Banner
today rss facebook twitter

Bonkers Blog November 2014

Index: 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018

30 November (Part 3) - The Irish connection

Sometimes incoming emails provoke interesting thoughts. How about this one?

“Grew up in Dublin, name of Murphy, boss, friend and collaborator called Rory, recruiting social workers for Bexley in the Irish Republic.”

Or less cryptically, the head of children’s services in Bexley whilst poor Rhys Lawrie was neglected was the independent person selected to write the Serious Case Review for his deputy (Sheila Murphy) who took his place before Rhys died of 39 separate injuries. The death was attributed to natural causes despite the coroner’s report and Bexley police and council were very reluctant to initiate a murder enquiry. It took nine months for circumstances to push them to the conclusion he must have been murdered.

The suggestion is that everyone involved has an Irish connection and now it is to be extended with a recruitment drive in that country.

 

30 November (Part 2) - The Martini Principle

LetterBefore November becomes history I should perhaps lay last Wednesday’s story to rest. Following Mrs. Deadman’s complaint that she might have to walk nearly a mile to attend her UKIP councillor’s surgery in Welling Library and stray a few yards beyond her own ward boundary, I said I'd ask councillor Chris Beazley what the real situation is.

He replied the next day and provided an explanation. It can be summarised as Any time, Any place, Anywhere. UKIP 1 : Labour 0.

Showing my age on this one. Google says that Martini advertising slogan is from the late 1970s!

 

30 November (Part 1) - The North South divide

FailedFor 24 hours the only pedestrian route between the north and south sides of central Abbey Wood has been across an unprotected A2041, otherwise known as Harrow Manorway. The two week old pedestrian crossing which became a necessity only last Monday morning is still out of order.

I have no idea where such things should be reported and sounded out a local councillor for suggestions. He has taken the issue on board.

It should be fun tomorrow morning. Presumably Thamesmead lives aren’t worth as much as those from more favoured spots.

TflP.S. Found this on Bexley council’s website.

Danny…and councillor Hackett is on the case!


FailedTransport for London’s response. They say it’s a power failure.

 

29 November - The Quick and the Dead

Failed Failed FailedI doubt I was alone in wondering what would happen on Harrow Manorway when the pedestrian crossing inevitably failed but I expected it to last longer than the first week of walkway closure before it went kaput.

And to whom are you supposed to report this sort of thing?

All photos taken at 12:22 today.

 

28 November (Part 2) - Welcome to Lesnes Abbey

Crossrail definitely don’t do things by halves. No expense spared; well maybe those temporary lifts at Abbey Wood station could have been bigger, but everything is to a commendably high standard.

Critics are few and far between and whilst the Harrow Manorway detours introduced last Monday are horrendous, no one has been able to come up with a better solution.

For a recent example of attention to detail you only have to look at what has been done this week beneath the old public walkway.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

The priority is public safety followed closely by making the place look as tidy as possible. Contrast that with what Bexley council is doing a quarter of a mile away around Lesnes Abbey.

ExclusionBexley’s project management skills were plain for all to see in the Broadway and even more so in Sidcup where ten months of ‘regeneration’ caused a colossal amount of disruption and a certain amount of danger for the few shoppers that remained in town. (See first of the photos below.) And all for a set of changes which are barely discernible.

Disabled access to Lesnes Abbey has been difficult ever since a fence was erected around it about five years ago, supposedly to keep motorcyclists out. As it’s only a foot high in some places, all they do is lift their steeds over the low barrier. This week the only disabled-friendly entrance to Lesnes Abbey has been barred. It provided an almost level route to the Abbey.

Bexley has four million pounds of lottery money to spend and it has blown a few quid on a replacement gate in New Road. It is negotiable by a wheelchair, if it’s a small one, but the temporary path extending from it is soft and spongy. Before it rejoins the old path it has a nasty inverse camber but far worse is the 25% incline. The combination of a soft surface and steep climb will make the passage of a wheel chair next to impossible.

Sidcup Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

You won’t find anything that poor around a Crossrail site.

Incidentally, the plans for Lesnes Abbey park have made the dog walkers more than usually talkative and I have yet to find anyone with a good word to say for them. Same with the emails.

 

28 November (Part 1) - Billy Nomates

Craske

 

27 November (Part 3) - Supremely smug

On the surface it’s just another couple setting up a new business but when I stumbled upon this website just a minute or two after finishing my dinner I did have some difficulty in holding on to it.

Probably Bexley does need some decent home care services; the council has done its best to screw it into the ground locally by starving it of funds. Maybe councillor Sharon Massey is highly qualified in the field and everything is going to be wonderful, but even if it is she and her husband councillor Don Massey neatly illustrate why Conservative councillors are so keen to remain councillors and lie about their achievements to stay in office.

It’s a club. They all vote for each other, sometimes through gritted teeth, and they help each other out and promote each others’ businesses.

MasseyThe Masseys have called upon their friend, mayor Howard Marriner, to officially open Supreme Home Care on Friday 12th December. James Brokenshire will be there too to give a boost to his mates’ business. Just like he would for a new local carwash or barber.

If Sharon Massey can devote as much time to her new business as she did arranging unlicenced strip shows for charity it should do well and you can be pretty sure it won’t be long before public funds begin to drift into the new company’s coffers, like it did for John Waters’ and his pre-school.

Maybe Sharon will even remember to declare an interest in care services before discussing them at council meetings. She failed to do so at the last General Purposes and from what I have heard will have to face the Code of Conduct Committee because of it. Fortunately for councillor Massey that is chaired by the thoroughly disreputable Cheryl Bacon, currently under investigation for Misconduct in Public Office by the police.

 

27 November (Part 2) - Bad Bexley bailiffs. Is there any other sort?

It is not just Bexley council’s parking contract that is in dispute and holding up full audit, there are problems with the bailiff too.

Better not go into too much detail but I have seen warrants executed by Bexley council’s bailiffs where they applied dubious fees and costs. Charges of £120 for the sale of a vehicle by a third party company were inflated to £300 and taken from the debtor. Property removal costs of £210 and in another case £239 were applied multiple times to a single PCN debt, all of which my advisor is adamant shouldn’t be happening, to put it mildly.

 

27 November (Part 1) - Nick in nick

Police StationIt was Nicholas Dowling’s turn to visit Plumstead nick yesterday, the first time in his forty something years he has ever set foot inside a police station.

His story is much the same as all the others; talk to tape for a couple of hours and sign the statement.

Like the four complainants (Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn Bryant, Peter Gussman and me), Nicholas was impressed by the thoroughness of the investigating officer. Whatever the outcome this officer will not be on the receiving end of the sort of complaints that Bexley police always attract when trying to save the Bacon of Bexley council. Criticised by the IPCC for breaking all the procedural rules, attempting to suppress evidence, kicking complaints into the long grass and admitting to political interference.

Not that the latter can be ruled out. The next stage will probably be to interview the alleged offenders. It was only when councillor Peter Craske was arrested 13 months after a crime was reported that the alarm bells rang in the Civic Centre and a rescue operation had to be mounted.

It’s 99:1 that something similar will happen to this case. It will be too trivial, or too expensive to prosecute or it won’t be in the public interest. If senior council officers were subject to the law of the land there would be one in court every week. That doesn’t happen and it is not because they are all good upstanding citizens.

 

26 November (Part 3) - Better late than never. Me and Bexley council

Broadway BroadwayI should have been in Bexleyheath Broadway on Saturday to see what sort of Christmas Show Ian Payne (Business Improvement District Manager) had put on. I expect he pleased quite a lot of children and shoppers and upset those who live above the shops opposite the mall. They have been driven to distraction this year by Mr. Payne’s enthusiasm for being Master of all Ceremonies and Minister of Noise.

I would have been there except that I had booked up for the England rugby match at Twickenham many months ago. The Samoa match is relatively inexpensive if you know someone with the right contacts, which I do.

So once again I am relying on Brian Barnett for a photo of the Broadway scrum. You can see more of his work on Photobucket. By day (yesterday) the large tree looked comparatively bare.


Broadway BroadwayLast March a friend was ‘done’ by Bexley council for taking his wheelchair bound wife shopping and parking where shown here (Photo 3). Since then, every time I’ve walked along Broadway, I have looked to see if the signage had been improved.

Yesterday my patience was rewarded. The ground markings were improved a while ago but until yesterday there was nothing for those who are inclined to keep their eyes above their own feet. Now there is. I wonder how much that little bit of confusion has earned.

 

26 November (Part 2) - Halt! Who goes there? Nobody

Yesterday a message said…


You may not be aware of yet another traffic light permit issued by the council! It’s for National Power for a set of lights at the junction of Long Lane and Brampton Road.

I’ve just endured an extra 20 minutes on the bus trip from Bexleyheath to ‘North Borough’ due to these lights and then the bus stop at Abbey Wood station was blocked with contractors vans etc. To top it all the cones were breeding by the Sainsbury’s site. A lane was closed.


I went to take a look but the B11 wasn’t stopping anywhere near the site of the chaos. All stops closed and as it was raining I didn’t go back for a closer look.

Today I did and sure enough the area was still badly congested due to a pipe lying in a rather neat hole. Why does a job like that have to be stretched out to last a week?

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

The southbound queue stretched half way to Woolwich Road but northbound things weren’t so bad. And the bus stop no longer had a closed sign on it.

VansThe complaint about contractors blocking the bus stop, whilst true, may be a little unkind. Yesterday I saw three of their vehicles (two vans and a digger) parked in the Abbey Wood station bus layby but they were doing an essential job which should be finished soon. I was on a bus at the time and my camera was packed away, however earlier in the day I had almost ‘caught’ two. (See Photo.)

There will be times when there will be no easy way of getting essential work done. It will be interesting to see how Crossrail proposes to deliver all the materials for the new station. By crane from below I hope and not low loaders at the bus stop.

Then another message arrived…


Crossrail Bexley council must have had a meeting on how to ensure increased footfall in Bexleyheath in the run up to Christmas.

Answer? Road works in Townley Road. 45 minutes to get through this morning coming from Sidcup. The Broadway shops won't see me again.

Broadway’s loss. Bluewater’s gain.

As if that wasn’t enough someone from Sidcup who has put up with nearly a year of road works is not too happy about yet more.
Sidcup
The cones that held up the first correspondent in Harrow Manorway are indeed breeding. Pedestrians are diverted into the road with a consequent width reduction to allow utility services to be moved prior to the installation of a roundabout and another pedestrian crossing to serve the new Sainsbury’s store and hotel (Cross Quarter).

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

I am beginning to feel trapped. I can no longer get to Blackwall Tunnel easily because of Greenwich’s success in making McLeod Road and Plumstead High Street a no go area for motorists - two shops and the petrol station no longer get money from me - and now the bypass (A2016) is becoming ever more difficult to access. Between them, Bexley and Greenwich councils are intent on causing traffic problems even before any bridge is built.

Bexley’s road planning probably owes much to incompetence but a friend once found herself at a Christmas party and making conversation with a man who approached her said “what do you do?”. The man said he was in charge of Public Realm at Greenwich council and his job was to “piss off as many motorists as possible”. It was a few years ago now but true nevertheless.

Returning from the Harrow Manorway photo sortie on foot I realised for the first time that pedestrians from the north have to cross the dual carriageway three times in order to get to Wilton Road. The second photo in the group immediately above shows yet more traffic lights in Felixstowe Road.

 

26 November (Part 1) - They just don't get it

It’s the sort of thing that Bexley Conservatives have done fairly regularly, ask a family member or a more anonymous stooge to get a letter published in a local news paper pushing their own political prejudices or knocking the opposition. I’m probably a mug for thinking that only Tories stoop that low.

News ShopperToday’s News Shopper carries a letter from a Mrs. C. Deadman writing from a Welling address and for no reason obvious to their readers has decided to have a go on behalf of far away Colyers’ residents at the three UKIP councillors who she claims hold their ward surgeries in Welling Library. Actually the council website says that is not going to happen until next January but why wait when a knocking job needs doing?

It doesn’t seem very likely that there are two politically motivated Mrs. C. Deadmans living in the fewer than 50 roads that make up St. Michael’s ward.

If I was UKIP councillor Lynn Smith (Blackfen & Lamorbey) I too would be less than happy sitting alongside Peter Craske in Blackfen library given the sexual fantasies on council premises which a police investigation suggested were associated with his phone line.

The leader of the UKIP group on Bexley council is Chris Beazley who represents St. Michael’s ward and it is entirely natural that he should hold a surgery in Welling.

In Colyers ward where Colin McGannon is the UKIP man the two Tories, Brian Bishop and Maxine Fothergill have politicised their surgeries by announcing on the council’s website that they run a two person Tories only surgery; UKIP not allowed. But they are not alone in wanting to make trouble for UKIP.

Nominations
At the election count last May a councillor who had just seen Chris Beazley elected as his own ward representative promised to make his life difficult. Looks like he got his wife to do his dirty work.

I often see on Twitter and the like, UKIP supporters claiming that Lib/Lab/Con are all the same and “they just don’t get it” to explain why their party has gained support so rapidly. I think I may have just seen both their points proved.

I asked UKIP Bexley what their official position is but it’s a bit early to expect a reply.

 

25 November (Part 3) - Where’s The Fiddle?

Yesterday’s feature on Bexley council being reluctant to own up about their financial situation provoked a few comments, questions and perhaps a little bit of confusion.

The general drift of things was neatly summarised by the anonymous contributor who merely said “WTF are Bexley playing at?”

Perhaps the question is rhetorical but if not I would say that Bexley council is ‘playing at’ being an honest, totally transparent council and making a mess of it again. On the other hand maybe their predicament really has been hushed up by a very select few and staff are not clever enough to have spotted it.

Just for the record and to address possible confusion, it is the most recent accounts (2013/14) that have not yet been fully audited but Bexley council has decided to sign them off anyway. Just for once the criticism of councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis isn’t justified; she is so ‘last year’.

 

25 November (Part 2) - A Bexleyheath bust up

Broken BrokenIt was about time I looked around a part of the borough other than the north so I took the B11 bus to Bexleyheath. It was delayed by road works at the junction of Long Lane and Brampton Road but the bus stop was closed so I couldn’t get off to see what the reason might be.

Reports say that it caused a 20 minute delay yesterday evening but at 1 p.m. it couldn’t have been more than five minutes.

Once in Bexleyheath I saw that the newly relaid Arnsberg Way which broke up under the weight of passing traffic in the summer was in trouble again.

It may not look too bad in Photo 1 but a 3D photograph would have shown a significant depression. Click to enlarge.


RepairsThe original BiB report was raised in council and cabinet member for Public Realm, Don Massey, swung into action and disrupted Arnsberg Road for a week while the new block road was repaired. At no cost to the public purse he said.

Sadly the junctions at Woolwich Road and Chapel Road, both of which carry a lot of bus traffic, are breaking up again.

Click here for Bexley council’s web announcement. It probably won’t be there for much longer or maybe they will just change its date.

 

25 November (Part 1) - A rampless Abbey Wood. So far so good

Cross QuarterThere were no serious traffic problems on Harrow Manorway last night following the closure of the pedestrian ramps and while the northern station exit remains open there probably won’t be. The few pedestrians using the new pedestrian crossing quickly caused a considerable queue but it cleared quickly and contrary to my expectation most traffic was coming from Thamesmead. The Knee hill roundabout was never in serious danger of becoming blocked.

The only problem I saw was an elderly gent in Gayton Road, probably younger than I am but never mind, who walked with the aid of a stick. He wanted to get a bus but could neither walk the half mile detour nor could he climb the stairs. Eventually and very slowly we made it together but not before he told me what he thought of the new arrangements.

He pointed at the nearby Cross Quarter development (Photo 1) and said the contractor there had gone from a mud patch to a structure of considerable height in a matter of weeks and expected to have a supermarket open by the middle of next year. His actual Crossrail comment is probably left to your imagination.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

 

24 November (Part 2) - £5·8 million. 5% of revenue at risk. “No material effect”

You may not have noticed his absence but I certainly have. My friend Nicholas Dowling who managed to put councillor Cheryl Bacon on the end of a criminal investigation with a clapped out tape recorder has faded from the Bexley bashing scene. The fact is he found a lady willing to marry him a couple of years ago and for the past three or four months his time has been fully occupied by nappies and bath times. Without him I have floundered somewhat with audits and accounts.

However as luck would have it another accountant has surfaced anxious to demonstrate that Bexley’s statements are not as boring as you might believe - but twice as untrustworthy. I’ve decided that carving his letter up into small blocks is probably too much like hard work and may detract from the message. So what follows is pretty much as it was given to me. Even for me it wasn’t too difficult to follow.


Dear Bexley is Bonkers,

I have been an avid follower for quite a while now and having read some of your blogs about the shambolic state of affairs surrounding the auditing of Bexley council’s accounts I felt compelled to investigate further. Thank you for highlighting the issue and I thought you might appreciate my research and musings around what is surely a new nadir for this rotten borough that we all live in.

Rest assured it did not take long to establish that you have been accurately reporting shenanigans of the highest order at Bexley council where it is clearly evident that senior council officers have been conniving – with the undoubted assistance of our piss poor directly elected representatives - to keep the truth out of the public eye regarding the shambolic behaviour displayed in this affair.

AccountsSo let me start with a quote from Bexley council’s website where you can find the following upstanding and proper claim: “the audited Statement of Accounts is then approved by the council's Audit Committee by the end of September following the end of the financial year”. (Click image for source.)

Well, given that the council’s Audit Committee approved the 2013-14 accounts without a full audit having been completed what does that say about the integrity and probity of our glorious council in operation?

Perhaps your readers might be interested in a game of spot the difference:



Approval of the Accounts
I certify that the Statement of Accounts for 2013/14 has been approved by resolution of the Audit Committee of the London Borough of Bexley.
Councillor Joseph Pollard, Chairman, Audit Committee 24 September 2014

Approval of the Accounts
I certify that the Statement of Accounts for 2012/13 has been approved by resolution of the General Purposes Committee of the London Borough of Bexley in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2011.
Councillor Lucia-Hennis, Chairman, General Purposes Committee 26 September 2013



Evidently Bexley council can no longer claim that it is adhering to the Accounts and Audit Regulations. Do they have no shame?

