I once described Bexley’s cabinet member for Children’s Services, Philip Read,
as a piece of filth. I regretted it afterwards but I had seen him in action too many times and was tipped over the edge.
It was nothing to do with him making up the story that put blogger John Kerlen behind bars for 24 hours before a judge came to his rescue or the fact that he repeatedly ridiculed his Labour shadow, councillor Mabel Ogundayo, for being young and female. (I was always waiting for him to add “black” but he never quite went that far.)
The last straw was the correspondence and ultimately arranged meeting with a group of parents who had lost children to Philip Read’s department and I heard their stories at first hand. The constant theme was that Bexley’s social services were spiteful liars. I saw some of the evidence. Good mothers who separated from abusive partners did not have their children returned - and they still haven’t. Other parents, forewarned, were planning to move out of the borough - and subsequently did.
At the other extreme, at least two Bexley children have died because Social Workers ignored reports from teachers and heath professionals. (†) When OFSTED rated Bexley’s Children’s Services as Inadequate, no one at the top level lost their job and there have been persistent rumours to the effect that the Deputy Director is protected by being best mates with Teresa O’Neill. Her former boss was given the job of writing the Serious Case Review. They certainly know how to demonstrate that things are open and above board in Bexley. Keeping it in the family only applies to cover ups.
Nothing is open and above board in Bexley.
About three months ago a reader sent me an FOI response to a question on Bexley’s Social Services. The figures didn’t seem to add up unless Social Workers are being paid at Director level. I sent it to Mabel Ogundayo to see if she could explain it to me. She couldn’t but offered to find the answer. Since then she has only been able to apologise for the continuing ‘no answer’. It is not only residents who are given the runaround by Bexley’s Children’s Services.
Under cabinet member Philip Read changes have been made within the department. As you may imagine it’s not easy to attract staff to a borough with a reputation that has fallen through the floor. The vacancy levels in Social Services have exceeded 50%. In some ways it sounds a good idea to start to train your own staff to fill the gaps but on the other hand there will be no experience. Given Bexley’s history maybe that is no bad thing but one still doesn’t hear anything good about Social Workers. The following is typical of messages I occasionally receive…
I can tell you from personal experience, hand on heart, that in the community of people who have had experience of social workers - myself included - it is a frighteningly common experience to find social workers lying outright without shame. And on two separate occasions I have been surprised to see that judges turn a blind eye if they are presented with such evidence! I'm sure they scratch each other's backs.
I made my own complaint about a Social Worker last August. It followed some complete nonsense meted out to my elderly aunt in Newham. I have had no formal response but Newham council has phoned a couple of times to apologise for the lack of progress. When the Social Worker was confronted by my complaint she fled the room and has not been seen since.
Maybe they are all as bad as each other. The following case posted to YouTube on Christmas Day would suggest that Bexley council has learned nothing since the bad old days of former councillor Katie Perrior under whose guidance Children’s Services all went badly wrong.
You really should spend 14 minutes with this video. Further evidence that Bexley council wrecks people’s lives and is happy to do so.
Maybe the Social Workers are inexperienced or incompetent but the end result is the same as if misery for all was Philip Read’s hobby.
After co-opting the police this Bexley couple were arrested on allegations that proved to be false. It was recommended that if they were to stand any chance of getting their children back they should plead guilty to criminal charges, but the parents refused to do so.
They were tried and acquitted in the Crown Court, the evidence was clearly false, but still they cannot get their children back. Bexley council doesn’t care. They even contacted the wife’s employer in an effort to get her out of a job.
The children keep running home to their parents which gets the parents into trouble, the Social Worker threatens them with jail, but Bexley council is incapable of anything but injustice. When pressed for a defence the parents are told that the fact they are devout Christians goes against them. “Christianity is all fake’ according to Bexley’s Social Services.
Obviously calling Philip Read a piece of filth was wrong, but too many Social Workers appear to be. BiB’s headline of Dishonest, Vindictive, Criminal would appear to be as true of Bexley council today as it was in 2009 when it was first adopted.
† Rhys Lawrie died from 39 injuries in 2011 and Ndingeko Kunene suffered another “preventable death” last year.
It’s easy to get out of the habit of writing daily blogs and I’m not really
in the mood for getting into anything too complicated right now. Most likely you will be feeling the
same, however I probably shouldn’t let the old year fade away without giving
the Maxine Fothergill saga another outing, she might
otherwise think she is forgotten
Probably you are still guessing what she did which resulted in being hauled before the Code of Conduct Committee and ‘punished’ by being sent on a training course. Some details need to be filled in before the full story goes public but unless all the informants change their tunes between now and next week you will get to know that they believe there may have been a criminal offence.
Normally when a councillor is on the receiving end of a complaint the public is told who made it, which councillor was allegedly at fault and what they were supposed to have done. Five years ago councillor Geraldine Lucia-Hennis was found guilty of being disrespectful to Bexley resident Alan Thomson and was also sent on a training course. A storm in a teacup but all the gory details went into the Bexley Times.
Earlier this month councillor Maxine Fothergill was afforded total secrecy. I suspect that the difference will be that Geraldine Lucia-Hennis had a minor disagreement and her colleague was engineering “financial gain” for herself and the police might take an interest if a thick veil was not rapidly drawn over the proceedings.
Bexley council has admitted that it used Paragraph 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 to block anything leaking into the public domain while neatly sidestepping the rules that apply to all Code of Conduct Committees. viz. Openness and honesty.
Here is a list of all the exemptions that could justify that information block.
As paragraph number 1 was used alone and Maxine Fothergill has been named one might assume that it must be the complainant who wished to remain anonymous but there is nothing in paragraphs 1 to 7 which allow the actual offence to be kept secret.
Bexley council is clearly up to no good.
It seems likely that an offence warranting total secrecy must have gone to the Monitoring Officer, Mr. Akin Alabi, for advice. I understand there were twelve months between the ‘offence’ and the Code of Conduct meeting.
For starters a Freedom of Information request has been submitted aimed at discovering if the complainant requested anonymity.
On Thursday 10th December 2015, Councillor Cheryl Bacon, Chairperson of the Members Code of Conduct Complaints Sub Committee excluded myself and other members of the public, from the meeting by virtue of Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.
Advice given by the Information Commissioner's Office, with reference to paragraph 1 - Information relating to an individual, states that in relation to disclosure of personal data relating to members of the public - it would be necessary in most cases to determine whether including the information in the report would be UNLAWFUL or UNFAIR to the person, taking into account all the circumstances involved.
Please provide evidence that the individual who made the complaint against Councillor Maxine Fothergill, did not expect that his or her information might be disclosed to others and that he or she expressly refused consent to the disclosure of the information.
Please also provide evidence that disclosure of personal data would have caused unnecessary or unjustified distress or damage to that person. Please also provide evidence that disclosure of the information would have been unlawful and evidence, that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
I may be wrong but I am coming to the conclusion that if there has been Misconduct in Public Office it will flow from any legal advice that led to Paragraph 1 being abused. Perhaps members of the Code of Conduct Committee were merely following instructions. That is what councillor and chairman Cheryl Bacon did on 19th June 2013. Her mistake then was not following bad advice but lying about it afterwards. councillor Bacon is also the chairman of the Code of Conduct Committee. Councillor Teresa O’Neill’s less than subtle two fingered salute directed at residents.
However it is going to be difficult to make excuses for the very minor sanction imposed if the offence is as described.
Michael Barnbrook addresses the Code of Conduct Committee. 10th December 2015.
It’s nice of Bexley council to provide the material to ensure that BiB is kept busy for another year.
Ever since I learned from
Bexley’s very useful waste leaflet that I could put orange
juice cartons and butter tubs into the recycling bins my residual rubbish has
fallen from two, very occasionally three, plastic carrier bags full to only one.
Most recently the wrapping around a sliced gluten free loaf, some greasy paper
after a fry up and a data CD I had made for a friend but which I had put on line
for him to download instead. There was a crisp packet too but not much else. Cabinet member Peter Craske
should look upon me as a good friend but I would guess he doesn’t.
As I have a Friday collection and I was away for Christmas I left my green bin on my drive so as not to obstruct the footpath and hoped the dustman would be kind enough to come on to my property when he did his round on Sunday morning. If he didn’t it was of no consequence, keeping it another fortnight wouldn’t matter.
When I returned home late on Sunday evening I found my bin blocking the drive, which was not unexpected, but I wasn’t pleased to see rubbish strewn across the road, my own garden and my neighbour’s.
My email Inbox told a similar tale from elsewhere in the borough.
After picking up the rubbish from both gardens and the road this morning I realised that almost none of it was mine. A toothpaste tube of a type I do not use, remnants of cheese which I never eat and soup cans which were not mine. (Full of ‘poisonous’ gluten!)
I decided to check my CCTV to see what these useless bin men had been up to.
With the bin carrying a load of no more than a couple of ounces, a gust of wind during the afternoon of Christmas Day had sent it skidding backwards on its two wheels to be plonked on the footpath at a crazy angle but still upright. More than 24 hours later someone unsteady on his feet bumped into it and knocked it over. Not long afterwards my carrier bag went bowling down the road out of sight.
When the binman came he looked into the bin, lifted it upright and pushed it back on to my drive where it still was when I came home. Hmmm. Not so useless after all.
Perhaps I should in future add a few bricks to the rubbish bag, but the question of where the unrecognised rubbish came from remains. The party poppers certainly weren’t mine. Maybe someone further down the road suffered the same windy fate as I did.
If you have a bin man problem what you really need to do is to catch them in the act which is what happened to a BiB reader yesterday.
She lives in a flat sharing a communal bin which not only had its normal number of black sacks but the extra generated by Christmas. As soon as one bag was removed the pile fell down and Serco’s finest simply left it but not before the refuse truck’s registration number was snapped. The operatives too but it’s probably best not to show you those.
The face of refuse collection is changing, maybe I no longer need a big green bin. A small bag at the bottom of a 140 litre bin is not easy to get out and I have to hook it to the lid in case the bin man has short arms. Maybe that nice Mr. Craske could think about a small box for the real rubbish too? One without wheels that is not at the mercy of the wind. Even when the bin is parked by the side of the house I have to tie it to a drain pipe to stop it being blown over.
Not collecting rubbish from flats may be the post Christmas norm. This is what those nearest to my address looked like this morning.
I used to think I had a good idea of who abused the nearby communal bins but a week or so ago I found him trying to decontaminate the paper bin and poking retrieved plastic bottles through the correct orifice and complaining about who does these things. It was either a very good act or I have been suspecting the wrong man.
I should have known that
trying to be generous
to Bexley council would all go wrong. The slightly corporate looking but
nice card pictured earlier bearing the Watling Street address was not Bexley council official issue
as I assumed. It came from Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) and he had it printed at his own expense.
Teresa sent me a card too, no not that Teresa, don’t be silly.
If you followed the links on the council’s Maxine Fothergill disrepute page you will have discovered they all go around in circles and lead nowhere. They tell you nothing at all of what Maxine Fothergill did except that it is clear enough that she was accused of feathering her own nest. In the words of the official report, “conferring an advantage on herself”.
It would appear that a council officer was in on the act too, hence “bringing the London Borough of Bexley into disrepute”. What was his fate?
The Vexatious Fascist, late of Blackfen and one time Bexley police Inspector has been rubbing his hands with a certain amount of glee. Michael Barnbrook says that covering up a criminal offence is itself a criminal offence and he will not be happy to see that one gathering dust.
Just when councillor Cheryl Bacon’s year of uncertainty over the last allegation of Misconduct in Public Office edges towards the end game it is entirely possible that the process can be started all over again. The chairman of the Code of Conduct Committee is Cheryl Bacon.
