer thought a dramatic arrest would be fun. “Wouldn’t it be good if we arrested Mrs. P. off the aeroplane.” For a common assault? Are they mad?

The officer involved denied using those words but it happened nevertheless…
Arrest
Maybe you can see the link with the case of the injured schoolboy. Yes, the other woman worked for the police in Sidcup; “Mrs. M. is one of us”. In Marlowe House presumably where Detective Sergeant Michelle Gower whitewashed my complaint against Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer. (The IPCC agreed with me but 30 months later the police are ignoring the IPCC.)

The wife was charged and brought before Bromley Court where the charge was thrown out for the simple reason there was neither harassment nor assault.

The wife then made ten complaints and allegations of Misconduct in Public Office and Perjury against police officers. You will probably guess this too. The police accepted none of it. Chief Inspector Ian Broadbridge said “I am satisfied that the report does not need to be referred to the CPS.” He signs himself “Professional Standards Champion”. I would have thought Booby was a more appropriate word than Champion but perhaps Champion is a reference to success in protecting his mates and not looking after the public as I foolishly assumed.

Ian Broadbridge is the officer who did Mick Barnbrook ‘a favour’ by telling the Directorate of Professional Standards that Mick was going to make a complaint against two constables who he believes (knows really) lied about ejecting him, me and others from the council chamber on 19th June 2013. He knew full well that Mr. Barnbrook intended to make criminal allegations against the two PCs and Chief Inspector Peter Ayling but Broadbridge’s unwanted intervention successfully threw that off track. Once again the police looked after themselves.

The police’s own report names around 20 officers involved in this case and except for the Chief Superintendent’s none are known to me. None from the Craske case, none from John Kerlen’s malicious prosecution, none from the injured schoolboy and none from the Cheryl Bacon case. One can only assume that crookedness is a trait widespread among Bexley’s police. Even the ‘honest’ ones will always support each other as I learned the hard way when one assaulted me under a CCTV camera 20 years ago.

However the wife in the foregoing case has taken her allegations against CS Peter Ayling to the IPCC so he is not out of trouble yet, and no doubt Mick Barnbrook’s case will go to the IPCC eventually as well, adding his name to Chief Superintendents Dave Stringer and Victor Olisa who are also similarly accused.

BaconWhile I am covering police matters perhaps it is an opportune moment to return to the case against councillor Cheryl Bacon, Will Tuckley, Akin Alabi and Lynn Tyler, Bexley’s Chief Executive and legal bods respectively, currently with Greenwich CID.

The latest information leads me to suspect that Bacon will get off scot free. She offended against the Local Government Act by shutting out the public from her meeting and then lied constantly about the reason why. But that is not the crime Mick Barnbrook reported. His allegation is that Tuckley and Co. Perverted the Course of Justice by refusing to investigate Bacon’s lies to excuse her minor offence and turning their backs on councillors of both parties who were happy to tell them the truth.

Lying by politicians is not a crime, if it were… well would there be any running free? So I think Bacon will walk free which is a shame. On the other hand she will be labelled a liar for ever more and there are a dozen or so councillors and a handful of council officers who know that she is a liar - because their ears and eyes will not have deceived them.

 

15 December (Part 3) - Bexley’s aversion to fire and water

It looks as though the Maggot Sandwich has nailed the rumour that Bexley council has cut funding for children’s swimming lessons. I never knew they provided any.

GoosesteppingIf you go to Hugh Neal’s current blog and scroll down past the second picture (the bagpiper) to the text picked out in red you will see that they have indeed brought about the demise of beginners’ swimming classes. However it is being done at arm’s length through their agents Parkswood Leisure.

Hugh alludes to his “pitchforks and flaming torches” comment again but fortunately stops short of repeating it. Last time he went down that metaphorical road our moronic leader Teresa O’Neill, who presumably hasn’t read a word of classical literature in her pathetic life, reported me to the police for threatening arson on the Civic Offices - and that corrupt bunch went straight to the Crown Prosecution Service who recommended I was charged. Just for once the Independent Police Complaints Commission came up trumps. And why me and not Hugh you may ask? I would suggest it is because T. O’Neill is not just a moron but a power crazed vindictive moron.

Stopping swimming lessons presumably fits in nicely with the council’s plan to keep toddlers away from water by closing Belvedere’s Splash Park. And what happened to that campaign? Their Facebook pages have been pretty much dormant for the past few weeks.

 

15 December (Part 2) - Bexley’s parking muggers

Parking I suppose if I had kept a postbag tally, parking issues would show itself as the biggest single bugbear for residents of the borough, with perhaps child care running it a close second.

Six weeks ago a council trap in Abbey Road, Belvedere was featured where it is not obvious where the pay and display area and the residents only area begins. There is nothing to stop a resident parking over the feint demarcation lines. As a result a commuter who has paid £3.80 for two hours parking gets landed with a much bigger bill as well.

Since October I have seen several more drivers fall into the same lucrative council trap, but the misery they impose on commuters is not confined to them apparently.

From a resident who lives very close to the bays in question - note from the photo that it is impossible to fit anything but the smallest of cars into a Bexley bay - comes this tale of woe.


I live in Abbey Road. Parking here during the day has become impossible. When I have a day off work and have to go out for a short while, I am lucky to get another space.

My family needs two cars. I have a permit for one and the second is awaiting the registration document so that I can get another permit. Until that comes I have to spend £3.80 to park near my own house.

I paid today and displayed my ticket on the dashboard quite clearly. I got a Penalty Charge Notice for not displaying a permit or ticket in a mixed bay. £110 thank you very much Bexley.

I took photos of the ticket and the car and its position through the windscreen using my phone.

I was talking to a lady who lives a few doors along who said she is sick to death of the problems with parking. Several times she has stopped an attendant putting a ticket on her own car for not having a permit.

She explained she has paid and has a permit but the attendant insisted it doesn’t show up on Bexley’s system. As she said, “that’s their problem”.

We no longer get a paper permit to display and there are no signs in Abbey Road to indicate where one should park with a permit only. I usually play safe and try to get a space in Manorside Close where residents and businesses compete for the six available bays.

Having a day off work has become a nightmare. Thanks for the Bonkers blog. I am an avid follower and tell anyone who will listen about you.


StephensFailing to provide any clear distinction between the two types of bay in Abbey Road is an obvious deliberate money raising honey trap and probably an easy challenge at PATAS if the fee has been paid.

Alternatively write personally to Mr. Ben Stephens (Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, Kent, BR1 3UH) who is in charge of the bunch of professional extortioners that Bexley employs. If you can be bothered to listen through the webcast archive for 22nd October you can hear him saying what a reasonable man he is who always listens sympathetically to tales of genuine errors and mitigating circumstances. I don’t think he said anything about incompetent Civil Enforcement Officers and officially endorsed traps, but you never know, it might be worth a try and bogging bureaucrats down with paperwork is usually a very good idea.