ReservesI genuinely wonder how many accountants we are paying to make sure that everything is above board and fully compliant in our borough? Not enough it would appear as this is failure on a grand scale.

A private company that could not claim to have their accounts fully audited would not thrive for very long; additionally, it would have a great deal of explaining to do too.

Oh, it is just all so different in the world of Local Government. No statement of explanation is proffered and everybody just seems to ignore the calamity and carries on regardless. Well done one and all. Clearly Bexley council is relying on a disinterested public but this failure to be fully audited is plainly borderline incompetent behaviour and ignoring this fact is such an ostrich like mentality that is truly outmoded and not acceptable in the 21st century. Bexley residents deserve so much better.

Politicians of all stripes are forever soul searching and wondering how they can restore the electorate’s faith in them. Well, let me tell you it is just this sort of dishonesty and deviousness that they need to root out. It is just not acceptable to normal people that those who are in power and elected to look after our affairs can so willfully abrogate their responsibility and attempt to duck the truth whilst espousing openness and transparency as their modus operandi.

Bexley council has 132 pages of accounts http://www.bexley.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=13945&p=0 and only on the final page are we informed by Susan M. Exton Director of Grant Thornton (the council’s auditors).



Delay in certification of completion of the audit
We cannot formally conclude the audit and issue an audit certificate until we have completed our consideration of matters brought to our attention by local authority elector. We are satisfied that these matters do not have a material effect on the financial statements or a significant impact on our value for money conclusion.



ReservesWhat a shame that no precise definition of a material effect is provided. I mean with a budget of £180 million what’s a million or two? 1% or so and probably not very material to an auditor but this is a heck of a lot of council tax to local residents.

132 pages and nobody in Bexley’s accounts wants to explain to local residents why the auditors cannot complete their audit. So, does anybody seem to care about this state of affairs at Bexley council? Of course they don’t! I mean to them it is all about reputational damage limitation (or some such management gobble de gook) the openness and transparency is expediently ditched by these dishonourable types who hide the truth in the public domain whilst not pointing it out to anyone.

A reasonable person might see this underhand behaviour as prevarication and diversion of the highest order; and the rationale is to maintain the fiction that Bexley council can claim it is doing the right thing whilst actually doing completely the opposite. Such, I am afraid, is the truly sad state of affairs here in Bexley and, I assume, is all masterminded and implemented by the dubious duo of Will Tuckley and Teresa O’Neill.

On the other hand, surely we can rely on Bexley’s much trumpeted overview and scrutiny to get to the bottom of things in relation to this matter. From the quote above we know there was an Audit Committee meeting that discussed the accounts so they must have probed the matter?
Er, perhaps not. You can read the draft minutes here http://democracy.bexley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=159&MId=27612 but the relevant part is:



Ms. Exton also reported that a possible objection to the accounts had recently been received which she would need to consider before deciding whether she needed to issue a formal report. When asked about the potential additional cost, Ms. Exton reported that the last time there was an objection to the accounts it resulted in additional audit fees of £18,000.



So, the committee knew precisely that there was a problem with the audit but rather than establish what the problem was and discuss if anything needed to be addressed or investigated by council officers all the committee was interested in was what the extra cost of the audit would be.

What sort of scrutiny was employed here? Looks like the three wise monkeys’ approach to me and resulted in absolutely none at all. Unfortunately once again our political representatives failed in their democratic duty to hold Bexley council to account. A deliberate ploy, or plain incompetence?

The cost question must have been a deliberate deflection by the Tories but why nobody wanted to delve into the provenance of the matter itself beggars belief and really highlights the bankrupt and pointless nature of these committees. Still they serve their fig leaf purpose so undoubtedly they will continue to be proffered as the preferred choice of the dominant one party political machine here in Bexley. After all, Teresa & Will, if you want to maintain the corrupt and dishonest status quo at Bexley council, just carry on precisely as you have before.

Thank heavens for the fresh and relevant perspective that Bexley is Bonkers offers otherwise nobody would truly scrutinise this useless bunch. Keep up the great work.


Thanks. Nice not to have to spend too long on a feature like that. I think their £18,000 minimum audit fee is going to be the least of the audit committee’s worries once the penny drops. or in this case maybe more than half a billion pennies.

 

24 November (Part 1) - Big changes afoot for those on foot

CrossrailCommuters at Abbey Wood saw their journey to work this morning slightly affected by the closure of the public walkways, but as almost all the bus passengers will have come from Thamesmead, basically all they did was drop down a different set of steps.

Bus passengers coming from the opposite direction have always got off two stops earlier; slightly further to walk but much quicker overall. Things may be different in the evening if those intending to catch a bus decide to cross the dual carriageway.

This morning few did but it was surprising how quickly the lights changed in the pedestrians’ favour when a second one arrived a little too late to catch the green.

The traffic queue frequently tailed back to the Knee Hill roundabout but didn’t ever get to block it, at least not around 08:50 when these photographs were taken.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

By one o’clock things had progressed a little…

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

CrossrailMore warning signs, more pedestrian detours, more deliveries, the old bus shelter being made safe and a further reduction in opportunities for motorists to quickly drop off passengers by car. Not that the one in Photo 4 was quick. He was there when I arrived and he was still there when I headed for home.

It’s not only the walkways that will have to come down to make way for the realigned North Kent line, the house at the end of Florence Road must go too. Looks like it won’t be there for much longer.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

23 November (Part 2) - An objectionable lack of curiosity

A reader who seems to understand accounts better than I do, not difficult, has sent me an email in which he attempts to expose some of the chicanery in which Bexley council appears to be indulging following my objection, or should that be Mr. Other’s objection, to Bexley’s 2013/14 accounts? It’s a bit on the long side but I’ll make sure it, or at least the important bits, appear on line very soon. The message made me think again about the Audit Committee meeting reported here on 25th September.

It was during that meeting that the council’s auditor revealed, apparently for the first time, that there had been an objection. The following is the audio clip which first appeared on BiB on 13th October in which Ms. Exton gives it a passing mention. At the time I did not reveal my own involvement.

It has belatedly struck me that not a single councillor was interested enough to ask what the objection was. Curious bunch aren’t they? What sort of scrutiny do people like that offer? Is committee chairman Joseph Pollard worth the £2,100 he is paid for the job?

Labour councillor Daniel Francis who is not usually lacking in the curiosity department was the only person present who picked up on the auditor’s comment at all. He asked her several questions, the last of which mentioned the objection. The clip below is edited so as to cut the auditor’s response to the councillor’s earlier questions.

AccountsCouncillor Frances asked about the procedure for handling objections but somehow never got around to asking what this one might be. (It’s about incentives offered to the council’s parking contractor to issue more penalties; keep up at the back!)

The remaining members of the committee presumably cared even less. Or was it all part of a cover up to keep the subject out of the minutes?

It’s not impossible that the Audit Committee had been warned off at a prior ‘dress rehearsal’ so that the obvious but embarrassing question and answer wouldn’t end up on the public record.

As it is, Bexley council can just about get away with a statement like the one that appears on Page 16 of their Winter 2014 magazine and reproduced here.

Most Bexley Magazine readers will assume that the council’s accounts have received a totally clean bill of health from Grant Thornton, while the more informed readers of BiB will know better.

 

23 November (Part 1) - Councillor Peter Craske’s infamy endures

TweetThis Tweet exchange yesterday between Thamesmead police and Brian Barnett a Thamesmead resident and ocasional contributor to BiB doesn’t really need any comment but it does remind me that my complaint about Bexley police’s failure to investigate the crime committed on councillor Peter Craske’s phone line is still not answered almost exactly 30 months after sending it to the utterly useless Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. So it seemed like the right time to knock up a complaint about him.


Ms. Helen Bailey,
Chief Operating Officer
Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
City Hall
London SE1 2 AA

Dear Ms. Bailey,

On 7th June 2012 I made a complaint to Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe about Bexley police for failing to properly investigate a homophobic hate crime against myself and Mr. Elwyn Bryant of 21 Salisbury Road, Bexley. It was clear that the culprit could only be a councillor at or employee of Bexley council. This supposition proved to be correct.

We supplied a great deal of evidence to the Commissioner and were supported by my MP, Teresa Pearce, who had accompanied us to meetings with two Borough Commanders.

On 12th May this year PC Xxxxxx Xxxxxx of the Directorate of Professional Standards asked me questions about the complaint which I felt she would have no need to ask if she had studied the case. The following month she admitted that she had not read the case papers, nor had she even applied for the file. On 13th October 2014 PC Xxxxxx wrote to tell me that she had still not found the time to look at my complaint.

I believe the DPS simply doesn't wasn't to investigate a complaint against senior officers.

In January 2014 Ms. Pearce MP obtained on my behalf documentation which strongly suggested a desire by Bexley police to Pervert the Course of Justice. A formal allegation of Misconduct in Public Office was made against former Bexley Borough Commanders Stringer and Olisa. It was acknowledged by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Xxxxx Xxxxxx on 10th February since when nothing further has been heard.

May I ask you to enquire on my behalf exactly what the Metropolitan Police is up to, or are crimes committed by police officers, or indeed councillors, not worthy of investigation?

The following DPS reference numbers may prove useful.

[Redacted]

Yours sincerely,

 

22 November (Part 2) - Lesnes Abbey park. Destruction or enhancement?

MagazineWork has indeed started on Lesnes Abbey. The old style stone built visitor centre is to be replaced by a glass and steel structure (see below) totally out of keeping with the 1178 Abbey.

Bexley’s latest magazine makes the most of the four million pounds coughed up by the Heritage Lottery Fund implying they paid half. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bexley council must have spent some money while lobbying for the funds to be made available but there is no doubt where the real money is coming from.

The claim that plants, trees and wildlife will be unaffected should be taken with the usual pinch of sodium chloride.

Sparrows are said to be in serious decline but in my garden not far from the Abbey I see twenty or more at a time. Where will they go at night when the yew tree hedge at the end of the formal garden is torn out?

And why is it to be torn out? Well at one public meeting it was said that it was to stop young children getting lost behind it which sounds like something made up on the spur of the moment.

But no, it is listed as an official reason for destroying the wildlife habitat.

The exotic trees dotted around the park carefully chosen for the beautiful variety of autumn colours and planted 80 years ago are not completely safe. Any that are in the way of the new works will come down. Perhaps they will be conveniently found to be diseased.

Whether you love them or regard them as vermin, foxes are wildlife and their lairs around the pond are to be built over. It’s hardly “wildlife will be unaffected’. Bexley’s magazine is degenerating into a propaganda sheet as politicians struggle to maintain the illusion of prosperity while making savage cuts to services.

Hedge removal

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey


First sign of activity at Lesnes Abbey (click photos to enlarge) and impression of the new ‘carbuncle’ visitor centre.

 

22 November (Part 1) - Yellow paint. Love it (Crayford) or loathe it (Sidcup)

If you don’t like paying for your bin to be collected, losing your library, being spied on while driving or seeing the borough’s historic houses starved of funds, blame Bexley Conservatives if you like or this government for reducing grants to local government or the previous one for wrecking the economy. It doesn’t really matter, the end result is that Bexley council is running out of money and desperate for more. They don’t care where it comes from as long as it is not their own allowances. There really was no need to appoint six vice chairmen to scrutiny committees and then pay them handsomely for sitting around doing not a lot. Unless greed is the motivation of course.

As always, the motorist is the easy target when a council needs more money, hence the constant use of yellow paint and more parking restrictions to trap the unwary.

This week it is Crayford’s turn. Alderman Close, Alfriston Close, Barnock Close, Bascombe Grove, Carnet Close, Cortland Close, Falstaff Close, Galloway Drive, Melrose Avenue, Saltcote Close and Woolbrook Road are all to get the treatment.

Yellow lines do nothing to enhance the appearance of a street, so in recently tarted Sidcup the yellow lines are to be taken away, replaced by a warning sign on the way in.
Notice
So the assumption in Sidcup must always be, you can’t park there unless somewhere in the street there is a half hidden sign to say you can; and read it carefully. Bexley council is out to get you. They have to fund their generous allowances somehow.

Click image to see all of the warning currently available from some Sidcup shops.

 

21 November (Part 2) - Whatever happened to…

…The Outer London Commission?

Timetable of meetingsIt was one of mayor Boris Johnson’s bright ideas and first met in February 2009. A year later Boris appointed Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill to be its Advisor on Outer London. It rather badly showed up Boris Johnson’s lack of political judgment. He had previously recruited Bexley’s then council leader, Ian Clement, as his deputy only to see him receive a suspended prison sentence for fraud. Somehow, Teresa O’Neill failed to notice the same trickery going on under her nose as his deputy. Or so she says.

Then O’Neill showed she hasn’t a clue about how democracy works or the so called Social Media revolution by trying to close down two local blogs.

What the Outer London Commission ever did is unknown although perhaps the meetings helped bring Waitrose to Sidcup. Waitrose is represented on the Commission.

The Commission’s website shows they have not met since November 2013 but it helps explain why Boris takes so much money from our pockets. When, rather a long time ago, there was a referendum on whether London should have a mayor the explanatory leaflet said it would cost householders four pence a week. When I ran this recollection past a Labour councillor he said I was wrong, it was three pence a week.

Here is part of Boris’s cringe inducing letter of invitation to Teresa O’Neill.
Cringeworthy
Click the extract to read the whole stomach churning thing. Hopefully Boris knows the disreputable Teresa better now.

 

21 November (Part 1) - Cross rail at your peril

Lift Lift From next Monday morning Crossrail will cause their first major disruption to life in Abbey Wood, apart from those whose houses have been knocked down of course.

The ramps and steps outside the station which form the publicly accessible pedestrian crossing over the railway will be closed and in all probability demolished the following weekend.

Because Crossrail has only ever referred to ramps coming down the idea has got around locally that the steps would remain. A moment’s thought would have shown that to be impossible but I found myself having to argue the point. The new signage makes it very clearly.

The map that has appeared at the foot of the steps nearest to the station and at the bus stop above shows the steps to the east of the viaduct are the only ones that will survive and “the ramps and steps to the northbound carriageway on Harrow Manorway are to be removed”. (Enlarge Photo 2.)

The only access to the northbound bus stop on the western side of the viaduct will be via the east side steps and the new pedestrian crossing. Or from the other direction (north), via a long detour. A recipe for instant frustration for all concerned during the morning rush. Throughout the day the constant flow of pedestrian traffic from Thamesmead into Abbey Wood will now have to press the button and stop all the traffic or risk serious injury!

Lift Lift Lift Lift

Lift Even though no one used that crossing this morning over a period of several minutes the slow moving traffic queue extended back to the Knee Hill roundabout. A couple of buses and a red light should make for interesting times.

Wheelchair users are currently guaranteed an interesting time. If the chair doesn’t topple on an inadequate ramp by the car wash they will be faced by a confusing ‘No pedestrians’ sign. (Photo 6.) Probably that will be fixed by Monday. (Photo 7)

All that sign needs is a suffix saying ‘½ mile’.

Perhaps council leader Teresa O’Neill can offer some improvement by negotiating a further reduction in the timescale for Crossrail.


Magazine
Crossrail is due to open in four year’s time not three. Isn’t it about time the leader updated that photo?

 

20 November (Part 2) - Pointless lies, desperate measures and grave consequences

BaconWhile Greenwich police continue to investigate Will Tuckley, Lynn Tyler, councillor Cheryl Bacon and a Civic Centre doorman for Misconduct in Public Office, in Bexley everything is in lock down mode.

When Mick Barnbrook asked to see the correspondence between the council and the police that persuaded them to go from ‘nothing worth reporting’ (the police made no entry in any notebook and told the Bexley Times that nothing had happened) to confirming Bexley council’s lie that everyone was so disruptive at the meeting of 19th June 2013 that they all had to be ejected from the council chamber by two constables, Will Tuckley refused to provide it; thereby confirming that the correspondence must have been incriminating.

The reason Chief Executive Tuckley gave was that Mick is vexatious. i.e. his attempt to get at the truth is frivolous and designed to embarrass the council. It is the last resort of a public service scoundrel.


Vexatious

Tuckley didn’t want to accept that Mick’s requests were either on different subjects or entirely new aspects of an old one thereby making the vexatious defence invalid. Mr. Barnbrook’s last enquiry was in pursuance of alleged criminality by Tuckley and others.


Mick took his case to the Information Commissioner who would have contacted Bexley council for their response. Bexley council is clearly desperate. Their response, extracts of which have been passed back to Mick in a letter, runs to ten pages of A4 under 40 different subject headings. An ICO response in not much more than a fortnight must be unprecedented.

The Information Commissioner’s Group Manager. Rachel Cragg, has fallen for Bexley’s story big time, obviously unaware that Bexley council officers must suppress their letter or email to the police at all costs. Their liberty may depend on it.

As you might expect, a councillor’s request to view the correspondence has also been rejected. So further proof that Tuckley’s ‘vexatious’ excuse is a small part of his cover up to save his skin. Maybe Greenwich police will be interested.

Bexley TimesMick Barnbrook has taken the view that it is a waste of time going through the ICO Appeals Procedure. At the end of the day they have a common purpose and will not want to add to the woes of a dishonest councillor and senior council managers; and Mick has the same confidence in the Greenwich investigating officer as I do.

The police officer called this morning to seek some information and I took the opportunity to thank him for his efforts so far but forecast that he would be leaned upon from high before long. He is undeterred and will be conducting more interviews next week. It was an interesting conversation.

 

20 November (Part 1) - Two parties disagree, one is Bexley council. Who do you believe?

 If you have been keeping up with these ramblings you will know that there has been an objection to Bexley council’s 2013/14 accounts based on contractual irregularities in the area of parking enforcement and the employment of bailiffs and it is me and A.N. Other who are driving it forward.

