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Bonkers Blog November 2015

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30 November (Part 3) - Bexley. A very dismal place

A quick reversion to the old tradition of only posting trivia on the last day of the month. The coming of December will tend to hide November blogs so it’s barely worth making an effort on the last day of a month.

What follows has only the a remote connection with Bexley and I don’t think the council can be blamed for it, but you must have noticed how poor the weather has been this month.

The histogram below shows the daily output from my solar panels. There is a European standard for the output of solar panels based on the maker, the panel type, their number, the conversion efficiency of the inverter, the elevation of the roof, its direction referenced to due south and the geographical location by latitude and longitude.

The red lines below are days on which this month’s electrical output failed to reach the European standard prediction and the blue is where it did.

If you ask me, it is a very easy standard to reach. The EU must have got it all wrong - again. On average, over the past five years, monthly output has beaten the prediction by 34·9%. That is more than long enough to prove the EU prediction is a poor one.

So with this November reaching only 74.02% of the EU standard output, you can see just how dull November has been. The worst sequence of dull days in five years, maybe more. The end of October wasn’t good either.
November output
As if things in Bexley weren’t miserable enough already. Left axis = kilowatt hours.

 

30 November (Part 2) - No interest in Bexley

I must be slipping. I looked up Teresa O’Neill’s missing address on Zoopla and it said it had not been sold, I forgot to do the same for the Masseys. 55 Camden Road, Bexley was sold a year ago for £605,000 and they now live in Kent.

Their main interest in Bexley is the money that can be made from touting their care services company.

Old Farm ParkWhen cabinet member Don Massey first endorsed the sale of Old Farm Park - it was his responsibility at the time - not Peter Craske’s - he had no interest in the borough, he had already buzzed off elsewhere.

When he said that the park usage was very low it is doubtful that he knew what he was talking about. He won’t be very interested in the brown bins that are littering the streets either, another of Don Massey’s ideas.

The Masseys only interest in Bexley is a purely monetary one, the business in Main Road which is very nearly across the borough border in Greenwich, and the £32,000 in councillor allowances.

 

30 November (Part 1) - In their own interests

Maybe the days when I can neglect BIB at the weekend and on the last day of the month, when a blog is inevitably short-lived, are gone.

Yesterday the two blogs about Teresa ’O’Neill and the locked park at the end of her garden were visited more than 2,000 times. It was quiet, as is usual for a Sunday, until early afternoon, then things went slightly crazy. A bit odd because there was no new blog until just after four.
Crazy
It is always tempting to add to the ruling party’s discomfiture, especially when they show they are rattled by attacking BiB on social media. They like to be a secretive lot so what about spilling a few beans about how far some have been prepared to go to keep it like that?

On Friday May 20th 2011 I inspected the councillors’ Register of Interests along with Elwyn Bryant who was already well known to Bexley council. It was not available on line and we had to make an appointment to visit the Civic Offices. We weren’t allowed to take a copy and were chaperoned throughout the two hours it took us to make a hand written copy. It is by my side as I write and it tells me who was a Freemason and how many houses each owned in Bexley. Quite a lot of councillors owned three and one managed four.

Bexley council didn’t like what Elwyn and I had done and by the following morning the famed obscene blog was posted via councillor Craske’s phone line. It made direct references to our visit.

During the following year it became compulsory under the Localism Act to make the Register accessible on the web although Bexley council managed to go through a period when it was not available on paper or electronically. Illegal but why would they care?

When the Register did find its way on to the web the content had been severely edited. Section 32 of the Localism Act allows a councillor to withhold information if he can convince the Monitoring Officer that to do otherwise could prove dangerous. Bexley’s Monitoring Officer wouldn’t be in a job if he was over zealous.
Section 32
Fifteen councillors in London availed themselves of that get out clause. Eleven of them were in Bexley. Does that or does that not indicate that Bexley councillors are more likely to bend the rules to their advantage than any others in the whole of the metropolis?

That was in 2013 and the exercise will not be repeated, checking the Interests of 1800 plus councillors is not something to be recommended. Some councils no longer allow access to councillors’ names without providing a post code.

Cheryl BaconFour of those Bexley councillors are no longer in office. Peter Craske has relented (click to see how it used to be) and restored his home address to the Register. The others have simply become more cunning. They no longer refer to the Section 32 exemption, they prefer to be vague or misleading.

To be a councillor one must either have residential or business interests in the borough. Councillor Andy Dourmoush for example (Conservative, Longlands) does not claim to live in Bexley but he is part owner of a business in Erith. Probably he will not have much interest in a park in Sidcup but he is vice-chairman of a Scrutiny committee which nets him an extra £3,000 a year.

The Masseys also admit only to their business address and either no longer live in Camden Road, Bexley or they are seeking to deceive the electorate.

Both Bacons are even more devious, instead of listing “Any beneficial interest in land which is within the London Borough of Bexley” they simply say they live in Bexley. It’s a bit like answering a question about one’s age by simply saying “I’m alive”. Val Clark plays the same trick. There is no reference to Standard Road any more and perhaps the Bacons sold their house in Hurst Road.


Teresa O'NeillThere are several councillors who claim not to own any land in Bexley and they are generally the younger ones, probably living with parents or renting but one UKIP and one Labour councillor may not be so easily explained. One had a Bexley address at the time of the last election and now says “Not applicable” against his land interest. He could be renting too.

The other says “Address withheld” which appears to be a Section 32 exemption. Is councillor Boateng under some sort of threat?