 

15 December (Part 1) - Bexley’s bin buggers

Bin BugUnlike some, mainly Labour, boroughs, Bexley introduced a fairly sensible refuse collection policy after the Tories were elected in 2006. Although the bins were equipped with ‘bugs’ to allow the refuse trucks to monitor the weight of your rubbish (Photo 2), such draconian measures were never introduced, nor were the ridiculous £100 fines, and it all paid off. Bexley has often been rated the most successful recycling borough in the country. Then about a year ago they went and spoiled it.

If your bin lid is up so much as a centimetre they will not take it away. The bin shown (Photo 1) will not now be collected until after Christmas. During the interval the household will generate another binfull of rubbish and the situation might get worse.

In practice that might not happen. It may just possibly be taken to the official dump but that is unlikely because this bin is on the borough’s western boundary and the dump is almost in Dartford. Much more likely is that a passing drunk will tip it over and a fox will redistribute it along the road or the contents will be hidden somewhere in the nearby woods. One way or another Bexley council will collect it. Do the lunatics who run the asylum think that uncollected rubbish magically vapourises?

BinIn my road I am the self-appointed unofficial bin monitor. My own bin only rarely contains more than three small supermarket bags of rubbish and on Thursday evenings I take it along the street redistributing other people’s excess rubbish. If I don’t it will not be collected and either create an eyesore or be put in one of the big communal paper bins that are no so far way, thereby contaminating it.

Most of the houses near me have two occupants but one has five. It doesn’t matter how often you ask them not to, they overfill their green bin and sometimes fill the brown (compost) bin up with rubbish too. They are my best ‘customers’ and I often have to use (with permission) up to three other residents’ bins to sort everything out.

I regard that as preferable to huge heaps of rat infested rubbish in a front garden as used to happen regularly. (The photo below is nothing like the worst, which I have yet to find!) I assume Bexley council does not agree. They prefer to make things difficult even though eventually it will always be them who has to pick up the rubbish.

Last week after squashing all the rubbish into the four available bins - with considerable difficulty in one case - by early next morning my own bin had an extra black sack in it and the lid thrown back because there was no way it could be shut. I can guess where it came from. I had to find a fifth bin.

When Serco came around they removed everyone else’s rubbish from my bin but left my own two ASDA bags at the bottom because they are put under so much pressure by Bexley council that there is no time to reach down to the bottom and take them away. Perhaps I should report it as an unemptied bin and damage their statistics. All my own stuff is still here.

Whilst it is easy to blame Bexley council for this nonsense, ultimately, as with far too many things, the European Union is the real source of it.
Rubbish
Someone at Bexley council with a bloody mind must think that putting residents to all this inconvenience will reduce the amount of recyclable rubbish collected but it has to go somewhere. They may think the surrounding gutters and woods are decent enough repositories but I’d like to think my solution is better. I now await their warning letter or some nosy parker rummaging through my two supermarket bags. They are welcome.

 

14 December (Part 4) - Crossrail construction continues

Gayton Road RampsThere are no North Kent line closures for Crossrail due until next weekend but things have been progressing quite quickly. The rubble from the old north side ramps has been removed and on the southern side plastic barriers are still breeding. Presumably the old exit from Bexley’s Gayton Road car park will be closed soon.

If you ask a Network Rail manager when the southern ramps are to be demolished (and I have) he will tell you he hasn’t yet got a date and I think that is a genuine answer. If you ask a man in in an orange suit you will be told “after Christmas” or “not until March” and probably anything in between if you hunt down more of them.

The battle to get the tunnel portal area ready ready for tunnel fitting out next May appears to be going well, although Crossrail’s obsession with barriers makes getting a decent view very difficult.

The four photos below are taken through a filthy Perspex window (thank goodness for Photoshop), through a close spaced heavy gauge mesh (open the lens wide and hope it goes right out of focus) or from ground level which doesn’t show much. (Photos 1, 2 and 3 below respectively). Photo 4 (the mesh again) is looking the other way towards Abbey Wood and all four are from the new Church Manorway footbridge.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

These are the first reasonably clear views of the Plumstead tunnel portal that I have been able to get. The branch to the right leads to the Plumstead sidings. See track layout. (PDF)

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

14 December (Part 3) - Destruction Centre

Hill View (Welling) is nearly flattened too. These photographs are from a local resident. Compare with a week ago.

Hill View Hill View Hill View Hill View

Hill View achieved notoriety because its sale provided a large chunk of money which Bexley council ploughed into improving its own accommodation in Bexleyheath and all the objections to it, flooding, boundary proximities, community areas not big enough, had to be ignored for the sake of the money. And they were. Even councillors who campaigned against it, voted for it.
Hill View

 

14 December (Part 2) - Destruction North

The Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre is coming down fast as these pictures taken over a period of three days show. Tree removal methods have been just a little unorthodox.

The contractor says the centre will all be down and cleared up by the end of Tuesday.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

The contractor also told me about the theft problem at sites such as this and the machinery has a great deal of hidden security equipment embedded within it. Perhaps that also explains the need for a security fence ranging from six to nine feet in height. The photographs were obtained by holding the camera aloft and hoping for the best. With Crossrail similarly obsessed with fencing a Quadcopter is looking to be seriously attractive.

The contractor has been under strict instructions to keep his heavy machinery off the grass and because of that used smaller kit than was ideal. As he explained this with perhaps just a hint of frustration in his voice a lorry bearing Bexley’s logo drove straight across the grass leaving a muddy rut.

 

14 December (Part 1) - The Welsh connection

Daniel MorganI wish I could have said more in Friday’s blog on police corruption but I fear for my daughter’s safety. She and Alastair Morgan probably know as much about police corruption as anyone else in the land, and that is dangerous. One murder for knowing too much is quite enough thank you.

However another report has appeared on a Welsh news outlet and for those interested it may fill in a few more gaps. The Welsh connection is only that Alastair and his brother Daniel were brought up in South Wales, their mother and sister still live there.

 

13 December (Part 3) - The Erith Christmas Tree Festival

Tree TreeLast year I didn’t get to the Erith Christmas Tree Festival because I thought it was going to be open longer than it was and I may have forgotten this year if it hadn’t been for Hugh Neal of Maggot Sandwich fame. He has been roped in to being a Friend of Christ Church Erith, which is where the Festival is held.

While browsing around I immediately stumbled upon the trees sponsored by local Labour politicians, the fact that I saw none from Tories was probably because I didn’t look at every single one.

The Festival has a website but don’t go there without an unlimited broadband connection. The pictures above are around 5,000 bytes each. The not dissimilar one on the Festival website is more than 1,000 times bigger and might damage your phone bill if using a mobile.

For your information the Festival is open until 7 p.m. this evening and 5 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday 14th. Well worth a look especially if you have young children, and it's free but with a bucket for donations.