Mr. Other is doing all the spadework and I am the not so innocent bystander.

The situation does give me some pangs of conscience. This will be running up auditor’s bills which will dwarf the cost of maintaining Belvedere’s Splash Park but for how much longer are we supposed to tolerate a dishonest council?

It’s probably not 100% honourable that one of my motives is to dish out maximum embarrassment to council leader Teresa O’Neill; she after all is the woman so detached from the ideals of democracy that she asked the police to arrest me for “criticising councillors” and was happy to see John Kerlen (Olly Cromwell) banged up on trumped up charges. It cost him £10,000 in barrister’s fees to prove his innocence. So things are just a little personal.

The following is what the brains behind the objection has been telling me. It is an amalgam of several emails and modified for clarity. Some of the words may be mine but all the essentials are as relayed by Mr. O.


I have the evidence that Bexley have an incentivised contract with NSL in which they get paid extra for each PCN. When I did my first inspection there was no fee scale in the contract, where it should have been was blank and this was the original signed and sealed contract from legal archives. On the second inspection only a photocopy of a page could be provided by the parking department and no provenance as to where it had come from and the legal people did not know of its existence.

The less published the better but you can certainly refer to the £5·8m as it is correct to state that it is now being formally objected to. The accounts people were saying the right things but I am now getting the impression that further up the food chain they would like to keep this quiet.

The fee scale document is only a photocopy and I am yet to be given a satisfactory explanation for it. The invoices show payments made outside of the photocopied fee scale document and the fee scale document shows the agreed payment per PCN issued up to a maximum of 60,000 PCNs and the invoices back this up.


The amount paid per PCN is redacted on BiB but I consider it to be rather a lot of money.

The Deputy Director of Finance said earlier this week… (Severely edited.)


PetersThe Council’s parking contract and practices are entirely lawful, being consistent with legislation and statutory guidance applicable at the time. There are no provisions in the contract for the contractor to meet PCN quotas. Further, there are no provisions in the contract for incentive payments to be made to NSL. There are also no provisions in the contract that impose conditions, performance measures or targets on the contractor relating to the number of penalty charge notices issued.

In conclusion, the Council are satisfied that its parking contract is lawful and does not incentivise NSL.


When I ‘cross examined’ Mr. Other he reminded me that there was no fee schedule in the signed and sealed contract. The photocopy of a fee schedule supplied by the parking department includes the monetary incentive per PCN with a cap of 60,000 per year and invoices show the same figure.

So it looks possible to me that it is ‘case closed’. An incentivised contract is an unlawful contract and PCNs issued under such a contract represent unlawful income, the £5·8 million. See you in court?

I am not the brains behind the argument and I’m handicapped by a lack of expertise in the relevant area of law and I am a confirmed cynic who has seen Bexley council wriggle away from the consequences of their actions far too many times before. But I can’t see how the police can help them this time.

 

19 November - We have lift off!

Lift I was unable to drop in to the Crossrail exhibition in the Knee Community Hall yesterday due to a prior engagement in the Socialist Republic of Newham; a neighbour went to the exhibition in my place.

The temporary station lifts have been the subject of some controversy as they have not always been available since the opening nearly four weeks ago. Platform 1 requires a minimum of 72 steps. More when accessing it via the ticket hall.

The lifts are a bit of a joke really, even for temporary ones. Large wheelchairs and ‘twin’ buggies are excluded. To stop people getting themselves stuck in them (the Platform 1 lift has torturous access) they are now station staff operated only. Network Rail told my neighbour the station will now be staffed continuously to cater for any revellers on wheels turning up for the last train. 00:53.


TweetAs I approached the station this afternoon a man in a yellow jacket was pushing a lady in a wheelchair along Wilton Road. Why he was wearing the yellow jacket I have no idea because he was in no way connected with the railway. I followed him through the barrier towards the lift and went back to alert the station attendant. He lost no time in coming to the passengers’ aid.

The timestamps on the photos shows it took four minutes from pressing the lift button to the man’s head appearing above. Presumably it would be much the same on the way down. One train was missed, it might easily have been two but I didn’t hang around to see.

There was no room in the lift for the lady’s companion who had to walk up with her sticks and bag.

According to the Network Rail man at the exhibition, the plan is to install the usual 18-20 people capacity lifts when the new station is completed but as I said to the always helpful station attendant, “you’ve got three years of this”.

Lift Lift Lift Lift

My neighbour reported that the most vociferous questioning came from people wanting to know how much longer Bexley council’s five year eyesore across the road (the site of the Harrow Inn) was going to blight the area. Unless it can be made the terminus for an Overground extension from Barking it’s not something Network Rail can be expected to know about.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

18 November (Part 2) - Murphy’s Law

Someone has asked me what all the fuss is with children's services at Bexley council. Is there any chance you could sum it up for me? Would really appreciate it. Thanks.


Comment• OFSTED Report rated Bexley ‘Inadequate’. One or two junior members of staff sacked. At least one took his case to an Industrial Tribunal and won compensation.
• A later inspection rated Bexley as ‘Needs improvement’. Will Tuckley filled the pages of the News Shopper to tell everyone how wonderful things were.
• Responsible cabinet member said that all was now well and walked away at the May 2014 election.
• Director of Children’s Services buzzed off to a lucrative new job on the Isle of Man.
• Local Government minister Eric Pickles issued Bexley council with an Improvement Notice in September 2014.
• Two children died neglected by Bexley council. There was a third but I have no details.
• The first was ignored by Bexley council throughout his life despite reports from doctors and teachers.
• He was murdered and his family is convinced that Bexley council connived with the police to find a mentally retarded individual to take the rap because if it was the mother who was responsible Bexley council would be even more culpable. Baby P all over again.
• Bexley council employed a recent Bexley Children’s Services employee to write the Serious Case Review. So no real criticism of anyone.
• The murdered boy’s family is currently engaged in seeking a Judicial Review.
• The current cabinet member for Children’s Services, Philip Read, refused to answer a question about the case at the last full council meeting. There is plenty to hide.
• Bexley is currently bottom of the performance achievement table in several areas among comparable councils.
• Naturally, good social workers are reluctant to work for a failed council. The current vacancy rate is 43%.
• Bexley council has taken its recruitment team to Ireland in a desperate attempt to find people who might risk their reputations.
• A senior OFSTED manager has been persuaded to step into the Director vacancy in Bexley. A senior political source has said that this is mainly to ensure good OFSTED reports in future.
• A senior staff source is of the opinion that the deputy director who has survived several years of child neglect and calamity does so because she is a life long friend of the leader of Bexley council.

For more inside information may I suggest asking a Bexley opposition councillor what went on at the closed meeting on 5th November? Perhaps UKIP councillor Lynn Smith would be a good place to start. An independent mind might be more willing to spill the beans.

 

18 November (Part 1) - Crossrail activity ramps up

I promised the Twitterati that I would get down to Abbey Wood station by nine this morning but the dawn sunshine was replaced by nearly two hours of heavy rain. I do wish that Radio 4’s weather forecasters would look out of the window before spewing out their bilge. On the other hand, Bromley correspondents said it was dry and sunny there.

When the rain eased up I ran the gauntlet of Abbey Road which is now Belvedere’s premier Splash Park thanks to the abysmal standards accepted by Bexley council when they last messed around with it in 2009.

As I approached the station the sound of a pneumatic drill filled the air and I wondered if I had missed the demolition of the pedestrian ramps. However the sound came from nothing more exciting than the smashing of lumps of old concrete and the ramps were intact.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

CrossrailThere has however been an important development within the past 24 hours. The pedestrian controlled crossing is working. Zig zags are present but largely obscured by street clutter and dirt. When a bus disgorged its passengers all but one of them used the stairs.

The northern walkway is still blocked but the southern one is open which affords some new views of the station.

The puddle hop home took me past one of Lesnes Abbey’s new landmarks. A dismounted rubbish bin which has been wandering around the area for the past two months. Bexley council will notice it one day.

Note: The waste bin, which after its initial escape from its shackles, first took up residence at the nearest bus shelter but later took a liking to a position under the Lesnes Abbey footbridge, was evicted from its home within a few hours of making its photo debut here. Its 15 minutes of fame was its undoing.

 

17 November - Around Bexley’s favoured Town Center re

Bexley council. Not crooked enough
An occasional correspondent from Sidcup told me I should get over there because the road markings surrounding the new pedestrian crossings on the high street were of varying lengths. I looked up what the zig zag regulations were and found that they were not very stringent. Almost anything goes so long as each ‘zig’ zags at least four times. I hoped he wouldn’t mind that I didn’t go to Sidcup for what might be a false alarm and went to Bexleyheath instead. I’ve not found the time to get there for a month or more and I know that Ian Payne, the shopping boss, has been putting on a lot of entertainment.

XmasThere will be a Christmas event next Saturday and I won’t be able to go to that either. Sorry Ian, something that has been booked up for months.

According to Twitter the Christmas tree was delivered to Christchurch a couple of hours after I passed by.

Mayor Howard Marriner will give one of his two sentence speeches forty five minutes later in Market Square.


Zig zags Zig zagsHowever the main point of this short blog is to comment on the short zig zags at Asda’s corner that I was somewhat taken aback to find.

I am not sure whether that is one zig zag or two but it certainly isn’t four. But I suppose it is better than the confusion that reigns at the other end of the Broadway (Trinity Place) which doesn’t make any effort at all to conform to any regulation.


Listening to you, working for you. Fining you whenever we can
Townley RoadTownley Road (which runs right up to Bexleyheath Broadway) is to be resurfaced again and some of the residents are not happy.

There was a time when jobs like that were arranged to avoid inconvenience for residents but not now. I don’t think Bexley is alone.

This time they plan to cut off access to all the residents drives except at night. So if you have a part time job you may be able to leave if you get out early enough but you won’t be able to get home again.

When asked if they would give dispensation to park in a nearby road, Bexley council said “no, we’ll fine you like everyone else”.

The council’s notice may be read here.


Re: Er…
Sign SignSome Limey has Yanked out the badly spelled sign in Albion Road.


Tesco
Tesco TescoA couple of months ago a neighbour asked me if I thought we would ever see a Tesco superstore on the site of the old Civic Centre (their financial position being even worse than Bexley council’s) and my name not being Jack Cohen I took a leaf out of their book and dodged it.

A BiB reader posed the same question shortly afterwards but fortunately it was anonymous so I didn’t have to think of an answer.

Today there was absolutely no sign of any work being done on the Tesco site. Perhaps the contractor doesn’t work on Mondays.

I walked to the upper floor of the cinema car park hoping for a better view but was disappointed. Last time I took a camera in there I was spotted on CCTV and some council idiot blogged about it. Obscenely. Used councillor Craske’s phone line to do it. Please don’t do it again moron. Peter might get into real trouble this time.


Barker barking?
Honda HondaAcross the road from Tesco the Honda dealership has run out of fuel and been towed away. If you can read the public notice (click it) you’ll find that a Mr. William Barker wants to open a food store there. Does he know something about Tesco that we don’t?

I’m told that Mr. Barker acts on behalf of Lidl. That may be enough to scare Tesco away!


Market Square
Market Square Market SquareHaving read so much about all the exciting events held in the shadow of the clock tower that I’d missed I was disappointed to find it a bit of an untidy mess when I passed by around 2 p.m. today.

Maybe the two sheds are due to become Santa’s Grotto and Rudolph’s stable by the weekend. It’s amazing what a few fairy lights and glitter can do. Perhaps if Ian Payne borrows Alex Sawyer’s magic wand… Oh, just remembered, he hasn’t got one.


Market Square. Electrifying entertainment
Power PowerI get lots of reports about the unsatisfactory electrical supply in the square. Sure enough it had not improved since I first photographed it last April. Bexley council: protecting your children from nasty water borne bugs but happy to fry the little darlings.


Ad infinitum?
I heard from someone in receipt of Council Tax discount who had been asked if his circumstances had changed. “Tick Yes or No box and return in the enclosed postage paid envelope”. He ticked Yes and looked for the postage paid envelope. There wasn’t one but he sent off the form anyway.

Not long afterwards, he received another form. “We cannot process your form because you have ticked Yes. Please tick Yes or No box and return in the enclosed postage paid envelope.” Again there wasn’t one. This could go on for a very long time.

Southeastern. Wrong sort of driver
Regular train users in the north of the borough know that when Crossrail closes the line you get a Railway Replacement Bus to Plumstead and get a train from there. Yesterday a handful did just that, and everyone got off at Plumstead only to find there were no trains from there either. There was no service on the line all the way up to Deptford. You’d think the bus driver would have made an announcement but again he was probably trying to emulate the railway company. Announcements are just too much trouble.

The Word of God
I got a dinner invitation while at the police’s community meeting last Tuesday. While being lavishly wined and dined I was told, as if I didn’t know, that “all these public officials choose their words very carefully. The reality is very different”.

That message is reinforced by today’s News Shopper. Trust Thamesmead who were so keen to say they offered youth facilities at very low charges or even free of charge are kicking the 25 year old gym club out of their premises.

 

16 November (Part 3) - Abbey Wood residents can take a hike

If you hold any nostalgic affection for the ugly monstrosity which is the public walkway over the railway line at Abbey Wood you’d better get down there quick. The ramps are not for this world much longer.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

It’s ages since Crossrail sent out any information to local residents. The last one I have is dated Spring 2014. The whole communications operation seems to have gone to pot since Steve Lord (Communications Manager) left their employment, however a new leaflet showed up this week.

My interest in Crossrail does not go as deep as you may have imagined. It will halve the time to reach my daughter’s place near Farringdon where my old office has been knocked down to make way for the station. Photographing Crossrail draws visitors to BiB so more people get to learn that Bexley is a civic basket case; but most importantly to me, it is fascinating to think of the engineering problems it creates in and around Abbey Wood. Engineering must be in the blood; of five generations I am the only Knight who is not a highly qualified engineer. Two of them railway engineers.

Quite how a train service can be maintained throughout the operation I still fail to see. Driving a computer controlled tunnelling machine between the Northern and Central lines aided by three dimensional maps seems simple to me by comparison. Here in Abbey Wood it looks a bit too much like suck it and see with the goal dithering around in the distance, difficult to hit and not a microchip in sight.

We are just about to see Crossrail take a shot at the first of the really critical stages which affect the non-railway using public.

Crossrail leafletMy feeling that it would prove impossible to come up with practical and tolerable set of solutions looks to be all too true. When the ramps come down in a couple of weeks time there will be no reasonable alternative.

Having read the new leaflet, the reason for the extended works on the dual carriageway on Harrow Manorway becomes all too clear. It will become the cross railway footpath for buggy and wheelchair users.


Crossrail Crossrail If you are a wheelchair user or are pushing a screaming two year old in a buggy, the option of going up one slope and straight down on the other side disappears.

Those who can’t make the stairs and find themselves in Felixstowe Road must first head north almost to the BP petrol station on Overton Road and then walk the entire length of the viaduct to the roundabout at the foot of Knee Hill and then back via the lower end of Knee Hill and Wilton Road to the station.

It’s only a whisker under half a mile.

It will be like that for three years until the new station opens at the end of 2017.

For those who already have tickets, the back entrance to Abbey Wood station will remain open for most of the time but the lifts are fairly useless. Large wheelchairs get stuck and mums have been saying that double buggies cannot get in at all.
Map
TweetLocal residents have been generally enthusiastic about Crossrail up until now. The planned two way traffic in Wilton Road and the disruption in Gayton Road will no doubt wipe a few smiles from their faces.

I heard that there is to be another Crossrail meeting in the Knee Hill Community Centre on Tuesday but I cannot go and the only documented confirmation I can find is Teresa Pearce’s Tweet. Local residents have heard nothing. Come back Steve Lord.

Crossrail information leaflet. (8MB.)

 

16 November (Part 2) - The impression gained from watching webcasts. Not good

I long ago stopped keeping a store of blog info for days when news ran thin because occasionally stuff would pass its sell by date and its always nice to get news out before the News Shopper. Small minds and all that…

Following an eventful week, the next one may be quiet in which case it will provide a chance to get to Bexleyheath and Sidcup which have been neglected of late and where I am told there are things going on I should know about.

Later today I shall give news which is going to seriously upset some people living in the north of the borough but for now the only Bexley related stuff I can come up with is a message that came in overnight from a retired Bexley employee. Not former Finance Director Mike Ellsmore.


GoosesteppingHaving worked in Bexley for some years it is easy to see who are the ‘suck ups’ from their council questions and their behaviour on the webcam.

The FC seems to rely 'heavily' on Munur, Hunt, Camsey, Read, Bailey, Fuller, D’Amiral, Massey, Pallen, Downing, and Sawyer.

I bet these are lazy, incompetent, failures who have never amounted to anything in their own low level jobs but now hold the sword of Damocles over the rest of us.

(Shortened version.)


Very funny! Fat Controller (FC) and heavily. Geddit?

The message is not without an element of truth. Most of those named are obvious ‘creeps’ and at least one is a failed businessman. Interesting to see Gareth Bacon’s name absent. It couldn’t have gone down too well with the FC that he was a serious rival in the election for leader. Not sure why John Fuller is on the list. Seems harmless to me.

Well at least the webcasts are going down well with Bexley pensioners. Whether that twenty grand spent on entertaining, informing, boring whatever a handful of viewers would be better spent on giving tens of thousands of children a good soaking is something I will leave you to contemplate.

 

16 November (Part 1) - Greenwich and Crossrail. Obsessed with barriers

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail activity yesterday was disappointingly low key and the two workers I spoke to both confirmed that things are running seriously behind schedule. One said there would be no track realignments over this weekend and the following pictures are generally uninspiring.

Every local Crossrail reconnaissance must include a trip across the Eynsford Drive bridge which for those who do not know is a very wide distinctly hump backed affair (there used to be a level crossing on the site) providing zero visibility to the far side. I always walk to its summit so that I can see the approaching traffic on both sides before attempting cross it. Mad to do otherwise.

