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Bonkers Blog December 2015

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22 December - Treading carefully through the legal minefield

It’s a difficult time of the year for blogging. News generally dries up and half the readers disappear although a comparison with last year shows that Christmas week readers are a good 25% above 2014.

This year it’s not so much difficult as frustrating. A couple of stories about which little has been said so far are coming along quite nicely but it would be best if they reached as many people as possible, which means waiting until January. There are some legal constraints too, so for the time being I can do little more than indulge in the gentle tweaking of Bexley council’s tail.

Harrow InnBefore that, something I entirely forgot to mention when the news broke, or to be more precise, when someone in the know tipped me off.

I have been informed that the Harrow Inn site in Abbey Wood, notorious over the years for its unsightly fences, vermin and failed planning applications, has been acquired by Peabody Housing Association. Presumably we will eventually see some much needed social housing on the site. Over retail establishments would be good.

The grapevine has been busy since the public was excluded from the Code of Conduct Sub-Committee meeting last week. From a variety of sources I now have a pretty good idea of who did what to whom. I could report it but the two and two I have might add up to four and a half so I will reluctantly wait until the official report comes out and see how it compares to the information already to hand.

What I don’t understand is why the complainant went to Bexley council and not the police. The information I’ve managed to extract suggests a straight forward attempted fraud to me which I would have taken to the police. There has also been a very long unexplained delay in getting the case to the Code of Conduct stage. There will be crookery and cover up somewhere. It wouldn’t be Bexley council otherwise.

On a couple of occasions during the year I have mentioned, without making much of an issue of it, that I objected to Bexley council’s 2013/14 accounts. I am afraid it will land council tax payers with an extra bill but the fact is that there has been dishonesty on a massive scale. Bexley’s legal department and their own internal auditor call it Maladministration. David Hogan, Head of Internal Audit and Risk, used the word 13 times in his report.

Apart from the report writer’s name and the number thirteen all of that has been said before but generally shrouded in mystery. The fact that it concerned Bexley’s use of bailiffs slipped out last July but with very little detail of exactly what they were doing.

However I think I can safely reveal that when a sample of the bailiff’s bills was analysed every single one of them showed that the charges were fraudulently inflated. Typically by a couple of hundred pounds but sometimes running well into four figures. This money was effectively stolen from Bexley’s debtors. The figures are absolutely clear and absolutely damning. Levying charges twice on one occasion might be a mistake, but almost every time?

It must be emphasised that when Mr. Hogan became aware of the dishonesty it stopped immediately but for some years before that debtors, except for the handful who spotted what was going on, were defrauded wholesale. I doubt any councillor other than the cabinet member knew anything about it. Obviously Bexley council doesn’t want to pay back the money it got following dishonest bailiff activity, nor has it changed its bailiff partner or the staff who turned a blind eye.

 

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