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Bonkers Blog January 2014

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31 January (Part 3) - Webless

My net connection is still non-existent and all I have heard today is that my ISP is still in discussions with BT. All my own equipment has been exchanged for new and today I bypassed it by giving my computer a public IP address and connecting it straight to BT’s modem. Not a good idea on a working line, but it still didn’t work.

The flow of Bonkers’ information has obviously ground to a halt and I brought forward the formal General Purposes report to today. I do not intend to even try to get anything new on line over the weekend. Probably I shall have to do a lot of shopping after the Siemens fridge-freezer was declared scrap after six years. New one coming tomorrow unless Murphy’s Law strikes that too. Did I tell you my year old KIA car has not worked properly since September? On Wednesday it goes back to W.J. King and I have told them I do not want to see it again until they are absolutely sure they have fixed it.

Ain’t technology wonderful?

 

31 January (Part 2) - Services cut. Fees and salaries up

ChairmanProbably that headline is not entirely fair. Council services have been cut steadily over the past four years and fees have been raised, some by huge percentages - parking permits spring to mind - but salaries have been frozen. The next four years will bring more of the same except that pay levels will rise by 1% in April. Few will argue that the council’s foot soldiers deserve a break but why the same should apply to those on around £100,000 a year and more should defy government policy is more difficult to fathom. Chief Executive Will Tuckley it should be said, has announced he will not take the rise.

The General Purposes Committee met on Wednesday to further discuss the pay increase and some other staffing matters.

Something bad had happened to the sound system in the two days since the Cabinet meeting. The same loudspeaker which provided clear sound last Monday was not working at all and so only the clearest of voices could be heard. Will Tuckley and councillor Colin Campbell who took the trouble to address their microphones came over loud and clear, and chairman Lucia-Hennis was at a just acceptable level, but councillors O’Hare, D’Amiral and Cheryl Bacon did not speak into their microphones and were close to inaudible.


Colin Campbell Bacon Cheryl BaconThe first item of note came from the Chief Executive who said that the Director of Finance and Resources, Mike Ellsmore had decided to retire and he set out his plan to find a replacement and redefine Ellsmore’s role. In essence the Resources function would be removed from the post.

Councillor Campbell also commented on Mike Ellsmore’s “wider [than finance] role” and his experience of “where the bodies are buried”. “Pressures would be coming off other officers, one of the pressures being 2 Watling Street but it would be a great mistake not to retain a Director of Finance on the Board”. He suggested Mr. Moore, may be able to take up some of these roles and “now is the right time to do it”.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon was substituting for committee member Maxine Fothergill and mumbled that she had “some reservations about the Director of Corporate Services taking over some of that role” and that she “had some concerns about the way that the role of the Director of Corporate Services had grown”. She wondered if the proposals were a “temporary fix”. Another of her concerns was “the possibility of any downgrading of that vital [Director of Finance] role”.

Will Tuckley said he did not want to see any downgrading either and his proposals were not a temporary fix.

Councillor Alan Deadman spoke for a minute but a combination of the opposition being seated back to the audience and the poor PA system made his comments impossible to follow. Whatever Alan’s comment may have been, councillor Campbell thought it “was a very good point”.

Councillor Nick O’Hare’s one contribution to the meeting was to say that finance needed a strong leader and a strong team. Councillor Campbell reminded the committee that Mr. Ellsmore’s finance team included a number of officers close to retirement.

The next Agenda item was about council tax. The PA system and the distance to his nameplate prevented positive identification of the main speaker but I’m pretty sure it was council officer John Peters. Fortunately he spoke clearly but his speech was largely ‘technical’ in nature. I learned that collection rates have been improved and several new housing construction schemes had pushed up the tax base.

Nick HollierItem 8 was the Pay Policy Statement by Human Resources Manager, Nick Hollier. The same Nick Hollier who refused to interview a vital witness when I complained about Cheryl Bacon’s lying account of her ’Closed Session’ meeting and who made no effort to answer my complaint, preferring instead to label me abusive, offensive and unreasonable. You may judge whether my email deserved such cavalier dismissal for yourself.

Mr. Hollier began by saying that “the council has a strong track record of publishing its remuneration policies on its website and through accounts” but failed to mention that it objected to the government guidelines and even now fails to comply.

Councillor Campbell said the government guidance is “one of those bits of guidance that makes you put your head in your hands and wonder what they were drinking the day they made it up”. Isn’t that true of almost everything that comes from this Coalition?

Councillor Deadman was not happy with “drawing back retirees taking bucket loads of pension being re-employed as consultants on £1,400 a day”. “You have to wonder why you let them go in the first place.” Mr. Hollier told us that this happens only in the most exceptional circumstances. At the vote Alan Deadman registered his dessent.

Item 9 was Nick Hollier again. The only interesting thing to my ears was that average staff sickness rates had fallen to 5·1 days a year which he said was very good. I can only agree; when I was responsible for almost exactly the same number of staff as Will Tuckley I struggled to get the number down below nine. Perhaps that is why I was only paid a fifth of Will Tuckley’s quarter million.

The meeting was closed 37 minutes after it began. Given the state of my internet connection I have not received any information about what may have happened outside after councillor Lucia-Hennis decided she would rather spark another row than accept a question.

 

31 January (Part 1) - Generally Purposeless

Chairman and Chief ExecutiveThe General Purposes Committee is usually a fairly dull affair except when its chairman deputy mayor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis plus councillor Campbell decide to play awkward as they did on 23rd September 2013. The only good reason to drag myself there through last Wednesday’s deluge was because Bexley’s Head of Legal, Mr. Alibi, had told Mick Barnbrook that that was where his questions about the blocked bridleway could be answered. Mick had sent his question to the Committee Chairman, the Chief Executive and the Committee Officer well in advance of the meeting, none had bothered to reply.

So as the meeting was being drawn to a close Mr. Barnbrook raised his hand and asked if he could ask a question. “No you can’t” retorted the chairman. Mick has a letter from the council confirming that the GPS chairman has the discretion to allow questions but she rejected Mick’s further request and said the meeting was closed.

Two members of the public I had not seen in the chamber before called out that the council, and Will Tuckley in particular, never answer difficult questions. I assume they spoke from experience.

Curiously Lucia-Hennis then proceeded to film members of the public without seeking their permission. Personally speaking I have no objection but the council’s precious protocol compels members of the public wishing to film or photograph at meetings to sit where there is no danger of other members of the public appearing in shot in case they object. One rule for them, another for the plebs again.

Outside the meeting both Mick and Nicholas Dowling engaged Will Tuckley and Lucia-Hennis in conversation. As I descended the stairs I heard enough to know that their theme was that if they tried answering questions they would not get as many complaints. Probably they agree but I expect the Great Dictator has decreed otherwise. Transparency would be met with being “burned at the stake” was what I heard. No I didn’t make that up.

An account of the meeting itself will appear early next month, if I can find another net connection. More than three days with no sign of a fix is well beyond a joke.

Note: This blog may be posted prematurely as I grab a connection where I can. Mine, I have just been told, is unlikely to come back before next week.

 

30 January (Part 3) - Still cut off from the web

If you are seeing this it’s because a friend has allowed me to use his Virgin net connection and Internet Explorer has been successfully put in a sort of reverse mode to allow Bonkers to be published.

Every last bit of the equipment at my end has been changed - it helps to have the Technical Director of an ISP as a personal friend - so it looks as though the Openreach man might have been right when he suggested the problem could be in BT Wholesale’s territory. It may be quicker to install broadband on my second phone line than wait for this one to be fixed.

A phone caller suggested that Bexley council has arranged for my connection to be sabotaged. Have I come under the notice by GCHQ? I would doubt it but given the degree of state surveillance this country suffers these days, nothing can be ruled out absolutely. But I’m sure it will turn out to be something far more mundane.

 

30 January (Part 2) - Motorist chased for £0.00 debt

New Road New RoadI have been able to read email via webmail and a neighbour’s internet connection and I’ve seen several that tell me about Bexley council issuing a penalty notice to a motorist who had paid £3.80 to park for two hours in New Road, Abbey Wood. A demand to pay £0.00p then followed which was ignored. Things then escalated and the News Shopper featured the story on its website, maybe in its paper edition too but I wouldn’t know because it tends not to be delivered on wet days.