It really must be Christmas!
thing that Bexley council cannot be accused of is Political Correctness, at
least not in recent years. As it is the season of goodwill I won’t drag up an example from 2001.
Not for Bexley is the Season’s Greetings, Happy Winterval nonsense one finds in northern towns and some centres of LibDemery.
Bexley sensibly issues a plain “Merry Christmas and a happy new year”. A big thank you to the four councillors who sent Christmas greetings from beyond my ward and the one from within it.
Also the various BiB helpers. The two ladies who have run the Facebook page, the Welling man who corrects my programming errors, the regular providers of inside information and my friend from Devon who spots the numerous typos and supplies many of the OBEs (Outstandingly Bad Expansions).
There will be few, or maybe no blogs until the new year. I doubt the Crown Prosecution Service will spring into action and deliver their decision on Will Tuckley and Cheryl Bacon which was promised for last week.
An exact repeat of the Peter Craske scenario is unlikely. In that the CPS provided Bexley police with “a course of action” but following “political interference” that “crippled the case” against him, Bexley police dropped it.
Greenwich police already have all the evidence against Bacon and Tuckley they could possibly need. It could hardly be stronger so some variant on political interference must be on the cards. I am beginning to think that the only way to stop political interference when Bexley council breaks the law is to vote for a Labour mayor.
However, enough of that, It‘s Christmas and the first box of chocolates is looking tempting. £5.99 in Wilton Road McColls, £9 in Sainsbury’s, Harrow Manorway. The more I see of that place the more I dislike it.
Seasons Greetings. Happy Christmas!
The following has just popped up on Bexley council’s website…
The Sub-Committee, having considered the evidence in conjunction with the Members’ Code of Conduct…
RESOLVED that Councillor Fothergill breached the following paragraphs of the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct:
1. Paragraph 3(1) of the Members’ Code of Conduct in that Councillor Fothergill’s actions could be perceived by an ordinary member of the public, as conferring an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for herself, her family, friends or close associates.
2. Paragraph 3 (8) of the Members’ Code of Conduct in that, whilst serving in her public post, an ordinary member of the public could reasonably perceive that she had conducted herself in a manner, which could reasonably be regarded as bringing her office or the London Borough of Bexley into disrepute.
The Sub-Committee considered the range of sanctions as set out in the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct. The Sub-Committee also considered the factors to be taken into account, as set out in the Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Sub-Committee Rules of Procedure, prior to determining the sanction(s).
1. Councillor Fothergill should undertake training to be arranged by the Monitoring Officer into potential conflicts of interest between her role as a business person and her role as a Councillor; and
2. a recommendation be made to the Chief Whip or the Leader of the Council that Councillor Fothergill be removed from the Appeals Committee for the duration of the Council administration.
In the new year when readers are not so preoccupied with festivities, I’ll let you know what the grapevine says councillor Maxine Fothergill is supposed to have done. Seems outrageous if rumour is true, but then I am not a councillor so uphold different standards to theirs and we all know something of the standards the Code of Conduct Committee’s Chairman adopts.
Maxine Fothergill may have brought dishonour to her entire industry.
useless lifts at Abbey Wood station continue to cause chaos on a near
daily basis. Two out of three of them have been out of order since Sunday.
Passengers requiring a lift can access a train only if they live to the
North of the station and are going to Dartford. It has to be a one way ticket too
because if they return to Abbey Wood they won’t be able to leave the platform.
Those coming from the south and everyone heading towards London have no chance at all. With the lifts on Platform 1 and the one nearest the booking hall out of order there is nowhere for them to go.
At last week’s Liaison Panel meeting it was said that Stannah had been told to keep a complete set of parts at their Dartford depot so that their contracted response time of one hour is something better than worthless paper.
It remains a worthless piece of paper.
Before long, when the Felixstowe Road access is blocked until December 2018, a wheelchair user will have to double back to Sainsbury's and take the makeshift footpath across the Harrow Manorway flyover as far as the Knee Hill roundabout. Then retrace their steps (wheels?) at the lower level and maybe find the station lift out of order. That will be 40 minutes of their lives wasted.
A hopeful sign. Two Stannah vans parked near the station this afternoon.
You may be interested to read what Crossrail had to say about this week’s lift situation…
Thank you for your email about the lifts at Abbey Wood station and please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused. Stannah attended the site on 20/12 when the issue was reported and again on the 21/12 to repair the fault. Upon investigation Stannah have informed us that the defects are consistent with damage by users forcing the doors. The components required to repair the damage have been ordered. Please be assured that this work has been prioritised to get the lifts back in use as quickly as possible.
If vandalism or abuse is the reason for the breakdown presumably the lift attendants weren’t in attendance at the time. And what happened to the promise to keep all the parts in stock?
The real problem is that these are not real lifts. They are glorified dumb waiters.
The slogan on one van says ‘From Cardiff to Cricklewood we keep homes and businesses running smoothly’. There’s your problem. Since when has Abbey Wood been on the Great Western Railway line? I doubt there is much call for lifts in the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay either.
Incidentally, it’s not just all the lights on the east side of Harrow Manorway which are out of order, there are at least three on the other side. No wonder it’s not easy to see.
is obviously no chance now of Bexley council achieving its forecast for Lesnes
Abbey. There is an extra plaything in the recreation ground but elsewhere devastation reigns.
There is a large and muddy site yard storing materials and there is a path that has not progressed at all this month and the Visitor Centre is advancing very slowly. Photos 3 and 4 below were taken 10 days apart.
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.
Before 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.
have a tough schedule to complete; trains to the new platform by February. There is still a great deal to do and their answer appears to be work all night. I went to take a look in the early hours of last Friday morning
and again early this morning. See picture.
It cannot be a lot of fun if you live nearby and are trying to sleep. Lorries arriving, squawking their alarm signals and dumping their loads.
The natives are not happy.
The overnight pile cutting at the station site was announced in Network Rail’s December update (delivered by post to everyone within earshot) as was the ballast tamping between Bostall Manorway through to Coptefield Drive. However it specifically says there was to be no unloading of ballast which can be noisy.
Network Rail must have started track work at the Bostall Manorway end because the residents of Abbey Terrace were kept awake last night by the delivery of tools and materials through the access point at the end of their road. Presumably I shall suffer the same fate when they work their way along to Coptefield Drive, possibly using access point S14.
The complaints may be followed in more detail over at Cross with Crossrail.
don’t drive over the Harrow Manorway flyover at night very often, three times
so far this month which is fairly typical, and always heading south.
It’s dangerous even when there is no traffic around. The Sainsbury’s roundabout is impossible to negotiate in lane, I have given up trying.
As you head up the incline the old and now little used subway search light is blinding and I wasn’t sure why it so badly affected visibility. In torrential rain a couple of weeks ago I could see no part of the central reservation markings or the unenforced bus lane.
Eventually the penny dropped. There is no lighting on the southbound carriageway. Thinking back, it must have been like it for a couple of months. Other drivers have since confirmed it.
Bexley council. ‘Working for you’. Don’t make me laugh.
was the week that Network Rail pulled its cranes and piling rigs out of the old
Abbey Wood station site on a succession of lorries. The work continued through the night
and by day there was the occasional traffic jam while lorries reversed and
loaded. Shoppers may have been deprived of more parking spaces too as lorries
awaited their turn to load up.
A similar piling operation will now take place to the north of the railway track and access for the equipment will be difficult. As with the south there is only one way in and at the present time Felixstowe Road is still an obstacle course. Its realignment is the one part of the project that does not appear to have run on time.
The usual weekly photo feature (64 pictures, 5MB) attempts to portray the last week, the dismantling of the equipment, the waiting lorries, the near completion of the platform canopy and some new large holes in the ground already being filled with reinforced concrete.
Once again December’s gloom was not ideal for photography and pictures are additionally affected by the early hour of some, dirty windows and closely meshed fences.
Yesterday I was on the receiving end of orange suited gesticulation and shouting because I poked a camera for the umpteenth time over the top of a fence but it wasn’t the only complaint this week. The report on the Liaison Panel meeting was judged disrespectful on the Cross with Crossrail Face book page.
When has Bexley is Bonkers ever been respectful?
The complaint was over my use of the term Professional Moaners. I’ll tell you why I used it. One person has been responsible for around half of the complaints at panel meetings. The Minutes of the meetings lists these…
• The lift attendants are always missing.
• Trees have been cut down.
• Rivers have been blocked between Plumstead and Abbey Wood. (Twice)
• The Felixstowe Road station entrance will be closed with no practical new route.
• The lifts are unreliable.
• The toilets are open only on application to station staff.
• Lorries do not indicate when turning left or right.
• Roads are left muddy. (Twice)
• There is no help for the disabled when getting off trains.
• Disabled parking bays are blocked.
• There are no windows on the station footbridge.
• There are trip hazards on footpaths.
• Tarmac has been broken.
• The council does not enforce parking restrictions.
• The two sets of Harrow Manorway traffic lights are not synchronised.
• The design of the roundabout outside Sainsbury’s makes it a danger to pedestrians.
• There are not enough lifts in the new station and it is a fire hazard.
• Varying colours of paving proposed for the station forecourt is unacceptable to disabled travellers.
There has undoubtedly been an impact on Abbey Wood. The taxi office proprietor says that his trade falls significantly when the line is closed, the manageress at McColls says the sale of Oyster Cards is well down and a young friend who lives next to a Crossrail site is fed up with all the men stopping work and staring at her every time she goes in or out of her house.
But Greggs is doing very well.
Most of the disruption is unavoidable. The roads occasionally get muddy but five minutes later they are hosed and swept. (See picture of wetted road above.) The UK Power Networks people seemed to be particularly adept at pavement parking and installing a bridge in August and to be still without a rail crossing four months later seems to be more than a little senseless, but generally the inconvenience is kept to a minimum. Not that that minimum is especially low as we are about to find out when the North and South of Abbey Wood become even more divided by early Spring 2016 with no improvement to cross track accessibility in prospect until the first Crossrail train runs.
More Crossrail related blogs and Photo features.
It’s interesting to compare the approach to Christmas trading from the
borough that levies the ninth lowest council tax rate in London with the one that is ninth highest.
The adopted tone is so very much more friendly in Greenwich too.
Bexley is allowing supposedly free parking behind its offices this weekend but is asking for a donation. Everywhere else, you pay.
Away from parking, Bexley council has been trying to put on a more friendly face. Whether families who are missing a young member because of poor social worker decisions will see things the same way is a different matter entirely, but it’s not often you see cabinet member Philip Read and Santa Claus mentioned in the same document.
I expected to be disappointed by the CPS’s
announcement due yesterday
on the possible prosecution of councillor Cheryl Bacon and Will Tuckley for
Misconduct in a Public Office but not in the way I was.
Despite assurances from the always helpful Greenwich police during the day a call during the course of the evening said that the CPS had been incommunicado.
council is going to enormous lengths to protect the identity of the councillor
accused of misconduct recently. Their Code of Conduct Committee tried to hide the
hearing away with a sub-Committee that met at 10:30 in the morning
and declared the heart of the meeting closed.
When three members of the public showed up they were escorted around the Civic Centre in a manner never seen before and when written complaints went to both the Acting Chief Executive and the Committee Officer both have ignored them (†). Probably they have gone off on their Christmas break by now so information will be even harder to come by.
Meanwhile we can only speculate and guess who stood accused but usually what gets a councillor a rap over the knuckles would result in a court appearance for anyone less privileged. It would be surprising if this case was any different.
† This is no longer true but the requested information has not been forthcoming.