 

13 December (Part 2) - Supremely lucky

Legal NoticeDelivery of the News Shopper at my address can be somewhat intermittent but I am lucky because a lot of people don’t seem to get it at all.

When mine comes, and it does more often than not, it arrives around Friday lunchtime. Yesterday, Friday 12th December was no exception and as usual I went first to the letters page and finding nothing of great interest, from there to the Legal Notices where I was pleased to note there were very few yellow line extensions, however tucked away in the corner was the advertisement reproduced above.


SupremeBexley council is looking for a new care provider but they are clearly hoping that not too many people will apply. Applications closed five hours after the paper flopped on to my doormat.

Fortunately there is little need to advertise for care providers in Bexley as it has its own, more or less in-house and sure to be very aware of each and every business opportunity.

Cabinet member Don Massey and his wife councillor Sharon Massey have launched their new enterprise Supreme Homecare endorsed by James Brokenshire MP no less. It's sure to do well.

Related blog.

 

13 December (Part 1) - Belvedere’s Belsen

Woodside School A year ago BiB featured the Woodside Special Needs School which is a dreadful looking establishment hidden in darkest Belvedere. Viewed from the outside you would be forgiven for likening it to Belsen.

Last year parents complained that inside it wasn’t a lot better, Christmas had passed it by. As far as Bexley council was concerned it was Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

You will be pleased to know that this year the 1st Floor at least did boast a nice Christmas Tree and some seasonal decorations. All that was lacking, according to the parental report was that none of the children’s work was exhibited on classroom walls to encourage the young people and please their visiting relations.

But it’s progress of a sort.

 

12 December (Part 2) - No ifs or buts, the Metropolitan Police Service is institutionally corrupt

I caught Deputy Assistant Commissioner Hewitt of the Metropolitan Police speaking about their drive against corruption on Radio 4 this morning. He tried to convince us that the era of Met. corruption was all in the past; there will always be a few bent coppers at the sharp end, he said, but higher up it has all gone. I nearly choked on my cornflakes.

Locally I am pursuing a 30 month old complaint (the Craske business) about Bexley police. There are clear documentary indications of corruption in that case, indeed a Bexley Detective Sergeant in an off-guard moment told Elwyn Bryant and me that there was.

Our complaint went to Commissioner Hogan-Howe in June 2012 and was whitewashed by his Directorate of Professional Standards in a response that I felt was just as corrupt as Bexley’s failure to investigate. The IPCC agreed with me and instructed the Met. to do the job again. So far they have done nothing at all. It’s more corruption pure and simple.

A complaint about Hogan-Howe to the head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Ms. Helen Bailey, who earns more money than Boris himself was not even acknowledged.

Daniel MorganDAC Martin Hewitt may think he is getting on top of Met. corruption but he is either delusional or as dishonest as the rest of their top brass.

Car parkIn his radio interview Hewitt mentioned the murder of Private Eye Daniel Morgan who in 1987 was about to drop a file on police corruption into the hands of the media. He was rewarded with an axe blade through his skull.

Corrupt police officers were behind that murder (the Met. admits it) but various police forces (the Hampshire force conducted an ‘independent’ inquiry and concluded there was “no evidence whatsoever of police involvement in the murder”) and several Met. Commissioners leaned over backwards to cover it all up.

The case has in recent years proved to have links to the phone hacking trials, MPs’ alleged peadophilia, Andy Coulson, Editor of The News of the World and through him the Prime Minister himself. Three Labour Home Secretaries were more than a little anxious to look the other way.

AlastairAs long term readers may remember, Daniel Morgan was related to me and I shall be spending Christmas and Boxing Day with his brother Alastair. I may know more about what the police are capable of than is safe to know.

Theresa May the current Home Secretary has in some ways been a breathe of fresh air. She seems to understand that the police are fundamentally corrupt, she more or less told them so at their last conference.

Mrs. May set up an inquiry panel led by a judge eighteen months ago charged with examining around 750,000 documents to try to get at the truth of Daniel Morgan’s murder, and here I must be careful what I say and report only those things that are already in the public domain, albeit not usually in the main stream press.

MenezesThe appointed judge was Stanley Burnton and his police liaison officer was Cressida Dick who achieved notoriety by masterminding the execution of Jean Charles de Menzes on a tube train in Stockwell back in 2005 - and later promoted.

Thanks to those two, no papers reached the Daniel Morgan panel and when the reason was discovered the judge left for personal reasons. Not sure I believe it. The whole of the establishment appeared to have ganged up to protect a corrupt police force. The cynical may speculate about high level peadophile rings and murderous policemen and a mutual protection racket.

As far as one can tell the current Home Secretary is as horrified as she should be and managed to get a new panel on the road and it has just received its first small batch of documents - after the current police management has spent the past eighteen months being obstructive and feeding the shredders.

The only senior policeman, now retired, who Alastair Morgan ever believed to be honest, suffered all sorts of harassment for actually daring to hunt out the truth and still is harassed. The highest ranks of the Metropolitan police’s current management simply cannot be trusted, their principal interest is looking after their own.

A colleague of DAC Martin Hewitt is DAC Fiona Taylor. It is she who is supposedly investigating the complaint of Misconduct against former Bexley borough commanders Stringer and Olisa. I last heard from her in February. Fills you full of confidence doesn’t it? Meanwhile you get blokes like PC Chris Molnar down in Thamesmead doing sterling work there organising community events such as Carol Singing, Christmas Parties and food parcels, and still finding time to hunt down druggies in dark stairwells. It must be soul destroying to know how bent one’s seniors can be. Probably it is why so many coppers are content to remain constables.

Recent Daniel Morgan news.

 

12 December (Part 1) - Who controls the roads? Conway or council?

Another reader updated me on the situation in Townley Road which was recently resurfaced. The council’s letter to residents announcing the forthcoming work set the alarm bells ringing by stating that there would be no vehicle access to houses except during the evening, enforced by tow-away trucks. This in turn led to enquiries about alternative parking arrangements and the inevitable response from Bexley council that they didn’t care, there wasn’t any, and offenders would be fined.
Townley Road
In the event none of that happened. Only one side of the road was affected at any one time and individual drives were disrupted for no more than 30 minutes each.

The writer of the council’s warning letter, Mr. Dave Saunders, as he likes to sign himself, was asked why it was so inaccurate. His reply said “the letter … is to give information but cannot provide detail of every aspect of the work as this may cause confusion”. Too much information may overload some people’s ability to process it but to assume that the majority of Bexley residents are unintelligent is not helpful and to supply them with pure misinformation instead is totally stupid.

Presumably Mr. Saunders is a colleague of Andrew Bashford, the road traffic engineer who in 2009 fed me so much nonsense about my own road that I was moved to start this website.

My correspondent also queried why Townley Road was seen as a resurfacing priority when there were far worse roads in the borough. The top end was constructed from concrete slabs in the 1930s which are not stable and cause cracks to the top surface but it is a localised problem and in the opinion of residents it does not warrant wholesale renewal. No remedial action was applied to the broken concrete which ensures a continuing supply of work for F.M. Conway, the council’s contractor. On that subject Mr. Saunders was strangely silent.