What interests me is not NSL being silly but Bexley council’s alleged (I’ve not seen it) response to the News Shopper’s article. Apparently the council blamed everything on NSL when as everyone who follows these things knows, parking administration is now a joint Bexley/Bromley affair based in Bromley. It won’t be NSL pursuing debts. The second excuse is probably false too.

NSL claims it will be penalised for their error but that all depends. Some parts of the contract were revealed at a council meeting a few months ago and it did contain details of penalties for mistakes which could be imposed on NSL. They were on a sliding scale leading right the way up to the full amount of a motorist’s fine. But there was a threshold and I clearly remember Bexley council saying that NSL had got their mistakes down below that threshold. If that remains the case I rather doubt that NSL would be penalised for their error in New Road.

I could be wrong and with no internet connection it is hard to check, but Press Offices in Bexley are not strangers to untruths.

 

30 January (Part 1) - Across the board price increases

Too much of Tuesday was spent on the phone trying to get my broadband connection fixed and the Cabinet meeting report was necessarily short but now that the problem is out of my hands I can return to checking out the recording to remind myself who said what.

Apart from myself, the BAG contingent and regular attendee John Watson, there was a group of about eight sitting behind them. I was led to believe they were prospective Labour party candidates for the 2014 election.

Chairman Teresa O’Neill opened the meeting without any formalities at all. No welcome for the members of the public - not surprising I suppose, not a single one of them is going to vote Tory in May - and no warnings about who could take photos from where. Maybe she had noticed that no one had brought a camera. The sound system was on its best behaviour and everyone could be heard perfectly. That does not happen very often.

The leader began by saying that two thirds of the consultation respondents were in favour of the council’s proposals and only 10% were against. The actual results are shown below (scroll or click) so that you can see if you can replicate her arithmetic.

Budget

At a quick glance it seems to me that the sum of the first two columns rarely reaches two thirds, I’ll have to create a spreadsheet to see where I am going wrong. Ms. O’Neill acknowledged the public’s disagreement with the ‘Aunt Sally’ plan to close the Archive Centre.

The Director of Finance, Mr. Ellsmore, said that one of the ways in which Bexley’s £40 million black hole was to be filled would be an across the board 3% increase in fees and charges. The charges document shows the real increases vary between nothing and 20% (Survey Fees), 25% (Commercial Waste charges) and even 50% (Clinical Waste). Lots of the smaller increases are above 3% and some less. Inflation currently stands at 2%. “Government funding has reduced by just over 40% since 2010” the DoF added.

The introduction of free school meals is to be fully funded by government and they will pay Bexley £2.30 per meal while Bexley pays its contractor only £2.25. Mayor Johnson is proposing to cut his precept by 1.5% leading to a small reduction in council tax if Bexley freezes theirs as expected.

Councillor Campbell waffled on somewhat (we learned nothing new) about the need for the increases in fees and said that unlike the Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, he did not believe that the answer to everything was a tax rise. I sometimes worry that I often agree with our Colin. The first reaction should never be more tax but after four years of savage cuts a case might be made for it.

Colin Campbell went on to say that by 2018 “this authority will have saved £100 million”. He didn’t say the year from which he started counting, I suppose it must be 2006 because I’ve only heard him claim £35 million for the past four years and £40 million for the next, up until now. Perhaps he has become demob. happy.

“We are delivering”, he said, but indicated that mistakes had been made in Children’s Services and “they are of our own making”.

Councillor Don Massey reiterated his present position that he is hopeful of saving the local archive centre. Staffing levels will be reduced.

Councillor Katie Perrior said she was “investing the council’s money in families, helping them when they are vulnerable and showing signs that could escalate to children going into care which doesn’t have the best outcome. It is much better for children to stay with their own families”. I’ve no idea what this actually entails as all Ms. Perrior told us was that it involves “key workers” and the “overall aim was to reduce referrals to children’s social care”. The theory sounded good, no one wants Bexley’s former neglectfulness leading to any more murders.

And so the shortest Cabinet meeting in recent memory drew to a close. £40 million saved in a shade under 20 minutes. They make it sound so easy but 20 minutes also makes it sound as if it has not been fully thought through.

 

29 January - It’s still no go on the net

BT Openreach eventually turned up nearly an hour after the end of their appointment time window and swapped their modem which the man said was old enough to have come from an archeological dig. However the problem did not go away.

I have two phone lines so my ISP can dial into my router via line two and poke around inside while it is connected to the separate broadband line. Everything was working except that no data was coming down the phone line. The Openreach guy agreed and put in a lot of effort getting things checked out upstream all to no avail. I don’t really know what is planned next. Put broadband on my second phone line too looks like an attractive option at the moment.

 

28 January (Part 3) - This may take a while…

My BT fibre optic connection failed overnight and I must wait for BT to decide what to do. Could be their modem but might not be, they don’t know. Currently not looking good. I fear I am going to miss some fun.

Today’s shorter than planned blog comes via a borrowed connection with no software tools to assist it. It could all go horribly wrong.

 

28 January (Part 2) - Back to work

Bexley council has ended its Christmas break. Excepting the licensing and planning committees whose work cannot reasonably be stopped for long, the first significant public meeting of the year was held last night. Cabinet. Not that they stressed themselves, it was all done and dusted in 20 minutes.

The subject was the budget proposals for the next four years. They have to go before the various Scrutiny Committees and the full council in May but there is no record of rebellion there so it is reasonably safe to forecast that plans put forward last night are what will be put into practice. In a word, cuts.

In the pubCutting care services for adults. Two million next year, nearly three million in 2017. Children’s Services, similar. Leisure, £691,000 rising to one and a half million. Education, the grant for music withdrawn. Public Realm, cuts in Trading Services and air quality monitoring. The mayor has his/her allowance cut. You won’t see Sharon’s successor in the pubs and restaurants quite as often as she managed.

If you don’t like the look of it, then it’s your fault for not responding to the public consultation.

Most questions received just short of 300 responses from around 600 respondents in total, most in favour of the council’s proposals, but not always by much. 300, even 600 responses is pathetic don’t you think given the amount of advertising of the consultation that went on? The people in favour of the proposals cannot be very different from the number of Tory councillors plus their pals down the Conservative Association’s drinking den.

Democracy suffers and corruption flourishes when nobody cares what goes on.

Note: Summary blog and limited research because of lack internet connection. See Part 3.

 

28 January (Part 1) - Tinker Taylor?

Taylor 2 Dan Taylor 1This could be interesting.

 

27 January - Sidcup suffers

I returned from a weekend away to find the Bexley Action Group website may have grown a menu - I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there before - a couple of suggestions that Sidcup might be worth a visit and my third fridge failure in eleven months. Obviously Siemens haven’t got a clue about reliability or correct fault diagnosis. A trip to Wellingtons and a large credit card bill fixed one problem but sadly a trip to Sidcup can do nothing to fix theirs.

The place was a strange mixture of the deserted and the congested. Deserted by shoppers and crammed solid with diverted traffic. Here’s some photos to give you an idea what it looked like at 1:15 today.

Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos Sidcup chaos

Those last two pictures were taken only twelve seconds apart although that doesn’t tell you the whole story. I was waiting for a bus with the camera packed away when I first saw the fire engine. Several seconds passed before I decided I might have time to retrieve the camera from its case, get the lens cap off and ready it for action. Someone’s house must have had around 30 extra seconds to burn, on top of the planned delays engineered into the system by the recent fire service cuts.

I’ve read the plans for Sidcup’s regeneration; the same as you may have done, but I can’t expand on the subject because I was illegally excluded from relevant council meeting by the woman with a vivid imagination. The totally discredited councillor Cheryl Bacon.

 

24 January (Part 2) - TIC - Still the home of shady business

TestimonialI’ve wasted quite a lot of time this week following up some whispers on how Bexley council throws money at the Thames Innovation Centre, usually involving IT projects, and, by design is the allegation, gets nothing in return. It’s drawn a blank so far but maybe I found some indication of the moral standards prevailing there.

The image (click it for source web page) is from the website of a TIC tenant company, Only IT. I seem to remember they were mixed up in the sacking of a whistle blower employed at the TIC a few years ago. Money going astray, etc. The image is a testimonial for Only IT from the aptly named Rogue Studios. Only It is run by David John Domminney Fowler, there can’t be many of them around.