Herewith a Press Release from Sports Direct following their acquisition of the former Civic Offices site in Broadway.
Sports Direct has acquired the former Bexley Civic Centre site in Bexleyheath from Tesco with a view to delivering a new mixed-use scheme which will kick start the regeneration and deliver new jobs and homes in this part of the town centre.
The site, which has been vacant since the London Borough of Bexley Council relocated to Watling Street in 2014, previously had detailed planning permission for a new food superstore and ancillary retail and restaurant uses.
Following this acquisition, all buildings on the site have been demolished.
The redevelopment of the site represents an exciting opportunity to regenerate one of the last strategic sites in this part of the Bexley to create a high quality landmark scheme which will extend and complement the existing offer within the town centre.
A large mixed use development comprising of circa 6,000 SQM of commercial, which will include a Sports Direct store and further retailers, which will be incorporated within the proposed scheme which will generate hundreds of jobs. New job opportunities will be created within the restaurant and ancillary retail facilities, bringing substantial economic benefit to the local community.
It is also proposed to provide extensive new residential accommodation above the retail uses, which will deliver a mixed use scheme and enliven this part of the town centre.
Sports Direct are liaising with London Borough of Bexley regarding the planning application, which will be submitted late next year.
A spokesman from Sports Direct says: “We see this as a hugely exciting opportunity to regenerate this part of the town centre with a high quality mixed use development, including a new generation Sports Direct store and gym. We look forward to engaging fully with the Council ahead of a planning application submission next year.”
It could be worse! I wonder how much Tesco has made out of that which Bexley council will not be able to cash in on due to their flawed contract?
The blogging week started with
praise for Tower Hamlets way of dealing with
complaints. In Bexley it has become almost standard practice when their own
dishonesty has pushed them into a corner that the Chief Executive declares the
complainant vexatious and closes down the conversation.
In Tower Hamlets when they get something serious to consider they hire an independent investigator to consider all the evidence. Considering all the evidence is a very strange concept to Bexley council. Refusing to consider evidence is the reason Tower Hamlet’s new CEO, Will Tuckley, found himself on the end of an ongoing (†) allegation of Misconduct in a Public Office.
Mick Barnbrook who sent a factual email to Tower Hamlets about Mr. Tuckley’s recent history was deliberately discredited in their chamber presumably as part of the effort to influence the council’s decision to appoint him.
The hired independent investigator is sufficiently concerned about it that she telephoned Mick this morning and discussed the matter for about an hour. She wants to interview several witnesses. Mick remarked on the enormous contrast with the secrecy and probable corruption that pervades Bexley but the investigator was already well aware of it generally having worked for several councils. Tower Hamlets is determined to put all that behind them. Will Tuckley must know exactly what it can lead to.
Among the witnesses to be interviewed is my ‘spy’ in the chamber that evening. I still have his text message commentary on what was going on and it has been sent across to the Tower Hamlets investigator for her files.
The ‘spy’ will have to dig out his notes of the evening. Looks like he will be needing them.
† The police are still expecting to hear from the CPS today. A day which gives the shortest possible time for an appeal. Mr. Barnbrook is ready to fly into action.
Just over two weeks ago I was given formal notification that the Crown
Prosecution Service was likely to announce its decision on councillor Cheryl
Bacon and her supporters today. The police in Greenwich
thoroughly investigated an allegation that the councillor lied on
an industrial scale to cover her relatively minor transgression of the
Local Government Act. Her rather extreme lies over what took place on
evening of 19th June 2013 were supported by Chief Executive Will Tuckley and
others who refused to look at the evidence that Cheryl Bacon was lying submitted
by councillors from both parties. Other council officers wrote falsified
reports in support of Cheryl Bacon and their names were submitted to the police too.
The police spent around six months assembling and examining the evidence that four people had conspired against members of the public and not once was there any hint that it was not a strong case which could lead to a prison sentence. That outcome was briefly discussed but I nevertheless always assumed that an excuse would sooner or later be found for the case not to proceed to prosecution. If I had to guess I would say the investigating officer felt the same, for sadly the British establishment always rallies round to save its own.
My guess was that the CPS decision would be Not In The Public Interest. Can you imagine the furore if the recently appointed Chief Executive to Tower Hamlets council and the wife of a Conservative GLA candidate found themselves in the dock?
I was even more convinced that there would be chicanery when I looked up the Crown Prosecution Service appeals process. You get five days from the date of any announcement in which to mount an appeal. What better timing could there be than four or five working days before Christmas?
I try to dodge predictions when there is some chance of being wrong, but I think if get this one wrong there will be ample consolation in losing the bet.
promised Lesnes Abbey entrance gate looks appropriate for a 12th century site
but a scaffold pole fence doesn’t.
Presumably the cost and the opportunity for vandalism played a part in the decision to take the ugly route but then what sort of fence would not have been an eyesore? Difficult; the vandals and illegal motorbike riders have a lot to answer for.
Maybe the wood is pre-treated against decay but appearances suggest it is just sawn timber sunk into the ground.
Every day I walk a circular route to Abbey Wood station, through it and
out the other side and home again via Harrow Manor Way picking up various
snippets of information from orange suited gentlemen some of whom are extremely
useful sources of information. As such I went to the quarterly Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting
last night not expecting to learn a great deal. I was very wrong.
The orange clad gossip that the last utility diversion, gas, was completed on Monday and that any day now the piling rigs on the southern side of the tracks will be moved to the northern side was confirmed. However there was lots more interesting news than just that, some surprising, some a little disappointing.
Among the latter - for passengers as opposed to sightseers like me - is that after the six consecutive weekends of line closures in the new year, there will be a short break and it will start all over again. There was a promise that the dates would be made available further in advance than is usually the case. There wasn’t time to grab them from the briefly displayed slide.
The meeting broke up at 8 p.m.
The good news is that
the Bostall Manorway footbridge installed in August may be brought into use
in mid-January. The lack of a bridge has been causing
massive disruption to children
attending school (and those who would like to have photographed the station
track installation from a different angle) but Network Rail has submitted a plan to Greenwich council aimed
at overcoming a resident’s objection. Why one resident is allowed to disrupt life
for thousands is beyond me, perhaps democracy has fled from Greenwich as it has
in Bexley. It is possible, likely even, that the disabled ramp will remain closed
for longer. The disabled’s additional problems don’t seem to matter to Greenwich council.
The possibly good news is that an independent assessor is working towards a solution for the St. Benet’s church hall fire escape problem.
The not good news at all is that the Felixstowe Road entrance to Abbey Wood station will be closed by March and remain shut until the Crossrail station opens at the end of 2017. There will be massive disruption as the detour involves three flights of stairs and crossing Wilton Road, Gayton Road and Harrow Manorway. The pedestrian crossing already causes traffic tail backs, up Knee Hill occasionally, and with far more people using the crossing, regular gridlock is not impossible. Lift use will increase too.
For anyone unable to use the stairs a half mile detour is inevitable. All the talk of mitigation like shuttle buses aired at a previous meetings has been forgotten. It has become a common theme of the Liaison Panel meetings that promises made at one meeting are not fulfilled at the next.
As one of the attendees remarked, the locals are getting fed up with it and west London residents would not be treated this way. It may not be true but there are signs of growing discontent.
I was taking bets that the promise to provide cut away diagrams of the new station promised at the last meeting would not show up at this one, but again I was wrong.
They revealed two large external lifts on each side of the station which will operate 24 hours a day as part of the regular pedestrian route across the railway line. It will be controlled from the Crossrail HQ in Romford and under CCTV surveillance. Hopefully it can be locked shut from there to imprison vandals until the police arrive.
Unfortunately there is room for only one lift down to each platform but Network Rail's Peter Hume said the “middle footbridge” would be “upgraded with escalators”. That was a big rabbit out of his hat.
Whilst the Crossrail project is undeniably causing problems I always feel that some of the meeting attendees are Professional Moaners. The single lift to each platform was seen as a fire hazard to some. One lift seems to be the norm on the DLR and recently refurbished District Line stations that I use every week or so. I would have thought that a third of a mile of platform would be more than enough refuge for anyone trapped there by a fire in the booking hall and those on the upper level have the gaping hole which is the exit on to Harrow Manorway.
The small Stannah lifts that serve the temporary station are clearly not fit for purpose. One was out of order for four weeks recently when a motor burned out. Crossrail has insisted that Stannah keeps a full set of spare parts at Stannah’s Dartford depot.
There were complaints about noise and vibration from those who live close to the new London bound track. I must declare an interest. I live as close to that track as the principal complainant does but half a mile from the station. The disadvantage for me is that trains are going faster than at the station (more noise and vibration) but the subsoil is firmer than the rice pudding that supports the track near the station. Perhaps most important of all, I do not suffer the 16 apology announcements an hour that come over Southeastern’s public address system.
It was claimed that the acoustic barrier has been downgraded from a concrete wall to a three metre high barrier mostly of wood. I am going to get similar protection and even without it I have to specially listen out to hear a train and vibration is apparent only when heavily laden freight trains pass by at speed. I may even miss seeing them, it’s a more reliable indicator that trains are running than Southeastern’s website.
Maybe vibration will be different where the subsoil is rice pudding but on the other hand the track at the station sits in a very substantial reinforced concrete trough.
Another complaint was drainage.
Two adjoining houses were demolished at the end of Abbey Terrace to make room for the railway and with them the road outside disappeared. It is now under track ballast and its two rain water gullies were lost too. Rain has nowhere to go other than lap residents’ doorsteps. Isn’t that for Greenwich council to sort out? They have known about Crossrail for a very long time and it is their road.
The council should have examined the effect on their road drainage system more closely and redesigned it. The Greenwich councillor who chairs the meeting didn’t seem to think so. Obviously he has a vested interest in supporting residents against Crossrail. Peter Hume and Co. will eventually go away but voters stay.
Nigel Threadgold, Bexley’s Highways Manager, gave a brief presentation on the £6 million plans for Harrow Manorway and the area around the three station entrances. Everything looked pretty enough with the trees and York stone and granite but one of the Professional Moaners said that six different colours of granite paving was bad for the disabled. I am less than enthusiastic about the practical effects. The Crossrail bosses said they are expecting 20,000 passengers in the morning rush.
Harrow Manorway is (was?) a four lane viaduct without footpaths built by Bexley council in 1975. Crossrail is being built to last 150 years but I doubt that sort of lifespan was in mind when the concrete viaduct was designed, yet it is to become an integral part of the station.
Four lanes will never be seen again. On the station side (west) bus stops will be provided both before and after the station entrance which will be kept clear. A raised footpath with protective barrier will be provided on both sides of the viaduct and on both northern and southern approaches. The green paint which Bexley council calls a cycle track will be extended from outside Sainsbury’s where it currently terminates, across the flyover to the Knee Hill roundabout. There will not be much room left for motor vehicles. Knee Hill is going to see lots more tail backs.
There will be little change to the bus stops on the eastern side of the viaduct but all the plans are in an early stage of development and may undergo further revision.
Greenwich council’s representative referred to the £300,000 scheme to improve the trading facilities in Wilton Road but also gave the first news of a scheme called the HILLS Project which will involve using an apprentice training budget to refurbish the Wilton Road public realm and footpaths. There were few details but it all sounded like a brilliant idea to be welcomed. Greenwich council will generously look after the Bexley side of the road too.
The next Liaison Panel meeting was fixed for 19th April 2016. Quarterly meetings have apparently drifted to four month intervals.
front door jobsworth had been persuaded to let me into the council chamber
and I had grabbed the only copy of the Agenda made available for the public I
sat down to be bombarded by facts from several of the council officers present
at the Resources Scrutiny meeting. Those facts are not going to make the most
exciting reading ever.
Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands and pictured above right) who runs the successful Halal meat supplier, Eden Valley Group, in Erith had noticed that the business rates collection target had fallen behind target. The dip had been caused almost entirely by Bexley College which paid late and Thames Water which was no longer paying in advance, so the real differences were not especially serious.
Collection of council tax via Direct Debit had increased significantly this year, from 66% to 72·35%.
The biggest event by far, in terms of time taken anyway, was the Head of Exchequer Services’ report and question session on the reclaiming of overpaid Housing Benefit. He described the job as running not even to stand still and there is currently nearly £9 million of overpayment being chased in Bexley. The situation has been steadily deteriorating nationally and heading for £1·6 billion. Payments in Bexley are now at the £100 million a year mark; Bexley’s money but nearly all of it provided for the purpose by central government. Overpayments can only be recovered from each person at a rate capped at £11.10 pence a week except in the most exceptional circumstances.
Bexley’s overpayment amount has grown by more than £1.7 million since the DWP joined HMRC’s Real Time Information system which matches tax data and six social security benefits to identify under declared earnings and pension income.
It was felt that Housing Benefit no longer fitted modern work practices, zero hours contracts and part time work causes income to fluctuate rapidly and the benefits payments system can’t keep up.
Claimants are often unwilling to report changes in circumstances because they fear payments will stop while being recalculated to a possibly lower level. The changes to legislation made in 2004 were given as an aggravating factor. Annual reviews were outlawed.
The steep rises in rent, and with it the benefit, is pushing overpayments skywards too, but they are thought to be most often due to errors rather than fraud, but as the total sum owed is not subdivided nothing specific is known.
When cases have gone to Bexley Magistrates Court, £15,000 of fraud might result in 120 hours of community service. Planned Press Releases “had been pulled” because the punishment was not seen as sufficient deterrent. The former Director of Finance regarded it as an incentive to commit fraud. Mr. Mark Underwood must find it hard to get any satisfaction from doing his vital job. Several councillors thanked him for his comprehensive report. Well explained too if I might say so.
There has been a small number of enquiries this week about the old Blockbuster store in
Sidcup High Street and who might be taking it over. I suspect it is linked to
what has been said on Streetlife.
I am afraid I know no more than was said at the Places Scrutiny meeting last Tuesday. “The landlords of the former Blockbuster unit are working with the [Deputy Director of Regeneration and Growth’s] team to secure a suitable occupant”. It doesn’t sound as if any significant development is imminent.
It could have been occupied long ago but Bexley council has twice refused a planning application from Foxton’s, approximately the 350th biggest FTSE listed company in the country. Their reason is that the application was contrary to Bexley council’s policy.
Presumably sticking gymnasiums where supermarkets used to be is fully compliant with Bexley’s planning policy.
There is no reference to Councillor Maxine Fothergill in this blog.
When the deputy mayor of
Tower Hamlets council referred to a Vexatious Fascist Blogger,
confirmed by two witnesses and a newspaper report, I emailed an objection. Mayor Rachael Saunders
replied to the effect that she wasn’t talking about me , it was Michael
Barnbrook who she had in mind. Her information had come from Bexley council.
If a councillor refers to a member of the public in particularly derogatory terms, especially when it is wrong, there is probably grounds for complaint.
Bexley council has already said it will not accept complaints from Michael Barnbrook, having labelled him vexatious, so there was not a lot of point in complaining to Bexley. They would have rejected the complaint as they have previously rejected far more serious complaints. Complaints that became police matters for example.
However there was no reason not to send one to Tower Hamlets and they referred it to their Monitoring Office for investigation and possible reference to their Code of Conduct Committee.
Can you imagine that happening In Bexley? And it’s Tower Hamlets which is supposed to be the corrupt council.
Bexley council is expert at getting around the law and not so long ago they came up with a new trick. When the Boundary Commission proposals were due to be discussed in public at a General Purposes Committee meeting and there were things they’d rather keep to themselves they came up with the idea of a Working Group and discussed the matter there. Working Groups have no legal status within the council so they are free to hold it in secret or the saloon bar of a public house, there’s nothing any resident can do about it.
Bexley council seems to have pulled a similar stunt with the Code of Conduct Committee. Bexley’s Code of Conduct Committee was set up in 2012 under the Localism Act to replace the Standards Board. Its basic rules are to follow the recommendations of the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life. There are seven principles. Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. Anathema to Bexley council obviously.
What could be done about that?
There aren’t many complaints against councillors that get past the Monitoring Officer. As Labour leader Alan Deadman said when the Committee was set up, it puts the Monitoring Officer in “an invidious position” and sure enough most Code of Conduct meetings are cancelled for lack of work to do. But it’s potentially a problem. On 20th May this year a solution was proposed.
Run the Code of Conduct Committee under council rules rather national rules by establishing a Complaints Sub-Committee. Genius eh?
On 2nd December a meeting of the main Code of Conduct Committee referred a complaint to its Sub-Committee and sure enough it was ruled that the public must be excluded. A 203 page Agenda with all but eight of them blank. And what were those Nolan Principles again? Integrity, Openness and Honesty. Where did they go?
Three members of the public decided they would turn up anyway for the privilege of being unceremoniously flung out. Their preliminary report makes amusing reading and when Bexley responds to the formal complaints the subject will make a reappearance here.
who should know about these things told me
while at the 2014 election count that there would be an election every
year until 2022 and promptly reeled them off. I can only think of GLA next year,
European Referendum in 2017, council in 2018 and 2022 and General Election in 2020.
Presumably if we vote to leave the EU in 2017 all the subsequent gap years can
be used for a rerun by the EU to try to get the right answer.
2016 and the GLA business must however lead to a revision to the BiB election pages. In fact there is already some to accommodate the Conservative leaflet that came through the letter box yesterday while I was getting wet taking Crossrail pictures.
Anna Firth’s 2015 campaign in Erith & Thamesmead was appealing in several ways. She didn’t seem to like the European Union and gave no indication of being a fan of David Cameron. Maybe she just tells voters what they want to hear but I have moved on and I doubt she could keep up with me now. I used to think Cameron was a weak and useless Prime Minister and now I have seen him without the Lib Dems to blame I can only despise the bastard.
In 2010 I tried not to mention the election on BiB and in 2014 and 2015 I set out to sit on the fence politically and probably failed miserably. Currently I’m not sure I shall make any attempt to sit on the fence in the lead up to the GLA elections on 4th May 2016.
Untruthful political leaflets really get up my nose. Not just those that lie outright because usually they don’t, but carefully worded deceptions and misinformation are perhaps worse.
Anna Firth is claiming credit in the E&T leaflet for bringing more trains to Southeastern. I’ll believe it when I see it but it is David Evenett and Teresa Pearce who lobbied the Transport Secretary at an official meeting. I don’t see Anna Firth in the picture that proves it. Inviting ministers to barbecues doesn’t really count.
Anna Firth is also keen to perpetuate the North Heath Numpty’s misinformation that “Labour wants you to pay more tax”. It’s one of Philip Read’s least well disguised lies. I know he likes to doze off in the council chamber but I have heard Labour leader Alan Deadman very directly say he doesn’t want to see council tax go up.
The reason that the opposition has to vote against a budget is not necessarily because they want to see taxes go up but because the budget is presented as a single entity. You are either fully for it or you’re against it.
Along with the leaflet, E&T Tories were distributing a news sheet called The Greater Londoner. In it they called the Labour contender for Mayor of London a “machine politician who has always put his party first”. The news sheet says he called Conservative voters bastards too. Makes no difference to me, I won’t be voting for him.
Neither will I be voting for someone who doesn’t even put his party first, namely Zac Goldsmith. He wants to extend the London congestion Zone, I heard him say so on LBC and it will only be a matter of time before avarice like that gets it extended to everywhere within the M25. Who in any case would want to vote for a man who puts himself before not only his party but before the economic well being of the entire country by threatening to resign if he doesn’t get his small minded petulant way with Heathrow? I can’t put it better than today’s Sunday Telegraph, “self-righteous posturing’.
BiB won’t declare war on any one side but sitting on the fence is too much like hard work. Sounding off occasionally is far more fun.
During the past week, Abbey
Wood station has seen even more piling, someone from Network Rail told me there
would be 99 to support the southern side of the new station.
still seems a long way from completion, the third rail insulators have been put
in place and wonder of wonder, a canopy is being put over the new platform.
It might be in place already except that possibly too much reliance is being placed on mechanisation. When I arrived on the station footbridge I thought it would be nice to have a picture of the Perspex sheet dangling under the crane’s jib. I stood on the bridge 50 minutes before the men managed to attach the rubber suckers to the plastic sheet and lift it into place.
In Victorian times a couple of blokes would have carried it up a ladder. Even today in these safety conscious times an orange suit standing on their scaffold frame could have hauled up the lightweight roofing panel in a canvas sling in a couple of minutes.
A week’s worth of pictures including the canopy developments may be seen here. Note the time stamps. Nearly an hour to get one panel in place.
This is the weekend that Crossrail planned to make an honest woman of
Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Opining Baloney as Evidence).
She said at the council meeting on 4th November that Felixstowe Road which will become the Northern entrance and dropping off point for Abbey Wood station was complete apart from its final top surface.
If she took a greater interest in what happens north of the Bexleyheath railway line she might not so often go around saying such silly things.
However it would appear that not even Crossrail with its £15 billion budget and heavy earth moving machinery can pull off such a mammoth task. Despite their warning notice, Felixstowe Road remains open today, albeit with one way lights which have impeded progress every day since October 2014.
The ‘deep excavations’ are yet to be filled in and instead new holes appear almost daily. Photos 2 to 4 all taken around midday today. The warning sign has been removed.
It is three weeks since the rail works extending from Abbey Wood towards Belvedere were last featured here. That’s because it is not particularly spectacular and the poor light, dirty train windows and reflections from within the train carriages have conspired to make the pictures less than satisfactory. However, for the Crossrail diehards…
Rain soaked passengers at Abbey Wood station where there has been almost no shelter from the elements since the temporary station opened more than a year ago will have had their spirits slightly lifted today. The first sections of canopy were being fitted to the new London bound platform. Photos tomorrow.
A mere ten weeks after the new London Road/Bourne Road roundabout in Crayford was brought into use the T junction sign has been taken away.
In Bexley village work continues on the bridge replacement. The real fun starts on January 7th and will reach its peak on 22nd February when the bridge will close for five weeks.
Far away in Belvedere the fence around Lesnes Abbey is being ripped out. It was installed five years ago at a cost of £74,995. The figure provided when I posed my first and last question at a council meeting.
The old fence was low (Photo 1 below) which allowed dog walkers who park in the adjacent parking bays to step over it or crack their shins depending on their degree of wakefulness and motorcyclists to easily lift their steeds. The new one appears to be of the same ugly scaffold pole design.
The one thing that all three sets of pictures have in common is that none of the work is directly funded by Bexley council. TfL in Crayford and Bexley. The Heritage Lottery Fund in Belvedere.
The Places Scrutiny meeting dealt with more than
the crooked consultation on selling parks and
the repercussions of the bin tax.
Mrs. Richardson’s review of borough growth and regeneration was yet to come and usually worth waiting for.
Her first item was about Thamesmead. Peabody has finished the design for the next phase of building around Coralline Walk and Tavy Bridge and a planning application is to be expected “around February”.
Just the other side of the railway line the Wilton Road Christmas Market came in for a mention and 20 traders have made applications for grants which are to be assessed today. (11th December.)
In just under two minutes Jane Richardson had covered all of her brief. It’s hard not to like Jane’s approach to reporting. Clearly spoken, interesting, brief and to the point.