Council leader Teresa O’Neill is not as secretive as she was in 2013 when all her addresses in Bexley were a state secret. However one must wonder what happened to the house in Brunswick Road, Bexleyheath. Zoopla says it has not changed hands during the past five years so how come it was listed in her Register of Interests in 2011 and not now?

All you can be sure of in Bexley is that if a councillor thinks they can get away with deception then that is what they will do. Hiding a whole park and falsely labelling it Educational Land will be just one of many examples.

There is a postscript to this blog.

 

29 November - Turning the screw

After the Burr Farm bomb was lobbed into the park sales arena last Thursday the action, as is right and proper, moved to the Save Old Farm Facebook page where several oddments of background information have surfaced. Some landed in my own email Inbox too.

With nothing else going on before the next council meeting, it may be useful, especially for those who shun Facebook, to provide a little update here.

When I took the photographs of the park I was aware of a nearby school and considered the possibility that the park was a school playing field. However the park entrance looked to be in the wrong place, the gate clearly hadn’t been opened recently and the local resident said no one had used the park for years.
Closed field
However several former pupils of Uplands Primary School shared Facebook recollections of playing football and rounders on the field so its school provenance appeared to be confirmed. The Old Farm campaigners have said that Bexley council is now saying the same thing.


The land referred to as Burr Farm was acquired under the Town and Country Planning Acts in 1968. It is designated as Education Buildings and Playing Fields in Planning terms, but ceased being used as playing fields when Upland Primary School was rebuilt some years ago. As it is held as Education Land it was not looked at as part of our review of open spaces and highway land. The future of all Council land and property is kept under regular review to ensure that its use is of benefit to the borough’s residents.


That note doesn’t say when the school stopped using the field but it must have been some while ago.

One of my longest standing and most reliable correspondents worked for Bexley council before retirement and he first provided that information in February 2011, so what he reports now cannot be very new.


The school used to be housed in a huge dark red brick edifice dating back to the turn of the last century. When plans to replace the old school building were being considered one of the options on the table was to build a new school on the field in question.

I know this for fact because I saw the notes of meetings and some of my colleagues attended them.

In the event it was decided to build the new school adjacent to the old school then demolish the old school and grass it over which is as it is today. There used to be a sign just inside the locked gates you photographed which said something along the lines of Property of Education Department - Private - Keep out.

The gates have always been kept locked - it was never a field local kids could play on.

If the field was indeed designated as school playing field when no longer required for that purpose it was unnecessary because a football pitch was provided where the old school once stood, then with this council’s record for selling off school fields or bits of school fields, even those very well used, there is certainly something fishy about why this redundant field should have survived even before this latest round of finding bits of land to sell off.


Well quite - and perhaps Bexley man will come back with a date for the school’s rebuild.

O'NeillIf this patch of land stopped being a school playing field before my correspondent retired from Bexley council at least five years ago - maybe more - why has it been neatly maintained for all these years and nobody allowed to use it?

No one likes to see their back garden views desecrated but unlike Old Farm, Burr Farm would not deprive anyone of a well loved park. It clearly hasn’t been used as such for 50 years. I suspect that since it fell into total disuse the reasons can be linked to Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obstinately Barring Entry). She has been on Bexley council since 1998.

Not all of my correspondents are ex-council employees but some are known to have political connections to both main parties. One says that Teresa O’Neill is not very pleased with me, which seems to be a fair exchange for her passing the police a cock and bull story she thought might ensure my arrest. If am not annoying Bexley’s leadership I am wasting my time. The tittle-tattle also says that the Burr Farm revelations have done nothing to improve relations between the warring factions within her party.

I have no idea whether the annoyance story is true or false but just in case it is last Thursday’s blog has been copied on to the Bexley is Bonkers entry page. The lying Cheryl Bacon has been relegated to the so called Home page.

 

28 November - Know thy enemy

With daily visitor numbers continuing to run at twice the average for this year, most visitors being new to BiB, it may be appropriate to cover a bit of history today. Usually the blog is wound down at the end of the month and at weekends when reader interests wanes, but today may be different.

At the top of this page there is currently an ‘advertisement’ laid over a picture of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Today it says that he has been sitting on a complaint sent to him in 2012 for 1,270 days and it is still unanswered. Well let’s be absolutely accurate, it was answered after six months but it was a load of old nonsense. The Independent Police Complaints Commission agreed and told him to try again.

CraskeThe complaint was that after someone posted a blog in my name, www.malcolmknight.blogspot.com, that was homophobic obscenities from beginning to end, the then Borough Commander at Bexley, Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, told me he couldn’t investigate who might have written it. His excuse was that the blog was removed soon after it was mentioned here and so there was no evidence. Apparently Google did not keep a record of who posts blogs to its servers.

Incidentally, the writer’s claim that Bexley council’s computers had been subject to a “vigorous audit” was later confirmed to be total fiction.

However the truth was even stranger. One of Stringer’s officers had persevered and traced the source of the blog but nothing was done with the information until a new Borough Commander came on the scene.

CS Stringer’s decision to derail the initial investigation looked to be yet another attempt to protect a corrupt council but his successor had no idea of the tradition. CS Victor Olisa arrested councillor Peter Craske and impounded his computer provoking panic in the Civic Offices.

Unfortunately at least six and most likely eight months had elapsed since Peter Craske was first identified as the likely culprit. Even before that identification the police and Bexley council had been meeting to discuss the crime. At one of them the possibility of arresting me on some pretext was discussed.