Here's an extract from a directory of his directorships.

Directors
Notice the coincidence? Mr. Fowler lives in Sidcup.

 

24 January (Part 1) - Misconduct in Public Office

Peter CraskeI get told quite often that it is difficult for newcomers to follow the story of councillor Peter Craske’s phone line which is not surprising because it has been going on for nearly three years. He must have cost taxpayer’s quite a lot of money by way of police investigations but on the other hand he has saved some by resigning his £13,000 a year cabinet job. “Personal reasons” he said which I suppose just about covers it.

When the Guardian newspaper asked me to send them a bundle of relevant documents I discovered they were filed under various headings and linked from a variety of obscure places, so I have spent some time bringing them all together with a dedicated Index.

There are a number of ‘holes’ where it seemed inappropriate at the time to publish topical letters and it may be possible to fill some of them given the case has moved on a bit, but for scholars of Bexley council’s obscene blogging activities it is now possible to follow the correspondence from the original blog and the complaint to Will Tuckley right through to the allegations of Misconduct in Public Office against former Borough Commanders Dave Stringer (for abandoning the case claiming no evidence when his investigating officer knew better - and then doing nothing with the evidence for months) and Victor Olisa (for concocting excuses for Stringer and succumbing to political interference).

A number of such Indices exist and they are now listed on the menus above. That other long running saga, Cheryl Bacon’s illegal meeting closure is there too, it will prove useful of the Local Government Ombudsman asks more questions. See ‘Navigation’ (Indices) on the Blog menu and ‘Miscellaneous’ (Indices) on the other one. (May need a page refresh before they are seen.)

Now where was I before I got led astray?

 

23 January (Part 2) - Blackfen & Lamorbey spoilt for choice

Several allegations to check out at the moment and no time to do it. Some site updates required and the blasted Contact form is not happy in Apple’s Safari browser. The best I can do for an hour or three is to tell you that a new Profile has popped up on the Bexley Action Group site. No manifesto yet, although some bits of the profile may stray into that category.

TICAnd this. There's a brilliant story on UKIP's Lesnes website.

It’s exactly the sort of simple account of Bexley council being stupid again that I would like to have placed here, but all I get are difficult to explain fiddles, or should I say alleged fiddles, at the Thames Innovation Centre. Bexley council’s permanent money pit it doesn’t much like talking about. More anon. Maybe.

 

23 January (Part 1) - On the Abbey Wood stump

UKIP UKIP UKIPI’ve always been an early riser and can usually be seen picking up a newspaper in Wilton Road by 7 a.m. This I discovered today was not early enough to escape the UKIP guys who had been at nearby Abbey Wood station for an hour already. Here they are waiting for a crowd of commuters descending from the bus stop above the station.

With Abbey Wood providing ten or more London bound trains an hour at that time in the morning I doubt many commuters were prepared to stop and chat, but at least their newspaper was disappearing at a reasonable rate of knots.

 

Apologies and excuses

I discovered yesterday that my copy of Microsoft Outlook had been sending only part of what I had written in emails. It seems that any message that took long enough to write to trigger the auto save only sent out the portion written up to that point, so this week my MP, the lads at Bexley UKIP and the Bexley Action boys (plus innumerable others) have all received incomplete, badly spelled, possibly incoherent, messages from me - and not a single one of them remarked on it.

So I have just upgraded my copy of MS Office to a later one. Turned out to be a totally painless operation and with luck my emails will look a little less like gibberish.

 

22 January (Part 3) - One rule for them…

CCTV camerasI wonder what Michael Hix did to upset Bexley council?

He is featured on the News Shopper’s website because he has installed more than one CCTV camera on his house and the rules say they are too close together. Bexley council say he must pay £172 for them to rubber stamp his security installation.

May I suggest he runs for councillor at the next election instead?

Not a mile away from Mr. Hix’s house lives former mayor Ray Sams. He has two CCTV cameras on his house which are much closer than Bexley’s rules allow and according to Bexley's on-line planning portal, there has been no planning application at his address.

One rule for them and another for the plebs.

It’s funny how Bexley chooses to apply laws. They told Mick Barnbrook in connection with Bridleway 250 that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 took precedence over the Rights of Way Act 2000 because the council has a responsibility to help reduce crime. But they don’t apply the same logic to the Town & Country Planning Act. Strange. Mr. Hix must belong to the wrong club.

Maybe Mr. Hix could go further than becoming a councillor and try hob-nobbing with Conservatives, providing them with horses and advertising in the Bexley Magazine?

Note: I have no quarrel with Ray Sams and his CCTV installation. It’s sensible and unobtrusive. More power to his elbow. And Mike Hix’s.

 

22 January (Part 2) - Told you so

Last November I said that the plan to shift Bexley Archives to Bromley was just an Aunt Sally set up to be knocked down and presented as proof that Bexley is the listening council after all. I've seen it all before. As if to confirm it, last month’s cabinet meeting revealed that Bromley council didn't know anything about the plan. It was likely to be a silly charade played out for political gain by councillor Don Massey and a few of his henchmen.

Yesterday the Conservative party announced what was always going to happen on its website. Never take at face value anything a Bexley conservative says.

 

22 January (Part 1) - Keep it shut Teresa

Teresa O'Neill Open garageAll this election talk can get be too serious for me, not to mention the continuing correspondence with the police because of what passed down councillor Peter Craske’s phone line, so I was very grateful to the reader who had me falling about laughing at this photo of a certain Tory councillor’s house (†).

Perhaps those with a similar sense of humour will enjoy it too. It may be worth enlarging the second picture, just click on it.

† One of several addresses in which the councillor has an interest, the others being withdrawn from the register of interests because of the risk of violence etc. Is that a pitchfork I see at the back of the garage?

 

21 January (Part 2) - Is Bexley council corrupt. I think so

Last month Will Tuckley wrote to me mildly objecting to Bonkers labelling Bexley council under the Conservatives corrupt. He said it was unreasonable. I didn’t give his comment another thought.

Then I received an email from a reader, a new one presumably, asking me to justify the claim with some examples.

The first thing I did was look up the word in the dictionary. It spoke of dishonesty, usually in connection with bribery. Well I’ve heard tales of bribery a couple of times but no firm evidence has ever come to light. So like a Eurocrat faced with the wrong referendum result I found another dictionary. That was much better. “The abuse of entrusted power.” So with that in mind I spent 20 minutes knocking up a short list from memory…


• A Bexley cabinet member proposed to nearly triple the price of Residents' Parking Permits and produced figures claiming it cost £240 to issue each one and on that basis the price hike was approved. The council's accounts subsequently showed the source data was imagined or wrong and residents were deliberately robbed without legal excuse.
• A Bexley councillor was arrested on suspicion of posting homophobic comments on social media about residents who had asked him awkward questions at council meetings. Bexley council called in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police to its offices to work out how to "resolve the councillor's situation”. The police had traced the source IP address to the councillor but later admitted they had succumbed to "political interference" which presumably came directly or indirectly from Bexley council. The case is now with the Metropolitan Police at Commissioner level.
• Every member of the public attending a council meeting in June 2013 was forbidden entry because one of them planned to use a sound recorder. To excuse themselves from an illegal act Bexley council distributed libellous and untrue statements about all the public present (some named) to the press and elsewhere. This case is currently with the Local Government Ombudsman.
• Bexley council permitted a landowner with close connections to the council to close a Bridleway for which there is no legal excuse. The case may eventually go to Court.
• The leader of Bexley council was criticised by a resident via social media and she reported him to the police for an intention to commit arson and bodily harm. She based her complaint on a joke or metaphor made by someone else entirely. As a result the police, aided and abetted by the CPS intended to charge the critic but the Independent Police Complaints Commission stepped in just in time.
• Another critic was put in the police cells for 24 hours on entirely false charges brought against him by a Bexley councillor. Fortunately the judge at Bromley Court saw through Bexley's tactic.
• In the last four years Bexley residents have made more than fifty complaints against councillors and every single one of those complaints has been rejected according to a Freedom of Information response. One problem is that Bexley's Code of Conduct has nothing to say about lying.


Surely that must be abuse of power and if so, it’s corruption. There cannot be much doubt about it can there? Not sure why I chose to exclude the names but long term readers will know who the guilty parties are.