Greenwich council must be staffed by the same low grade incompetents that infest Bexley council for they have seen fit since my last visit nearly a month ago to install a barrier which forces pedestrians to cross where there is no line of sight to approaching traffic. Probably someone who did not run as fast as I did caused someone to swerve with the result to be seen in Photo 2 above. There is a big drop to a footpath below.

Well done The Rubbish Borough of Greenwich.

As already noted, there was nothing very exciting going on. All the photographs below apart from the first one (looking west from Bostall Manorway) were taken from or close to the Church Manorway footbridge. The disabled route across the line is still blocked.

One of the drilling devices shown in Photo 6 (fourth below) was active as I approached the Church Manorway bridge on foot and the pavement was shaking. I doubt the local householders are happy.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

The tracked crane was shifting sleepers from one heap I could not see to another equally invisible. The gate man confirmed it.

The major activity was also near invisible but the fifth and sixth photographs immediately above may give some indication of it. A large area had been laid with reinforcing rods presumably to be concreted over very soon. One can only guess it will form another part of the track bed but if so it looks to be unnecessarily wide and why first choose that location? It’s remote from the tunnel portal. Maybe it is where the line will provide access to the extensive new train storage facility (again I can only assume that is what it is) being built in Plumstead behind Belmarsh prison.

On past form someone more knowledgeable than I am will fill in the gaps.

All photographs taken between eleven thirty and midday 16th November 2014. Click to enlarge.

More on Crossrail later today.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

15 November (Part 2) - Saturday sundries

Crossrail
Plumstead To please the Crossrail enthusiasts I walked from Lesnes Abbey via Abbey Wood station to Plumstead station to see what Crossrail were up to. Nothing very exciting was the answer and the killjoys have gone out of their way to spoil the views with high solid fences and close spaced wire mesh. The few Perspex windows were so dirty that they provided no view at all.

There is supposed to be a Railway Replacement Bus from Plumstead at ten minute intervals. I waited 23 minutes without seeing one and eventually escorted a few day trippers to Lesnes Abbey on to the second 180 that passed by.

Presumably the bus companies are doing their best to emulate Southeastern. Cancellations and late running. I did wonder, rather too late, if a smart luxury coach, which briefly pulled into the kerb was in fact a railway bus. If it was, it bore no clear markings and no one got on.


Email
You have heard it all before but I am nearly two weeks behind with replying to email, but I do read them and most eventually get answers.

There is concern about Bexley council prying into private finances and suggestions it can’t be legal. I’d guess it is, the suggestion has not come from Mike Frizoni’s parking department. David Blunkett was first to erode civil liberties and snoop and another David has done little or nothing to roll back the impending police state. If you don’t like it vote for someone else.

From inside the Civic Centre came a message that staff are prohibited from accessing Bonkers. Nothing new there then. To be honest I prefer the regular hits from BBC, ITV and Sky News, TfL and the Houses of Parliament. Bexley council shows up occasionally too, so not everyone there has been barred.

Another message ended with the comment “the Tory party in Bexley knows that they will always have the majority of seats and no longer even pay lip service to our views”. So very true.

Someone else said that the cost of the six new paid Vice Chairman of three scrutiny committees was offset by the earlier decision to get rid of four scrutiny committees altogether in order to reduce the opportunities to check up on the blighters. But having sliced £30k. from the allowances bill there was absolutely no need to hand most of it back by creating new paid positions as compensation. It’s blatant feathering of their own nests. The original blog was edited to make that clearer.

An interesting email came from one of the guests who attend some meetings, especially scrutiny meetings. Part of it said…


I am more and more sick of the utter hypocrisy and deliberate or undeliberate corruption of these talking shops.


A very small extract for fear of identifying the author.

Twitter
I have found Twitter surprisingly useful for both gathering and disseminating news. I follow the accounts I know of run by local councillors. All the Labour and at least two UKIP, but only one Conservative. I have twice hit the Follow button for cabinet member Philip Read @PhilipRead1 but nothing has happened. It simply doesn’t register. I have no idea why. It doesn’t really matter as he posts little of any worth but I like to treat them all equally.

In the reverse direction I think all the local Labour and UKIP accounts follow @BonkersBexley but no Conservatives whatsoever. Maybe the highest profile Follower is the Scottish UKIP Member of the European Parliament, David Coburn although perhaps Teresa Pearce is the more useful one. Again no Tory MPs. They prefer to live in their bubble.

UKIP
The new Bexley UKIP website has come on by leaps and bounds in the past couple of weeks. A bit too gimmicky for my taste with its fancy page transitions and I find it hard to navigate without a mouse, but it all seems to work correctly and it certainly puts all the other local political sites into the shade. There is lots of interesting comment on it. I rather enjoyed their chairman’s CV.

 

15 November (Part 1) - No trains. No activity. Yet!

A tip off said that significant work would commence at Abbey Wood station from one o’clock this morning which wasn’t what Crossrail told me but I was taking no chances and was at the station soon after seven. The only orange jacket to be seen was the station cleaner removing last night’s beer cans and bottles.

The station staff said they had no idea what was going on, “they never tell us” but very kindly allowed me to roam the station. The house at the London end of the platform is half demolished behind a plastic shroud. It had been visibly slipping on its foundations, or maybe lack of them, for several months.

The hole in the ground shown yesterday has now been filled in (Photo 6) and unlike on Wednesday, all the dumb waiters (small lifts) appeared to be working.

The pedestrian crossing on the viaduct has been completed and the fencing has a man sized gap in it for the benefit of photographers. Unless the crossing was finished yesterday I failed to notice it when I drove past it in the dark late last Thursday evening.

The Abbey Wood station staff said about the Crossrail workers, “they won’t turn up until eight or nine o’clock” so several more visits look to be on the cards.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
Crossrail
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

All photographs taken between ten and thirty seven minutes past seven, 15th November 2014. Click to enlarge.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

14 November (Part 5) - An off peak return to Crossrail

Abbey Wood stationDuring the past week or two Lesnes Ward councillors and MP Teresa Pearce have been complaining that the lifts, or maybe it was just one, at Abbey Wood station weren’t working and without them it is a very long climb up and down for those carrying luggage or with crocked knees.

I’m not sure if they achieved anything, when I used the station two days ago at least one lift was out of order.

It’s not a new phenomenon, the opening day photographs show an elderly lady with a walking stick making her way into the station. Photos 2 and 3 show what happened next and after quite a long wait for the lift the lady gave up and came back towards the stairs.

I believe a wheelchair which proceeded her got stuck because it was too big to turn out of the lift on the upper level.

Abbey Wood station Abbey Wood stationThe North Kent line will be closed this weekend and once again Crossrail looks to being very unlucky with the weather.

I went to Abbey Wood’s Crossrail office on Wednesday to ask what structures might be coming down on Saturday and Sunday but I didn’t learn anything useful. Not the end terrace houses at each end of the up platform apparently even though one of them looks as though it might fall down at any moment.

Fromthemurkydepths has been told the walkways are coming down but I’ve not seen any notices and there is no alternative route across the railway line ready. Harrow Manorway is still the same big mess it has been for weeks with no visible progress towards completion of the pedestrian crossing.


Abbey Wood station Abbey Wood stationMr. Murky has also heard that the station building is coming down. That is more possible. As Photo 4 illustrates it is now well and truly boarded up.

Photo 5 shows a new big hole in the ground taken through the fine mesh of the new station footbridge. To do with drainage again?

Why are all my Abbey Wood photos taken into the sun?

I shall be getting myself down to Abbey Wood station as early as I can tomorrow.

Index to past Crossrail blogs.

 

14 November (Part 4) - Fibbers all

TweetWhat should we make of this? Earlier this afternoon Bexley council’s official Twitter account put out this deliberately misleading statement.

They have “no plans to close any libraries”. That’s right. They have no plans to close the Belvedere Splash Park, charge for parking at Hall Place or charge to collect your brown bin either.

All these things are proposals out for public consultation, probably the same as plans but not yet adopted as such. Some responders are apparently reassured. Goebbels would be proud.

Do you have to be a third rate liar to work for Bexley council? Bexley’s top comms man is John Ferry. It was likely him who put out the nonsense press release that a group of pensioners were so disruptive at a council meeting that the police had to kick them out. A story now comprehensively exposed as a bare faced council lie.

 

14 November (Part 3) - Bexley blooms again

RuxleyBexley council opted out of Bexley in Bloom earlier this year to save a few bob better spent on the £134 a week that tree in the Civic Centre foyer costs to maintain. For the few, not the many should be the council’s slogan, however the Ruxley Manor Garden Centre has ridden to the rescue. They have forked out what it takes to award the winner’s flower pot.

It would appear that councillor Alex Sawyer had a hand in this, anyone want to start a fan club?

I can see why Ruxley Manor may want to do it. It is the 30th largest garden centre in the country, perhaps it aspires to being 29th.

According to my map all their land is in the borough of Bromley and only their front gate may be in Bexley. Never mind, it can be something else that Bromley has taken over from impoverished Bexley.

 

14 November (Part 2) - Bexley police working with Bexley council and Trust Thamesmead

LogoI went to the community meeting in Yarnton Way, Thamesmead yesterday evening, only because political friends asked me to I must confess. The meeting was a reaction to the murder of Olamide Fasina in nearby Wolvercote Road on 14th October.

Bexley police must be congratulated on arranging it and the Baptist Minister Vic Lambert for providing his church accommodation free of charge. Vic has an amazing array of facilities down there, he hosts various pre-schools and his sound system puts Bexley council’s to shame.

Thamesmead, for the uninitiated, is not a welcoming place at night and while the Baptist church is, for me, only ten minutes away on foot I took the car. There is no way I would ever venture into Thamesmead on foot at night especially with £1,500’s worth of camera around my neck.

Last night I managed to mistakenly drive past the church and used the next roundabout to return. It being Thamesmead I had to brake hard to avoid someone driving round it the wrong way taking a short cut. I am fortunate in that my home is separated from Thamesmead by a railway line and south of it, it is an entirely different world.

Around 120 people were present including the mother of the murdered man. That number includes police officers from both boroughs (the Greenwich boundary is but a quarter of a mile away) and all the ward councillors for that area and the adjacent wards to the east and west - which means Greenwich.


MeetingTeresa Pearce MP was present as was James Cleverly, Bexley’s GLA member who told Elwyn Bryant and me that this blog was “well out of order”. Not Bexley council note, he is fully supportive of them.

On the top table was Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling, Bexley’s cabinet member for Community Safety, Alex Sawyer, and the Chief Executive of Trust Thamesmead, Mick Hayes. The Fire Service Commander Richard Welch was the able chairman.

I took no notes and this will be by no means a comprehensive account of proceedings but a few things were indelibly etched into my memory.

I felt sorry for Alex Sawyer. He was in a foreign land where the residents are only too well aware that all the old promises have been broken - and Alex has no money.

Five times Alex said “if I had a magic wand” and the problem is that he hasn’t. When away from council leader Teresa O’Neill’s icy stare he acts the decent well meaning bloke, and he probably is. It’s hard not to like him and when he promises to meet his opposite number in Greenwich you can be sure he will but Bexley council’s record in Thamesmead is not good.

When a resident took the floor and made the usual complaint that there is little for the youngsters to do Mr. Hayes (speaking for Peabody Trust) said that his organisation had provided The Link as a huge community facility costing millions and let it out at a very low price and often free but Bexley council had failed to deliver the promised activities. Mr. Hayes hoped they might do better next year.

When councillor Sawyer said that Bexley’s responsibility in Thamesmead did not go much beyond street lighting and refuse collection Teresa Pearce reminded him that 90% of Thamesmead East is owner occupier and residents there pay the same council tax as in Sidcup and deserve the same consideration.

Councillor Danny Hackett (if memory serves correctly) asked why there was no CCTV in Thamesmead (apart from what Peabody have in a few stairwells) and Alex Sawyer who was fond of telling us that he is the new boy said that there had been no discussions on the matter, at least not in the past four years. Danny might have asked why Bexley council could find money for CCTV in those well known crime hotspots, Bexley village and Crayford (Craske’s decision) but as it wasn’t a political meeting he didn’t.

Ayling SawyerMost questions were addressed to CS Ayling. Why is there money for high profile policing after a murder but once memories fade patrols go back to normal and you cannot get hold of anyone after five o’clock?

The Borough Commander laid it on the line. He had no more money than Alex Sawyer but he aimed to keep meetings such as this one going. He didn’t actually say that “Lessons have been learned” but he seemed to be well aware that things had gone badly wrong in the past. The extra patrols may carry on until next March at best.

When a lady said she was scared to go out at night because there is always a gang on a nearby corner high on drugs and the morning light would reveal used syringes and pools of blood, CS Ayling was unaware of the location. He is now. Within the lifetime of BiB one of Ayling’s predecessors was Stringing us along with the line that Thamesmead didn’t have a drug problem.

The general mood of the meeting was we’ve heard it all before but if you help us we will help you. On the other hand it was obvious that by the end of the meeting there were a lot more empty seats than at the beginning. Some of the most vocal residents sneaked out long before the end, perhaps disillusioned, but they missed some impressive young speakers who Alex and others wanted to see afterwards to offer practical help and to benefit from their ideas.

It was undoubtedly a good meeting with the best of intentions but on past performance momentum will be lost unless there are more murders. Sorry, harsh I know. It is a little like Bexley council refusing pedestrian crossings in Manor Road, Erith because not enough people have been injured or killed. One must fervently hope the Thamesmead/Greenwich thugs do not oblige.

TavyThere were two other good things that came out of the meeting. Mick Hayes (Peabody) said that Tavy Bridge had been a heap of rubble all year because Peabody had decided that the Gallions scheme was not good enough. This should please councillor Val Clark who said she was “gobsmacked” by its awfulness and then went on to vote for the scheme at the planning meeting. The only councillor to vote according to his convictions was former councillor Michael Slaughter and look what happened to him. No longer a councillor.

After the meeting Mr. Hayes told me that Peabody cancelled the Gallions scheme because it was “cheap” with the implication that it was nasty too. It didn’t meet Peabody’s standards but it was good enough for Bexley council, after all, it was only Thamesmead. Why would they care?

The other nice thing was Vic the Vicar of the Baptist church sat next to me for much of the meeting and I have an invitation to his house for dinner. Maybe he will let me know how he has managed to do such a spectacularly good job of equipping his church. Probably Thamesmead is not a heathen land after all.

 

14 November (Part 1) - Greenwich police move to stage 2 of their enquiries into Bexley’s lies

Peter Gussman and Elwyn Bryant were interviewed by Greenwich police at Marlowe House, Sidcup yesterday. They were the last of the complainants against councillor Cheryl Bacon and Co. and they returned as elated as I did. I am not surprised, all you have to do is relate the events exactly as they happened, present what evidence you have - Elwyn has his own correspondence with supportive councillors - contrast it with the statements that came from Bexley council and the truth jumps out at you. Experienced police officers should have no difficulty recognising when interviewees are telling the truth and all the indications are that they have done exactly that.

CommentElwyn handed in my DVD of former deputy leader Colin Campbell on BBC TV and there really isn't a single one of his assertions that get anywhere near the truth. He and whoever put him up to it ought to be on a charge too. The audio is provided within last Friday’s blog.

Pooling the comments made by the police to the four complainants at their interviews it would appear that seven more people are due to be called for interview. It may be more, they are just the names that have slipped out.

Whilst no complainant has any criticism of any of the police officers encountered so far, In all probability they will be leaned on just as Bexley police were during the Craske case. They admitted “political interference”, and as a precaution against that eventuality, Mick Barnbrook, Elwyn and I have taken advice on bringing a private criminal prosecution against Cheryl Bacon, Will Tuckley and Mrs. Lynn Tyler. We were very encouraged by what we heard.

News of the investigation into Bexley council’s repetitive lying has reached the News Shopper, albeit only in their on line readers’ comment section. Click the image for the relevant web page. On a note of pedantry, the deputy leader’s wife runs the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee, not the Standards Committee.

 

13 November (Part 3) - Lie detector tests failed. Will credit checks?

You might not think so when they vote to create generously paid new jobs for themselves but Bexley council is desperately short of money and they are looking to plug all the holes. One such hole is uncollected council tax and part of that is evasion and the single person discount of 25% is coming under scrutiny again.

Last time Bexley took a similar course was immediately after the last election and they thought it was a good idea to subject residents to lie detector tests. After their unreliability was proved, but not before a number of embarrassing cases reached the press, they gave up. This time they are going to subject all claimants to a credit reference agency check.

Bexley’s Press Release is here.

As a claimant myself should I be concerned? I pay for my daughter’s health insurance and while she has never lived in Bexley, the bills come here. I pay for three people’s internet connections and those bills are addressed to DA17 too and a friend has an account with a clothing retailer at my address so that the clothes come to me. Don’t ask why. Until not long ago her Daily Telegraph subscription was registered here too.

Like my internet arrangements, another friend has a mobile phone contract in her daughter’s name but registered at her Bexley address. The daughter lives elsewhere.

Will credit referencing us singletons produce any happier results than making them take lie detector tests?

 

13 November (Part 2) - It’s troughing time!

Before moving on to Agenda item 11 of last week’s council meeting it may be worth covering the final seconds of Item 10. Councillor Daniel Francis complained that he was denied the opportunity of commenting on staff recruitment at both the Resources and the People Scrutiny committees. Councillor Steven Hall said he would speak to councillor Francis after the meeting.

Councillor Danny Hackett complained that a CCTV contract was to be placed very soon but there was no opportunity to scrutinise it until well into 2015. Deputy council leader Gareth Bacon said with all the gravity you would expect of someone who takes £100,000 a year give or take from the public purse, that councillor Hackett was “talking cobblers”. He was unable to explain why. And so we moved on to the delicate subject of lining councillors’ pockets with gold.