If Peter Craske was guilty and became aware of the first meeting he would have had more than ten months in which to lose the evidence.

When asked why there was an eight month delay from the successful web trace to the arrest, CS Olisa’s reply was less than convincing. He said that the time had been spent on eliminating me from police enquiries. He claimed I might have hacked into Craske’s wi-fi to set him up.

It was an obvious lie. In none the correspondence had there been any such indication, nor was I interviewed. In any case such an investigation should not have taken eight months. The truth was more likely that Olisa had been given certain instructions. Teresa O’Neill is great mates with Boris Johnson (Officially Boris Endorsed), and Johnson is the head of the police in London.

It is known Bexley police and the council’s chief executive got in a huddle with the Crown Prosecution to decide how they would go about dropping the case against Peter Craske. “Resolving the ongoing situation” as they put it.

So Victor Olisa, who was probably not a fundamentally bent police officer, found himself included in the complaint to Hogan-Howe for protecting a colleague.

The complaint is probably difficult to dismiss but the police officers charged with investigating their colleagues have been doing their best. Delay seems to be the name of the game. It was 18 months before the complaints officer even sent for the case file and since then all they are known to have done is send out excuse letters.

This week the current investigating officer, there have been two, sent out the twelfth such letter, thirteen if I count the one that came from the Assistant Commissioner who said her right hand man would phone me to explain the delay. He never did.

So maybe the new readers battling Peter Craske’s plan to sell Old Farm Park will have an even better idea of who and what they are up against. These people are really all powerful. They can do what they like and always get away with it.
Police
A comprehensive summary of the events leading to the arrest of councillor Peter Craske is available.

 

27 November (Part 4) - The North Heath numpty has spoken again

TweetI have no idea what Hugh Neal and The Thamesmead Grump have done to deserve the attention but the village idiot (councillor Philip Read) has been let off the leash again.

It cannot be me who he has in mind because cabinet members don’t look at Bexley is Bonkers. They are not afraid to say so, in writing too, and I am banned from viewing Philip Read’s Tweets.

Residents from right across the borough must be overjoyed to know that such a powerful intellect is in charge of children’s services in Bexley.

See here for last year’s Christmas message from the failed travel agent. (There is a link on that page which still confirms how he ceased trading ignominiously.)

 

27 November (Part 3) - Lesnes Abbey. Rapid progress at last

Lesnes AbbeyThings are moving fast at Lesnes Abbey. The vandalised sign has been replaced; this time with a wooden backing so that it won’t be easy to kick through again.

The new path has had its base put down and the new visitor centre has had its floor installed.

It was installed very quickly with the expensive hired crane delivering precast concrete to the precise place it was require with several men on hand to drop them immediately into place.

It looked like a good piece of organisation.

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey

 

27 November (Part 2) - Should I be worried?

Councillors can be sensitive souls. Steve Curran, the leader of Hounslow council (tax rate 7% cheaper than Bexley’s) refused to consult residents or answer their questions when their recycling service was revised. They stacked some bins outside his house. It is reported that Curran told the residents to “piss off”. The police showed up and they arrested one man. Not the council leader.

He was not arrested at the time, things could not have been too bad then, but he was a couple of days later. Presumably someone thought it was an opportunity to have a go at a resident who had displayed a rebellious streak.

It was perhaps going a little too far to block the councillor’s front door and the protestors were naive to expect any council leader to see the funny side.

I have been reminded that the last time a Bexley resident took a picture of a councillor’s house and put it on the web, he was arrested and prosecuted with evidence that can best be described as a bundle of lies. Among it the ’fact' that he had posted on BiB, which was total fiction. Not that that stopped the police and others repeating it under oath in court.

HouseThe liars at Bexley council claimed the house had been identified on Twitter which was also totally untrue, and the resident was found guilty of malicious communication (†). Crikey! I have just taken a picture of a councillor’s house, given the address and told you who lives there. I could be in big trouble.

The good news is that the blog reports on the earlier picture and the court case resulted in web hits nearly six times higher than yesterday - it became a national issue and I doubt that Burr Farm will.

Such things are a godsend to bloggers. BiB is sustained through thin times by frequent references back to Bexley council’s more extreme acts of stupidity. There is no such thing as bad news.

† The conviction was overturned on appeal.

 

27 November (Part 1) - It was a good day for spreading the news

Please excuse me if I sound a bit like Teresa O’Neill bragging about winning the election but I shall try to avoid being power crazed as she appears to be. A blogger’s power against Bexley council is very limited. Its history includes requesting the arrest of critics by its servants in blue and interfering with the work of the Crown Prosecution Service following councillor Peter Craske’s arrest on suspicion of distributing homophobic obscenities. Bexley council certainly won’t be caring about residents two and a half years before an election.

And what can Sidcup residents do? Kick out the only Tory councillors who have genuinely fought for them?

All a blogger can do is his research, report and hope the message gradually spreads. For that, yesterday was a good day.

Below is the day long trace of visitors to the blog about the mysteriously closed Burr Farm park. BiB visitor numbers generally rise gradually through the day with 4 p.m. through to 10 p.m. being nearly twice as busy as ‘office hours’.

While I briefly watched visitor numbers in real time yesterday evening up to 20 were arriving every minute. The good thing is that over the day as a whole 55% of visitors had never read Bexley is Bonkers before.
Analytics

The blog went on line at 17:09.