Shop vacancies in Belvedere are under review. Up the hill in Nuxley Road or at the bottom of the hill where the Tesco had shut, local councillor Seán Newman wanted to know. Ms. Richardson spoke only about Lower Belvedere and “Tesco were being exceptionally coy as they are entitled to be” but it was making her job difficult.
Cabinet member Linda Bailey said there were plans for more Farmers’ Markets in Erith and elsewhere.
Councillor Brian Beckwith (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked for an update about the possible regeneration of Blackfen. Mrs. Richardson said she was bidding for £130,000 so there was no scope for very big changes. The cooperation of local businesses is being sought, help with future maintenance may be required.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked how many of the 20 Wilton Road bids came from each side of the borough boundary which runs down the middle of the road. The answer to that was unknown but it was hoped that all business that “put in a constructive application would be helped in some way”.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked about “the massive void we have just down the road from here”. I thought at first he had found another big crack in the Broadway blocks but it transpired that he meant the hole on the ground that Tesco had left behind.
He slipped in a comment about the failure to include an overage clause in the contract as advocated by Labour at the time of the land sale. For some unaccountable reason the Conservative councillors decided that laughter was the best response to being outmaneuvered by Tesco and the resultant probable loss of a revenue stream.
Stefano went on at some length commenting on the lack of basic infrastructure to support the new houses in Slade Green and the fact that social housing had increased by only 32 in the last couple of years.
Ms. Richardson did well to remember all the questions. She said that in Slade Green provision had been made for infrastructure growth but there was no money to build it.
On the subject of Tesco’s void “the owners have received a number of offers but they have chosen not to share this yet”.
Acting Chief Executive Paul Moore was able to add a little meat to the bare bones. He “was in discussion with Tesco, the future would be mixed use, a combination of retail and housing. I will decline the opportunity to open up the box on what we could have done, there was another deal we could have done. In terms of that site going forward I expect some news coming forward in the new year and as soon as I can release that publicly I will share that with members”.
Councillor Val Clark mumbled almost inaudibly and aimlessly but it was something about congratulating staff. Always a good move when failing to find anything worthwhile to say.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) was pleased to have seen the market come to Erith and that Parkspring Court and Pier Road might gain tenants for the long vacant units there.
He also asked why all the town centres apart from Northumberland Heath had Christmas lights. Ms. Richardson said they had all been offered money but North Heath did not respond. She had chased them three times and the ward members too. The Northumberland Heath councillor chairing the meeting managed not to blush.
Councillor June Slaughter was concerned about government proposals that would allow local authorities to build starter homes on green belt land. Ms. Richardson was suitably cautious in her reply but councillor Gareth Bacon was of the opinion that Bexley’s green belt was often “scrub and really worthless land”. Some “looks really untidy and something like that may benefit from some building development”.
The chairman ruled no more questions and moved on to more boring matters. Whilst they did not come up for discussion the Agenda covered some subjects which may be of wider interest.
There is a lease is to be granted to a third party for Erith’s Carnegie Building. There are unspecified changes afoot for “street parking arrangements” and after beginning to issue penalties for moving traffic offences (U-turns etc.) last August, Bexley council’s greed for money is to be extended. I imagine that “Extending the method of enforcement” can only mean that the fixed CCTV cameras installed at taxpayers’ expense to enhance their protection is now to be turned upon them in order to further persecute the population. Life under this council gets progressively more oppressive.
There was a another scrutiny committee meeting last night; Resources, and
whilst not uninteresting is the
least likely of the three to provide eye catching headlines.
I didn’t want to go, it was raining, the Civic Offices’ automatic front door didn’t want to open. A jobsworth on the front desk would not let me in until 19:29 and made me sign a register. She insulted my intelligence by saying that in case of fire the register would inform her who was in the building while councillors and staff were leaving and entering freely. Without a name badge she wouldn’t be able to match my signature against my charred body anyway.
Once inside I took my place behind the gap in chairman Steven Hall’s ‘doughnut’ and immediately took the photograph which appears below. (Not everybody had arrived.)
The last time I attended a Resources meeting I had to change seat because I could see even less than usual. Steven Hall, for perfectly good reasons, had changed the seating layout to something that made more sense to him, and, for his purposes, to me as well if I am honest. However it meant it went from something like a horseshoe to the aforesaid view blocking doughnut.
Last night he had arranged a decent size bite out of the doughnut and the view was better than at most meetings in that damned awful council chamber. Steven’s scheme will work for the public so long as almost none turns up. Someone must have anticipated that last night because only one copy of the Agenda was available for the public. However there were two of us. Fortunately the other one, John Watson, uses the occasion to catch up on his correspondence without having to pay for heating his home and so had no need of an Agenda.
When chairman Hall first introduced his new seating plan and I had to move to get any sort of view at all, councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) commented on the change in defence of observers. It was good of him to do so but he could have said the same at any meeting and the liars who run Bexley Conservative’s website used his support for open democracy as an excuse to claim it was his only contribution to the budget debate. As I said, liars through and through.
The inadequacy of the new council chamber can be traced directly back to council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Overspent Building Extravagance). She was hell bent on converting an ancient building society headquarters designed to store millions of paper files before the widespread use of desktop computers into an edifice for her self-gratification. It was “iconic” she said and its roof could be seen from miles around.
O’Neill OBE (Other Building Excluder) said it would cost £36 million to convert and wanted nothing to do with a rebuild on the old Broadway site which council officers recommended at a cost of less than £30 million.
Just think of how much better off the borough would be now if Teresa O’Neill had not indulged in her own personal vanity project. Instead of a badly lit dance floor we could have had a properly designed debating chamber, but that is not all.
Where there is now a bombsite blighting Bexleyheath would stand a modern building. Tesco would own the Watling Street site and be in the process of selling it off for housing instead of whatever they have in mind for Broadway. Chief Executive Paul Moore mumbled something about mixed retail and housing developments on the Broadway bombsite a few days ago but refused to elaborate. Watling Street will be increasingly marginalised and divorced from the town centre.
Most importantly of all, the borough would not be in such dire financial straits as it is now. The conversion bodge job in Watling Street ended up costing £42 million, in the region of £14 million more than a purpose build on Broadway. Just think what could be done with that amount of money? There might be no talk of selling off 26 parks and open spaces for a start.
Councillors who elected Teresa O’Neill to the top job when her predecessor Ian Clement went to the GLA where his fraud was not overlooked as was the £2,200 filched in Bexley and who continue to elect her have a lot to answer for.
This is a bit of an early morning rant isn’t it but an occasional reminder of a major reason for Bexley being in the financial mire should be regurgitated once in a while. There is no getting away from the fact that Teresa O’Neill has presided over a general decline of the borough lifted only here and there by TfL money. It is little wonder that she would like those who revisit the past to be silenced by her police friends.
More formal meeting report later. The Places meeting is not done with yet.
The Places Scrutiny chairman launched Agenda Item 6, the snappily entitled
‘Transition From The Combined Food And Garden Waste Service To The Separate Food
Recycling And Opt-in Chargeable Garden Waste Collection’ with the refreshingly
honest admission that there appeared to have been a spike in fly tipping since
waste collection became chargeable.
Deputy Director for Public Realm and other things, David Bryce-Smith said that an increase had been the trend for the past two years but admitted to a further upward trend since the bin tax was introduced.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) didn’t let him get away with being rather vague about the actual numbers which had more than doubled over the past couple of months. His party had forecast it would when the council first discussed the new bin regime while the Conservatives ridiculed the thought. It seemed a very stupid stance at the time and it seems no less stupid now. Nevertheless the Conservatives broke into giggles while Seán was speaking about “the borough being visibly less clean”.
Under further questioning from Labour councillors the Deputy Director agreed that there was no explanation for the worsening situation other than the new bin rearrangements.
On the subject of fly tipping he said that the council prefers to levy fixed penalty notices on small scale offenders rather than prosecute, the implication being that Bexley council pockets the proceeds rather than the court service.
Mr. Bryce-Smith had a formal report on the subject ready for presentation. In my estimation Bryce-Smith is one of the better council officers. I suspect that if he was directed to bend the truth he would be caught out by stumbling over his words even more than he tends to already. He is probably as honest as one is likely to find in a top level post at Bexley council and certainly his report didn’t flinch from the stark realities. Here's some of his key points…
• The residual waste collected (green bin) may be going down since the new scheme became operational but the scheme overall “didn’t go to plan’.
• More people are expected to sign up for garden waste collection in the Spring.
• No other authority had delivered a scheme involving the swapping of bins so there was no experience to draw on.
• There were “significant problems with bookings growth”. The number is currently over 32,000 which was the number expected for June next year.
• The delivery contractors were much slower than promised and agency staff were unreliable.
• Because the contractors wrongly said distribution could be completed in five weeks they moved on to another contract leaving the Bexley contract unfulfilled.
• Three different IT systems proved to be inadequate. The one in the council’s Contact Centre failed under load and lost some 800 orders while transmitting them to Serco.
• Serco’s in cab IT system was not working properly and still isn’t. All the IT services were overwhelmed. Five servers were increased to 100.
• Additional Contact Centre staff was recruited but some left “because the work was too much for them”. At one time the call level was at 21,000 a month but it's now under half that.
• The bin manufacturer closed down for the summer holidays and if more had been ordered earlier the port authorities would have charged for storage.
• New bin orders are now being processed to delivery within a week.
• Food waste volumes “are looking good” but reductions are anticipated as people realise how much they are throwing away.
• Budget savings will be delivered earlier than expected. Sign ups may be encouraged towards Direct Debit maybe with a discount.
In response to Labour questions we learned that ‘orphaned bins’ (uncollected 140 litre brown bins) were said to be few which is not something that anyone who peers over front garden walls will be agreeing with. Councillor Craske’s assertion that only ten food bins had been reported broken was disowned.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) thanked the two council officers for their report and asked if a pilot scheme had been considered. It had been ruled out on equality grounds. Can’t charge in one ward and not another. It was accepted that some early orders for bins were delivered towards the back of the queue and distribution was inefficient “going to the same road three or four times”.
Councillor Borella enquired as to how much the cabinet member (Peter Craske) was involved while the problems were on going. He reminded the meeting that back in February “32,000 bins was an achievable target but there has been back tracking since then”. Stefano quoted from David Bryce-Smith’s written report which said “New garden waste bins about 32,110 delivered. Tranche 1, 2nd June to 19th July 2015”. Council officer Steve Didsbury said that was a mistake, the report should have made it clear they were order dates, not “delivered” as it stated.
Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) said that Stefano quoting from the council’s report amounted to “an aggressive insult to councillor Craske” which was a very strange response given that Peter Craske’s name had only been mentioned as part of the question, was cabinet member Craske “hands on” or was he not.
Gareth Bacon invited the chairman to request that councillor Borella apologise for quoting from a misleading council report.
Councillor Borella declined the request so councillor Bacon said he would “object again. It was unpleasant of him not to apologise for his mistake in this public forum. He has had a go at a cabinet member completely unjustified, he should retract and apologise.”
The chairman backed Bacon’s request but councillor Borella stood firm. All he had done was ask if councillor Craske was closely involved in bin distribution and quote dates from a council report that was not as carefully worded as it should have been. There was no actual criticism of councillor Craske although perhaps councillor Borella was planning some. Bacon was making a mountain out of a molehill.