Expenses; the final item on last week’s council meeting agenda are dear to most Bexley councillors’ hearts. Their new 2014/2015 rates were up for approval (discussion is unwanted) and the opportunity to vote the million pound bill down has to be hurriedly brushed aside.

Jack in the Box D’Amiral immediately sprang up to move that the new Expenses schedule was approved and Little Sir Echo Smith stood to eagerly agree but a new and recently invigorated Labour opposition had other ideas, they had another Motion up their sleeve.
Motion
Their point was that council leader Teresa O’Neill has attempted to please her cronies, many of whom wanted her replaced by Gareth Bacon, with an additional nice little earner. Six new paid positions in the shape of two vice chairmen for each Scrutiny Committee. Posts which Bexley council has not seen before but allow another £20,000 to flow into Tory pockets.

Tories may argue that the new allowances were paid for by the reduction in the number of scrutiny chairman following their attack on democracy after the last election but there was absolutely no need to hand the money out again. Everyone else suffers cuts, why not Conservative councillors?

The result of the vote was inevitable as you can see below.
Hands up
100% of Conservatives are in favour of more troughing. Funnily enough the sum is exactly the same as the cost of running the Belvedere Splash Park.

One of the slightly odd things about the meeting was that Chief Executive Will Tuckley wasn’t sitting on the top table in his wig. Maybe that is because he was forced to admit that he is not Bexley’s head of legal and his wig was nothing but fancy dress.

Here endeth reports on last week’s full council meeting.

 

13 November (Part 1) - You may find this as funny as I did!

While I plough through the last 20 minutes of my council meeting recording have some light relief from the everyday story of crooked folk which is Bexley is Bonkers. I found the following ‘Travelogues’ more than a little amusing but maybe because I know the places so well. A fresh look at an old town and a newer one.

Erith.
Thamesmead.

Both rather rude in places, but nothing you won’t hear in the streets around here.

 

12 November (Part 2) - All hands to the beer pumps

I have run out of time, there's another meeting to go to this evening, but I implied there would be a Part 2 by suffixing the Splash Park report with Part 1. I suppose I had better concoct something brief and easy to write.

The suggestions of paranoia and insanity from my councillor friend continue to provoke comment. I shall confine myself to mentioning just two recent emails. One reader said he came close to bursting out laughing at an important business meeting while sneaking a look at BiB on his tablet. Serves him right, shirking on the job ; but another message provided a welcome surprise.

It’s a bit of a tight rope act to balance upsetting Bexley council as much as possible while sticking firmly to the truth and not offending too many innocents along the way but it would appear that councillors do not have many friends so I generally get away with it.

BeerWhen I expressed surprise that Teresa O’Neill chose to feature the Bexley Brewery in her leader’s report my suspicious mind smelled a rat but some research later suggested I was wrong. Yesterday I received a message which would appear to confirm I was very wrong.

I opened it with some trepidation as it came from Bexley Breweries but I need not have worried. Mr. Bexley Brewery is a regular Bonkers reader and offered kind words of encouragement. I’d better not relay his exact words or he might be blacklisted by you know who.

I don’t dislike beer but as a coeliac I shouldn’t drink it because of the barley (traces of gluten), but I am going to drop into one of their resellers this evening and risk half a pint. Later I shall get myself down to the brewery with my widest angle lens to see if a suitable image for a new Bonker’s site banner can be found. I refuse all requests to carry adverts but interesting views from around the borough are not adverts are they?

For the record the monthly blog usually gets around 30,000 visitors a month, quite a lot of them repeat visits I am sure and over the years Bonkers has had visits from every country in the world bar Greenland and a few insignificant islands. No wonder Bexley council hates me. But I may help shift a few more beers.

Bexley Brewey.

 

12 November (Part 1) - All hands to the pumps

Splash Park Splash Park meetingThe people running the campaign to save the Belvedere Splash Park from destruction by a council that hasn’t given the borough any infrastructure improvements in its eight years in power have formed a committee. Those who would point to an outbreak of granite blocks across the borough should remember that they were funded by the GLA. Where things have improved elsewhere the funding has come from Housing Associations, English Heritage or the generosity of local companies such as Cory.

They did manage to afford some new CCTV cars though.

Bexley Conservatives are motivated only by money, not falling any further than their abysmal 24th place in the London council tax league is a priority second only to keeping their members out of jail for their crimes.

The meeting was held in an ill lit (for photography) room at the back of The Royal Standard in Nuxley Road and the room was comfortably full, a couple of dozen or so, not all of them parents.

Councillor Daniel Francis was there along with his election rival Amandeep Singh Bhogal. I assumed that Mr. Bhogal was there as a spy for the Conservatives but I think I misjudged him as he was clearly ‘on side’ and my brief chat with him could not have been more friendly. I doubt he knows who I am and what I do.

The usual range of protest action was discussed; petitions, engaging with newspapers and TV, deputations, letters, leaflet distribution etc. I don’t think street demos were mentioned!

Mr. Bhogal suggested an expert in water processing should be engaged to provide an independent report as the council seems to know nothing and care less, but the enemy is time and money. It is, taking Christmas out of the calendar, only six weeks to when the council closes its budget consultation. If minds are not changed before then the cause is lost - in my opinion.

Splash Park meeting A major obstacle is that Bexley council doesn’t really know what is going on. It has the vaguest of estimates on the cost of an entirely new facility (£350-£500k.) and has no idea of visitor numbers and no idea if ‘bugs’ in the water is a new phenomenon or not.

It doesn’t know how much a park renovation, upgrade or repair would cost because it hasn’t considered any of them. They were, probably still are, hell bent on closure. The only real figure we know is that last year, when the park was closed for half the time, the refreshment kiosk made a £9,000 profit.

On Facebook (also Twitter) you can read how children in infants’ schools are writing touching letters to the council pleading for a reprieve. I know I am a kill joy, but that will not impress a Bexley Conservative. They must stay in power at all costs or the near million pounds a year they pay themselves will evaporate. They exist on convincing the south of the borough that they are paying a low rate of council tax. They will not be shamed into submission by cute drawings of fountains.


Splash Park meeting Councillor Francis knows what he is up against; unless he can, to quote cabinet member Alex Sawyer, “find a magic wand and come up with a solution which is both revenue and capital neutral” there is no chance whatever of a free paddle in Belvedere next year. Fortunately Daniel has identified more than £200,000 of available and unallocated cash. What he has to do now is see if a council renowned for its neglect of the north will agree to spending it in Belvedere and stretch the amount to cover refurbishment costs for which he has estimates, the highest of which is £240,000. Let’s hope he has his figures right.

People were encouraged to complete Bexley’s consultation process but those who had already, told of its complexities which had driven them to give up after 30 minutes or so.

Some advocated ticking all the consultation ‘Neither agree nor disagree’ boxes and relying solely on the comment boxes. Another said the council should have been allocating funds for recreation equipment replacement. Playgrounds are often lavishly equipped and the equipment doesn’t last for ever, surely they must have a budget for that. Why should a wet playground be any different?

It’s a good thought which overlooks the fact that Bexley council has never been keen on the Splash Park. This is the third Conservative assault on it in eight years.

Some councillors seem determined to do it down. Last week David Leaf still sore from his defeat in Belvedere four years ago lectured us at length about the perils of E. coli as though it was a virulent plague like Ebola. The latest facts are said to be that E. coli traces were found four times in 2014, I may have said eight in my initial report. This is pure scare tactics. E. coli is all around you, in your gut, in the soil, in your food. We have known how to deal with it since Roman times. It may induce panic in the uninformed but if it was as bad as described and there were no simple remedies we would probably all be dead.

The fact must be faced that if by the end of January, closure gets as far as a firm proposal, 45 Conservative councillors will vote for its destruction. They must be persuaded otherwise by the end of this year. When faced with a vote there has only been one Conservative dissenter from the party line in the past five years - and he was drummed out of the party.

The new Splash Park committee may well understand this but I am not convinced that all their Facebook supporters recognise the fact that most of those 45 Conservative councillors will simply not care and a few will actively campaign for closure. You are not dealing with kindly old codgers anxious to please little children, they are hard nosed businessmen who would rather break the law than admit they could ever be wrong, or even short sighted. How much will they get via the Community Infrastructure Levy for every new house built in Bexley? About £600 isn’t it? (Between £40 and £60 per square metre). And how many new houses do they want to attract to Belvedere? Short termism. It’s spelt the end of this country since we gave up on aircraft and computers and no doubt other things in the 1960s.

 

11 November (Part 4) - Baa they said when asked to discuss the Splash Park and other matters

Agenda Item 9 (Financial Plans) was over and done with within seconds. It consisted only of the leader asking that they were approved, seconded by deputy leader Gareth Bacon without the assistance of their designated Jack in the Box, Graham D’Amiral, so the mayor moved on to Item 10.

Item 10 is Committee Chairmen’s reports which can be a bore if like me, but unlike most councillors, you’ve been to most of the meetings and have already acquired some idea of what has gone on.

The Jack in the Box sprung to attention to move that the reports were all adopted without discussion and little Sir Echo Brad Smith did likewise. However a few had already been previously queried (excepted is the jargon) by the opposition.

Cabinet member Don Massey stood up to object to the opposition being allowed to speak quoting Standing Order 28. It was some obscure point about not correctly identifying the excepted items. A lack of correct numerical punctuation or something equally trivial. He did so to cries of Hear Hear from the assembled Tory sheep. The mayor said it was “an interesting interpretation” of the rules. Councillor Don Massey fought back with another obscure but equally asinine argument.

Sharon MasseyThe mayor overruled the sheep but one of them, councillor Sharon Massey rose to her feet, after some prompting, to dip her oar in. The mayor was wrong!

The mayor put her, shorn of all her woolly thinking, firmly back in her pen and carried on regardless.

Councillor Seán Newman (Labour) commented on the Licensing Committee’s inconsistent judgments and was presumably referring to the incident at The Charlotte, but he was too discreet to say so.

Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour leader) said the Licensing Committee was feeling the loss of an experienced police officer for which he was reprimanded by Sharon Bossey for in effect criticising the newcomer. Whoops! She may have had a point.

Moving on to the report by James Hunt the People chairman, councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour) wanted to raise the subject of Belvedere’s Splash Park on behalf of “the thousands of people” who are against its closure. She asked for the pollution figures for previous years mentioned by cabinet member Sawyer at the previous Saturday’s protest meeting. “You cannot build a community without infrastructure” she said to some applause.

Lynn SmithCouncillor Chris Beazley (UKIP) tried to raise an issue relating to burglaries and the police only to be struck down by councillor John Waters, if I recognise his voice correctly from the audio recording, on some procedural matter. He was overruled by the mayor but a commotion broke out with various unidentified voices being raised.

The mayor calmed them and apologised to councillor Beazley and asked him to proceed. I think I am warming to this mayor.

However Chris was again warned about going off topic and the mayor offered advice. Friendly but not very helpful. Chris Beazley knew he was beaten by the system and “basically I have just been silenced again”. His colleague Lynn Smith said that Bexley council is a dictatorship. She is learning fast.

Councillor David Leaf stood up to lecture the multitude on the dangers of E. coli as if we didn’t know and a Labour voice, maybe it was Joe Ferreira, stood to say something but was greeted only by Tory groans. Leaf went on to berate Labour for building the Splash Park in the first place until pulled up and put in his place by the mayor.


Alex SawyerCabinet member Alex Sawyer rose to make some points hopefully more relevant to the present position. He referred to the protest meeting last Saturday and implied he did not find it a pleasant experience. He said he wasn’t invited to the meeting, he happened to find out about it and decided to go. The pollution figures he was asked for at the meeting and which councillor Langstead had just requested again are not yet available and may never be.

Sawyer said he did not enjoy not having any figures to give to angry residents at meetings although for the record I think he acquitted himself pretty well on that point in the circumstances. His position seemed reasonable enough to me and probably there are no figures for previous years. Not his fault.

The cabinet member repeated his assertion that the Splash Park was old technology which, he added, was on the way out when it was installed. The Splash Park protesters say it is still available new from the distributor. Maybe it is but I couldn’t find it on their website. Sawyer also repeated his ‘not good enough for my child so not good enough for yours’ story which is easy to say but without the figures for earlier years and no knowledge of why they are supposed to have got worse, may not mean a lot.

He summed up by saying that “if someone has a magic wand and can come up with a solution which is both revenue and capital neutral” he will look at it. “In an ideal world I would like to save the Splash Park but I have to work with what I have got and the budget of the council is the budget of the council”.

Call me a pessimist if you like but I recognise that as council code for the Splash Park being a goner.

People Scrutiny Committee chairman James Hunt summed up by saying that he had no idea what councillor Langstead had been talking about and the chairman brought the discussion to a welcome close before any more councillors made fools of themselves.

There are only 20 minutes left on the recording of this council meeting and tomorrow I shall check if there is anything worth reporting. Hopefully not.

Note: There is a Splash Park meeting in Belvedere tonight, The Royal Standard, Nuxley Road at 19:30. Maybe I will be given cause for optimism.

 

11 November (Part 3) - Confined to barracks

Mayor Mayor I’ve not been able to get out today so there are no photos of the Remembrance event in Bexleyheath which I may have been able to get to. Nobody told me about the similar event going on nearer home at the Thamesmead clock tower. The photo is I think by MP Teresa Pearce who I have emailed for permission to use but so far without reply. Maybe I will soon be in as much trouble with Labour as I seem to be with Conservatives.

Some may point out that the Thamesmead clock tower is across the border into Greenwich but the second photos shows both mayors were present. Good to see that things have moved on since councillor Peter Craske was at war with Greenwich over parking but it was a very strange handshake.

I’m stuck in because I made an Amazon order late on Sunday night. On Monday they said it had been despatched and overnight they said it would be delivered today, as yet it hasn’t been. I think it was better when they used the postman because at least you knew if it wasn’t delivered by ten o’clock it was safe to go out.


TweetA few minutes after I posted the previous blog, Tim MacFarlane put up a similar report on the News Shopper’s website with a different selection of quotes. Maybe worth taking a look to ensure a fully rounded view on the strange events of Bonfire Night.

By midday I had had two emails taking the mickey out of the monkey who sent me the overnight email. Not bad for that time of day.

I’ve since had two more, one who first landed on the Home page after Googling for ‘Bexley council’ when it happened to carry a Civic Centre banner thought that Bonkers was the official Bexley council website. My Bexley councillor friends are really going to love that!

And then there were more…

Note: Teresa later gave permission to use the photos and explained the delayed response by saying her phone battery had died. Get another one Teresa, isn’t that what expenses are for?

 

11 November (Part 2) - Every question dodged. Well done Teresa

You may be relieved to know that there is only one more council meeting of interest before the end of this month and only one more, two at a stretch, worth the effort before councillors close down for Christmas. If you think it seems like only yesterday they came back from their summer holidays, you’d not be far wrong, it’s six whole weeks.

So let’s see if I can gallop through the rest of last week’s council meeting before everyone but councillors loses interest in who may come under the microscope next.

It was seven minutes past nine when council leader Teresa O’Neill was called upon to make her report to council. She usually does so in a reasonable fashion and then takes, or rather dodges, questions. It wasn’t a lot different this time.

She opened by saying she welcomed the [closed] debate on Children’s Services initiated by the youthful and not very bright (I am being facetious, see yesterday’s blog) councillor Ogundayo and went on to say “it was important this subject was aired in public”. Those who doubt she could be that stupid may wish to listen to the end of the following audio clip

She went on to thank councillor Sybil Camsey for her support during the secret debate and to report that the director of OFSTED she had recruited didn’t think that Bexley was a bad place. (Insiders tell me that she was chosen in the hope of getting a better OFSTED rating rather than children being better served.)

Teresa O’Neill said she “aspired to a sustainable good [children’s] service”. She went on to speak briefly of the budget but nothing specific and certainly nothing worth mentioning here; she devoted most time to plugging the Bexley Brewery in Erith. A welcome new enterprise for sure but why the lengthy free advert in the chamber? There will be a Tory link or maybe Tories just can’t keep off the booze. Councillor Philip Read has already praised the beer on Twitter and he is probably an expert on the subject, so on his recommendation I shall get some in for Christmas.

Councillor BorellaCouncillor Stefano Borella said he had already sampled the beer but spent rather more time questioning the council’s yo-yoing policy on Thames crossings and congratulated them on following the Labour lead. He also objected to Page 34 of the leader’s report where she said the new Howbury Centre was “a fabulous space!”.

Stefano wished to remind members that the space had been “drastically reduced” and the sell off had provided £11 million to spend on the council’s new palace. Slade Green residents “had comprehensively rejected the scheme”. He lamented the fact that the leader’s report did not mention Bexley’s housing crisis or have anything to say about social housing.

On the subject of Children’s Services, councillor Borella reminded us that he has said before that the responsible cabinet member Katie Perrior should have resigned for her failures. Instead she was allowed to slink away at the last election.

Leader O’Neill was unrepentant, she reiterated that Howbury is now “fantastic”. Housing wasn’t mentioned because there is a consultation ongoing and on Children’s Services “I’ve said what I’ve had to say about it” and on the Thames crossings “we haven’t changed our position at all”. So that’s four good questions dodged in under a minute.


Councillor MasseyCouncillor Don Massey, the cabinet member for Thames crossings, protested that he was not following the Labour lead.

Conservative councillor John Wilkinson asked the leader what had happened to the petition he had presented on behalf of Bedonwell school in April 2011. The leader passed the buck to councillor Massey who at the last council meeting had argued belligerently with parent Chris Attard that there had been no complaints about pedestrian safety at the school before his.

I won’t rub Massey’s nose in it more than is necessary; councillor Massey accepted that he was wrong and apologised for picking an unjustified fight with a member of the public at the last council meeting which he broadcast to the world via the webcast.

Chris Attard had left the building after being kicked out like the rest of us an hour or so earlier.