The story spread via Facebook more quickly (over 3,000 users reached) than it did via Twitter and to more people, for which I take no credit. The Bexley is Bonkers Facebook page has been under new management for the past two weeks.

The reaction varied from shock to resignation that politicians always get up to no good, so what’s new. One comment was prefixed with “If this is true”.

I would hope that after six years BiB has achieved some sort of reputation for never making things up and providing enough evidence for readers to check things through for themselves, but it is a fair enough comment. All that is known that is indisputably true is that Burr Farm and Old Farm parks are of similar size and one is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and the other isn’t.

O'NeillIt is also known that Burr Farm is permanently locked, the pictures were taken yesterday, and one resident whose garden backs on to the park confirmed it. The park is bounded by Church Road and number 125 is the address council leader Teresa O’Neill uses when standing for election. It is also listed under her Register of Interests.

Beyond that nothing is certain. It could be that Burr Farm park is permanently locked while all the others are left open night and day because Teresa O’Neill values the security it brings to her back garden, or possibly it is riddled with mine shafts like Old Manor Way and could swallow a dog walker at any moment.

The real question is whether or not it was ever on the provisional list of land surplus to requirements and if not why not?

It is a question I cannot ask because I have already been threatened with the vexatious label for my average of a question every two years. It’s a weapon all corrupt councils use against those inclined to probe it too deeply - and the idiot at No. 10 seems to think it’s a good idea to hand them even more powers.

Presumably however, it is a question the Save Old Farm Campaigners will be asking.

 

26 November (Part 3) - Look what’s in the boss’s back yard

The search for the land use document that Deputy Director Toni Ainge said was a struggle to find led me to look at a large scale map and I noticed something that I had not come across in all my near 29 years in Bexley; even though I drive by it every week or two.

It is called Burr Farm and the council’s land ownership record shows it belongs to them.
Burr Farm
It’s vacant and Bexley council owns the Freehold. Why had I never heard of it? It’s not all that far from home. Well as Google Earth reveals, it is well hidden behind a continuous circle of houses.

Take a good look…

Burr Farm

Scroll or click to see all of Burr Farm.

Remind you of anything? Yes me too. It is not all that different to Old Farm Park complete with railway track along one side.

I went along to take a look but it was a very strange piece of publicly owned land; I couldn’t find a way in.
Burr Farm Burr Farm Burr Farm Burr Farm
Very odd!

I asked a lady cleaning her car outside her house if there was a way in. She said that the occasional dog walker gets beyond the fence but she thought that they must be residents accessing the land through their own rear gardens. There is no legitimate access point, she said, as the spiked fences and padlock suggest.

The lady recalled that when she first lived there youngsters could be seen playing football but nothing like that has happened for many years. She always expected that someone would build on the land eventually but it never happened. I had to agree it looked a likely candidate so I came home and searched Bexley’s list of land for sale.


• Berwick Crescent (triangular site to east), Sidcup (Open Space)
• Bexley Road, Erith ( Open Space)
• Millfield Open Space, Crayford (Open Space)
• Wilde Road East, Northumberland Heath (Open Space)
• Wilde Road West, Northumberland Heath (Open Space)
• Hook Lane Open Space, Welling (Open Space)
• Land adjacent to 115 Frinsted Road, Erith (Highway)
• Gable Close and Maiden Lane, Crayford (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 44 Maximfeldt Road, Erith (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 1 Holly Hill Road, Erith (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 1 Slade Garden, Slade Green (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 14 Stuart Rd Welling (Highway)
• Junction of Napier Road and Wellington Road, Erith (Highway)
• Land fronting 11 and 12 Court Avenue, Belvedere (Highway)
• Land fronting 65-69 Blackfen Road, Sidcup (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 246 Bedonwell Road, Belvedere (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 95 The Grove, Bexley (Highway)
• Land at St James and North Cray Road, Sidcup (Highway)
• Land at Gayton Road adjacent to 28 Wilton Road, Abbey Wood (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 154 Upper Abbey Road (Highway)
• Berwick Crescent (two corner plots to south west), Sidcup (Open Space)
• Old Farm Park, Sidcup (Eastern half) (Open Space);
• West Street Small Park, Erith (Open Space)
• Erith Station/Stonewood Road, Erith (Highway)
• Land at junction of Fraser Road and Alford Road, Erith (Highway)
• Land adjacent to 1 Peareswood Road, Northend, Erith (Highway)


I drew a blank with Bexley’s secluded lost park.

When taking a detached view of things I almost understand why Bexley council is so keen on selling the family silver. After steering the financial ship ever closer to the mid-ocean iceberg, beaching on the rocks must seem almost attractive.

But the reason for keeping Burr Farm off the for sale list and a little known protected secret had me stumped - until I remembered this. A certain politician’s 2014 election nomination paper…
Nomination
125 Church Road125 Church Road, Bexleyheath looks straight out on a totally empty green space. If you scroll the Google Earth image it is the road at the bottom of the picture.

In fact the first two of the park photos above were taken from the service track which runs behind the houses of which Bexley council’s leader’s is one.

As deputy council leader Alex Sawyer said last week, if he had a park behind his house and it was sold for development he wouldn’t like it one bit.

Perhaps he was speaking on behalf of of his boss, but unlike Alex and the residents of Old Farm Avenue she is in a position to do something about it.