Bacon ranted on that Stefano Borella should not have referred to dates which were wrong and he should have realised they were wrong. Councillor Craske said he “didn’t care about personal insults”. With his record that is not surprising. At least he is not a hypocrite.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon queried the readiness of the on-board IT systems of Serco’s vehicles, Steve Didsbury said he had six months to get it right. The system will be essential once some residents do not renew their subscriptions. Councilor Bacon said she was “disappointed” with the situation. She didn’t want people “to be given too many chances to renew. The system should be tightened up somewhat”. She has her reputation as a tyrant to uphold.
Mr. Didsbury offered to bring a Serco vehicle to Watling Street so that councillors could see the IT system at first hand.
Councillor Davey (Conservative, Crayford) wished to justify his existence by saying that the new waste service was “good”. His wife didn’t think so but she was coming round.
Councillor Howard Marriner (Conservative, Barnehurst) wanted to be assured that when residents inevitably decided to give up their garden waste bin or realise it would be better shared with neighbours, there would be a system in place to deal with the situation.
I thought it was a very worthwhile question and something I had been thinking about myself, but Howard was given no answer at all. The chairman moved on to the next Agenda item.
For some reason the headlong rush towards selling Old Farm Park reminds me of
the similar stampede to sell Hill View in Welling.
It’s not quite the same, one open space is a park and the other was not totally green, there was a council office in the middle of Hill View surrounded by greenery but a council office is quiet by day and silent at night and weekends.
However the need to ignore public opinion by selling Hill View in order to shore up Bexley’s spending plans were not much different to what is going on now with Old Farm Park.
In the case of Hill View, councillors wanted the money to finance their own apology for a Town Hall in Watling Street so the planning rules were thrown out of the window too.
Local residents, just like those in Sidcup, formed a campaign group long before the sale of Hill View went through, it’s nine years old now. They engaged consulting engineers, solicitors, went to court and formed a Neighbourhood Forum under the Localism Act. Bexley council initially resisted their plans to do so but the residents' determination was all to no avail. The council marched on regardless. To stop, listen or in any way hesitate may have delayed Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obstacles Banished Emphatically) from becoming the Queen of Watling Street.
The planning meeting was a farce. The site suffered from serious flooding and councillor James Hunt related how “mushrooms are growing up walls”. Councillor Michael Slaughter also said he was very unhappy with the drainage situation. He objected to the fact that two storey houses had bedrooms in the roof space which he didn’t think warranted the two storey designation.
The major problem with the planning application was that it breached Bexley council’s proximity rules. 16 metres between blank walls and 22 metres between windowed walls. To circumvent the 22 metre rule conservatories and even kitchens in existing houses were redesignated as not being habitable rooms and so their windows didn’t count. That subterfuge came undone when a council officer conceded that the discounted windows broke the 16 metre rule too.
Five of the ten planning committee members were critical of the application, four said nothing and only the obnoxious councillor Val Clark spoke in favour. However it was approved unanimously. The OBE (Owns Backpassage Exclusively) who must be obeyed rules supreme.
By the beginning of this year, Hill View was a mud bath and this week I decided to go and take another look. Access is not easy but there is a passage between some houses that leads to a couple of bungalows which provide a better view. I knocked on the door of one of them because I had spoken to Ron Brewster who lives at No. 9 before as a member of the campaign group.
His garden is not adjacent to the Hill View plot so his neighbours are perhaps more affected than he is but this is the view that greeted me from his back garden
I asked Ron if the block nearest him was three storeys but he said their extreme height was due to them being built on raised ground and the roofs were very steep - to accommodate the bedrooms mentioned at the planning meeting presumably. There were subterranean drainage systems including water tanks beneath.
He let me have a map of the area.
The remarkable thing about that map is that the tall block pictured above is adjacent to the ‘Avoid overlooking’ planning condition. I asked Ron how Bellway Homes could have got away with that and the answer, apart from the obvious, that they could do what they like once planning permission was granted, was that he believed Bexley’s Planning Control only dealt with minor house extensions and the like, and the larger schemes are handed over to the developer to ‘police’ his own project.
The following pictures were all taken from areas where overlooking was supposed to be avoided, instead ugly blocks dominate the skyline and the small space that separates them from their established neighbours is to become a children’s play area. The tallest block is the so called affordable housing. Prices range from £429,995 to £599,995.
Photographs not taken from nearest overlooked garden.
My opinion of Bexley council and predictions for Old Farm Park must have made
depressing reading for many Sidcup residents, these pictures will not improve
matters. Neither will Ron Brewster’s report that the wrecking of outlooks,
not to mention the serious effect on house values, has caused the whole area to
go downhill. In some cases, tensions have arisen between residents as a direct consequence.
Once again Bexley council has put its own needs above those of residents. What do you call a council where only one voice out of ten backs a planning application but votes it through unanimously? Certainly not honest, more probably corrupt.
I’d love to find any aspect of Bexley’s infrastructure that has improved since 2006 but every single action taken by this council is either an attack on residents individually, bin taxes, residents’ parking charges, rebanding of parking penalty areas in order to extort more money, failing vulnerable children etc., or on whole areas, silly roundabouts, restricted junctions, parks neglected and public toilets shut. Can it be true that most people still haven’t noticed because the erosion is gradual? I suspect it is.
The Places Scrutiny Committee is arguably the most consistently interesting
of the three farces. Melvin Seymour does an OK job as chairman, at least he has
never done anything I considered to be unfair or unduly biased, and the report
on Regeneration and Growth is usually worth hearing. What’s more it can be heard
thanks to Deputy Director Jane Richardson’s appreciation that the microphone in
front of her is for speaking into and not to be shoved to one side.
Some of the Tories seem to do that deliberately. Councillor Brian Bishop was sitting next to councillor Val Clark and Bishop came over as clear as a bell and the useless Clark was close to inaudible. The Labour councillors can be barely heard either but only when one is forced to sit behind them as was the case last night.
The new council chamber is an absolute disgrace for it failure to address the needs of the public. There is almost no chance of being able to catch out anyone watching the football as happened in Croydon on Monday.
The extra attraction last night was the Labour Group’s attempt to deflect the path of the Old Farm Park sale consultation process.
I wouldn’t have known about it except that Labour leader Alan Deadman wrote to some residents to make them aware of the additional Agenda item and one of them posted it on Facebook. It was repeated here on 5th December.
I was under the impression that every decent councillor is working for residents and part of that would be keeping them well informed; so when I heard on the grapevine that Alan Deadman had been taken aside by a senior Tory and told he was letting the side down I took it with a big pinch of salt. However, last night, I heard chairman Seymour confirm that the grapevine was indeed correct or at least on the right track. Councillor Melvin Seymour was “sad” that Alan Deadman had distributed his letter. It may be significant that the grapevine said that Alan’s critic was the same Tory who was alleged to have called Alan a cu…, well you know the rest.
Are the Tories losing it and becoming the even nastier party?
Labour’s supplementary Agenda item referred to the Summer consultation on the sale of four parks which asked the public to judge the merits of disposal based on the fact that their sale would provide one million pounds towards the maintenance of the remaining open spaces. The figure was wrong, it should have been £710,000 for all 27 (now 26) parks and not just the four parks of which Old Farm is the largest one.
The public may have seen £710k. for 26 parks as rather less attractive than a million for only four.
It was argued that the mistake rendered the consultation invalid but obviously Bexley’s Tories were not going to accede to that.
Chairman Seymour began by saying he believed Alan Deadman’s letter implied that the Scrutiny Committee had jurisdiction over the sale. I’ve read it again and still don’t see how, but that was his excuse for calling councillor Deadman’s decision to keep residents informed ‘sad’. He continued by saying much the same thing as I had been telling everyone who asked me what effect Alan Deadman’s letter would have.
He “took no pleasure in telling you“ the Scrutiny Committee had “no remit” to stop the statutory consultation, “however I have no option but to allow“ the Labour submission. Note the implied reluctance in the phraseology.
The council officers were asked to justify their use of misleading figures. First the facts; on park maintenance the council is looking to save £200,000 in 2016/17 rising to £800,000 in 2017/18. The £800,000 comes from “the anticipated capital receipts of ten million pounds”. The sale will avoid financing costs of 8%. That is 5% debt repayment provision (a legal requirement) and avoided interest of 3%. “Continuing grounds maintenance requires an overhead of £90,000“, hence the target savings of £710,000. “These figures were agreed by council last March.” The million pound figure was to allow for “potential overachievement on the land sale”. Carefully estimate a number, then casually inflate it.
It was confirmed that the consultation was wrong to have referred to the savings coming from the sale of four parks and not 27. Councillor Ferreira said that this error could leave the council open to a challenge.
Deputy director Toni Ainge whose difficulty with numbers is already well known said the council’s let out clause for not using the £710,000 figure is because she said “up to one million” which as excuses go is a pretty lame one. She made no attempt to explain away the four parks versus 27 or 26.
She said that even if the park sale produced a million pounds it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for ground maintenance elsewhere. In a further attempt to justify her mistaken arithmetic Ms. Ainge said those consultations were non-statutory, or to put it another way, she believed she could legally mislead the public without fear of any legal challenge.
For the statutory (current) consultation she had placed an advertisement in the News Shopper. There was no requirement for the council to make the information available in other places such as libraries and she had not done so. Members of the public were not impressed. In my road, more than 60 houses, the News Shopper distributor calls at only two. He has no idea why, but they are his instructions.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was invited to speak. She defended the right to question figures put out as part of a consultation exercise but she felt there was “a danger that we will lose sight of the main issues for opposing the sale of Old Farm Park. We should concentrate on the reasons we are opposing the sale. We should be encouraging as many people as possible to take part in the [current] consultation”.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) defended his leader’s decision to write to residents and like me, could not see that it did any more than encourage them to attend the evening’s meeting. (Around 40 had done so.)
Councillor Borella emphasised the need to put correct figures into consultations and those used had been “confusing”. Ms. Ainge repeated her lame excuse about “up to one million pounds”. An excuse for saying four instead of 26 or 27 still eluded her.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) added his weight to the argument. “The consultation was on a false premise and the responses cannot be accurate and the information put before cabinet cannot be accurate. How much would it cost the council to deal with the legal process if this was reviewed in some way?”
The lying councillor Cheryl Bacon said it was all a “red herring”. “Figures get changed all the time. It is disingenuous to suggest the consultation is faulted because of some variance on the figures. It doesn’t aid the debate. It is not for this committee to be dealing with the decision. The responses I have heard from Ms. Ainge have satisfied me.”
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) circulated his Motion calling for the current consultation to be abandoned and to rerun the earlier one without the misleading figures for monetary gain.
Councillor Val Clark was the first to object but what she actually said was inaudible because she likes to keep at least three feet from the nearest microphone.
The lying Cheryl Bacon made her objections abundantly clear, she didn’t think the Motion should be accepted at all. Her justification was some nonsense to do with the use of the word disposal when no decision had yet been taken and she thought it would be better if the cabinet member took account of any problem with the consultation “when the final decision gets made”.
Committee vice-chairman councillor Nigel Betts, not the sharpest tool in the box, was even more petty objecting to the phrase “referring back”, when he said it hadn’t been referred in the first place. He was paid £750 for that interjection.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon attempted to throw a desperate spanner into the works by requesting a legal ruling from the Committee Officer that the Motion was unacceptable. The ruling went against her. She argued against that ruling and lost again.
Councillor Borella who appears to have a photographic memory of the arcane rule book said a Motion should not be debated or questioned until it was both proposed and seconded, and it certainly hadn’t been seconded at that stage.
The chairman was understandably getting fed up with the too-ing and froing and called for an immediate vote on the amendment.
Councillor Slaughter appears to have her arms folded. Councillor Aileen Beckwith sits on her hands.