Councillor ReadIn defence of the council’s mismanagement of Children’s Services, cabinet member Phil Read who has been charged with picking up the pieces left by his predecessor said that currently 57·4% of social workers posts are filled. The 12% churn of permanent staff has fallen to 2% he said, with a very thinly veiled criticism of his predecessor who must have spent too much time furthering her PR money making machine. He ran through his ideas to further improve matters and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity even though his past record doesn’t bode well.

In response to Read’s final retort that councillor Mabel Ogundayo spoke “claptrap” councillor Abena Oppong-Asare provided a four minute address during which she contrasted the poor performance of Bexley with all the neighbouring boroughs and complained about the “patronising Councillor Camsey”. She faced jeers led by councillor Linda ‘Biffa’ Bailey who used words rather than blows this time to make her point.

Fortunately for all, a patient but perhaps exasperated mayor then announced that the allotted time had expired but not before the leader chipped in that she agreed that Bexley council “was not good enough”.

Note. There are no photos of councillor Oppong-Asare because at no time was I able to see her, such is the poor design of the chamber, and there are no large photos of the others because I sometimes failed to hold the camera steady enough; and I've not been on the Bexley Brew yet, honest!

 

11 November (Part 1) - Who’s bitter?

Someone I have known for more than half my life said to me yesterday that she finds it immensely amusing (or something like that) that someone who has always been a staunch Conservative supporter - she was once the union representative in a large factory, but a right leaning one - is prepared to spend so much time exposing disreputable Tories at Bexley council.

I explained that it is not Conservatives who I set out to target but just the disreputable, the dishonest and the self-serving. It just happens that in Bexley they all seem to be Conservatives and how can you overlook attempts to have you put in jail just for being critical of them?

Former Labour Leader Chris Ball once said to me when I bumped into him in the Furze Wren pub that he was under no illusions I wouldn’t be chasing him if I saw the opportunity, and he was right. His 40% tax rise still rankles.

Both opposition parties have come under notice since the last election. Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said it was just part of modern political life but I’m not so sure UKIP councillor Lynn Smith is so broad shouldered.

When asked by the aforesaid friend why I continued I said it had nothing to do with keeping readers amused and informed and I didn’t really care about the number of readers or the number of Twitter followers. It might not even matter too much if the only readers were Bexley Conservatives because I know it annoys the hell out of them and they think the blog is read by thousands. (†)

You can see that from the sort of messages I get from them. This one arrived overnight…


I wonder whether you listened to the piece on the Radio 4 Today programme last week about online commentators. It was said they fell within 5 categories

1. The Pointless - morons, illiterates, ranters and blind stators of the obvious
2. Pompous Pontificators, blogging types who think the world is hanging on their every word
3. Paranoids
4. Hobbyist Obsessives whose whole purpose in life is to explain their world to people, and to correct perceived wrongs or misconceptions;
5. The Green Ink brigade, conspiracy theorists, nutcases.

I wonder where you would place yourself!


To answer the question I suppose it could be 4. except that I don’t think I do a lot of telling Bexley council what they should do and I’m not sure that 5. fits either though I suppose the inner coterie of Bexley council must conspire together or we wouldn’t always see absolutely consistent 100% votes for their leader. Actually I still enjoy writing the code that keeps the site going without resorting to some package like Wordpress; which probably does make me a bit weird.

† It is. All of them believing I am bitter and twisted presumably.

 

10 November (Part 2) - Bexley council shows it is frightened of criticism

If you think we are finished with last week’s council meeting I am going to have to disappoint you; it was a three hour meeting and we are only 45 minutes into it.

Agenda item 7 was a Motion put by councillor Mabel Ogundayo…
Motion

O'NeillThe Conservatives didn’t like that and their newly appointed useful idiot Graham D’Amiral stood up. I don’t know what his official title is but he now stands up at frequent intervals proposing anything that might be required. You can almost see the string being pulled by the big blue chief. Until this year D’Amiral said almost nothing, perhaps this new Jack in the Box job will be the pinnacle of his political career. One can but hope.

The box automaton moved that the press and public be removed in case Labour’s “rebuke” struck a few nerves. The proposal was seconded by another newly appointed numbskull called Brad Smith whose job it is to second all proposals like a mindless robot, so just the man for the job.

The leader of the opposition councillor Deadman said there was no intention to name anyone but every Tory must have thought he was as untruthful as they are because all their hands went up against him. Even those of decent ones on the grounds that they “would be shot at dawn for dissent”.

So out we all trooped where I was able to engage the News Shopper reporter in a conversation on the difficulties of running a newspaper in an internet age and generally lending an ear to all the conversations going on around me. I believe it was former councillor Ray Sams who hoped that the next time that UKIP leader Nigel Farage took a flight in a light aeroplane it would crash with more final results than last time. Whether he knew the man he was talking to is on the UKIP Bexley Branch Committee I do not know. Definitely the nasty party, Tories that is, not UKIP obviously!


TweetTo find out what may have happened during yet another Closed Session I had to turn to Twitter and I provided a selection of Tweets last Thursday, but there were more.

The gist of things is that Bexley Tories saw no public and no webcams as an excuse to revert to type, i.e. personal insults and false claims.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo came in for a particularly vicious attack on account of her youth and I emailed her to ask if the impression I had gained was anything near correct.

• You were told you weren’t qualified to make any comment about Bexley’s failures because you are a new councillor and too young.
• Your educational standards were brought into question.
• You were ignorant because you hadn’t recognised Bexley’s improvements from absolutely abysmal to merely being worst in London.

Councillor Ogundayo told me that was basically correct adding that she had lived in the borough since she was a very young girl and had attended every child related council meeting to learn as much as she could on the subject.

O'NeillMaybe she won’t thank me for passing the information on but it was the past her sell by date councillor Sybil Camsey who is envious of Mabel’s youth and it was councillor James Hunt who thought the motion must have come from someone else and Mabel was not bright enough to have thought of it and it was cabinet member Philip Read who had deluded himself to the extent that he thinks that Bexley council is doing OK now.

Camsey has long struck me as a nasty piece of work and must have spent too much time in the presence of fellow Brampton ward councillor Teresa O’Neill. Read’s similar reputation is well known whilst I have always been a fence sitter where James Hunt is concerned. Thanks Mabel for helping to make up my mind.

I’m not sure how long we were shut out of the meeting, somewhere between 35 and 45 minutes is my best estimate and when I was allowed back in the public presence had fallen from around ten to four. Probably the lonely webcast viewer will have given up too. What a fiasco.

 

10 November (Part 1) - You’ve been had on several levels

At last week’s council meeting councillor Cafer Munur asked about an objection to Bexley’s 2013/14 accounts. There were similar comments at the last Audit Committee meeting. I think the time has come to admit that the objector is me and A.N. Other.

There are legal restrictions on what I have been allowed to say and I’ve taken the easy option until now and said nothing but I would rather you were kept in the picture as much as possible.

I met A.N. Other when the No to Mob were in town a few years ago and he sought my assistance in challenging Bromley’s 2012/13 accounts. I found him a Bromley resident prepared to assist because Mr. Other doesn’t live in S.E. London and therefore cannot be an objector in either Bromley or Bexley. In Bexley I am the objector and he is the brains.
NotoMob
Bromley’s accounts for the financial year before last are still not signed off by the auditor, not up to European Union standards but disgraceful enough and Bromley residents are still blissfully unaware of it.

Put simply, Bromley council’s contract with their parking contractor includes incentives to issue more tickets.

The question was, is Bexley up to the same tricks, and the answer is a most definite yes. I have discovered how much NSL pockets for every ticket issued beyond a certain threshold and it is a lot of money. Bexley council wasn’t silly enough to put the figure in the contract which someone may look at, they have the real contract and what could be described as a forgery. Mr. O. has seen both. Bexley’s legal eagles appear to have been duped and are now running around, if not like headless chickens at least with a lot of egg on their faces.

FrizoniAs far as I can judge, the Finance Department knew nothing of these arrangements, they just banked the proceeds of an illegal contract. I really cannot imagine the recently retired Director of Finance, Mr. Ellsmore, going along with anything like that and all the indications are that it came as a total surprise to him when he found out. I wouldn’t cast parking supremo Mike Frizoni in the same mould, I could believe anything of him. Look out for an early retirement and a Golden Goodbye before too long.

That brief summary of the status quo is about as far as I dare go at the moment but the auditors’ fee that worries councillor Munur should be the least of his concerns. Bexley council fleeced £5,892,380 from you in the last financial year and the case may yet go to court for a judgment to be made on who it belongs to.

The sum equates to 6% on council tax. You do not need a long memory to recall that Bexley Conservatives won the May election on the back of their dishonest claim to have frozen council tax at close to the lowest level in London when in fact Bexley is nowhere near being a top performer. Their trump card was that Labour had raised tax by 40% in four years, but then Labour wasn’t benefitting from illegally obtained funds.


Will TuckleyWhilst it could be argued that Bexley’s Legal and Finance Departments are behaving reasonably responsibly in the face of this behind the scenes criminality there are signs that may not continue for much longer. Teresa O’Neill and her cronies have belatedly woken up to what A.N. Other and I have done and there are indications of them sticking a political oar into the matter.

Another £6 million on top of the ten they are struggling to find this year would be a calamity; but one of their own making. A council built on lies and dishonesty will eventually be undone. We already have a councillor’s and the Chief Executive and his Legal Team Manager’s dishonesty under vigorous investigation by Greenwich police and perhaps the parking team will face a similar ignominious fate.

Some will say that to have put Bexley council in such straits is a step too far but as councillor Dannny Hackett said, "You can’t put a price on democracy". Deputy leader Gareth Bacon replied to Danny’s request for more accountability by saying it would be “a nonsense” which neatly sums up his council’s philosophy.

I hope that council leader Teresa O’Neill recognises that marching up to Arnsberg Way in March 2011 to ask her obedient friends to arrest me for criticising her council was a very bad mistake. There will be no let up until she goes.

Note: Bexley has some shady deals going with its bailiffs too. Same sort of stuff. More on that another day.

 

9 November (Part 2) - Remembrance

Today I had intended to report last Wednesday’s farce when Bexley council was so ashamed of their record on child care that they refused to allow the public to hear the opposition motion on the subject.

It was a public meeting but the useful idiot who is councillor Graham D’Amiral proposed a motion to kick the public out. Presumably they can do that any time they think the webcast might be a source of embarrassment.

However Elwyn Bryant had mentioned he was going to attend the service at the Bexley war memorial this morning which is just a few yards from his house and the idea of a few hours not bashing a keyboard was suddenly very attractive.

I didn't actually see anything and apart from the hymn singing didn’t hear anything because Bexley council would not allow the crowd to spread itself across the road without payment of a fat fee. Hence the crush on both sides of the road.

Remembrance Remembrance Remembrance RemembranceRemembrance Services seem to have become ever more popular as time goes by and a very high proportion of the passengers in the cars that Bexley council refused to stop were wearing poppies. So was I, I had to buy another after losing the first three, a record total for me.

If Bexley councillors have turned out in force anywhere it certainly wasn’t in Bexley this year but councillor Colin Tandy and his wife very graciously posed for a photograph. Sorry about the girl growing out of his wife’s hat but it was probably quite cheeky enough to ask for the photograph without making them stand elsewhere.

I see that Mick Barnbrook’s poppy has fallen off too. He had one when we left Elwyn’s house but it has gone to join mine in a gutter somewhere.

Note: A councilor has emailed me about this blog to complain that it is “carping”. Is it? He mentions that the big event was in Crayford this year. Elwyn who always attends events such as this had told me it wasn’t Bexley’s turn this year. Tomorrow (Monday) I shall give the councillor something to really carp about.

 

9 November (Part 1) - Wicked beyond belief

It’s no great secret that Bexley council has made one almighty mess of child protection. Children in hospital with dozens of injuries, another left dying of rickets; reports from doctors and teachers ignored or lost or put on one side because it was the Christmas party season. No one at the top sacked of course and Serious Case Reviews written by carefully selected friends. It’s no wonder Bexley council can’t keep its social workers. Worst statistics in London for vacancies and the word has spread to the extent that Bexley has to go to Ireland to see if they can find anyone willing to risk their reputation here.

Having read quite widely of the failures of social workers across the UK and how parents have sought refuge in Ireland because of the inhumane treatment meted out in this country I believe it may be a good idea to recruit the Irish, but I think they will be in for a shock if they are persuaded to come here.

With so many children dying under their noses some social workers are interested in nothing but protecting their backsides and families are being wrecked as a result.

ThamesmeadEvery time I venture into Thamesmead I look up the address on a map, make my way there and then find I cannot get to the right front door because of an impenetrable maze of drab and depressing overhead walkways. Which is why I was late for an appointment there last week.

Once through the front door everything was different. Clean, tidy and well decorated. Do not judge the inside from its exterior.

The lady of the house had had her only child snatched by Bexley council and was distraught. All she had left were photographs of a happy smiling child.

The mother showed me evidence of her abuse by the father of her child (who has gone) amongst which was a file of papers detailing harassment on a massive scale. The poor woman and some of her associates had been subjected to the most appalling tirades and assaults on their morals couched in the most appalling language you can imagine.

A few days ago around 25 policeman descended on a nearby address because a man was harassing someone but that was just across the borough border. So what did Bexley police do when presented with a file of evidence by an intelligent and articulate young woman? Nothing!

Well not quite nothing, they passed her report to Bexley council who took themselves to Thamesmead, made snide comments about the state of the house and… well I can’t go on for fear of identifying the victim, but it is all disgusting stuff believe me.

Stony heartsSuffice to say that the usual Bexley suspects are alleged to have lied in court and another child has been left without its mother and its generous selection of favourite toys that remain in the house as its memorial.

Bexley council has gone into lock down mode and refuses to release any documents that might justify its decision. I wouldn’t expect any compassion from cabinet member Philip Read but I wonder if scrutiny chairman James Hunt knows what goes on on his patch? Does his scrutiny role extend beyond chairing a meeting at £2,200 a throw or does he sometimes work for his money?

When I am persuaded to visit readers in their homes I do so with some trepidation; the fact is that some people may not be looking at their problem rationally and I begin to wish I wasn’t there. In this case I planned a meeting in a public place but there was too much evidence to see to make that practical. Fortunately all my fears proved to be unfounded.

I have made some suggestions on where we can go next with this case and if anyone out there has any ideas they would be most welcome. What is probably needed is a good barrister but where do you get one of those without money?

There are some very stony hearts at Bexley council.

 

8 November (Part 2) - Quiet but effective?

Bexley TimesIf I exclude a couple of the recently appointed cabinet members who have yet to make their mark, there is only one name from past or present cabinets which has not received a well deserved kicking in these pages.

That name is John Fuller. I don’t think I have ever spoken to him beyond a mutual nodding acknowledgment but I do not recall him ever wasting time at council meetings or political point scoring and certainly he’s been free of the rudeness which some of his colleagues have honed to perfection.

How does he manage to hold a position under a leader such as Teresa O’Neill, rarely short of a bitchy put down for opponents?


FullerIt’s true that his department has cut some services due to budget cuts and the distance to school measurement system was changed to disadvantage some parents, but to annoy almost no one and deliver an apparently decent set of statistics is something it would be impossible to say about any other long term cabinet member.

Perhaps there is a direct correlation between a councillor’s nastiness factor and the performance of his department.

I have belatedly realised that I have only taken photographs of cabinet members making exhibitions of themselves so I am going to have to nick one of John Fuller from somewhere.

The text insert comes from yesterday’a Bexley Times report.

 

8 November (Part 1) - Bexley’s first rule. Never ever answer a serious question

The fireworks at the beginning of the November 5th council meeting lost a little of their sparkle during the remainder of the questions session but they still managed to go out with a bang.

ElwynWhilst Mick Barnbrook was complaining about the fix that was Bexley’s Serious Case Review into the death of a child that Bexley council forgot about, mayor Marriner ruled that the names of council officers must not be mentioned in public questions. Stand by for a revision to their Constitution. This left Mr. Bryant whose question was due next in a difficult position. His main question made reference to the council’s FOI response that 49 complaints had been made about councillors and no public complaint was upheld. He asked Teresa O’Neill if she thought her Code of Conduct Committee and its procedures were fit for purpose.

The answer to that was always obvious, after all she had appointed an acknowledged liar to be chairman of the Standards Board and she was well pleased with herself for doing so. The process was “robust” she said.

Mr. Bryant’s supplementary question could have done with a few full stops but this is what it was going to be…


As a prime example of the serious failings of Bexley council's Code of Conduct procedures, despite four complaints from members of the public, together with supporting evidence from four councillors and the clerk of the meeting, all of whom were present at a Public Realm Meeting held on 19th June 2013 chaired by councillor Cheryl Bacon, she was deemed not to have unlawfully taken the meeting into closed session although nobody at the meeting supported councillor Bacon's account of what took place.

This has led to serious allegations of Misconduct in Public Office and Perverting the Course of Justice being made against the Chief Executive, Will Tuckley, councillor Cheryl Bacon and two other Bexley council employees, which are currently being investigated by Greenwich Police. Bearing this in mind, would the Leader agree that her decision to choose councillor Bacon as chair of the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee may have been a serious error of judgment?


Because of the mayor's new rule Mr. Bryant was only able to put the last sentence of his question to the council leader. The arrogant one replied that she “did not believe that to be the case”. Obviously she could not be privy to the off the record comments the police made to me the following day.

DunfordNext up was Mr. John Dunford who has been a Ukip candidate at several elections all the way back to 2006. He wanted to know why Bexley council had removed all reference to him from the election results pages of Bexley’s website.

Deputy council leader Gareth Bacon said he didn’t know that the council website carried election results but having rapidly brought himself up to the level of knowledge expected of a deputy leader he said the problem was due to a software error…

IF result$ =INSTR$("UKIP") THEN result$=" "

…and it had been fixed.