From the moment deputy leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Outrageous Backyard Exclusion) said in 2009 she knew absolutely nothing about leader Ian Clement’s abuse of his council credit card everyone suspected she could not be trusted.

And it’s not getting any better.

 

26 November (Part 2) - Abbey Wood on the telly. Crossrail is the villain

The effective closure of St. Benet’s Church hall as a result of the Crossrail project has been featured on London Live TV.

To play the video shown here be sure to click within the half hidden central circle. Clicking in the orange area will not have the desired effect.

Be patient, the video clip appears to have a glitch which causes a restart soon after it begins.

 

26 November (Part 1) - Four Bexley libraries privatised amid all party agreement, more or less

The discussion on the future of Bexley’s libraries began before the mass exodus of the Old Farm campaigners had completed so the beginning of Deputy Director Tonia Ainge’s address to cabinet was lost beneath the sound of shoes on wooden floor and the shrill but succinct shout of “absolutely wonderful to see democracy in action”.

Libraries do of course have to change with the times, few would dispute that. My usage has dropped from every Saturday morning, 30 odd years ago, to none at all. However Bexley’s choice of which libraries it should cut adrift was arguably strange, in Blackfen in particular.

Ms. Ainge said that the main proposals were…


• The New Generation Church would run Blackfen Library.
• Bostall Readers’ Group would run their local library. (Note: Otherwise known as Bostall Library Community Group)
• Eco Communities would take over in Northumberland Heath.
• Eco Communities and Age UK would take over Belvedere Library. (Note: Woodlands Academy Trust is also involved)


This is yet another service that falls within cabinet member Craske’s remit and he spent rather a long time thanking everyone who had helped him reach the present position and praising the track record of Eco Communities in Slade Green.

ReadThe New Generation Church was similarly praised to the heavens and the Reader’s Group had a number of innovative ideas including being a parcel collection point - for your Amazon book deliveries presumably.

Cabinet member Philip Read felt it necessary to say a few words. Spiteful words obviously.

He criticised the opposition parties for being sceptical about “viable community options”. They wished to see the libraries “fail or close”.

Councillor Alan Deadman (Labour leader, North End) said he was surprised no one had mentioned the issues there had been with the existing Eco Communities run libraries. He wasn’t very specific about those problems, only an unpaid phone bill was mentioned, but it has been reported before how Eco Communities open late and don’t pay bills on time. He urged the cabinet to allow Ms. Ainge to tell them the whole story. Fat chance!


NewmanCouncillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) asked for clarification over the emphasis of the word Free in the Bostall proposals but not the others. What did that imply and what about non-core service including IT?

He was concerned too that a religious group may be tempted to not stock books that might offend the faithful. The church’s mission statement referred to sinners. There were also gender specific comments which might be worrying.

Ms. Ainge said all the libraries would offer free membership and she would ask the group about their gender specific activities.

Cabinet member Don Massey didn’t think the group, based on their activities in schools, would be be too strict on religious matters.

Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) commended the proposals. Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) offered conciliatory words too. Eager to get in on the act, Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) said much the same thing. “It was a really good result for the borough.”

The vote produced unanimous assent because the cabinet always vote that way after discussing their own ideas, but this time, compared to losing a library, it looks like a very definite win win situation.

 

25 November - Crossrail to Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green. Council leader sounds optimistic. Could she be right?

The plan to review the cabinet meeting recording to see if anything interesting was said about libraries is a casualty of time pressures, Instead I must hastily fall back on something much easier to prepare; whether or not Teresa O’Neill’s belief that there is a good chance of extending Crossrail through the borough to Ebbsfleet is a pipe dream or not.

This is what she said in the leader’s report to council on 4th November…

CrossrailWhen I heard that my own thoughts turned to the new Abbey Wood station which will allow passengers entering from the north (Felixstowe Road) to take a short cut to the Crossrail platforms by walking around the back of the buffers. Difficult for the station planners and inconvenient for passengers if the line is extended. Then there are the bridges. There is a plan to replace the Bexley Road (A206 through Erith) bridge eventually but at present it looks less than ideal for four tracks and an overhead electricity supply. (Photo 1)

If making the necessary changes are impractical and too expensive there is perhaps an alternative.

The existing Abbey Wood track plan allows engineering trains to access one of the Crossrail platforms from the North Kent line. There will be track switches behind the eastern end of Coptefield Drive and Hallifield Drive in Belvedere.

Crossrail trains from the track that does not end at the Abbey Wood buffers could get through to Belvedere if the different power supply systems could be accommodated. One is 25,000 volts AC and the other 750 volts DC.

Crossrail trains will, on delivery, be equipped only with overhead 25kV power systems, but there is some spare space on board. It would be possible to retrofit the rectifiers (or whatever the modern equivalent may be).

Occasional trains at Abbey Wood could then wait while the power systems were switched over before proceeding to Ebbsfleet; however I do wonder what the point of a shared track system might be.

Southeastern finds it impossible to run a punctual service so the repercussions of mixing the two services could extend right across the Crossrail network. If Southeastern cuts back on its North Kent service to accommodate Crossrail trains, passengers from Plumstead through to London Bridge might suffer, although perhaps more could start at Plumstead.

Another casualty could be Barnehurst and the Sidcup line where half the trains currently come from Abbey Wood. If the power supply changeover takes longer than a few seconds the only real advantage to passengers from Belvedere, Erith and all points east will that they do not have to change trains.