 

21 January (Part 1) - Craske in the news again? Don’t bet on it

One of the national newspapers has been sniffing around councillor Peter Craske in recent weeks. I’ve exchanged emails and phone calls with an editor no less and I get the distinct impression that Elwyn and I are not the only ones who have been victims of Peter’s poisonous pen. Those who are against him encouraging the gullible to bet on his machines were in the firing line from what I could gather.

Whether anything will come of it I have no idea because the betting shop lawyers have been busy but I sent off a bundle of papers in the hope that one day a Bexley councillor will face justice, or at the very least widespread approbrium and ridicule.

For a flavour of what the Craske’s betting shop opponents are saying you could do worse than look here - although a lot of it seems to have been ‘stolen’ from Bonkers.

Arthur Pewty had something to say about Fixed Odds Betting too this week.

 

20 January (Part 2) - No entry

Unusable garageAnother bollards situation has been drawn to my attention but this one looks very different to me.

A rather nice detached garage is unusable for obvious reasons but it is much newer than the lamp post. No I don’t think we can blame Bexley council for this one, other perhaps than for their rip-off charges for footway cross-overs.

 

20 January (Part 1) - Lucking lies?

Two local political websites changed overnight. Bexley Action Group has gained a column as Elwyn Bryant throws his hat into the electoral ring and UKIP (Lesnes ward) has apparently discovered that Bexley Conservatives are a bunch of liars. Well who’d have thought it, Bexley councillors lie, whatever next?

The story is best read on UKIP’s site (link above) but it was first reported here on 7th November 2013. In that blog Michael Barnbrook related his conversation with Mr. Conor Lucking at a full council meeting. Mr. Lucking, a Conservative local election candidate, had, along with two other would-be councillors, been chosen to put questions to council to the total exclusion of genuine members of the public. Mr. Lucking excused himself by saying that John Davey, councillor for Lesnes ward, had asked him to submit the question.

Mick Barnbrook put in a formal complaint against mayor Sharon Massey (who in theory selects the questions) to the Chief Executive on 7th November. Part of it read as follows…


The third person on the agenda, Mr Conor Lucking, admitted to me that he was also a Conservative candidate in next year's council elections.

When I asked him why he was asking questions at a public council meeting when, as a Conservative candidate, there were other forums where he could obtain that information, he replied "Because Councillor John Davey asked me to."

Mr. Lucking was unaware who I was and to his credit was just being honest.

However, as in previous council meetings, it is obvious that the Conservative Party, by careful selection of questions that are not embarrassing to them, or by arranging for individuals to submit questions on their behalf, are corrupting the democratic process by denying ordinary members of the public the opportunity to hold elected members to account.


I was close enough to that conversation to be able to pick up the general drift of it and confirm its principal point.

One of the people present at that meeting was Chris Attard, the UKIP’s man in Lesnes Abbey. As he saw it the council was promoting one of its brethren which might have a detrimental effect on his own campaign. The members of the audience present might be swayed by the answer to the stooge’s question and the Lesnes majority was only six at the last election. It was not an unreasonable assumption for a political rival to make and like Mick Barnbrook Chris penned a complaint.

John DaveyNaturally it was dismissed by that arch disseminator of council misinformation, Mrs. Lynn Tyler, their Legal Officer and equally naturally Chris rejected her excuses. Bexley’s review of his complaint has recently produced an assurance from the top man in Bexley’s legal tree and he says that councillor John Davey didn’t ask Conor Lucking to plant his question.

Chris has concluded that John Davey is a liar. I will concede that John Davey is a complete and utterly useless chump who has done nothing for Bexley other than help name this website but maybe he is being unfair on Davey. It seems to me that it is just possible that Conor Lucking is the liar. But who cares who it was?

It has been proved once again that Bexley Conservatives answer all questions with lies. It’s what they do. If they had wanted to get at the truth they might have asked Mr. Lucking what he said to Mr. Barnbrook. But the truth is an alien concept to Bexley council, so they didn’t.

Chris Attard is disappointed that Davey has not been deemed to have broken the Code of Conduct for Bexley councillors. I am gong to disappoint him even more.

There was never any chance Davey would have fallen foul of the code. He may have lied, he probably did lie, but as Ms. Tyler has been keen to point out before, there is nothing in Bexley council’s code of practice that outlaws lying. How could it be otherwise? They would be tripped up almost daily. Their record of never finding a councillor guilty of misconduct would fly out of the window. In the last three years all 49 complaints against councillors from members of the public have been rejected. Now it is at least 50.

I assume that Mick Barnbrook’s complaint was rejected too, I don’t seem to have a copy of the reply to his letter.

 

19 January (Part 2) - What are they standing for?

I rarely have political leaflets dropped through my letterbox and rely instead on neighbours to pass them on. I cannot say I am surprised. In the past Labour candidates have been unwelcome on my doorstep and I’m sure to have castigated them for making my life difficult in the nineteen sixties, seventies and noughties. Ten to fifteen years ago I became convinced that Blair, Brown and Blunkett planned their entire political strategy around punishing me personally and I’ve not really changed my mind since. The Tories know there is no point in knocking on my door so I don't see their message either, for that I mainly have to go on line.

The Tories locally appear to have only one message, that they froze council tax for four years. They could equally say they embarked on a slash and burn policy, cutting jobs, pay and services and racking up every charge by as much as three times what they were four years ago. Zero hours contracts, sub-minimum wage pay, people doing 30 hour shifts over Christmas to keep vital services running (I later heard of one of 60 hours), old ladies and children neglected - one died and one was murdered; it’s almost enough to turn me into a socialist.

From reading Tory propaganda they seem to promise only more of the same and sad to say the Labour stuff is uninspiring to say the least. The Lesnes Labour leaflets my neighbour passed to me yesterday appear to be left overs from the London Mayoral election complaining as they did about rail fares. Their website, mentioned last week, seemed to be on the right lines but it disappeared within 24 hours.

Who else can you turn to for a brighter Bexley future?

There’s some Independents over in Blackfen but no sign of a manifesto from any of them yet. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see one majoring on honesty and transparency, another on the hugely generous senior salaries paid by Bexley council and the third might have something to say on the iniquitous Residents’ Parking Tax tripled by Bexley’s number one bogeyman, councillor Peter Craske, who plucked some fictitious numbers from thin air and then doubled them for luck. But I am guessing at what Independents might do, they may be known to each other but the threesome are not joined at the hip, they might not all offer the same.

Mike Ferro Rob ComleyIt doesn’t amount to much yet but at the moment the only place you will find a few policies is on UKIP Bexley websites - but only three wards covered so far. Their East Wickham ward candidate, Rob Comley, has popped up on a Guardian website (scroll down to third story) so you can get some idea what he stands for nationally and the Lesnes and Barnehurst candidates have gone public too, but as for the others, little is known. Tories; more slash, burn and stealth taxes. Labour, picking fights with Boris. Independents, your guess is as good as mine. UKIP, they are not the other lot.

UKIP Bexley website. (Don’t bother clicking on any link but Barnehurst, Lesnes or East Wickham. Waste of time otherwise.)

Teresa O'NeillSeriously though, Bexley has become a dictatorship under the Tories. No one dares not to toe Teresa O’Neill’s party line; only once in the past four years has a Conservative councillor at any important meeting voted against Teresa, maybe not at lesser meetings either, but I don’t go to them all so could be wrong there. It’s not a benign dictatorship either. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Great Dictator or dares to speak the truth when she is busy hiding it is in big trouble.

“Appalling behaviour, arbitrary, no humility, the arrogance is unbelievable, council meetings are a stage managed irrelevance” are just a few of the things said about Bexley council, and those quotations I assure you all come from the mouths of those who should know. Whatever you do on May 22nd vote for a bit more balance and in Brampton ward vote against the Great Dictator. Without her even a Tory Bexley might be a fairer and more honest place.

 

19 January (Part 1) - Completing the circle

I’m taking a few minutes off from letter writing. One was posted yesterday, addressed to the Metropolitan Police’s Department of Professional Standards (DPS) who had asked whether my letter of 3rd December 2013 referring to former Bexley Borough Police Commander Victor Olisa was a complaint about him or a statement of fact. With only a suspicion of his wrong doing and no documentary support I had sat on the fence somewhat but following this week’s revelations I’ve told them it is definitely a complaint. In fact I am going further than that.