The exchange of views between a resident and Bexley council led to several phone calls, most of them abortive, because road planners tend to be out on the job. My correspondent was informed that the council does not issue them with mobile phones. How efficient is that?

Another weird thing is that Conway’s instructions were not to disrupt the road too much before nine o’clock because to do so would cause traffic chaos. The instruction was observed to the letter, however when the footpath needed attention, work started at seven thirty even though it involved coning off half the road causing rush hour chaos. Mr. Saunders said that was permissible. Another wonderful application of council logic. With brains like that employed you can begin to understand why so much of Bexley is often at a standstill.

Bexley council publishes a list of forthcoming road maintenance. Unfortunately it is far from comprehensive and only four jobs are listed between now and goodness knows when.

 

11 December (Part 3) - Cllr. Philip Read. Now I understand why the PM linked Tweets with twats

TweetI thought it might be worth passing on this Tweet by councillor Philip Read. It’s not often that there is good news about family or children’s services in Bexley. Usually it’s cutting transport for special needs children and adults or respite time for parent carers, or closing children’s playgrounds or, so I have heard on the grapevine, cutting swimming lessons. Even child deaths following just a little too much neglect by Sheila Murphy’s department.

“Pass it on” Read said, so to spread the rare piece of good news further I pressed the Retweet button, and this is what I got…

Retweet
TwatWasn’t it David Cameron who referred to Twitter users as twats? Well if he had Philip Read in mind it may be one the few things that DC has got right.

Philip Read was a bit of a twat when he thought he might block this website by registering www.bexley-is-bonkers.com in his own name. He was a malicious twat when he manufactured a load of bull about John Kerlen and persuaded the always supportive Bexley police to put him in the cells for 24 hours until a judge came to his rescue. A pity Read wasn’t prosecuted for wasting police time.

More recently Read decided that he should extend his vendetta beyond bloggers and refuse to answer reasonable questions from political adversaries.

Philip Read is cabinet member for Children’s Services and if mine hadn’t long grown up would worry me even more than he does already. Thoroughly obnoxious, second rate businessman and not very bright.

 

11 December (Part 2) - String ’em up. Fence panels that is

During this quiet time for council news a few kind readers (well three actually) have taken pity on me and forwarded copies of their correspondence with Bexley council, and in one case their MP, about issues they find troubling. There is a danger that by allowing material to be published here they will be labelled mischievous by Bexley council and victimised, but some aren’t worried by that.

The first and simplest to cover (because grabbing a new photo is only a ten minute job) is the five year old saga of the derelict site of the demolished Harrow Inn.

The reader reminds me that in December last year the Conservative councillors who were then representing Lesnes Abbey ward said, first on Twitter and then in an email…


Twitter 18/12/2013
Lesnes Abbey Conservative Action Team & Cllrs act to ensure Harrow Inn site boarded within 4-6 wks of Jan 1st until perm plan.
Email 19/12/2013
Had meeting yesterday morning at the site with agent, the owner of the car wash and two Bexley council officers. The agent accepted the poor condition of the site and has said that he will be getting quotes for hoarding in the next few weeks and would hope to complete 4-6 weeks after Christmas.


Nothing was done beyond patching the worst of the torn plastic sheets.

After a year of broken promises Lesnes Labour councillor John Husband was on the receiving end of a promise by the site owner that it would be cleaned up last Friday. A few more slivers of wood were nailed on.

Teresa Pearce MP has been on the case but Bexley council is quite happy to fob her off too…


The land agent has secured/stabilised the existing ‘Heras’ fencing and rescreened the site (with wooden batons to help stop it ripping in the wind). I can confirm that the Local Planning Authority will continue to monitor the situation.


Derelict DerelictNote: Heras is a brand of high quality mesh fencing. The fence around the Abbey Wood eyesore is nothing like Heras fencing and such a description casts doubt on whether any council officer has been to look at it.

Bexley council seems to think that the fence is now satisfactory, Ms. Pearce does not - and even she is puzzled by why Bexley council should refer to the Local Planning Authority as if that was a separate body.

Meanwhile the fence is just about standing thanks to some string and a handily placed council road sign.

 

11 December (Part 1) - Lesnes Abbey. Ruined?

Nobody ever seems to be doing anything, but just for the record, 10th and 11th December.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

The only obvious difference between the two pairs is that the area immediately behind the visitor centre has come down.

 

10 December (Part 3) - Corrections and Clarifications

Photos of the demolition of Hill View were posted at the weekend along with a reminder of the rather strange goings on at the planning meeting that approved its redevelopment. Basically all the councillors who spoke against it and supported a residents’ campaign group, ignored their own planning guidelines and voted the scheme through unanimously. It seemed very odd to me and I suggested that two scrutiny committee chairmanships may have been the reward.

It’s dangerous to drift too far into the realms of speculation and I’m not sure why I did it on Sunday because it can prove to be wrong. According to an insider willing to risk all by passing information to BiB the facts are as follows.


Scrutiny chairmen are elected on a majority vote by the 13 Tory full scrutiny members (then five Tory substitutes if a tie).

The only possible outside influence is when the whip (really the leader) decides which members sit on which Scrutiny Committees. This happens every May and will result in challenges particularly where the leader wants one of her own supporters as chairman. Much of a chairman’s work is done behind the scenes (if at all) with support from the vice chairmen.


So who gets to be chairman is reasonably remote from Teresa O’Neill’s control. But who votes for her? How I wish they would vote her out. An honestly led council might make BiB redundant. What would I do with the time?

Grateful thanks to the council mole. Presumably not a Tory given the ‘if at all’ comment.

 

10 December (Part 2) - Will Ben bend or is he bent?

BreakdownOn Sunday afternoon I spotted a friend in Wilton Road trying to break into his own car. The remote central locking had failed and he was having a problem with a damaged key hole. When the door was persuaded to open the alarm went off. The remainder of the electrics appeared to be dead and the starter switch did absolutely nothing. I lamely suggested a battery fault but was told a new one was installed earlier in the day when the problem first showed up. So all that could be done was leave the car there until the repair man could get to it.

While passing by next morning I saw a repair truck backed up to the broken vehicle but that didn’t stop a Bexley bastard giving it a ticket for overstaying the one hour parking restriction.

At the last Places Scrutiny meeting Mr. Ben Stephens, boss of Bexley’s parking team, was at pains to tell everyone what a sensitive caring chap he is so after my friend sends him the letter the repair man kindly supplied we may learn if Mr. Stephens is just another of Bexley council’s professional liars or a man of his word.

The problem with the car proved to be an intermittent earth return cable and a dud starter motor.