If the railway managers say a shared stopping service to Ebbsfleet with no downsides is practical, then by all means do it, but if it is only to keep Teresa O’Neill quiet then a two track service looks like being a rather bad idea. She probably knows the square root of Sweet Fanny Adams about how to run a railway.

Crossrail CrossrailAt the Abbey Wood Community Centre the Network Rail managers set up their stall today to answer awkward questions from disaffected residents but of rather more interest to me was what was going on at the station itself. Lorries were delivering track ballast every five or ten minutes and making rapid progress on forming a track bed. Not only that, the track was going down too. Suddenly a building site began to look like a railway station.

The track installation pictures may be seen on today’s ‘Around Abbey Wood’ photo feature.

Please note that on 4th November the council leader said that work on Gayton and Felixstowe Road was completed, albeit with a temporary road surface. When looking through the pictures, see if you think she fibbed.

Fibs
Note: The problems noted with a Crossrail extension are from conversations with various railway staff.

 

24 November (Part 3) - Devoid of sense, Cllr. Leaf falls back on insults. The Peter Craske impersonator hones his skills

Borella Mrs Slaughter and the UKIP contingent were not the only councillors to pull apart the cabinet’s plan to sell Old Farm Park and after the Tory groans had subsided councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) took the stage.

He reiterated the point that has been made here several times. The Tories have controlled Bexley for almost ten years and the country for more than five. If the financial situation is getting ever worse the culprits must be fairly obvious.

“The leader may have won the election…

Hear the council leader’s Objectionable Bragging Explanation.

…but the sale of green spaces was not in her manifesto. If she had been honest the election result may have been different.” (Shortened version.)

Councillor Borella attacked Bexley council’s record on consultations, they are always “dismissive” and “will always ignore the residents’ views”. He doubted whether any proceeds of a sale would be invested across the borough. In his ward the neglect was such that voluntary organisations had to step in.

“It is very clear from councillor June Slaughter’s comment that she is not a great fan of councillor Craske, maybe he should consider his position, it appears that he is annoying residents but I will say this, three Conservative ward councillors in Sidcup did vote for these proposals. It is worth noting they have voted for this already.” (Dear Stef, surely you cannot have forgotten that councillor Craske’s raison d’être is annoying residents? His phone line didn’t spew out obscenities in 2011 because he respected them.)

FrancisDaniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said that “selling part of your garden” was the last thing a householder would do and he wondered why the sale of parks wasn’t further down the savings list. Come on Daniel, it’s to get it out of the way before the next round of elections, you know that.

He asked three questions…
1) Was there a guarantee that the £710,000 income derived from the proceeds of sales would continue to be spent on non-statutory park maintenance after the 2018 election bearing in mind the increased budget pressures further down the line?
2) Referring to the intention that the General Purposes Committee takes the final decision; in the event that any of the four sites achieves a sale price in excess of £3 million would the Council’s Corporate Plan which requires a decision by all 63 councillors be followed or ignored?
3) Two of the four plots of land (Wilde Road) being considered were ‘planning gain’ following a deal done 15 years ago. A benefit to residents to compensate for an unpopular planning decision. Now they are to be sold. What assurance do the residents have that the same will not happen at Old Farm Park?

Councillor Francis was rewarded with enthusiastic applause. He was reassured on question two but no one got anywhere near to answering questions one and three. Not even a reference to them and once again the omission was picked up by nobody at all. You may safely assume that if the Tories are still in power they will do the dirty on residents. What’s new?

From that low point the meeting went steeply down hill for councillor David Leaf was invited to speak. Who could have elected such a useless individual? Ah yes, the blue rinsed of Longlands.

LeafLeaf accused all the previous speakers of “grandstanding”. None of them “had put forward any credible proposals”. “UKIP’s proposal was astonishing. That is why so few people vote for them.”

The only thing astonishing about it was that it caught out his colleague Linda Bailey who doesn’t know who owns what. Leaf accused the previous Labour administration of proposing the sale of Riverside Gardens in Erith which if true was clearly not their finest hour, but he forgot to mention that the Conservatives were still pursuing that plan with gusto until 2011. Leaf is not only dim but he can be disingenuous too.

Labour, he said were “grandstanding hypocrites” which in terms of pot and kettle would be difficult to beat. After waffling on for a couple more minutes he returned to his “grandstanding” allegation and claimed “the parties opposite were a disgrace” and he did not understand “their sheer audacity in criticising the decisions this party is making”. David Leaf hasn’t got much idea of how politics works has he? His was a performance that would disgrace a school debating society.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) said two of the plots of land were in his ward and were grossly underused. It was barely relevant to the main issue of Old Farm Park but compared to the speaker who preceded him his brief comments appeared almost statesmanlike.

So the cabinet voted unanimously in favour of progressing the sale. I don’t think councillor leader O’Neill even bothered to look up.
Cabinet

 

24 November (Part 2) - You paid your twenty seven quid, now kindly get lost

So you decided that you didn’t like bonfires and the only way to avoid becoming a fly tipper was to pay Bexley council’s bin tax.

You coughed up £27 and you waited up to two months for the new bin to appear, maybe going without a garden and/or food waste collection for all of that time.

ApologyYou decided life was too short to complain and you read the Overdone Beguiling Excruciating apology in the Bexley magazine and maybe even came to the conclusion it might be genuine.

Then just as you thought you could settle down to a quiet life your lovely new bin wasn’t emptied.

Never mind there’s an easy answer to that; report it on line and they’ll come out and collect it next day. Always have done. Not everything about Bexley council is bad.