The inevitable had happened. Nothing is going to deflect Bexley council from selling public amenities to the highest bidder. It started with the public toilets and it will go on until everyone is sufficiently pissed off with this council to chuck them out of office.
There is no reference to Councillor Maxine Fothergill in this blog.
Collecting information, taking pictures and writing the blog requires that
time is juggled efficiently and today I got it wrong. One of the research jobs
took longer than anticipated and my doctor surprised me by offering a same day
appointment. And this evening there is another Scrutiny meeting to attend.
There is a public council meeting on Thursday morning too. The Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Sub-Committee. They are usually cancelled because no one can be bothered to make a complaint about a councillor any more. I tried once and when councillor Craske was caught out he fabricated a new excuse which was allowed.
These days the Committee is run by councillor Cheryl Bacon whose name is right now in front of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Case Unit and councillor Nigel Betts who would like to prevent the taking of photographs in the council chamber, even though that would be illegal. Just the sort of people you would expect the OBE (Overlooking Bacon’s Errors) to choose to set standards in Bexley.
However on Thursday the almost unprecedented is in prospect, a councillor is to face Bacon and Betts to answer a complaint at a public meeting.
Except that this public meeting is going to be held in private. Of the 204 pages in the Agenda, all but eight are blank.
The only possible purpose in a member of the public showing up is to note who goes into Public Gallery East. As well as the aforementioned rogues, Stefano Borella is on the committee. Anyone else will be coated in Teflon or tar and feathers dependent on their political allegiance.
In almost every court of justice in the land the mantra is that justice must be seen to be done. But not in Bexley where they prefer to hold private meetings that will “resolve the situation”.
Today was an anniversary of sorts, it is three and a half years since Elwyn
Bryant and I posted off a letter to Sir Bernard-Howe to complain that Chief
Superintendent Dave Stringer, a former borough commander in Bexley, made absolutely no progress in his investigation into who set up
the homophobic blog
in my name. Or at least that’s how it appeared to me and Elwyn at the time. We
subsequently discovered that the crime had been traced to councillor Peter Craske’s internet connection.
The perceived lack of progress was primarily to consider how, in the words of
the acting deputy borough commander, “to resolve Peter Craske’s ongoing situation”.
That is why the complaint was later upgraded to an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office against not only Dave Stringer but also his successor who tried to cover Stringer’s tracks.
I have since accumulated a file of correspondence which is literally an inch and a half thick even when squashed as flat as it will go. Many of the letters are from the police to tell me they haven’t done anything yet. The IPCC is unwilling to do anything about it even though the case gained their support after the initial cover up. Apparently all a member of the public can do about police lethargy is to wait and occasionally moan about it. This is today’s quick effort to the current investigation officer.
Dear DC Xxxx,
I probably should have written to you before to thank you for your occasional contact letters during the latter part of this year, but as today is exactly three and a half years since Elwyn Bryant and I sent in the original complaint it is probably about time I did.
There is not a lot I can usefully add to what has been said before except perhaps that we believe we have been let down very badly by the Metropolitan Police whose priority has always looked to be to delay the outcome.
You are the third officer to have been put on the case. The first, Michelle Gower, produced a technically flawed cover up which satisfied no one including the IPCC.
The second officer, Yvonne Weeden, never gave any confidence that she understood what the complaint was about and on her own admission didn't even apply for the case papers for about a year - I could look it up - after being allocated the complaint.
I fully accept that it is a complex case that may have required some understanding of the internet and its workings but DC Weeden was unwilling to accept the offer of a meeting with Elwyn, myself and my MP all of whom thought it might help her grasp the intricacies.
If the Metropolitan Police’s intention is to demonstrate that they are reluctant to investigate the indiscretions of senior officers they could hardly have done a better job.
I have a letter from DAC Fiona Taylor dated 23rd June 2015 which promised a phone call to explain the situation. It never happened.
In due course I hope you will be able to come to the same conclusion that Elwyn, I and my MP did, that there was ample written evidence that CS Dave Stringer made no real attempt to initially investigate the crime and that both he and CS Olisa later bowed to political pressure when all the evidence pointed to the guilt of a Bexley councillor, just as DS Jacqueline Bishop told us exactly three years ago.
On 19th January 2015, Detective Constable Yvonne Weeden wrote to inform me that DS Bishop no longer worked for the Met and she hadn’t been able to locate her. Google provided the answer within seconds. Not much of a detective is she? Just the sort of cop you need to follow up a cybercrime.
Or penny wise, pound foolish…
The autumn leaves are occasionally swept from the roads but those that fall in the parks are left to rot with no account taken of what the wind might do, so drains block and roads flood.
The recycling service is degraded and petty rules about closed lids introduced; extra home collections are more expensive than any other nearby borough and the consequences are obvious. Fly tipping is on the increase.
In another effort to raise money a premium rate phone number has been introduced to report inconsiderately parked cars. The Audi shown above was left there all day, not only overhanging a dropped kerb but turning an already blind bend into a greater hazard as drivers were forced on to the wrong side of the road.
I think I would have reported this one, it wasn’t just inconsiderate it was dangerous but I wasn’t going to call a premium rate phone number. I think that is a minimum £55 loss to Bexley council. Hard to be sure given how difficult it is to find anything on Bexley’s website.
The drain hole shown here is without its cover along with its nearest partner. It was left in that state for approximately 36 hours. It was the weekend but it could have been lethal if struck by a motorcyclist.
It’s not two weeks since
the new North Kent line track reached the end of the new
Abbey Wood station platform and now it’s laid all the way through.
Scroll through the latest pictures (99 images, 8MB) to see not only the track progress but the extension of the supports for the sound reduction barrier, the filling of the massive hole at the end of Wilton Road, the interminable piling and confirmation that Teresa O’Neill (Orator Belies Exactitude) was talking rot when she reported a month ago that Felixstowe Road was back to normal apart from its temporary road surface.
The massive metal tubes that are being pushed ten metres into the ground as part of the station building foundations are there mainly to keep the bore hole from collapsing when the concrete is poured in. The ground above the ten metre deep strata of clay is far from stable.
In due course the piles will be covered by a metre thick concrete raft. When that happens the station will rise from the mud.
Before that happens there will be another six consecutive weekends of line closures in the new year.
A good start to the New Year. No trains for the first six weekends. Click to rotate.
Leader’s report to council. 4th November 2015 but see above photos for the truth.
The Wilton Road (Abbey Wood) Christmas Fair which has been advertised both here and everywhere
locally for the past few weeks seemed to be reasonably busy when I dropped by this morning.
It was set up by the newly formed Abbey Wood Business Network with the help of Sally Williams who is the retail consultant charged with spending the £300,000 provided by the GLA and Greenwich and Bexley councils in an effort to improve the area in time for the coming of the new station in 2017. Last Friday one of Network Rail’s civil engineers assured me it would be ‘world class’.
As well as the usual face painting, home made cakes and Father Christmas himself, we were treated to a pair of reindeer and the unusual sight of Tariq from the card and gift shop serving up brussels sprouts and tangerines.
Despite the widespread advertising I managed to find someone who works in Wilton Road who knew nothing about the event until yesterday and a BiB reader who had not noticed the site banner. (It’s gone now.)
The day after it was revealed here that council leader Teresa O’Neill has a taxpayer funded private park for a back garden I received a message to the effect that the ‘forgotten’ space had been added to the list of open spaces to be considered for disposal.
Hiya. I've found out from a Labour councillor that Burr Park has been added to the list.
Without corroboration I could only take it with a pinch of salt. Bexley council doesn’t usually react in fewer than 24 hours and I had not heard from any Labour councillor then or indeed since. However they have been busy elsewhere. This appeared on Facebook yesterday…
I am writing to inform you that Bexley Labour Group have managed to get the issue of Old Farm Park put on the agenda for the Places Overview & Scrutiny Committee Meeting on Tuesday next at 7.30 in the civic offices.
On reviewing the paperwork sent out for the consultation, the figures issued on the amount of money to be saved is wrong, it is considerably less than originally stated.
To this end we have managed to get it on the agenda paper as an extra item of business, we would appreciate it if you could please circulate this news to your fellow campaigners and ask them to attend the meeting.
While we cannot guarantee any positive outcome, it does give us added support in our attempt to restart the consultation process and also put in the open space behind the leader of the Councils home, which appears to be unused, as it is locked and has been for some years since the old uplands school was moved, this was the sports field for the school.
I hope to see you at the meeting on Tuesday.
The author was Labour Leader, Alan Deadman. See you next Tuesday he says, which is by chance very similar to the comment alleged to have been made recently by deputy council leader Alex Sawyer when referring to Alan Deadman.
I have no confidence in Bexley council ever doing the decent thing and therefore fear that if the savings from selling parks are “considerably less than originally stated” the danger is that they will sell even more.
not just the North of the borough which is being
torn down and rebuilt, the
South is getting the same treatment and with arguably much greater disruption.
It may be essential disruption in Bexley Village but it is being done in an inconsiderate manner which will bring no long term benefits. Abbey Wood Village will get a huge lift from Crossrail but Bexley Village will see no improvement whatsoever from its bridge replacement. Far from it, it has lost its trees already.
Bexley council has pushed out an excuse sheet, click to see PDF.
The traffic disruption is not supposed to start until 7th January but drivers trapped behind the contractor’s waiting to get access to the site may not be convinced of that. Trading conditions will suffer but compensation claims are prohibited by law.
Photographs by Elwyn Bryant.
The new Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre is going up as fast as the trees are
coming down. Here are some pictures from the past few days.
3rd December (Photos 1 & 2). 4th December (Photos 3 & 4)
Tree and shrub removal. And mud
Bexley council has reissued it’s Household Recycling & Waste Guide which is a
very useful document well worth keeping.
It’s the first to have dropped on to my
doormat since 2010 and it is good to see that butter tubs and drinks cartons
can now be recycled. It won’t be long before I won’t need the green bin.
Click extract so see all of the 2016 Recycling Guide.
Cabinet member Peter Craske repeats the old excuse that the problems encountered with the
introduction of the new garden waste scheme were because demand exceeded
expectations. This claim does not stand examination. There was a heated debate
in the council chamber last February
when the the assumed 40% take up rate formed the basis of an argument between Labour and Conservative members. 40% of
Bexley’s homes is 32,000, exactly the number blamed for the less than perfect start.
The Conservatives should be claiming credit for the accuracy of their prediction and at the same time explaining how ordering all the bins in one go, before all the orders were in, would have put too much money at risk. What they did was very sensible, to have done otherwise may have resulted in a financial loss, however it led directly to the distribution delays. Perhaps they should have gone for a localised trial first.
Unfortunately Bexley council is addicted to lying and instead of explaining their achievement they are blaming the teething problems on residents who seized on one of the lowest prices anywhere for such a service. A better service than Bromley’s and at half the price.
But probably not for long. Every single council announcement that mentions the price emphases it is for this year only. Councillor Craske’s latest statement repeats it. I think we are being warned that the price will rapidly escalate.
It was my bin collection day today but you don’t have to live here to know that. The rubbish blowing around in the gutters and the unemptied bins are all the clue you need.
The new bin guide is not yet on the council’s website but the 2015 issue is.
By the way, If you are elderly or infirm beware of the new arrangements at the Thames Road tip. You are now expected to climb steps and heave your rubbish over a high wall. Several people have reported that it has proved too difficult for them. Bexley council: Listening to you, working for you.
A review via the webcast of the 35 minutes of People Scrutiny meeting that I missed reveals
little of note. Cabinet member Philip Read updated some of the figures relating
to social workers which he has been striving to improve.
At the beginning of October the permanent staff had risen to 65%. More newly trained staff had been recruited to replace some of the remaining 35% of experienced agency staff, 58% of whom have been with Bexley for more than a year.