Bexleyheath police stationIt is now practically certain that Olisa’s predecessor Dave Stringer abandoned his enquiry into the Craske affair when there was no good reason to do so. Their own file records that there was nothing to suggest the source of Bexley council’s obscene blog could not be traced. Then after it was traced the police considered telling Elwyn Bryant and me that they couldn’t do anything. Political interference no doubt.

Fortunately along came Chief Superintendent Olisa who was unacquainted with Bexley’s corrupt methods and councillor Craske was arrested. Probably Craske was not the only one in trouble when political interference reared its ugly head again. The file clearly indicates that Olisa lied to Elwyn and me when we questioned him about political interference - he became very agitated - and to cover his predecessor’s delaying tactics.

My first complaint about Bexley police went to Commissioner Hogan-Howe in June 2012. All the DPS and IPCC involvement stemmed from that letter. So now he is going to get another alleging Misconduct in Public Office by these two Chief Superintendents.

 

18 January (Part 2) - The ‘L’ word makes another appearance

I’ve got close this month to not directing the ‘L’ word at any Bexley councillor but reporting the response to one of Mick Barnbrook’s Freedom of Information requests is going to bring that record crashing down.

After councillor Cheryl Bacon claimed I had run amok at a council meeting and went on to distribute her views to all and sundry I complained to the council about her lies. My complaint was rejected by Lynn Tyler on the grounds that Madam Bacon had made a statement, therefore it was fact. I appealed that decision and was answered by Human Resources supremo, Nick Hollier. He said I was being hostile, abusive and unreasonable by complaining about council liars but made no obvious attempt to answer or investigate my complaint to get at the truth.

I had asked for Cheryl Bacon’s story to be checked out with what other councillors said. The nearest one, sitting very close to me on the evening in question, was June Slaughter and she frequently looked in my direction. Afterwards I had misgivings about singling her out in case it caused her a problem and she is not the sort of councillor who I would want to put on the spot. From what I have seen she is not part of the Bexley Mafia. But the deed was done and I couldn’t put the clock back.

As far as I could tell from Hollier’s useless response, he too was just parroting the liar Bacon and made no attempt to interview councillor June Slaughter or anyone else.

Mick Barnbrook thought he should make absolutely sure that Hollier had failed to do anything when reviewing my complaint. Hence the FOI request - and so it proves to be.
FOI response
I’m not sure whether I am pleased or not by that. While it is always good to be able to label one of Bexley’s top dogs useless, dishonest or corrupt, it means I now have to write an extra letter to the Local Government Ombudsman about Hollier's presumably deliberate attempt to protect the lying Cheryl Bacon.

I wonder what June Slaughter would have said? She looks like a decent sort to me and presumably that is exactly what Hollier was scared of. Much safer not to talk to her.

 

18 January (Part 1) - This and that

Big Spender
I needed to buy a birthday present for a four-year old so I took the bus to Bexleyheath and it by-passed Northumberland Heath again. I was ready to blame Bexley council but I now believe there may have been a road closure due to a traffic accident. Going the long way around non-stop proved to be an advantage; except for those who may have wanted to get somewhere along Erith Road. I finished up spending a whole £5 in PoundWorld. The toyshop in the Broadway Shopping Centre was between three and six times more expensive for the same thing.

It’s all bollards
BollardsLast Wednesday’s ‘bollards’ report brought forth another from someone against whom Bexley council took unreasonable revenge (well, downright dishonesty actually) about yet another resident boxed in by Bexley council. I shall have to keep my eye open for more.


Welling Corner
Welling CornerI came home via Welling so that I could pick up a few things in that electrical Aladdin’s Cave opposite Lidl, PJ Electrics, and couldn’t help noticing that the junction of Upper Wickham Lane and Bellegrove Road is still a traffic delaying mess. It was first a problem last April or May.

Bexley council must have no idea of the costs imposed on businesses and travellers by their cavalier attitude to road disruption.

It’s just the same round the corner in Upper Wickham Lane and It never stops, on Monday they are going to start digging up Sidcup High Street.

Click the photo for a better view.


Another fine mess
The gales in the early hours of Christmas Eve brought down a lot of walls and fences in my road and nearby. One wall didn’t fall completely because the ivy which covered it was just about holding on and needed to be safeguarded by council barriers. They sent FM Conway out the same day to make sure there was no immediate danger.

By the beginning of this week every single wall and fence had been replaced by their owners - except for one. That one is the responsibility of Gallions Housing Association (which we must learn to call Peabody Group now). Typical of such bodies that they don’t care as much as ordinary home owners. And in case you think I am being impatient as it is little more than two weeks since people got back to work after New Year, this particular fence came down during the overnight gale of 27th/28th October 2013. It represents a considerable security risk for several people. Peabody or pea brain?

Another report of neglect comes from Sidcup where a corrugated iron fence came down and exposed passers-by and inquisitive children to the sharp edges. By the look of the exposed garden the owners are not keen gardeners but according to neighbours, Bexley council is not interested in securing the site as they did in my road.
Wingate Road

Some optimism to end on
TwitterIf you are concerned about councillor Don Massey’s plan to store the borough’s history archive in Bromley in order to save less money than what he and his missus take home each year in allowances, then click the Twitter image to read what has been going on since 18th December.

 

17 January (Part 2) - All change in Stable Lane

AdvertisementCould there have been a falling out? When the illegal blocking of Bridleway 250 first came to light researching it revealed that the Woodland Trust had contracted Mount Mascal Stables to issue their permits for riding in the woods. Mick Barnbrook wrote to the Woodland Trust and their reply was not exactly helpful. The only member of the Trust that I know of did not renew her membership when she saw how the Trust was supporting the Stables.

Now the Trust is advertising for a new administrator for their permit scheme. This advert appeared on Page 16 of this week’s News Shopper.

I reported last week that Mick Barnbrook was not going to the Magistrates’ Court about the bridleway blockage and had in effect given up on the case.

Since then there have been further developments which have reawakened his interest. The case won’t go to court this month but the issue is not yet dead.

I know of no connection between the known recent developments and the advertisement. Probably there isn’t one.

 

17 January (Part 1) - Another weekend of complaint writing lies ahead

Last Wednesday the postman delivered the Metropolitan Police’s horribly overdue response to my Subject Access Request (SAR). By the most generous estimate I have been waiting for four months longer than the statutory 40 calendar days but I expect redacting everything that might shed light on the dishonesty and political interference that characterised the Craske affair will have needed careful checking. Inevitably the 40 pages of double sided A4 (much of it taken up by clear white space) does not reveal anything fundamentally new but it is interesting nevertheless.

Dave StringerIn my opinion, the former Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer initially believed it was his duty to close down the investigation into the obscene blog as quickly as possible and the SAR shows him to be ably supported by Detective Chief Inspector Alison Funnell who preferred to see if she could pin a charge of harassment on me instead.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission subsequently ruled that she had no grounds to do so and even if she had, what she did broke all the procedural rules. Not surprising given the same officer was criticised for contaminating evidence at the Stephen Lawrence murder trial in November 2011, just a few months after trying to frame me for quoting another local blog. (The infamous Pitchforks and Flaming Torches comment by Hugh Neal over at the Maggott Sandwich.)

The first Bexleyheath police officer to upset the plan to get the criminal off the hook as soon as possible was Detective Chief Inspector Pryde who on 23rd September 2011, a month after Dave Stringer announced there was nothing that could be done, said “ I cannot find anything that categorically shows we cannot trace who set up the site”. I bet he was popular!

On 13th November 2011 it is noted that the case had been reopened after DCI Pryde successfully traced the IP address from which the obscene blog originated. Three days later the file says that Deputy Commander Darren Williams had written to me to say the case had been “reopened” which is a bit misleading because the only letter Supt. Williams sent to me said the case was to be “reviewed” and sent in September. Dave Stringer expresses his content at the time that I am not to be told any more.

The following February the investigating officer is still claiming I harassed Bexley councillors in March 2011 even though the CPS had ruled by then that I had not (confirmed by the IPCC a month later) and he goes on to suggest (on 25th February 2012) “the victims in this case are advised of the decision not to proceed further in this case”. That's three months after they had identified the blog source to be councillor Craske’s phone line, Bexley police are still wanting to close things down.