Unfortunately that is no longer the case. Log on to http://www.bexley.gov.uk/recycling and go to “Report it’.

And this is what comes up.

Get lost
Anyone who thinks Teresa O’Neill (Oppressive Bintax Extorter) gives a damn for residents is a mug. The answer is simple. Sue the blighter in the Small Claims Court. Breach of Contract.

 

24 November (Part 1) - Unfortunately, UKIP Bexley is absolutely right

It may disappoint the author but until yesterday it had been a couple of months since I last visited UKUP’s Bexley website.

It looked very familiar, they too are highlighting the almost certain sale of half of Old Farm Park. Their former chairman who publishes the website believes its fate is already decided. Well of course it is, BiB nailed itself firmly to that mast soon after the plan became public last February.

Bexley Times The protest movement will serve no other purpose than proving yet again that Bexley council listens to no one and will make up whatever stories it thinks it can get away with to confuse the issues, most of which do not stand up to detailed examination.

Cabinet member Don Massey said in a speech in defence of selling Old Farm Park that not making cuts would lead to a 55% rise in council tax. Scare mongering that has only the tiniest connection with Old Farm Park.

The idea is to sell Old Farm Park for about £13 million; the figure was mentioned at an earlier council meeting and Deputy Leader Alex Sawyer has said over and over again that that money will “offset the grounds maintenance parks and open spaces in the borough by £710,000”. That equates to a 0.8% council tax rise. It’s all in the council’s documentation if you care to look but Massey managed to avoid that inconvenient truth. A 55% rise is headline catching, 0·8% is a tenner a year. (Band D.) But a tenner a year would drop Bexley’s already high council tax from 24th worst borough in London to 25th which would be nothing to brag about come the next election. Re-election is always a councillor’s top priority.

Unfortunately Old Farm Park was dead and buried when council leader Teresa O’Neill (Oldfarm’s Belittling Executioner) made this condescending but fateful statement last July.

No cabinet member would dare undermine the words of the great dictator or make the real facts clear to the public.
Finance
The rediscovery of UKIP’s website led me to a Facebook page which I did not know existed. Yesterday’s entry was concerned with Belvedere’s derelict Splash Park.
Splash Park
Ronie Johnson, I assume the page is his, is pretty much spot on with his observations. I stopped mentioning the subject here for fear the campaigners would see it as an embarrassment. There was a brief reference on 12th September and nothing since.

The fact is that Bexley council put up so many obstacles to a successful bid from a recently formed charity that it stood no chance. The financial and business based barriers erected were simply too high.

Ronie, he was the Erith & Thamesmead UKIP candidate at the General Election, takes the political view that Labour councillors backing the rescue plans was a mistake. Bexley’s Tory cabinet could never allow them to triumph. I do not disagree but on the other hand, without Labour support, the Save the Splash Park campaign would never have got off the ground.

Catch 22 and against a ruthless Tory council the odds were stacked firmly against them.

If the park is to be saved it can only be by the Anna Firth backed (Ronie’s Conservative rival in May 2015) commercial scheme. Absolutely nothing is known about that but I am sure of one thing. Bexley council will be given no credit whatsoever for a successful outcome by the local population. Unless something dramatic happens to the electoral boundaries before 2020, the Conservatives will not win the next General Election in Erith & Thamesmead.

 

23 November (Part 2) - Totally out of touch

They live in a world apart. People who assault their spouses, thieves, arsonists, jihadis and senior council officers. Most people just don’t understand their motivation and cannot begin to comprehend their morals.

I was struck by this headline in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph. It neatly sums up all that is wrong with local government; their sense of entitlement shines through brightly.
Headline
TelegraphYou have probably never heard of Lord Porter, that’ll be because until two months ago he was merely a councillor on South Holland District Council but David Cameron needed him to make up the numbers in the House of Lords. He is also the Chairman of the Local Government Association and possibly the most arrogant disconnected man you could ever hope not to meet.

So disconnected is Lord Porter from the rest of humankind that he equates council bosses’ salaries with those of footballers.

What sort of idiot is he? I‘ve never contributed to a footballer’s salary in my life, it’s totally optional. I wish it were the same with town hall mandarins.

In Bexley they don’t even have anything to do apart from provide protective cover for councillors and their schemes and manage their own staff. There is almost no other job that hasn’t been farmed out to private contractors, all of whom will be making a profit from the plebs who are compelled to foot the bills.

What services are still provided wholly by Bexley council? Planning, Trading Standards, err. Are there any more?

Teresa O’Neill OBE (Overpayments. Benefits, Expenses) has been saying for years that they must be paid at the highest levels to ensure the highest quality. It is much more likely that they have to be paid a salary that guarantees loyalty.

Imagine what could have happened if Will Tuckley had not been compelled to defend the lying councillor Cheryl Bacon? It would have saved a massive police bill for a start!

 

23 November (Part 1) - The camera doesn’t lie. Not so sure about Bexley council

I am well used to Bexley council; officers, cabinet and ordinary members spouting nonsense as if it is fact.

It is impossible to be sure that Deputy Director Toni Ainge is unable to master the intricacies of Google searches or whether the need to lie in support of the council’s demands takes precedence. I suspect it is the latter, I have seen many wonderful examples over the years. Some have resulted in police investigations.