 

10 December (Part 1) - Spoilt for choice

UKIPI am pretty sure I was the only non-member to take up UKIP’s invitation to their Parliamentary candidate selection for the Erith and Thamesmead constituency, a refreshing change from ‘the big two’. The Tories are still squabbling among themselves.

It’s always interesting when at meeting like this to have Bexley is Bonkers recommended to me as required reading. I am happy to hear that “it’s really very good” but not so sure about being told “it’s very funny”.

But down to business. There were five candidates who were allowed to speak for five minutes each with unlimited question time. Two candidates were local men and the others were an accountant from Chesham, a former Labour activist from Gravesham and a prominent Kent County Council councillor from Tunbridge Wells. All three were extremely good candidates and from my position as an outsider, and based solely on their short addresses, I thought they were more polished than the local contenders who did not seem to be MP material to me.

On the other hand I felt that none of them in their immaculate suits and shiny shoes would find it easy to connect with the more deprived areas of the constituency. Maybe the UKIP members felt the same because it was local man Ronie Johnson (pictured) who topped the poll and was selected as their candidate for May 2015.

At the last General Election Teresa Pearce won for Labour with a majority of 5,703 on a turnout of 42,476 (60·8%), by far the smallest majority of the three Bexley constituencies.

Teresa seems to be well known and liked in her constituency (or maybe I have come to know too many politically aware people since launching BiB) and will have an established political machine behind her.

 

9 December - Eager to please but a step too far

Bus stops Bus stops Bus stopsThere can be little doubt that the Crossrail and Network Rail staff based at Abbey Wood are trying to be good neighbours. At the end of last week they erected signs directing people to the bus stops which are closest to the station. i.e. those on Harrow Manorway labelled C, J and D on the TfL map (Photo 1) but no longer easy to access now that the ramps and most of the steps are gone.

The sign outside the temporary station (Photo 2) is possibly a little confusing to any strangers in town as it points in two directions for the same stops. One shows a pedestrian figure; maybe the other one should have included a disabled symbol.

However to my mind there is a more serious problem. Why would anyone follow the disabled route past several signs (Photo 3) left in various places along the route? If you are silly enough to follow the signs you would walk right past bus stops E and G which serve all the Harrow Manorway buses except the 180 which uses stops H and K. Both are a much shorter walk (wheelchair ride?) than traipsing over the flyover.

I suspect someone was so anxious to be helpful he didn’t pause for a moment’s thought. The flimsy paper signs would be better saying “To alternative bus stops and step free route across the railway” - or something. It’s not easy to cover all the possibilities in one short statement.

 

8 December (Part 2) - Awaiting demolition. Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre

Paving PavingI imagine that demolition of the Lesnes Visitor Centre will be conducted in a more sympathetic manner than that afforded to the Abbey Wood station ramps by Crossrail yesterday. The old paving stones were carefully taken up this morning and stacked in a manner that suggests they may be found a new home more appreciative of weathered old materials.

The signs at each end of the main vehicle entrance to the park, which is now closed off, brings out the pedant in me. ‘Use alternative path’ they proclaim with an appropriate arrow; but there is no alternative. It's the new badly constructed path or turn round and go away. The word alternative comes from Latin and specifically refers to a choice of two.

You can tell there are no new council related stories can’t you? Maybe I will start my Christmas holiday early.

 

8 December (Part 1) - The squeezed bottom

BottomBexley council announced in the summer that it has embarked on another programme of front line staff cuts.

There was a strike on 10th July while the council proposed that a further 300 jobs be chopped while creating the new title of Deputy Chief Executive. Despite what they say…

Structure
…one could easily get the impression that Bexley’s senior staff are primarily interested in looking after themselves. So what do the official figures say? Unfortunately one can only get access to the situation last April but if senior management has been culling themselves it is not very obvious.

SalariesSchool staff have been steadily drifting across to Academies so the figures there are of no value and of little interest, but the number of well paid council staff dropped by only one in 2013/14 compared to the previous year.

Those earning in excess of £80,000 (and less than £110,000) have actually gone up by three!

Further up the tree five people stayed more of less the same but nevertheless managed to take home around £5,000 more than in the previous year.

Titanic O’Neill may well be shuffling the deckchairs but senior staff are proving adept at taking to the life boats while junior staff are going down with the ship.

 

7 December (Part 2) - Last view of Hill View

Hill View Hill View Hill ViewDemolition isn’t the sole preserve of the north of the borough, the old council offices at Hill View have come down to make way for Bellview housing.

The site redevelopment did not come without controversy. Funds from the sale were required to part fund the council’s new offices in Watling Street so absolutely had to be passed as quickly as possible.

To that end Bexley council refused to allow the principal objector to make all his points at the planning meeting, totally ignored the flooding issues, ignored its own planning rules placing overlooking windows around seven metres closer than normal, and all the Conservative councillors who spoke against the scheme voted in favour - presumably in fear of the wrath of council leader Teresa O’Neill.

Councillor James Hunt attended to support - some said mock - local residents and councillor Steven Hall, who it is said gave a great deal of behind the scenes support to residents, probably wisely stayed away. Three months later both became chairmen of scrutiny committees.

The planning meeting was strange to say the least. How come all the objectors voted in favour? As an example of Bexley councillors being akin to the proverbial nine bob note it is hard to beat.
Hill View
Referring blogs : 2nd March 2014 - 4th March 2014.

 

7 December (Part 1) - Down by dawn - almost

Crossrail CrossrailAccording to local residents, the banging started in the early hours. I was caught napping because when I passed nearby around eight o’clock the site was silent so I didn’t take a close look. Apparently it was a shift change, hence the photo left and the first and last of those below are by permission of Brian Barnett - again.

Further up the line a big hole has been dug below the Eynsham Drive bridge. (Photo 1 left.)

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

 

6 December (Part 3) - Normal business will resume in 2017. Meanwhile try hibernation

During the past week a load of base material has been laid down to the north of the Abbey Wood station ramps (Photo 1). It would appear to be a protective layer over any buried utility services while the area is used to store heavy machinery (Photo 2) and maybe dump the broken up footbridge and ramps.

Yesterday there appeared to be some activity around the old iron railings (Photo 3) but Crossrail’s barriers are very effective at ruining views. Today the demolition was easier to see. (Photos 4 to 9.)

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

A sign on the flyover and another in Felixstowe Road warns that the latter will be closed next Friday until the following Monday. It won’t just be the wheelchair users who will feel cut off from the world; one in Felixstowe Road told me today that she no longer ventures south. The half mile detour and half mile back is just too daunting for many. The problem is scheduled to last three years and get worse before it gets better.

As can be seen in Photo 12, not all motorists are prepared to observe the rules of the road.

 

6 December (Part 2) - Abbey Wood. Welcome to the rubbish tip

Harrow InnI think it may have been my councillor Danny Hackett who told me that after putting up with a rat infested eyesore where the Harrow Inn used to be for five years, Bexley council had served an enforcement order on the land owner, or rather their administrators because the property company which planned to build on it has gone bust.