Victor OlisaBy April 2012 CS Dave Stringer had left for pastures new and his replacement, CS Victor Olisa, came on the scene and the case went to the Crown Prosecution Service before the month was out. Coincidence? I don’t know, but something dramatic must have caused a big change of direction. Olisa got rid of all the officers (transfers and a retirement) who’d been on the Craske investigation too. The following month (May 2012) the police applied for a search warrant.

My guess is that Victor Olisa, being unaware of the corruption endemic in Bexley council’s leadership and the police tradition of ignoring it, simply got on with the job he was trained to do and was unprepared for the political flak that ensued. When I eventually asked him what had been going on during the six months when Peter Craske’s IP address was being handled as if it was a very hot potato nobody dare touch he told me I was being investigated for hacking into councillor Craske’s internet connection.

I didn’t believe him then and I certainly don’t believe him now. A Subject Access Request is supposed to include every reference to the SAR applicant and there is absolutely nothing in mine to suggest that I was ever a suspect.

There are no entries at all in the SAR file for December 2011 or January 2012 and the only entries for February, March and April are notes about the update phone calls from the police to me and Elwyn Bryant. Unlike the preceding months there is absolutely nothing that refers to progress (or not) with the investigation. I am more sure than ever that having traced the crime to Craske’s IP address the police under Stringer did absolutely nothing apart from consider whether they could possibly get away with telling the two victims that the investigation was over.

In February 2011 Stringer (knowing where the obscene blog came from) told me and my MP many times that I should trust him. Fewer than three weeks later there were plans to tell me he could do no more.


Teresa O'NeillMaybe CS Olisa felt he had no alternative but he almost certainly lied to me, to Elwyn and to my MP Teresa Pearce on 1st March 2013 when he said the police were investigating me for stitching councillor Craske up. The barely possible alternative is that the SAR itself is redacted to the point of dishonesty. Either way a complaint must go in naming Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa.

You can imagine what the council leader thought about a senior councillor being arraigned before a judge and I suspect I know what she would do about it. Olisa got pretty upset, enraged more like, at my suggestion that he had been told to lay off Craske by his political masters but Elwyn and I had already been told several months earlier of the political interference that had stymied the case throughout.

I doubt very much that Olisa was a willing participant in Bexley’s corrupt practices but it seems to me he tried to cover them up. Maybe one day Bexley’s senior police officers will recognise that protecting Bexley council is not worth the career damage. Assuming of course that there is anyone left in the Metropolitan Police who could give a damn about corruption; and from what I hear of the Daniel Morgan axe murder case from my daughter who has been in and out of the Home Office pursuing @justice4daniel (Twitter again!) such people may be in very short supply.

 

16 January - It’s in the BAG

Whilst rejoicing at the recent upturn in the flow of new information and pondering what might be blogged first, in came a phone call from @AlastairMorgan (apologies for falling into Twitterspeak) asking for help with his computer. It wouldn’t start and with 14,000 Twitter followers to keep happy he was beginning to panic.

So I spent half the day in central London struggling with an almost new Windows PC with a serious BIOS problem. It’s not fixed but I have trained Alastair on how to get it going even when it repeatedly freezes during POST. Regular readers will recognise Alastair’s name, he puts me to shame when it comes to chasing corruption. 27 years ago his brother Daniel died with an axe embedded in his head a few days after threatening to report corrupt coppers to the media. I suspect there was a connection don’t you? It makes Bexley’s Craske case cover up look like amateur night.

After 24 years of looking the other way, the Met. Police actually admitted in writing that senior officers had been corrupt right up to the very top. The case is currently the subject of a Hillsborough style enquiry and watching from the sidelines it looks to me as though police corruption is still alive and well and living in New Scotland Yard.

Alastair is ‘family’.

Mick BarnbrookSo with most of the day gone I am going to leave the recent crop of emails for another day - except for one. Michael Barnbrook may be just a little upset with me. He says I provided a link to the Labour party’s ‘under construction’ Bexley website yesterday and I’ve never mentioned his, which is probably a bit more advanced towards completion than the Labour one. So in the interests of a quieter life and because Mick has been an indefatigable supporter of Bexley is Bonkers for more than three years, I give you the link to Mick’s website. At least it seems to work, so far as it goes anyway.

Mick is a member of the Bexley Action Group but is planning to stand in Blackfen and Lamorbey as an Independent candidate.

BIOS : Basic Input Output System - POST : Power on Self Test.

 

15 January (Part 2) - Bexley council. Spiteful and vindictive? You bet

Dropped kerbIf you thought councillor Peter Craske’s petty act of spite, reprised yesterday, was a one off you would be sadly mistaken. He was still the boss when a Belvedere man asked if his dropped kerb could be moved along slightly. His was awkwardly misaligned with his driveway as shown in the picture.

Ordinarily you might expect this to be a costly exercise but the whole road and its footpaths were being dug up due to planned maintenance. Every single kerb stone was to be pulled up and replaced with new ones. Moving the whole of a footpath crossover a foot or two further south would not be difficult. Any reasonable council, any reasonable man in charge, would nod that through. What difference does it make so far as costs are concerned, whether a reconstructed crossover is in the right place or a silly place?

Needless to say, Bexley council refused the request. They wanted to charge the occupier £900 to correct the historical positioning error. He decided it wasn’t worth it and the opportunity to correct this problem with what was at the time Peter Craske’s Public Realm was missed.

Next time you see one of Bexley’s contractors digging up the road alongside a sign proclaiming ‘Highway Improvement’ remember that might not be what it is about at all. They may be messing a resident around because they can. Could Lord Acton have had Bexley in mind when he said “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

Wheel trackingObviously Bexley’s road planners have no real idea about anything very much. Even when they are not in full-on spite mode they never allow for the way a vehicle’s rear wheels track a different arc when turning. If they did they might not be so keen on making them so narrow. But it’s Bexley so these things are to be expected.

These dropped kerb examples cases remind me of my time working for Post Office Telephones in 1963. A council house resident asked if the pole that carried the overhead line to his home could be moved to improve his view. He was happy to pay. The GPO asked the council for permission which was refused. Time went by and the council got in contact again with a request to move the pole after all. Their instructions were carried out to the letter and a pole was erected about three feet from the house slap bang in the middle of the lounge window.

Apparently the council house occupier had voiced his displeasure at the council’s refusal to allow the pole to be moved to a more acceptable position and the council exacted its revenge. Couldn’t have been Peter Craske, he wasn’t even born at the time.

But this could be Craske’s work…

BollardsIn Fairfield Road Bexleyheath it looks like Bexley council has fallen out with another resident. What else would explain a load of dropped kerbs and footpath crossovers, with one solitary house decorated with bollards to prevent entry to a paved front garden.

Like the News Shopper printed five years ago, “[Bexley council,] taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”.

I suppose the bollards come from the same sort of mindset that causes a council leader to march up to the police station demanding they arrest bloggers who won’t stop criticising them and when that fails, manufacture a cock and bull story that will see one of them behind bars.

Original blog.

 

15 January (Part 1) - Musical chairs

Chicken runAs the election approaches I keep hoping to see some decent websites by the local political parties pop up so we might learn something of their plans, but apart from Chris Attard’s Lesnes UKIP site and some Tory propaganda, Bexley is pretty much a political cyber-desert.

Yesterday I stumbled on a Labour sponsored website which looked promising but today its main content has disappeared. Their theme was that many local Tory councillors are so proud of their achievements in office that they have done a runner to wards where their reputation is unknown. It seemed like a reasonable point to me.

The site told how Eileen Pallen was leaving Crayford to go to Barnehurst. Melvin Seymour from Crayford to Northumberland Heath. Alex Sawyer from Northumberland Heath to St. Mary’s. Chris Taylor from Colyers to Blackfen and Lamorbey. Steven Hall; East Wickham to Blendon and Penhill. John Fuller; Lesnes Abbey to Christchurch. John Davey; Lesnes to Crayford and, drawing the short straw, Kerry Allon from Belvedere to Lesnes Abbey.

Those who study the councillors concerned and their old and new patches will see how this is part of the treadmill to the top. The biggest crawlers get a bunk up to the next level of safe Tory seat.

If the obviously unfinished Labour site could be criticised for anything it was that it was largely knocking copy, but then so are all the Tory sites and there is one big difference between them. The Tory claims are generously padded out with lies, like Labour is so ignorant they believe there is no railway station in Bexleyheath, whilst the Labour comment - see panel above - is at least factual.