Mr. Dunford said it hadn’t because he had looked and Bacon said he had looked later and it was. I confess I’ve not had time to check. Cock up or conspiracy I don’t know. Normally I would say cock up but this being Bexley council, nothing can be ruled out.

After exactly 15 minutes public question time came to an end and councillors were allowed the remaining 15 minutes (question time total is restricted to 30 minutes) to ask their 69 questions.

Conservative councillor Cafer Munur wanted to know how much it costs to answer FOIs and the likely cost of an objection to the accounts. Gareth Bacon said that answering FOIs cost £76,000 per annum in direct costs and some additional staff time. The second question was not so easily answered as there have been no previous objections since 2010. In essence he didn’t know.

Labour councillor Danny Hackett said that there should be no attempt to put a price on democracy and if the Conservative administration was more open and accountable there would be fewer questions and objections and more money to spend on things like the Belvedere Splash Park. Councillor Bacon said “that is a complete nonsense”.

I have no up to date information on the objection to Bexley’s accounts. It has been suggested that Bexley has entered an illegal contract and the Audit Committee heard that audit fees alone might be upwards of £60,000 and putting right the wrongs inflicted would be on top of that. Councillor Hackett’s reference to the Splash Park looks to be anything but nonsense to me.

Councillors When councillor Rob Leitch stood up to ask how many looked after children attended an awards ceremony which cabinet member Read could have told him any time, the words “pathetic crawler” flashed across my mind, but I am not going to mention that because he seems to be quite a pleasant young chap who I suppose has got to swallow his pride if he is ever to climb the Conservatives’ greasy pole. Goodness knows what the answer was. Who cares? Ok, I suppose you should be told so I have checked the tape and Read took 117 seconds to say “83”. Rob Leitch and Read then wasted another 86 seconds on a mutual back slapping session.

And so the remaining time was whittled away with poor or non-existent answers and time wasting like the unscheduled question from councillor Christine Catterall until it was time for UKIP councillor Chris Beazley’s turn with just a minute to go. Would he be allowed to speak about the Romanian gangs which Borough Commander Peter Ayling has told the council several times have put a blot on his burglary statistics? No of course not.

With his eye on the clock former policeman councillor Alan Downing decided another jab in the eye was called for. He stood to deliver an irrelevant puff piece about the third consecutive Bexley Borough Commander to come under investigation for Perverting the Course of Justice, to howls of mirth from someone far from me and out of sight.

TweetUkip councillor Lynn Smith was quite rightly affronted by the way Bexley Tories usurp and manipulate democracy but it’s the way thing are in this rotten borough. Good on her for speaking her mind, it is about time someone other than a few pensioners did so.

It’s easy to imagine Bexley’s clowns gathering in the bar afterwards to congratulate Downing on his magnificent contribution to the death of democracy.

I was later informed that while Lynn and Mick Barnrook were both out of the chamber for a short while he offered her words of encouragement but she was not pleased with him because of the comment on BiB that maybe Blackfen voters should have put their mark against Mick’s name and not hers.

Perhaps this is another opportunity to say that this blog is not Mick’s, I started it more than a year before I met him and whilst he might once in a while phone up to suggest things, he has never yet attempted to write a single word of it nor has he ever complained when I ignore him. Mick Barnbrook is innocent, OK?

 

7 November (Part 3) - Praying for them didn’t help, councillors still smear residents

CouncilWednesday’s council meeting went on for three whole hours, but note I haven’t said dragged on, because it was rather fun in much the same way that a visit to the Chimp House at a zoo or a circus can be fun.

Bexley councillors, or to be more precise, Conservative councillors, put on a pretty horrendous show of grandstanding, dodging questions and being very nasty to the Labour members and whenever they could, belittling the Ukippers.

However I am first going to stray into dangerous territory. I was born into a church going family and not being a natural rebel I took that life on board and accepted it. I have no objections whatever to the mayor inviting his appointed chaplain Joe Hogarth to council meetings to pray for councillors; by God they need it.

However on Wednesday the Reverend Hogarth tried to turn the meeting into a Christian church service. Isn’t asking everyone to recite The Lord’s Prayer going way way over the top? Surely at a public council meeting where people from every background and creed should feel comfortable and welcome, it is wrong on far too many levels? It has always been my understanding that The Lord’s Prayer is a Christian message. Didn't both Matthew and Luke record it in their gospels?

A lot of people don’t think we should have prayers before council meetings at all; I don’t hold strong views either way but in my opinion it should not become a quasi-church service and should remain free of denominational bias. In any event a chaplain incapable of finding suitable words for the occasion and who falls back on The Lord’s Prayer must be failing in his job.

BarnbrookThere were only three public questions from Bexley’s 280,000 souls and all of them came from people who at one time or another had stood in elections in Bexley. First was Mick Barnbrook who, following the depraved goings on in Rotherham and elsewhere, wanted to be sure we were clear of such problems here in Bexley. “How many complaints have been received in the last four years and how many have been referred to the Metropolitan Police for criminal investigation?”

The cabinet member for Children’s Services gave a fairly fulsome answer although as Mick couldn’t hear what councillor Read was saying (he confirmed that to me later) it was impossible for him to formulate a good supplementary question on the hoof, so he had prepared one earlier.

After a quick reminder of the death of Rhys Lawrie in Erith, a young boy known to but inadequately safeguarded by Bexley council under the deputy directorship of Sheila Murphy, Mr. Barnbrook asked…


Does the Cabinet Member agree that the choice of Mr. Paterson in these circumstances was a bad error of judgment and on that basis, bearing in mind the criticism heaped on Bexley Children's Care Services in recent years, he should ask the Council to conduct another Serious Case Review under a different leadership into the untimely death of Rhys Lawrie in order to protect the integrity and independence of any such review?


Mr. Patterson had authored the Serious Case Review following Rhys Lawrie’s death and probably you don’t remember but following a tip off from within Bexley council I looked into Mr. Patterson’s background and found that he had been a Bexley council employee until not long before his selection to write the review. The blog of 19th November last year refers. It would be entirely typical of Bexley council that when they have failed a child so emphatically that they should pull a stunt like that.

The same informant was of the opinion that the Bexley deputy director retains her job because she is on particularly good terms with the council leader. I have no idea whether that is true or not but the informant provided his reasons for so thinking. If it proves nothing else, it demonstrates that back stabbing is alive and well at Bexley council.

Anyway back to the question; councillor Philip Read was most indignant.

Smeared?“I am not going to get involved in discussing the smear that Mr. Barnbrook has just made against one of our officers, what I will say is that no I don’t agree with him. The particular incident of which he is referring about was investigated, somebody was prosecuted and somebody was found guilty of that murder and more than that I am not going to say.”

Having accused Mr. Barnbrook of smear tactics Philip Read who knows a thing or two about smearing continued by smearing Mr. Barnbrook. “Specially not to someone who has stood up at a public meeting on a platform with someone called Nick Griffin and said how honoured he was to be on that public platform with him”.

How Mick Barnbrook was supposed to have smeared Mrs. Murphy I do not know, perhaps it is only in the minds of guilty parties. If Mick was smearing anyone it was Rory Patterson and whoever appointed him. Maybe the previous occupant of Philip Read’s position who was so keen to make an exit last May.

It’s a good job that Mick Barnbrook didn’t hear what Read said or he may have been treated to more words from him.

Mick knows it was a mistake to join the BNP thinking he could clean it up but it was the foremost anti-Europe party at the time, its principal attraction, and it wasn’t all that long before Mick reported Nick Griffin to the police along with several MPs, some of whom spent time behind bars as a result.

While Mick Barnbrook was the party’s Law and Order Spokesman he called for a Public Inquiry into the grooming of children in Rotherham and whilst the mainstream media would rather it was forgotten about, Nick Griffin was prosecuted for racial hatred after voicing his concerns about Pakistani gangs abusing girls. The police force that prosecuted him were as we now know otherwise engaged in turning a blind eye.

According to the BBC’s report at the time, the then chancellor Gordon Brown thought that Griffin’s acquittal for speaking about what is now known to be Gordon’s party’s shame merited a tightening of the law - so that they could get Griffin next time presumably.

Mick Barnbrook is concerned about child welfare and spends a great deal of time and money nurturing a young black boy with behavioural problems. Councillor Philip Read is more interested in protecting a council officer than giving an opinion on a Serious Case Review of dubious merit.

As has been reported before, Mick Barnbrook was sports mentor to Stephen Lawrence and was involved in family support following his murder. In 1997 he was co-opted by the Bexley Police Commander’s father to assist him in a Lawrence related enquiry. Mick may have mistakenly joined the BNP but he was drummed out of it for campaigning against the corruption he found there. Personally I’d feel very uncomfortable if I had ever been tempted into BNP membership even if I had campaigned for children’s rights from within but I couldn’t live with the thought that I might have failed in my job to the extent that children had died. Maybe that is why people like Read are so touchy on the subject.

Mick has already asked Bexley council under FOI for their standing order which allows a councillor to refuse to answer a resident’s question on the grounds that he was once a member of a legally constituted political party that Read doesn’t like. Read will be lucky to escape a formal complaint too. Presumably if one is made the lying chairman of the Standards Committee will Forgive Him His Trespasses and Deliver Him From The Evil That Is Mick Barnbrook.

Having gone off on that tangent there is no space or time left today for the remainder of council question time. If I can drag myself away from various chores tomorrow there may be more Chapter and Verse on questions both planted and genuine soon.

Note: Mr. Barnbrook’s supplementary question quoted above is taken from his pre-prepared note and may not be exactly as it was delivered. Any differences will be insignificant.

 

7 November (Part 2) - Bexley councillor on LBC radio

BeazleyI once bought a very expensive digital (DAB) radio but the sound quality of DAB broadcasts - 48 to 128 kilobits per second MP2 - was so objectionable that I gave up serious radio listening. I have a portable FM set which I bought for my father, and he has been dead 30 years, indoors glued to BBC Radio 4 but in the car I listen to LBC, at least until some insane caller is given too much air time, when it goes over to R4 again.

As it was peeing down early this morning I used the car to get to the newsagents and Nick Ferrari was interesting enough for me to retune the old FM set to LBC when I got home.

Just before eight thirty up popped Bexley councillor Chris Beazley and somehow the subject of Bexley’s Romanian burglars cropped up. Ferrari asked how he knew the criminals were Romanian and under the pressure of being on air Chris, I felt, could have made a better job of answering the question.

What he should have said is that he knows because at three consecutive People scrutiny meetings the borough police commander or his deputy made it very clear that Romanians were responsible for his spike in burglary statistics.

But well done Chris, at least one councillor is happy to tear up the old traditions and stick his head above the parapet.

 

7 November (Part 1) - The net closes on another liar

CampbellThe last sheet in the pile of paper I left with the police yesterday I did not intend to be there and I put it down without comment explaining only that it related to Colin Campbell’s infamous TV appearance in July last year. It was the first the officer had heard of that so I explained the link to the case at hand. He was more than a little interested so when I got home I dug out the video file and made a DVD from it. A copy is on its way to Plumstead Police Station.

I am not exaggerating when I say that not one word of what the former deputy leader broadcast on BBC1’s Sunday Politics is close to the truth, even down to saying that the lying Cheryl’s meeting was interrupted four or five times when the number of adjournments was three.

The Plumstead officer knows that there is no group of people who “have a history of disrupting meetings and being abusive”. He has enough witnesses who have described ‘the group’ as being generally “dignity personified” and always “polite” and “never aggressive” and more in similar vein.

Bexley council has a record of instantly banning any resident who causes even a small amount of disruption. One member of ‘the group’ was once reprimanded via a letter to his home for not applauding vigorously enough at a council meeting but none have been threatened with a ban.

Campbell’s claim that Bexley council has always allowed filming is jaw-dropping. A later Freedom of Information request confirmed that Bexley council had never allowed any form of recording at any council meeting.

Campbell was not present at the meeting in question so I have suggested to the police officer that he should be asked who put him up to his dirty tricks. Was it the lying Cheryl, Will Tuckley or the boss woman and string-puller-in-chief herself. Teresa O’Neill.

Campbell, you may have noticed, said that an i-phone (it was an ancient Dictaphone but he wasn’t there, so how would he know?) was pushed within six inches of councillor Bacon’s face. Except when she approached Nicholas Dowling I doubt it was ever closer than 35 feet. There was never any chance that a device designed for close talking was ever going to record anything useful, and it didn’t.

 

6 November (Part 3) - My date with the cops

Plumstead Police StationVarious friends from both BiB and real life had wished me luck with my police interview but I was looking forward to it. I know that I have never reported any council meeting untruthfully and there would be no way they could trip me up. All I had to do was go through the story aided by my contemporaneous notes, the contradictory nonsense from Cheryl Bacon and her paid associates and the emails from councillors (both parties) who said she had made it all up and I would be home and dry. Possibly false confidence of course so I was prepared to come a cropper.

The bus arrived outside Plumstead police station at 1:40 and despite me being early the interviewing officer showed up within a few minutes although by the time we found a comfortable room and they'd provided me with fresh bottled water and set up the tape recorder it must have been two o’clock.

I had decided how I would like the interview to go and I am pleased to say that is exactly how it did go. After about an hour and twenty five minutes it was all over.

Mick Barnbrook spent hours checking over his written statement but - sorry for the bragging - the policeman told me that as my ‘speech’ was very succinct, totally clear and delivered in chronological order there was no need for a statement. They had no questions apart from asking for confirmation I would repeat everything in court, and they’d simply get a transcript of the tape instead of a statement.

So signed copies were put in an evidence bag and another was sent off to the typing pool.

I told the police how it was I came to start BiB, how I met Mick Barnbrook and his friends a year or so later and something about our relationship; them activists, me reporter.

Then, I don’t think it is giving much away to say I ran through the events of the 19th June 2013 and the associated documentation. By the end I was content with what I had said and I think the police officer fully understood my position. I think he may interview more than just Elwyn Bryant and Peter Gussman.

Someone, I’ll not say who, has likened the case to Chris Huhne’s speeding offence which started life as trivia just as breaking the Local Government Act is trivia, and it ended up with him and his former wife in clink. I may be guilty of unfounded optimism but I came away from the station feeling that was not an impossible scenario. Someone once told me that Bexley and Greenwich police are like chalk and cheese. So far at least I can only agree.

As an indication of how thorough Greenwich are being, they were very interested in former deputy leader Colin Campbell going on BBC TV. Every word broadcast was a lie. No stone is being left unturned and I relish the thought that a bad smell will be found under each and every one.

 

6 November (Part 2) - Will Tuckley. Misconduct in Public Office. Update

Just for the record the police cancelled their scheduled interviews with Peter Gussman and Elwyn Bryant this morning because the interview suite in Marlowe House, Sidcup was unavailable. My 2 p.m. interview at Plumstead police station is unaffected as far as I know.

 

6 November (Part 1) - Tories revert to type. Nasty!

This morning I must complete my yellow high lighting of the remainder of the papers which I shall be taking to Plumstead police station this afternoon. The detective sergeant is devoting the entire day to investigating Bexley Chief Executive Will Tuckley and the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon for Misconduct in Public Office. Peter Gussman interviewed at nine o’clock, Elwyn Bryant at eleven and me at two. I have warned the officer that I have so much documentation that he shouldn’t expect to get home early. I shall take papers which no one has seen before, not even Mick Barnbrook who was interviewed last week.

I shall be aiming to show that Will Tuckley and co. were corrupt by accepting only the word of the lying Cheryl Bacon and absolutely refusing to look at any evidence which told a different story. None of the councillors who contradicted Bacon’s account were interviewed. The evidence against Tuckley is conclusive and it remains to be seen how the police will decide to close the case down. Find a minor discrepancy in people’s 16 month old memories, announce a prosecution is not in the public interest or find that Teresa O’Neill has phoned Boris Johnson and get an instruction to lay off.

MayorMeanwhile there was a council meeting last night that needs reporting. It was a beauty and showed the Conservatives at their obnoxious worst.

At times I almost felt sorry for mayor Howard Marriner. He tries so hard to be fair to all but faced with the baying mob which is his own party members, his task is a hopeless one.

Question time was chaotic with a cabinet member dodging questions and doing his best to insult residents again, emulating councillor Craske on a previous occasion, followed by the usual planted questions from sycophantic Tories; and another critical motion from Labour.


This council resolves to record its condemnation and rebukes the Cabinet and the senior leadership of the Council for the continued lack of adequate improvement in Children’s Services and that there remain further risks to the safety and security of the Borough’s young people.


D'AmiralThe cabinet stooge, councillor Graham D’Amiral, immediately stood up to ask that the public and press be excluded from the debate as it may result in criticism of those responsible for the appalling OFSTED reports, the Enforcement Notices and the fact that Bexley remains worst borough in London by most child protection measures. Not to mention the responsible cabinet member who did a runner at the last election.

Naturally the Conservatives thought that secrecy was a bloody good idea. Below is a selection of the Twitter comments that followed.


Twitter

For technical reasons (image size not used before coupled with the complexities of providing the Mobile option) this Twitter extract may require a browser refresh. Windows F5.


Here’s a few seconds of Tories drowning out a Labour councillor trying to represent her electors and improve the lot of the children of the borough.

Tomorrow I am going to visit a parent who is on the receiving end of Bexley’s murderous catalogue of child protection failure. Maybe her file of papers will provide something juicy I can report here.

This is a stop gap report on yesterday’s council meeting, what with the police today and the abused parent tomorrow it’s going to be the weekend before anything like a more formal report on yesterday’s meeting appears here.

 

5 November (Part 2) - Car park charges up, some by more than 50%

Bexley’s new parking charges have tipped the scales in favour of those who don’t want to stay in town long; a 30 minute tariff will be available at all off street car parks for 50 pence. Everyone else can go to Bluewater.

The one hour rate is unchanged except that the bargain by Bexley standards of 50 pence at Sidcup Place will rise by 60% to 80 pence.