I could be wrong because I don’t seem to have any email confirmation but on the other hand I do speak to him face to face occasionally - but only when Deputy Director Paul Moore isn’t looking because that idiot told Danny he shouldn’t speak to me, his ward resident!

Danny’s colleague councillor John Husband recently said that the site administrators had promised to clean the site up yesterday but if they did there is no very obvious sign of it. Less of the green plastic draped around the site may be falling over but the site itself is as bad as ever.

The plans to build flats on the site have been put on ice “because [Bexley planning] officers have concerns over the viability of the proposed redevelopment”.

Abbey Wood is condemned to be the eternal rubbish dump.

 

6 December (Part 1) - Erlking and Theresemead

If a better offer doesn’t turn up I think I shall look in on UKIP’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) selection meeting next Tuesday. They haven’t yet made their choice for the Erith and Thamesmead constituency.

If the other parties conduct any part of their selection process at an open meeting I am not aware of it, certainly not the Conservatives who have been busy stabbing themselves in the back in Thamesmead. Probably an unfortunate metaphor given recent events down there.

Sawyer ReadFrom several messages, not totally consistent, it would appear that Amandeep Singh Bhogal, Alex Sawyer and Philip Read have finished up dividing the camp.

Amandeep was the Tory’s candidate for Belvedere in the May 2014 elections. Alex Sawyer is the husband of MP Priti Patel and councillor for St. Mary’s and Philip Read; well Philip Read is the nasty piece of work who tried to get John Kerlen banged up by making false allegations to Bexley police and refused to answer a perfectly valid question at a council meeting on the grounds that the questioner was once a member of the British National Party.

By all accounts Read’s nastiness has been spread to the constituency committee. Erith and Thamesmead is an odd one, split as it is between two boroughs and local party members are split similarly. The Bexley people think they own it. Its president is Mrs. Alex Sawyer, Priti Patel.


BhogalOn brief acquaintance, Amandeep Bhogal is a genuine and nice bloke which probably makes him a bit of an outsider among the Conservative association’s leadership. He put himself forward for the MP selection process and gained a lot of rank and file support. However by all accounts Philip Read and Alex Sawyer jostled him aside, supported by their committee. Cue warfare between the Greenwich side of the committee and the Bexley bullies.

It doesn’t have to be like that. The Erith and Thamesmead Labour Party reselected their MP Teresa Pearce to be their PPC several months ago. They would have been mad not to.

Looking on the bright side, Philip and Alex will provide BiB with far more ammunition come 2015 than Amandeep ever could.

Regarding the evil Read deciding that he didn’t have to answer questions from anyone who might have been a BNP member - or perhaps voted for them when there was no alternative for people who don’t like the European Union - the council was asked what rule permitted his refusal.

There isn’t one so they decided to blame mayor Howard Marriner who chaired the meeting. He can make up any undemocratic rule he likes on the hoof apparently.
FOI
Note that the dictatorial Bexley council has prohibited further questions. That note has been appended to all the Freedom of Information responses I have seen recently.

And finally the horrible punning headline. Erlking is a character from German mythology whose specialty was abducting children. Given that councillor Philip Read is cabinet member for Children’s Services and what Bexley council gets up to in that department, it seemed more than a little appropriate if somewhat obscure.

 

5 December (Part 2) - Christmas parking in Bexleyheath

Compared to a couple of years ago Bexleyheath is seriously short of parking space. The old NCP facility behind the Central Library will shortly be a hotel. The car park behind the old Civic Centre is now a heap of rubble and may eventually become a Tesco store, and yellow lines have been extended here, there and everywhere.

To give traders a much needed boost Bexley council has decided to make its office car park available for public use at the weekends between now and New Year.

The details are here. (PDF)

 

5 December (Part 1) - Say goodbye to the old Lesnes Abbey park

The tree surgeons have moved in to Lesnes Abbey park and the demolition contractors are gearing up to swing their wrecking balls.

The yew tree hedge on the southern perimeter has gone already (Photo 2) and probably the wildlife which Bexley council claimed was a priority won’t be happy but there is no doubt that it has opened up the vista and the view from the woods is much improved.

The conifers which are in a line parallel to the eastern yew hedge are coming down too (Photo 3) to allow more light in. More hedge roosting birds with nowhere to go.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

Lesnes LesnesThe decision to replace the stone built visitor centre with an ultra modern glass box is still being universally condemned by the chattering dog walking classes and the published impressions of it bear some resemblance to one of Prince Charles’s carbuncles.

But it’s too late now, Bexley council always knows best and you won’t be seeing the park toilets again. Now that the Belvedere Splash Park is shut does that mean that Bexley is entirely devoid of easily accessible public toilets?

Demolition

 

4 December - Crossrail keen to meet the public. Bexley council hides away

A month ago I was pleased to receive an unexpected email from Crossrail addressed to their ‘Stakeholders Abbey Wood’, inviting me to a meeting at their Felixstowe Road offices on 3rd December. Naturally I jumped at the chance and hoped that the term Abbey Wood Stakeholders would include people from Bexley council.

I learned from Teresa Pearce MP that they had been invited but she would be unable to attend because of parliamentary commitments. A member of the Treasury Select Committee obviously can’t ask for the day off on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement day. From that point of view the meeting was a disappointment; all the Abbey Wood (Greenwich side) councillors were there and some from Plumstead but there was an absolutely zero turn out by Bexley councillors (30 invited according to my information). Similarly, Greenwich council had sent along some of their officers but no one from Bexley council could be bothered.
Agenda
There was a certain amount of criticism about Bexley’s lack of interest from residents and traders and rather more afterwards. I was encouraged by one less than happy local trader to send an appropriate text to a Bexley councillor but I received no reply. Still haven’t. As chairman Steve Offord (Greenwich Labour councillor for Abbey Wood) said during the meeting, “Bexley council is not very interested in Abbey Wood.”

Crossrail CrossrailMy interest was mainly in what might be termed the project management and timetable aspects of the scheme (Network Rail promised to send me a track diagram) but I was outnumbered by those concerned about the impact on travellers and traders, which is to be expected. One trader told me after the meeting that if things do not improve there could be no businesses left in Wilton Road by the time Crossrail opens in four years time.

The main speakers were Mathew White from Crossrail and Jason Hamilton from Network Rail. Crossrail has contracted Network Rail to manage the project east of the Plumstead tunnel portal and Balfour Beatty is their main contractor. More than 200 of their workers live in Greenwich or Bexley.

Mathew said that Abbey Wood was considered by Crossrail to be their flagship station and nowhere on the entire line would benefit more than Abbey Wood in terms of improved journey times and property values. At long last Abbey Wood would be put on the London Transport map.