Come on Seán, get http://www.bexleylabour.org.uk/the-great-tory-chicken-run back on line again because otherwise I can only link to UKIP and that is going to make me look more than a little biased.

 

14 January (Part 2) - Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Half way, as we are, between the last Cabinet meeting in mid-December and the next one at the end of this month there is unlikely to be any startlingly new news about Bexley council. It will no doubt be months before the Local Government Ombudsman looks at Cheryl Bacon’s illegal exclusion of the public from her meeting and the lies that she told about it and the refusal by council officers to interview councillors who knew the truth and were prepared to report it. I don’t think Mick Barnbrook has yet had time to send his allegation of Misconduct in Public Office to the police, so we are probably in for a lean time. On top of that councillors may be on their best behaviour with the election only four months away.

To fill in the awkward information gap I am going to occasionally regurgitate some stories from the distant past. Stories that current readers will never have seen before and others will have long forgotten. Stories that show just what sort of people Bexley folk have been prepared to elect and which may persuade some of them to do something different next time around.

This website used to be tagged for search engines and the like with ‘Dishonest, incompetent, vindictive’ and whilst the description may have fallen into disuse nothing much has changed. It may have been a relatively trivial dispute between a resident and Bexley’s King of Spite but my favourite example of that search engine tag leads me naturally to councillor Peter Harold Craske. Who else could it be? (Err, several of ‘em actually…)

Felix AkeleIn 2010 Mr. Felix Akele obtained permission to have the kerb dropped outside his house in Northumberland Heath. Somehow or other he misunderstood what Bexley council said and thought it was up to him to get the work done. Now that may not have been Bexley council’s fault, other residents have not commonly made the same mistake, but Mr. Akele went ahead and had the work done himself.

Along came Bogeyman Craske on his High Horse and instead of insisting the job was done to his standards by the council’s contractor, which might have been entirely reasonable, the nasty little runt of a man dreamed up a very special punishment for poor Felix.

He insisted the footway be reinstated to its former glory and only then should it be ripped up again and a council approved cross-over be installed.

This spiteful and unnecessary act authorised and defended by Sidcup and Lamorbey councillor Peter Craske meant that poor Felix had to pay three times for his mistake instead of just twice.

The story is still on the News Shopper’s website.


News ShopperSomething else stolen from the News Shopper many years ago was a nice summary of Bexley council I spotted in its pages. It said Bexley council had been “taken over by a mob of nasty, evil people who seem to thrive on other people’s pain and hurt”. Nothing much has changed, remember that when a Bexley Tory knocks on your door over the coming weeks.

Councillor Peter Harold Craske, protected by Bexley council over you know what, was an shameless little blogger bugger in 2010. If you find Craske or his cronies on your doorstep, they might tell you what good things they have done and will do but try to look below the surface. The leopards do not readily change their spots. Not in 2014 or any other time.

Original blog.

 

14 January (Part 1) - Low Scores on Doors

Which reportIt has been reported several times in the past that Bexley is the worst borough for poor ‘Scores on Doors’, a system which might give customers some idea about a food seller’s hygiene standards if only the numbers were posted on doors. There is no requirement in England to do so.

Bexley council has offered various excuses, among them that they took the decision to inspect all the highest risk premises first thereby biasing the results in one direction and that the quoted statistics have been horribly out of date. A new report by the magazine Which? has cast considerable doubt on Bexley’s excuses.

Instead of just counting the number of food outlets with unacceptable zero, one or two scores they took a more scientific approach by taking into account the percentage of premises not inspected, the number of inspections carried out and the failed follow-ups.

Bexley still came bottom.

Sky link. Public Finance link.

 

12 January - Metropolitan Police. Institutionally corrupt?

Batman CraskeThe mysterious case of the obscene blog refuses to lie down. There were if you remember two investigations into who at Bexley council set up an obscene homophobic blog in my name in May 2011. The first was handled in former borough commander Dave Stringer’s time and was abandoned on 23 August 2011 citing no evidence. This as we later learned was untrue and the probability is that the political leadership at Bexley council called in some of the favours owed by Bexley police. Free lunches and the like are on the record.

The complaint about Stringer’s short lived investigation went to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe who forwarded it to his Department of Professional Standards (DPS), from there to Bexley police to investigate themselves, then back to the DPS after protests only to have them produce a bucket of whitewash six months later. Finally it went to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which after nearly a year announced that the DPS’s rejection of the complaint was indeed a bucket of whitewash. The DPS have been told to take my complaint seriously this time around and I note with interest that the case has been allocated to a Police Constable when it has never sunk below the level of Detective Sergeant before.

The second complaint was based on the information provided by Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa on 1st March last year. viz. that his predecessor had identified a suspect many months before Olisa applied for a search warrant for councillor Peter Craske’s address. Victor Olisa excused the delay by saying he spent a lot of time (possibly eight months) following up a suspicion that I had hacked into councillor Peter Craske’s internet connection to frame him. Funny that no evidence of that investigation has been forthcoming.

With the help of my MP a promise was obtained from the police to fill me in on the truth of how Olisa’s investigation went so badly off the rails but that promise is now nearly eight months old and not fulfilled. Had it been it may have rendered the second complaint unnecessary.

This week the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards said in an unsigned letter (how professional is that?) that the case is too old for them to accept a complaint. Apparently if the police make a mistake or as seems more likely, allow themselves to be corrupted by the stated “political interference”, and take between ten and sixteen months (it depends on where you count from) and then waste another six months stringing you along promising more information that may prove themselves innocent but never producing it, the DPS is entitled to rule the police’s own procrastination is a reason to reject any complaint.

The complaint is within time if referenced to when the police let slip they had made what I consider to be a grave error but the DPS wants to reference my complaint to the time of the alleged mistake which of course I could not be aware of at that time. Police corruption can take many forms; naturally police constable Kuki Urwin’s ruling will be challenged and writing the letter has wasted most of today.

But look on the bright side. If the DPS accepts the complaint it will take another six months to produce another bucket of whitewash and only then would the procedures allow me to go to the IPCC; if they don’t I can go to them right away.

At every stage, from pretending their was no evidence in 2011, using the ‘not in public interest’ excuse when asked for evidence of their claim to have checked suspect computers - it transpired the claim was untruthful, their failure to take action for months after discovering it was councillor Craske’s phone line that had been abused, to concocting a whitewash when I complained (the IPCC agreed the DPS had done an inadequate job) to their refusal to respond to my Subject Access Request - now nearly six months overdue, the police have done everything possible to protect themselves from the consequences of dancing to Bexley council’s criminal string. Is it any wonder that half the population believes the Metropolitan Police to be institutionally corrupt?

 

11 January - Surely not all coincidence?

Flytipping Bexley council is not all bad, if it wasn’t for the constant secrecy, frequent dishonesty and occasional corruption by its leaders who clearly have things to hide, some of its activities might be judged better than most. It doesn’t fine motorists for minor driving misdemeanours, U-turns and the like - though councillor Craske planned it before his unfortunate brush with the law - and it doesn't fine those who haven’t a BSC in chemistry who cannot tell recyclable plastic from the other sort.

Bexley doesn’t tolerate graffiti for long and its roads are neither the most pot-holed or litter strewn in London and it has recently introduced a scheme in conjunction with its waste contractor, Serco, designed to tackle these problems even quicker. They call it the Community Champion Scheme and you can read all about it by clicking that link. They want volunteers to report eyesores such as the dumped sofa reported two days ago.

As has frequently been the case whether it be unlit bollards, unlined roads, racist graffiti or missing drain covers, Bexley council has always responded quickly to the pictures posted here. If it is coincidence it happened again yesterday when the green sofa was taken away within 24 hours of being featured here.

If the electorate clears away the secretive self-serving leadership of Bexley council in May the borough’s cleanliness may become more than just skin deep.

Community Champions application form (PDF).

 

10 January (Part 2) - The one that got away

Bridleway 250 It’s six months since the illegal blocking of Bridleway 250 was reported here and progress towards persuading Bexley council to enforce the Rights of Way Act has been slow as you might expect of a council with little respect for the law. Slow to the point of having stalled.