The cost of agency staff is high and Bexley has been working to persuade other London boroughs to sign up to its ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ which aims to cut agency pay rates. 27 have now been recruited with a 28th, Tower Hamlets, recently becoming an easy target.
He was “happy” that his expectation is that Bexley will save about £75,000 per annum.
Laudable though Read’s aims may be, would we be thinking the same if the supermarkets gathered together in a price fixing cartel to cap the amount they were prepared to pay their suppliers?
Cabinet member Eileen Pallen announced
during yesterday’s People Scrutiny meeting that no one is currently living in
the former Homeleigh care home in Avenue Road, Erith while it is being
refurbished - although there are persistent stories that is not true.
That will be because Bexley council has employed the rather weird property company Dex to look after it, so weird that they couldn’t even spell their own slogan. Inspires confidence does it not? Dex employees squat in the premises they are supposed to be safeguarding.
Bexley council chooses very strange bedfellows.
When councillor Pallen made her announcement last night she fingered the English Defence League as the source of the rumour about Syrian refugees. This is what she said.
A BiB reader was kind enough to trace the source. Sure enough it seems to be
an EDL Facebook page which sparked the rumour mill.
It’s worth repeating; there are no Syrians in Homeleigh; unless they are working for Dex of course.
Councillor James Hunt chaired another of his People Overview and Scrutiny
Committee meetings last night in his usual affable and occasionally jokey style.
It’s not something the far more straitlaced chairmen councillors Steven Hall and Melvin
Seymour could pull off. Not initially to my taste but with James in charge there
has been no downside and his meetings are no less productive for it.
His is a fairly big job, although whether it is worth £2,200 a time is debatable, and at its peak last night James had 44 people in his rather large circle.
Two members of the public were present, straining for a view. One was me and neither stayed the course. In my case I preferred to get home and help dispel yesterday’s silly rumour. There’s also the fact that the last few items on the Agenda will be much the same as those that go before next week’s scrutiny meetings, and if events conspire to make the early off a mistake, there is always the webcast to fall back upon.
The most interesting part of the People meeting is the input from the medical staff and the police. Here’s some of the snippets of information that were imparted. Dartford & Gravesham, Lewisham & Greenwich and Oxleas Trusts were all represented and they were pleased to report that work had commenced on their Winter plan in April and not October as it did in 2014. Things should be better as a result.
The impact of yesterday’s junior doctors’ strike - which was called off - was “minimal” and “not huge”. A few clinics were cancelled. General Practice carried on as normal.
There was an emphasis on keeping elderly people out of hospital whenever possible as it isn’t always the best course of action however “it is not about keeping people out of hospital, if they need to be in hospital they will be in hospital”.
The QEH A&E is “bucking the national trend” and any delay is generally due to the lack of capacity in the main hospital. Very occasionally this has caused ambulances to be queued, but the situation is improving. “The A&E area is a very tight space and it is very difficult to identify a suitable [new] area.”
The number of consultants in QEH at the weekend is two compared to 20 during the week. “There is a lack of logic in that.”
“We are seeing an increase in emergency admissions at Lewisham & Greenwich. Patients appear to be sicker than they used to be.” This may be due to the “success of chronic health care.” The elderly appear to be surviving instead of dying but they do not always get totally better. (BiB comment not the medics!)
Tuberculosis is at a particularly high level in the borough of Greenwich, one of the highest in the country but Bexley is “not anywhere near such a significant problem”.
The London Ambulance Service is in Special Measures but there are already some improvements in place and “a significant additional resource” has been provided.
Note: Because Bexley council does not allow the public a view of name plates it is not possible to attribute a comment to a particular organisation’s representative. The result is that it is likely that not all of the forgoing applies to every hospital.
Police commander Jeff Boothe said there had been 630 fewer offences in the past twelve months than in the same period last year. The target is to reduce the year on year rolling figure by 10% by March 2016. The figure currently stands at 10·3%. It was 3·9% when he came to Bexley.
Knife crime is down from 22 incidents to 20.
Burglary, criminal damage and domestic injury still gave rise to concern although burglaries are on an improving trend. 249, 189 and 149 fewer than last year in the central, north and south ward “clusters” respectively. In St. Michael’s ward there were no burglaries in October.
Most offences are opportunistic; windows left open etc.
“Criminal damage we are not doing too well on. 40% of it is against motor vehicles.” 15 were ‘keyed’ in one incident which took place in a Danson ward housing association secure car park. The lock had broken and no one was much bothered about fixing it. Domestic injuries were up by 1·3% but “it is high on their agenda”.
There was an arrest in October in Danson ward of a man selling “large quantities of legal highs to under 18 year olds”.
17 firearms had been handed in under the current amnesty, “ten of them could have been used”.
The impact of recent good budget news (no police cuts) will not be fully known until next year but there may still be reductions in Bexley due to diversion to other priorities; cybercrime, terrorism etc.
The lack of lighting in parts of Welling had not shown any “spike’ in offences and there were no plans to “put in extra resources”. During this brief reference to the council’s lighting experiment one councillor referred to the off times being midnight until 05:30 which are the officially stated times. However the ward councillor said the start time was 00:30 which will explain why the lights were on when I went to take a look at 00:15.
The Chief Superintendent had other commitments and consequently left after about 30 minutes.
There were several emails circulated today about Syrian refugees being moved into the former Homeleigh care home
once its refurbishment is complete. This did not ring true
to me. I may not be Bexley council’s greatest fan but I do not believe that is
the sort of stunt they would try to pull in secret. If I remember correctly Bexley
council gave an assurance when
refugees were found in Sidcup a couple of months
ago that they would not be housing them.
The cabinet member responsible for Homeleigh is councillor Eileen Pallen and she is far removed from the Craske, Read and Massey school of politics. There is a reason she is rarely mentioned here and it is because she quietly gets on with her job and never stoops to petty insults.
I slipped her a note about the Syrian rumour that did the rounds today during this evening’s People Scrutiny meeting and within a few minutes she very sensibly made an announcement which will have gone out on the webcast at about 21:15.
There is absolutely no truth in the malicious story which she believes started on a Facebook page. The police are now involved.
work on Lesnes Abbey appears to be progressing fast while Phase II of the regeneration of
Bexleyheath Broadway is winding down towards its Christmas break on 12th December.
Lesnes Abbey looks to be a wreck at the moment, old stone steps, gardens and hedges have all been torn out. A few days ago I met John from Erith who had come to visit his favourite park and was appalled by what he saw, the hedge removal in particular.
However the new Visitor Centre has grown something over the past week. (Photo 1 below.)
In Bexleyheath Broadway the new footpaths are very nearly complete and undeniably look very smart while they remain clean. If you look carefully through the grime and splodges of chewing gum with which those laid two years ago as part of Phase I are now plentifully adorned one realises they are identical and look distinctly tatty. Bexley’s cut back on street cleaning is presumably taking its toll, but did it ever clean off chewing gum or power wash its footpaths?
The seats look good too, (Photo 3 below) none of the water accumulating granite slabs which were thoughtlessly installed in Welling, Sidcup and Northumberland Heath.
The final photograph includes a warning notice against pavement parking, one can well understand Bexley council not wanting that, and they have drawn attention to their CCTV camera on a nearby pole. How is that going to work when the council stops monitoring the CCTV and hands the job over to the police? Pavement parking won’t interest them.
Bexley council’s looking for savings and taking it to silly extremes will have unintended consequences. They used to have an 020 8 telephone number on their website where you could report illegally parked cars. I used it once but it seems to have gone. I know that Bexley’s website is horrible and lots of things are hard to find, but I am not alone in getting lost before going around the same circle again.
The only way now is to fill in a web form - a really clever idea if you are blocked in your drive and need to get out sooner rather than later. If you phone the council’s switchboard they will give you a number to call direct - several people have told me about it over the past couple of weeks.
It is not exactly a friendly move, even on my BT ‘free’ calls package it is costly. Stuff that; another stealth tax from Bexley council. All they do is annoy people. I’m still not always washing my plastic and tin cans before recycling them since having to pay bin charges. Maybe it’s petty but why should one be helpful to a council interested only in extracting cash from residents and selling what residents value most?
only just over a month until Bexley council backed by Transport for London aims
to divide a community for six whole months. Partially at first, then totally.
The recommended (and shortest) detour while the bridge over the Cray is replaced
in Bexley Village
is via the A2 and in the region of four miles each way. Bourne
Road will carry twice as much traffic as usual and be even more congested.
Bexley Village is not a place I frequently have to visit but I get the impression it is disrupted by road or utility works every few months. It cannot be easy to run a business there, in fact I know it is not. The recent pictures showing the destruction of the riverside willow trees came from a worried trader.
Residents aren’t too happy either. David Marshall who lives very close to the centre of the village wrote to the News Shopper about it and achieved Star Letter status in last week’s issue.
Click to see all of Mr. Marshall’s letter.
I heard on the grapevine that Mr. Marshall had sent the same letter to his MP, James Brokenshire, and I managed to get hold of a copy of Mr. Brokenshire’s reply.
Dear Mr Marshall,
I am sorry that you have chosen to make some not unreasonable points in such a snide, sarcastic and personally abusive way. It is my Village too and I am concerned about the potential impact of the bridge works on the Village and the local businesses in particular.
This is a decision of the Council and Transport for London taking account of the fact that the current bridge is weak and will need replacing at some stage in the near future and that it is better to do this in a planned way rather than having to respond to an emergency situation. What concerns me is the length of time the works will take and the extent of the disruption caused on local businesses and residents during this time.
I have made a number of representations to the Council over recent weeks reflecting various points made to me by local traders on steps to cushion the impact and to underline that the Village remains open for business - including issues such as available parking. I've also highlighted the anger at the removal of the trees. I met the Cabinet Member at Bexley Council this week to underline these points in person and am expecting a formal response from the Council in the next few days. Notwithstanding your comments I will continue to press them to speed up the works and minimise the impact on the Village.
You can carry on with the personal abuse if you choose, but it does nothing to help resolve the situation particularly when I have already been highlighting a number of these concerns.
Ignoring the first and last paragraphs it is as good a reply as it would be reasonable to expect. As is very often the case, an MP is powerless against the local council especially as more often than not the councillors will be on his selection committee. But what’s all this about a snide, sarcastic, personally abusive letter? There was none of that in the News Shopper’s letter and I was coming under pressure to publish James Brokenshire’s reply. Obviously I wasn’t prepared to do that if Mr. Marshall had been personally abusive about his MP. There can be no excuse for that.
I have not been able to contact Mr. Marshall but he had sent his letter to several of his friends in the village and a copy has been tracked down. The letter published in the News Shopper cut the final three paragraphs…
It is all very well spending fortunes tarting up Bexleyheath with useless blocks of stone which have to be repaired frequently, but some thought should have been given to this project.
It will be interesting to see how our MP will get on when his ministerial car is gridlocked! Look out for a helicopter at taxpayers expense (or first class Hotel Accommodation)
One more thing, they have cut down all the magnificent trees by the Old Mill, so thanks council for ruining that as well!
The News Shopper’s editor was right to cut the letter where he did but why did James Brokenshire get so upset about the reference to a ministerial car? He might have considered himself privileged to have seen the letter before publication but surely he should be able to recognise some gentle ribbing when he sees it?
Or are these people so remote from the average man in the Bexley street that we have to be doffing our caps and bowing whenever their names are mentioned? If Mr. Marshall is abusive then goodness knows what they think of me!
Note: Via a circuitous route Mr. Marshall has agreed to the publication of his ‘personally abusive letter’ on these pages.