Jason Hamilton, Network Rail Project Manager, was given a harder time by the audience but was very keen to accommodate any concerns. His current major task is to complete the line west of Church Manorway by next May so that it can be handed over to Crossrail and the tunnel can begin to be fitted out. By August he aims to have the new North Kent down line completed. The more immediate job is to realign the underground services in Gayton and Felixstowe Roads and demolish the old station so that a start can be made on the new station and trackbed.

It was confirmed that the platform canopies will be extended from the main station entrance to the mid-platform footbridge. They are not yet shown on any published plan.

There were a lot of questions about the interim station lifts which are widely seen as inadequate. Jason explained that there was no room to install larger lifts because the space required for subterranean motor rooms would have impacted on the land required for the adjacent new station work.

The initial unexpected problem with the lifts was twofold. Rainwater leaked in and the electrical contact breakers blew under load. Both issues are now fixed and Stannah are under contract to have an engineer on site within 30 minutes of a failure day or night.

Lift The lifts are staff activated only because of a record of vandalism at Abbey Wood. Southeastern who operate the interim station has been funded for a lift attendant between first and last train. Several people claimed there was never anyone there but that has not been my experience. Yesterday at four o’clock a young fellow in an orange suit was running around frantically trying to keep up with a queue of young mums with pushchairs.

Two people complained of missing three trains due to the lifts being so slow which at the worst (off peak) time would require only a 15 minute delay. From observation that would appear not to be impossible.

Something I can identify with is being caught in a rush on the wide and steep stairs. Jason Hamilton said he would look into the possibility of a central handrail and RADAR key operation of the lifts.

Concern was expressed about ground water and the seven “rivers” said to flow under the track between Abbey Wood and Plumstead. I suspect the rivers are culverted streams and it was acknowledged that there had been flooding problems. However Thames Water had been brought in and a solution to it implemented.

The vicar from a Thamesmead church said there were 45,000 people living on the Abbey Wood estate and only two roads leading into it. Restricting Harrow Manorway with roundabouts and pedestrian crossings was not a good idea. Another resident threw a spanner into the works by saying he had received a letter from Greenwich council to say that Eynsham Drive was to be closed completely. No one from Greenwich council knew anything about that.

SignAn as yet unsolved problem is what will happen when the Felixstowe Road entrance to the station has to be closed in 2016. Every resident north of the railway line will be forced to walk up the flyover, across the dual carriageway and down the steps on the east side. A shuttle bus has not been ruled out.

A Wilton Road trader said that businesses need 22 vehicles (or maybe it was 24) to keep their operations going and Bexley council had stolen a lot of their parking spaces and Crossrail makes things worse by allowing their staff to park in the road and large vehicles turn up according to a Crossrail schedule only to find it deferred for two hours. Jason Hamilton said he would take both those concerns on board.

Bexley council has already been asked by a local councillor at a public meeting to alleviate the parking problem but so far has done exactly what you might expect. Nothing.

Everyone agreed (chairman, rail staff, traders) that Bexley’s imposition of more double yellow lines in Wilton and Gayton Road was excessive. Parking needs to be restricted when Crossrail are expecting significant deliveries but not 24/7 which is what we get with Mike Frizoni in charge of Bexley’S parking gestapo. Only this week he has put more double yellows into Alsike Road, a favourite parking spot for Abbey Wood commuters.

The Abbey Wood Liaison Panel is going to meet quarterly. Last night the rail staff and chairman Steve Offord created a very useful forum for interested parties. A pity that no one from Bexley council is interested.

Demolition Demolition Demolition Demolition

The condemned house in Florence Road was finally flattened and taken away yesterday.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

3 December - Fresh news in short supply again

With only one more council meeting of note before 2015 and nothing much happening apart from the drawing of large salaries, there may be little council news to report until the results of the financial consultation are rubber stamped next March. There are likely to be some blank days on BiB during December.

A couple of items to just about keep things ticking over…

Cheryl Bacon’s lies
Greenwich police updated the complainants on the present situation yesterday. The members of the public present at councillor Cheryl Bacon’s Closed Session meeting have all been interviewed and the only course from there is either to abandon the enquiry or interview the alleged liars. It would probably be unwise to go into detail but you might note I am not here in complaining mood.

Goodness knows what those who went on the record several times to say they would not interview any independent witness to the events will be able to say in their defence. They were so keen to avoid facing the truth that they said that if they were asked any more questions Mick Barnbrook and I would be labelled vexatious and banned from corresponding with any but a single named council officer.

I have every confidence that the investigating officer fully understands the situation; whether his bosses and advisers will prove to be immune to outside influences is another question altogether.

On line services
TweetOne of Bexley council’s money savings ideas is to move more services on line. Not sure what they have in mind as most things are already.

The web is unavoidable but can cause massive inconvenience to some people as I know from my aunt’s experience in Newham. She is constantly having to hand out parking permits to visitors and tradesmen but unless she is adept with a computer there is no way she can ask for them to be issued, and being nearly 95 years old that is not something she can cope with any more. Newham’s mayor Sir Robin Wales doesn’t care.

You don’t have to be old and decrepit to be adversely affected by ill-thought out on line services, it can happen to anyone. Nicholas Dowling failed to find his way through the residents’ parking maze when he tried to buy a permit and things occasionally go wrong.


I have a problem with Bexley’s council tax sign-in website. Ever since they asked me to change my password three months ago I’ve been unable to access the site and can no longer view my account or pay. I’ve tried to speak to someone about it but no one can help and it’s like hitting your head against a brick wall. It worked pretty well before they made me change my password.


I suggested to that correspondent that he tried to access his account from a council computer in the Contact Centre or a library and when it failed call for help and ask them to get on to someone who gives a damn, if such a person exists.

Another example of over reliance on the web came in yesterday. A Freedom of Information request was refused on the grounds that the answer could be found by listening to a debate at a council meeting available on the webcast archive.

FOI
Is that a reasonable response? Not all computers include sound systems, mine didn't until quite recently and the sound quality on my Chromebook is abysmal. Twice I have been asked for a copy or extract of my own recordings of council meetings because the webcast sound was just not good enough - and from a councillor too!

Putting council business on line requires a common sense approach and we don’t always see a lot of that.

Crossrail
I hope to give more info tomorrow. Going to a discussion at their offices this evening.

 

2 December (Part 2) - Wood you believe it? Trees lopped

Tree“The council appreciates that trees are important in enhancing the borough - and that they bring with them a sense of well-being and happiness for many residents.”

That’s what Bexley council says on its website and few would disagree.

There are a lot of things that enhance a borough apart from trees. Grants for heritage sites, provision of libraries and cultural venues, community events, parks and children’s playgrounds all add to the quality of life in the borough.

In Bexley all those things have either gone already without asking for public comment or will be gone just as soon as the council has said the consultation process has confirmed the wisdom of their proposals,

Twitter
Bexley’s consultations are usually a farce. A little over 1% participation is about as good as it gets and as a local trader said to me yesterday when I encouraged him to take part, “What’s the point they’ll do it all anyway”.