Other rates rise as follows…

£1.00 rises to £1.20 (20%). £1.20 goes up to £1.40 (17%). £1.30 to £1.80 (38%) . £1.40 to £1.70 (21%). £1.50 to £1.80 (20% Sidcup Place) . £1.60 to £2.20 (38%). £1.90 to £2.70 (42%). £1.90 to £2.90 (53% - 6 hour rate). £2.30 to £3.50 (52%). £3.40 to £5.10 (50%). £3.80 to £5.70 (50%). £5.30 to £8.00 (51%).

More detailed table here.

 

5 November (Part 1) - Just what Bexley and Sidcup in particular needs

Mr. Frizoni is at it again, ensuring he retains his bonus by extorting more money from motorists.

NoticeHis latest wheeze is to put Sidcup on level pegging with Bexleyheath by charging for parking 24 hours a day instead of just 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. That’ll catch out a good few motorists and have Frizoni rubbing his hands with glee.

As already noted, the borough’s car parks are to be given a 30 minute tariff and a price of 50 pence was announced today. The list of affected car parks includes Felixstowe Road which is closed until late 2018 at best.

There are also across the board price rises which will take time to analyse but a quick look suggests they lie between 30 and 50%.

 

4 November (Part 2) - Questions, questions but not so many answers

There’s a council meeting tomorrow evening; I had forgotten but Mick Barnbrook asked me if I could dream up a supplementary to his scheduled question. It’s not easy, Bexley council imposes so many restrictions. Mick pointed out that my first draft was looking for two answers which is enough to guarantee instant rejection. He has come up with a suitable revision.

I noted from the Agenda that councillors have asked a total of 69 questions which I think must be a record. In the few minutes allowed for answers the public is not going to learn a lot because Bexley doesn’t believe that providing a set of answers with the following meeting’s Agenda Pack would be a good idea.

Unlike the public, councillors are not troubled by the restrictions on question marks because they may ask as many separate questions as they wish. Councillor Daniel Francis, a name I picked almost at random, has asked eight questions. Councillor Peter Craske has only asked one question that has no purpose apart from pushing his vendetta against the opposition party. That’s another thing that may be a record.

Unsurprisingly only three members of the public have managed to get a question through the many barriers imposed. Two of them are revised questions following their rejection from the July council meeting. Bexley council will count that as a success. It’s halved the Bexley Action Group’s opportunity to probe their secrets.

 

4 November (Part 1) - Bexley council. Penny wise and pound foolish

Splash ParkAs you probably know, the Belvedere Splash Park is a product of the borough’s 2002-2006 Labour administration and there has not been another major council funded infrastructure project in the north of the borough since. Not one!

After every election Bexley’s Conservative council has launched an attack on it but before elections they take the credit. A month before the last one Kerry Allon, then a Conservative councillor in Lesnes Abbey Ward, was backing Amandeep Singh Bhogal in claiming the Splash Park as a Tory electoral asset. Mr. Bhogal was the shameless Conservative candidate for Belvedere.

If you read my Sunday blog you will know that I rubbished councillor Alex Sawyer’s excuse that the Splash Park was at the end of its life because all technology, like computers, moves on. I agree it does but the old stuff, given a modicum of maintenance, should keep on working to its original standard. Over the weekend I refurbished a five year old laptop which was taking 40 minutes to start up. It had lost its recovery partition so it was a start from scratch job but it is now in ‘factory condition’ and working like new. Slow by modern standards but no worse than in 2009.

It will be the same with the Splash Park. The same old bugs need to be dealt with and water is still water so how come the technology coped for eight years but suddenly, just when Bexley council has run out of money, it can’t? It seems odd but perhaps there is a reason.

The following is not an original thought on my part but I have totally forgotten where it came from.

Someone said; at Saturday’s meeting I suppose, that Bexley council seriously cut the number of staff who monitored the park for inappropriate behaviour this year. Presumably that led to more inappropriate behaviour.

Maybe toddlers were allowed in with soiled nappies. Perhaps older children, teenagers or even adults would run through the fountains fully clothed, probably with their shoes on. That would be enough to tread in all sorts of mess, dogs’ mess probably. The bacteria level would shoot sky high. It might explain why the single tank system stopped coping in 2014.

If the theory has any merit it would indicate that Bexley council brought the problem on themselves, maybe deliberately so; anyone who doesn’t believe they are capable of dirty tricks doesn’t know them. Perhaps a rota of volunteer monitors would fix the problem at virtually no cost. Just a thought.

 

3 November - It will take a tsunami to make a splash

Splash ParkIt is very obvious that Bexley council has stirred up a hornet’s nest with its Splash Park closure proposal. My Sunday blogs do not generally attract many readers until Monday morning but yesterday proved to be the busiest day on Bonkers since the 15th July.

Perhaps it is just me but I don’t get on with Facebook, I find it to be an unnavigable mess and avoid it if I can, however the existence of the Splash Park Facebook page compelled several visits yesterday. It was clearly very busy with frequent additions but unless I am missing something it doesn’t tell you where the new stuff is; but I nevertheless learned quite a lot.

Various good points have been made; Bexley’s Health and Wellbeing Board, chaired by council leader Teresa O’Neill (pictured below) has acknowledged that the borough has a serious obesity problem but advocates fewer opportunities for taking exercise.

I have the impression from Facebook and Arthur Pewty that some people are optimistic about deflecting Bexley council from its chosen path but unless someone can find some sort of legal or statutory requirement I am not so sure. I have watched Bexley council very closely for more than five years and have to say that some councillors are very nasty people indeed. Totally self-interested and inflexible. As I have seen more than once, expose them, annoy them or simply criticise them and they will make up some story and ask the police to arrest you.


Teresa O'NeillProbably cabinet Member Alex Sawyer is not cast in that mould but his boss certainly is. Council leader O’Neill is ruthless and during the past five years Bexley council, despite its ‘Listening to you’ slogan has listened to almost no one. Every time the detailed responses to consultations have been published I have gone through them step by step to see which ideas may have been adopted and you don’t need all your fingers to count them.

Abolishing school crossing patrols was dropped almost as soon as councillor Peter Craske put forward the idea, plans to charge for admission to the Belvedere Splash Park (but not Danson’s funnily enough) have been dropped twice and Bexley Historical Society managed to stop the borough’s historical archives being dumped in a cupboard in Bromley by coming up with a more acceptable scheme which would save just as much money. Why hadn’t Bexley council thought of it? Beyond those things Bexley council has shown itself to be a dictatorship.

A Freedom of Information request last year revealed that in the previous five years Bexley council had rejected every single one of 49 complaints about councillors from a member of the public. They consider themselves to be infallible and beyond criticism. When 2,219 residents signed a petition against the excessive salaries paid to the top brass (6th highest pay in the country at the time) the council refused to even think about it. In the bin it went.

The group that ran the Howbury Centre very successfully for years were shown the door when a commercial group with no money, a County Court Judgement against them and next to no experience came along. The group included a former Conservative councillor. The residents of Slade Green complained vigorously but to no avail.

The Danson Festival has gone and the grants to Hall Place and Danson House are on the way out. In blue Bexley money counts, people don’t.

One of the Facebook commentators said the council should be voted out of office but the chance to do that disappeared six months ago. In any case the people most affected cannot vote Teresa O’Neill out of office as they have done what they can already. The north is already solidly Labour. Bexley Tories can deny it all they like but they spend their money where their core vote is. Extensive new CCTV systems in Crayford and Bexley but none in Belvedere or Thamesmead where there was another murder just a week ago. Extensive regeneration in Bexleyheath (twice!), Sidcup, Welling and Northumberland Heath but they won’t even take action against the eyesore which is Abbey Wood.
Eyesore
Can you imagine that hanging around for five years in Bexley village?

I think you can be certain that Bexley council will not spend any of its own money on retaining a water facility in Belvedere. The only chance of success other than an unlikely legal or statutory route is if the money can be scrounged from elsewhere.

But don’t let my cynicism get you down. Put up the posters and march on the Civic Offices with pitchforks and flaming torches if necessary. Teresa O’Neill and her cohorts understand nothing less.

When Arthur Pewty said that nearly four years ago, Teresa O’Neill wanted me (yes me, not him) put in jail; obviously no knowledge of literature, not a clue about metaphors and no idea of what democracy is supposed to be. That piece of idiocy probably cost almost as much as the Splash Park to resolve although the bill fell on the police. Did you know that the police spent £14,000 forensically examining councillor Peter Craske’s computer after a load of criminal obscenities about me somehow went up his phone line? He didn’t do it of course, oh dear no. Innocence personified.

Maybe if I keep up the pessimism Bexley Tories will think it is worth £350,000 to make me look an idiot.

The next public ‘Save our Splash Park’ meeting will be held on Tuesday 11th November at 19:30 in the Royal Standard public house, 39 Nuxley Road. (In the Conservatory.)

 

2 November - Drowning in hogwash

Splash ParkBexley council’s proposal to close the nine year old Splash Park in Belvedere has caused an understandable outcry and yesterday a group of concerned parents met in the nearby Scout Hall to listen to what the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Leisure and opposition councillor Daniel Francis had to say about it. For a hastily organised meeting on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon the turnout of nearly 60 adults at its peak looked to be a good achievement.

The Splash Park is a hi-tech paddling pool with a purification tank and pumps beneath it which provide a variety of wet and watery features to amuse and entertain the borough’s children. It has been a great success in previous years and along the way survived the Tory plans to impose an entrance fee which are dusted off after every election but this year it was suddenly pronounced a health and safety risk and closed for maintenance as often as it was open. No detailed reason was ever given apart from ‘cleaning’ and some people who know how Bexley council operates could see the writing on the wall. Then, on October 15th, for the very first time the council mentioned E. coli.

All the politicians were on their best behaviour with Alex Sawyer the Cabinet Member at pains to be seen as the reasonable man. I have no idea if he really is because thinking about why I am inclined to like him I have realised that my opinion is solely down to the fact that he is almost the only high flying Bexley Tory who has ever acknowledged my presence in the council chamber and his put downs of the opposition are far more witty and perhaps more intelligent than those of the run of the mill Tory bozos more often found in Bexley’s council chamber.

The fact Alex Sawyer aligned himself with the disreputable councillor Peter Craske in a stunt to get the Splash Park past the colluding chairman of the wholly inappropriate People Scrutiny Committee to push his closure propaganda rings alarm bells with me. He was accompanied yesterday by councillor Philip Read which was not reassuring. Read once made up a cock and bull story to have a fellow Bexley blogger thrown in the cells for 24 hours. Fortunately a judge saw through Read’s story. Maybe I should judge Alex Sawyer by the company he keeps.

Sawyer’s trump card is his E. coli story and he says it was detected at low level eight times in the 2014 season. There were other organisms present from time to time too. The answer advocated by the installer company is a two tank system at a cost of between £350,000 and £500,000. When the short life span of the Splash Park was queried councillor Sawyer said it was like all things, what is state of the art yesterday is tomorrow’s trash, like phones and computers. At least one member of the audience swallowed this story but to my mind it is totally bogus.

Leaflet

Click or scroll for whole brochure.


E. coli has probably been around for millennia, water has consisted of two parts hydrogen and one oxygen since time began and little Johnnie has always had the occasional nappy malfunction. How did any of that change for 2014? The filters have the same job to do now as they did in 2005. Questions such has how often E. coli was detected before 2014 or even if the number of park users had increased or not were all unanswered because no one knows. Councillor Sawyer repeated his line from the scrutiny meeting that children’s safety was his top priority and if he wouldn’t let his own child use the facility he couldn’t allow the park to continue. As a meaningless tug at the heart strings it is hard to beat. No  toddler or teenager became ill, the risk approximated to zero.

It became apparent that the £350,000 to £500,000 for a two tank solution came out of a five minute informal phone call from the council to the distributor; no proper quotation has been obtained from anyone. Adding a second tank to the existing facility has not been considered by the council but I believe Labour councillor Daniel Francis has looked into that and it might cost more like £200,000. I didn’t hear all the detail as Daniel was drowned out by tiny feet stomping on a wooden floor.

It has been suggested that Bexley council should make a warranty claim if such an expensive facility has really proved to be unsatisfactory after such a short period but it was explained that there never were any guarantees and if there was a warranty it has been lost. Public servants eh? What would we do without them?

Some of the audience advocated raising money from an improved refreshment kiosk though I would doubt that some of the more ambitious ideas would ever find favour with a Conservative council. However allowing an ice cream van to ply its trade at the park gate and take away the kiosk’s lollypop trade was widely seen as rather silly.

Splash Park Splash Park Splash Park Splash Park

The Danson Park facility which has been unaffected by infections is plumbed directly to the mains supply so unlikely to be a health hazard but that may not be possible in Belvedere, perhaps because it is situated at the top of Heron Hill and councillor Sawyer referred to possible water pressure problems due to the proximity of housing which doesn’t affect Danson Park. Really?

One lady argued that the fact that Danson Park is treated as Bexley’s premier public space is indicative of the council’s neglect of the north of the borough when the parks in the north are “far more beautiful”. She is not wrong.

It was pointed out that the population of the north of the borough was growing and before long there will be the Crossrail effect and the Erith Quarry development not a mile from the Splash Park. Bexley council is itself keen to raise as much Community Infrastructure Levy cash as possible and sees Belvedere as prime tax territory, hence the Belvedere bridge proposal but as usual is not so keen to give anything back.

If anything was clear from the meeting it is that the proposal to close the splash park has been some sort of back of a fag packet calculation given very little thought and few or even no alternatives have been explored. The money said to have been offered by private enterprise could in fact go anywhere within the borough, it has not been ear marked for Belvedere and in any case what’s the point of another set of swings and slides just 150 yards from an existing large and well equipped playground? Anything less than the continuation of the 100 year old tradition of a water facility on the site would appear to be a waste of money. Councillor Daniel Francis spent his school holidays paddling in the Belvedere pool and seems to be just the man to ask a whole load of questions which Alex Sawyer was unable to answer yesterday.

For completeness this is what Alex Sawyer said at the recent scrutiny meeting. The recording begins with the mumbling Peter Craske but it gets better.

Funny he had all that detail in front of him while attending a meeting that had nothing to do with parks or leisure. A put up job? You bet.

Personally I do not rate the chances of retaining anything worthwhile at the top of Heron Hill at all highly. Bexley council under Teresa O’Neill has not improved the borough in any shape or form except when spending money from Boris, lotteries or housing associations. Hers is a scorched earth policy which is interested in nothing other than ensuring that Bexley’s 24th position in the council tax league doesn’t get any worse. And most people haven’t noticed yet.

‘Arthur Pewty’ has blogged on the same subject today from a slightly different perspective.

FacebookClick Facebook for the Splash Park page.

 

1 November (Part 2) - Run over and covered up?

The suggestion that Will Tuckley applied for a job with Westminster council did not provoke any confirmation so I shall continue to take it with a pinch of salt. I have been printing off correspondence in connection with the allegation he is guilty of Misconduct in Public Office this morning prior to my meeting with the police next Thursday and some of the off the record stuff from councillors is pretty damning so it would be understandable if Mr. Tuckley is sick of having to defend liars.

Whilst there has been nothing more Westminster related I did get a message from Croydon where Tuckley was Deputy Chief Executive until April 2008 having joined that council in 1996. Apparently they have good reason to remember him but for reasons that will become apparent there is not going to be any independent confirmation of what was said.

According to the well informed man from Croydon - or maybe the scurrilous mischief maker - or maybe both, Will Tuckley was involved in a fatal accident while driving in a Croydon car park. I doubt very much he was at fault, it could have happened to any of us, if true it would appear to be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story is that someone was asleep in the gloom of the underground Croydon car park next to the town hall and was run over and killed. Newspaper reports at the time confirm the car park had been a mecca for the homeless and the drug addicted.
NCP car parks
So maybe Will Tuckley was involved in a most unfortunate accident and one can only sympathise with his situation, but that is not what makes the story interesting. It is the fact that Croydon man says that news of the accident was kept under wraps and the police took very little interest. How did that come about?

I can’t help thinking of the fact that Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, recently of Bexley, latterly of Tower Hamlets was at Croydon until 2010. I know that under Stringer’s command Bexley police excused themselves from investigating Bexley council’s obscene blog with a letter full of techno-nonsense and Stringer’s sidekick connived with Tuckley to get the suspect, councillor Peter Craske off the hook for it. So it’s probably not too far fetched to take two and two and make four in Croydon a few years before.

 

1 November (Part 1) - Twitter ye not

TweetI was a very late convert to Twitter but against expectations it has provided a wealth of interesting information and not too much of the ‘waiting for a late train again’ variety. I generally use my account only for BiB related announcements and sometimes think I should open one for more personal use so that I can join the trolls. Maybe the brief Tweet exchange seen here crosses the divide.

The London Borough of Bexley is the most consistently dishonest organisation I have ever encountered, nothing is ever quite as it seems and they take us all for fools.

Yesterday the council Tweeted that they planned to start fining motorists for moving traffic offences. U-turns, going into the cyclists’ area when stopping at traffic lights, turning right when you shouldn’t; all that sort of thing. But they are dressing it up as a budget saving when it is quite simply a money raising scam.

There have been no accidents reported in Bexley which can be traced to such minor motoring misdemeanours. Bexley currently ranks fifth lowest in London on the table of tickets issued to motorists and one of the reasons is that they haven’t been issuing penalty notices for moving traffic offences. They are keen to change that.

There was no response to my Twitter question.

There is a large Conservative majority in Bexley because they managed to fool the electorate last May into believing that Bexley is a low council tax borough which simply isn’t true.

The Tories have a single goal, keeping themselves in lucrative office and believe that not raising council tax will keep them there. Hence the catalogue of stealth taxes; more PCNs, charging for brown bins, jacking up all the car parking charges, or indirectly; closing the libraries and withdrawing grants to historic buildings. When councillors are paid up to £8,800 for chairing a meeting four times a year and answering a few questions it is no surprise that the borough cannot afford to repair the Splash Park.

 

Return to the top of this page