An abbreviated history lesson…


• Mount Mascal Stables was refused permission to put a gate across Bridleway 250 in Bexley but installed one anyway.
• Bexley council wrote to say the installation of the gate was an offence.
• Mount Mascal Stables provided horses to Danson Festival and advertised regularly in the Bexley Magazine.
• Following complaints by users of the bridleway Bexley council allowed the gate to remain so long as bridleway users were provided with a key on request. All known applications for a key have been refused.
• When questioned Bexley council said they acted on police advice.
• A formal complaint from Michael Barnbrook to Bexley council was met with a refusal to reverse their decision to allow the bridleway closure even though the reason given was in clear breach of the law.
• The police were asked via FOI to reveal the time of the theft at Mascal Stables that led them to recommend the illegal closure of Bridleway 250. They refused to answer the question.
• On appeal it was revealed that the decision was taken by Sergeant Alison Bateman but no further information was available as she had destroyed her notes - like any competent police officer would.


While all this was going on the National Federation of Bridleway Associations, the British Horse Society and the Ramblers’ Association all became involved and threw up their hands in horror quoting unacceptable precedents and similar cases where councils had been found guilty by the courts. Assistance with preparing court papers was offered.

As a result of Bexley council’s failure to uphold the law Mr. Barnbrook has until the end of this month to take his case to the Magistrates’ Court but he has decided not to.

None of the aforesaid charities came good on their promise to underwrite his court appearance and contact with the complaining residents has proved to be spasmodic. He has concluded that his time would be better spent on other things - like preparing for the May election - especially as Bexley council will probably claim in court to be acting on police instructions. An appeal could prove costly.

So Bexley council will once again have got away with breaking the law because of resident apathy. If Mick can find the time he intends to pursue the police sergeant for encouraging the breaking of the law. Stand by for another of his complaints of Misconduct in Public Office.

 

10 January (Part 1) - It’s getting to be a habit

Bad parking Police noticeAnother selfish Abbey Wood station commuter though who was there first is unknown. Once again the police attended and left a note. Fortunately the dust bin men serve this road very early on a Friday. If they had been trapped beyond these cars a lot of people would may have lost their collection today. There is no other way out.

 

9 January (Part 2) - Life imitates art

Fly tippingThis scene has amused me since Christmas when the sofa appeared in Abbey Road, Belvedere. Then a few days later DFS advertised a near identical one on the adjacent billboard. Only £279.

Whilst this is once again something which cannot be condoned, fly tipping is understandable to some extent when Bexley council would charge you £30 to get rid of a sofa. Across the river where the council tax is a good deal lower than in Bexley, the council removes large items free of charge.

I think I envy Newham residents to some extent, my neighbour’s front garden has been adorned with a discarded mattress since the Summer and given Bexley council’s policy it is likely to stay there for ever. In Newham they would be fined for creating an eyesore which is fair enough given the council wouldn’t charge for removal. Free residents’ (first vehicle only) and visitor parking too. On the other hand they don’t seem to enforce planning regulations. Almost every garden includes a shed sporting a Sky dish for the occupant.

 

9 January (Part 1) - Driven to breaking the law

ClampingYesterday’s road blocking is fortunately not an everyday event although as I live a little less conveniently for the station I may not be the best person to pass judgment. Nevertheless I have had people park up my drive and block me in several times over the years so I know how frustrating it is, and the cost of a remotely controlled retractable bollard is prohibitive. Maybe I should have resorted to threatening to break the law as someone living close to Abbey Wood station has.

The householder has my sympathy but I’m not sure I can condone employing the sort of cowboy operation that Approved Parking Security Ltd. undoubtedly is. ‘SIA Approved’ they claim to be which just goes to show what a waste of taxpayers’ money the Home Office’s registration scheme is. A Companies House check shows that Approved Parking Security went out of business last July.

Whilst patrolling the area on the look out for pictures I answered a motorist’s question about a parking notice which confused him. It was twenty to one and he couldn’t understand why the ticket machine wanted to charge him £3.80 while he nipped into a nearby shop. He had inserted one pound already expecting it to be more than enough for a short stay. Given the choice of hanging around until one o’clock, risking a fine or feeding another £2.80 into Bexley’s coffers he did the obvious thing. Pressed the return coins button and drove off to do his business elsewhere.

Maybe I should have directed him across the nearby borough boundary to park in Greenwich. The Royal Borough seems to have given up on Abbey Wood. Observation suggests it would be cheaper to park there each day and maybe pay the occasional fine than give Bexley nearly £4 a day.

N.B. This is not intended to be a serious suggestion although the facts behind it I believe to be true.

 

8 January - Brainless

Road blockedToday’s blog is at the trivial end of the spectrum and appears for two reasons. One is to show that the recent absence of blogs is not for any ‘sinister’ reason - there has simply been nothing of interest to report - and the other is to suggest you steer well clear of Fiat Punto Y291 RBE because the driver has forgotten where he or she parked their brain.

Bright Close in Belvedere was passable before sunrise this morning but by 07:40 an inconsiderately parked Fiat blocked it completely. Nothing wider than a motorcycle could pass and as it’s a cul-de-sac, any resident who needed to drive was trapped.

The police arrived around 07:45 and checked out the owners’ registered addresses. Fortunately the dark blue BMW led to an address in the next road and the owner had parked it there yesterday evening, so the situation was fairly quickly resolved by knocking on his door - but no thanks to the Fiat driver. In nearby Carrill Way things were only slightly better and a Transit van had to be carefully guided between two commuters’ cars.

I thought the Highway Code said you shouldn’t park within 15 feet of a corner and when Crossrail first impacted on commuter parking Bexley council considered moving the nearby Controlled Parking Zone boundary a little further to the east. If they asked residents again, as they did some years ago, the choice between them ticketing forgetful neighbours and driving the few idiotic commuters away would be a difficult one.

 

3 January - Website Contact form

The Contact form was withdrawn just before Christmas because the amount of spam had risen to unacceptable levels. For technical reasons the messages had been bounced through Hotmail and onwards to my personal email account but when I went to do the same again under a new name I discovered that the replacement for Hotmail, live.com, permitted message forwarding only if I supplied a mobile phone number. I don’t have one.

Eventually the technical problem that caused Hotmail to be used in the first place was overcome and the Contact facility is now handled entirely on my own mail server. When it attracts spam, as it inevitably will, it will be possible to change the address without legitimate users being affected and the spam messages will get lost. Until it builds up again! It’s always satisfying to defeat those blighters for a while.

Those inclined to send messages anonymously are now free to do so again.

 

2 January - Let battle commence. Looks like it has

UKIPElectorally speaking, things are hotting up. This morning someone asked if I knew who the borough’s UKIP candidates would be; apart from Chris Attard (Lesnes) I didn’t; and then this afternoon UKIP announced their Bexley website. That doesn’t answer all the questions either.

Early days probably but two more candidates are announced .

Mick Barnbrook will stand as an Independent in Blackfen and Lamorbey ward and has confirmed it will be alongside Elwyn Bryant and Nicholas Dowling.

 

1 January - Let battle commence

What do councillors do exactly? Apart from collect upwards of ten grand a year that is. Last month I attended one cabinet meeting: there were a couple of minor committee meetings but basically they took the month off. Are things any busier in January? No.

On the 27th there is to be another cabinet meeting and on the 29th a General Purposes Committee meeting - and that’s just about it really.

TwitterMaybe I’ll find out if there is more to being a councillor than the very occasional meeting later this year. The writing has been on the wall for quite a while but it seems that Mick Barnbrook is definitely going to put himself up for election next May.

I’m not sure how literally we should take his reference to Bexley Action Group. When I discussed the possibility with him a while ago I got the impression he would stand purely as an Independent and not under any group umbrella as that creates complications under electoral law. Probably I am misinterpreting his Twitter announcement.

My understanding is that the other two Independents will be Elwyn Bryant who organised the 2,219 signature petition which Bexley council binned unconsidered and Nicholas Dowling who forced acceptance of recording on a reluctant council; you can be sure that I won’t be joining them!

It’s a pity the three Independents aren’t standing in Brampton ward but I heard - not from UKIP directly - that that party intends to give Teresa O’Neill special attention in May, and it would be silly to detract from that. Dishing out a few home truths on councillors Craske and Taylor should provide even more fun.

Get rid of that Avatar Mick. Not sure an image of you in vest and running shorts is entirely typical of your usual suited and booted self.

 

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