The council’s Twitter announcement about consulting on a reduction in the number of councillors may prove it’s all a sham since they have already asked the Boundary Commission “to instigate the start of the process”. Dressing up an increase in the level of parking fines as a saving illustrates the dishonesty at the heart of Bexley council.

To return to trees for a moment, you may be surprised to hear that despite the fact that Bexley council claims to appreciate the value of trees, it has already agreed, as a matter of policy, not to plant any more - with one proviso.

If you dig into your own pocket to the tune of £230 Bexley council will plant a tree just for you. The days when a council would see enhancing the borough as their responsibility have apparently gone. There is very little left which Bexley council does do, apart from appointing a Deputy Chief Executive and six paid Scrutiny Vice Chairmen of course.

 

2 December (Part 1) - A serious request to cut costs or another Tory trick?

BoundariesAt their meeting on 23rd July 2014, Bexley Conservatives rejected Seán Newman’s (Labour) motion to reduce the number of Bexley councillors by a third to 42 and voted instead for their own amendment to change the number to one chosen by the Boundaries Commission. Up, down, the same; it didn’t say.

The cynics amongst us might assume that that would be the last anyone would hear of the only cost cutting exercise not to have been directed at residents until the next set of electoral bribes are trotted out to a gullible electorate; so a request was made for a copy of any correspondence with the Boundaries Commission that might have followed the vote.

That correspondence has been made available by Bexley council but whether it is genuine is open to conjecture.

It is not on Bexley council’s headed notepaper nor is it signed. If it is truly an exact copy of Bexley council’s letter as they claim it to be, the Electoral Commission will not know who it came from.

It doesn’t even begin to explain what the council is asking for so councillor Newman’s motion seeking a reduction will be lost on them.

Neither does it get anywhere near explaining that a reduction in the number of councillors was an election promise. As it is, the Commission is free to come up with whatever number it decides and Teresa O’Neill is free to have a quiet word in any ear she thinks might help her get her way.

Electoral promise
Click the first image to see the whole of the claimed letter. The electoral promise above is from the original political leaflet.

 

1 December (Part 2) - Priceless parking perks - Taking the P?

Bexley council staff can buy a permit which allows their vehicle to be parked in contravention of the parking regulations when required to do so on council business.

Parking ParkingI’m sure the emergency services must encounter situations where they are required to park where other people shouldn’t but for the life of me I cannot visualize a situation where council staff would need the same concession; at least not a situation which business people don’t encounter every day while trying to conduct their essential activities.

If the domiciliary care workers are not eligible for a permit, why should anyone else be?

Every few months someone sends me a message to the effect that council staff must be having a meeting because a group of them has taken over a lot of street parking. The roads south of Highland Road are often cited, sometimes Townley Road. The suggestion is that I go and photograph them but as I am not aware of the times of council staff meetings it’s not a very practical suggestion.


PermitOne might have thought that the practice would stop now that everyone is supposed to be under the same Watling Street roof, but apparently not.

Then someone said that one or two or three cars are parked all day every day in Tower Road, which is very close to the new Civic Offices, and they are protected by a Bexley council parking permit without any obvious excuse.

It would have been even more helpful if I had been told what a Bexley council staff parking permit looks like because the one I photographed today could be almost anything, but I would guess the CP stands for Car Parking. Click photos to enlarge.

These staff parking permits used to be dished out pretty much on demand but all that changed in 2010 when councillor Peter Craske was cracking down on all motorists as hard as he could. Even so, £150 a year is a pretty cheap price to be able to park almost anywhere in the borough for a year.

Perhaps the driver of GJ07 OTL was out “working in the community” and he wasn’t simply “attending a scheduled meeting in the council buildings” just a few yards away.

Possible… but likely?

 

1 December (Part 1) - How should £6 million be spent?

Tatty The area around Abbey Wood station is undoubtedly a mess. To the south it boasts twenty or so businesses but not a single old style shop, butcher, green grocer etc. The electrical goods and ironmonger are long gone. It has a newsagent, a gift shop which doubles as a florist, a couple of bookies, ditto cab offices, a trio of estate agents, and at least half a dozen hairdressers. Oh, and a chemist which I no longer use because some of its prices are near to double that of another in Picardy Street only a mile away.

And did I mention it looks perpetually tatty? Frequently litter and gum strewn pavements on the Greenwich side, a narrow but cleaner path on the Bexley side. And there’s a pub which got the worst News Shopper Pub Spy review ever. “Unforgivably repellent.”

To the north there is another shop and a Caribbean Cash & Carry.

Get the picture? The area badly needs loving attention.

If you can believe a News Shopper’s report, Bexley and Greenwich councils have conjured up six million pounds from various money pots (TfL, Network Rail etc.) to spend on the new station environs. That’s one hell of a lot of money for one small location. It’s the same as what was spent on Broadway and Sidcup High Street combined.

What do they plan to give us with our money? The plans appear to be half baked at best.

Gayton Road (all of 50 yards long) and Felixstowe Road which run alongside the railway south and north respectively are to get new paving. Good, they need it. Disabled parking, short stay parking and drop off points too. Really imaginative; we had those until Crossrail recently took them away.

So what’s new and what costs £6 million? Well there’s going to be a bench or two scattered around and some trees - there are already trees but maybe the existing ones will have to come down. The only thing that might cost serious money is a dedicated cycle path along Harrow Manorway. Boris gave Bexley some consolation money to spend on cycling when it failed to win the mini-Holland bid.

There seems to be a grave shortage of ideas, something which has been noticed by the energetic local MP, Teresa Pearce. She has approached all the local traders to encourage them to organise themselves and offered to help them do it. Two weeks on she has had just one response leaving the path clear for Bexley and Greenwich councils to do what they like. Only a couple of months ago those same traders were complaining about Bexley council ignoring them when drawing up plans for the area during the station construction period. Given a chance Bexley will do it again.

Clearly we have seen the end of the Harrow Manorway bus lane. Its existence is one of the earliest examples I have of Bexley council’s dishonesty. Bus lanes, if they serve any purpose at all, are there to facilitate faster bus journeys. One just 200 metres long was never likely to have any effect and this extract from a 14 year old letter tells you why.

It was installed to deter parking and had nothing to do with speeding the passage of buses. It therefore failed to meet the legislative criteria.
Bus Lane
Despite the signs about bus lane cameras, Bexley did not collect a penny in bus lane fines during the last financial year.

Presumably Abbey Wood station will be served by even more buses when Crossrail opens. A route much better than the meandering B11 to Bexleyheath must be on the agenda and even now one can occasionally see four buses queuing for the one stop. As Mr. Murky says on his blog, post-Cross Quarter and post-Crossrail, gridlock will be difficult to avoid.

Mr.  M. is not wrong about the appalling introduction to London meted out to the thousands of tourists who set up camp at the site only a few minutes walk away either.

P.S. The Harrow Manorway pedestrian crossing was repaired overnight.

 

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