Another example of presenting dubious facts came from Cabinet member Don Massey last week. You may remember that the council plonked a man with a van outside Old Farm Park to count visitors from 28th October to 3rd November. A week when only one day wasn’t absolutely horrible. (My solar panels log their output at 15 minute intervals and the past four weeks have seen the worst sequence of sunless days in the past five years.)

As a result Massey said that park usage was low…

…and with only 371 dog walkers and miscellaneous exercisers logged during the time the observers didn’t have their noses in the newspaper, maybe the recorded numbers were low. But were they right?

The observers also reported that 37 people attended a meeting held in the park on the Sunday…
Survey
… but that doesn’t seem right to me. Here’s a photo of them.
Meeting
The true number appears to be at least in the middle sixties. The organisers said it was 70. Perhaps observers weren’t able to see in the fog.

The conclusion can only be that not only was the survey done during an unrepresentative week but that it was also horribly inaccurate.

Bexley has a pretty bad obesity record as anyone who looks around the shopping areas would confirm.
Obesity
But councillor Massey says there is no correlation between that and the proximity of park land.

MasseyCabinet member Massey appears to be someone else with an aversion to Google.

I searched for ‘child obesity and availability of parks’ and came up with a good choice of studies from around the world. They all said that obesity was in inverse proportion to the availability of nearby parks. The difference between one being 500 metres away and 1,000 metres was easily measurable.

Councillor Don Massey is simply wrong with his various assertions. He may need to sell the parks to make ends meet but why does he not admit that the only reason is Tory cuts? Stories about surplus green space, low usage and park availability having no impact on fitness levels is just a smoke screen to cover ineptitude.

Bexley had joint third best (within a pound) local tax rate in 1991 and had sunk to 23rd worst in 2007, and despite all those electoral claims it is in 24th place now. Bexley Tories may have convinced themselves of their financial wizardry but the truth is rather different.

 

22 November (Part 2) - It was a bit of a struggle but it cost 20 minutes, not ninety grand

Keeping this blog alive entails being a journalist, photographer, occasional interviewer, publicist, web designer and IT expert and it is all down to me, which is why blogs do not appear to a regular timetable. It is why the Forum is still deactivated too. There is simply no time to play with it.

You may note that researcher is not on the jobs list, it should be but it has become a major casualty of insufficient time.

The situation has been going down hill all year. Younger helpers go off and start families, older ones slow down and three I know of have died during the past couple of years. Watching a council for signs of corruption needs a lot of time and few young people have any spare. All of which is an excuse for stealing the basic inspiration for this blog from the Save Old Farm Park campaign group. They have found the time to do the basic research that once upon a time I would have tackled myself.

First a quick reminder of a small part of what councillor June Slaughter said last Tuesday. (Bexley is 4th worst in Outer London for green space if you’ve lost your headphones.)

Deputy director Toni Ainge who achieved her position under director Peter Ellershaw who retired last year, waffled a response about statistics, said those in her own report were correct (well she would wouldn’t she) and disputed June Slaughter’s figures. At the 23 second mark in this clip she said she “struggled to find them”.

Malcolm Wright who is one of the leaders of the Save Old Farm Park campaign has said on the campaign’s Face Book page that he took about five minutes to find what Bexley’s so called expert couldn’t find. Toni Ainge costs us £88,854 in salary and allowances and more than £17k. annually in pension contribution. One might have expected at least basic Googling skills.

However it may not be as easy as it should be. Malcolm’s Facebook page shows that Bexley is ranked 6th from bottom amongst Outer London boroughs, not 4th as councillor June Slaughter stated. The discrepancy may be year related. Malcolm’s list comes from 2010, June was not specific.

I have been looking for something more up to date and eventually found the 2015 figures. It was suggested at the cabinet meeting that there are lies, damned lies and statistics and of course that is true. Should one compare the total amount of green space in a borough or the percentage of each borough which is green space? It does make a difference.

However these are the current percentage figures. The table is sorted by percentage of Green Space.
Land Use

Click table for two page PDF version.

By my calculations only three Outer London boroughs are worse off than Bexley in terms of the proportion of the borough which is ‘green’.

So councillor June Slaughter was absolutely correct to say Bexley is 4th worst off in Outer London and 17th worst if one includes the city centre boroughs which are naturally more built up. I confess it took me about 15 minutes to find the document, download it and sort it into the right sequence. Even so I think that makes deputy director Toni Ainge a bit of a numbskull, don’t you?

Source data.

 

22 November (Part 1) - News and rants from the past week

There have been several bits and pieces that have cropped up in the past week that don’t in themselves warrant a blog entry but maybe some of them might be either amusing or just possibly, even informative.

First a warning; the subject matter goes increasingly off topic!

Broadway regeneration. Phase II
Broadway
The western end of Broadway is getting a makeover. The official start date was 10th August but it slipped a fortnight. Now Bexley council doesn’t seem to be sure when it is due for completion. The signs disagree.

Counting from the 24th we are currently 13 weeks in.

The work is to be interrupted for Christmas on 12th December and on all my visits I have not seen the traffic other than busy but not seriously delayed.

All these pictures taken 19th November. Previous pictures.
Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway


The fate of the food bins
Bins Councillor Craske says only ten food caddies have been reported broken. I have news for him. I have seen more than that number just by walking around locally with my eyes open.

Those pictured here were victims of Storm Barney on Tuesday evening.

My old brown bin was removed a week ago; it had lain on its side in the street for exactly ten weeks. Early on Friday morning I mowed my next door neighbour’s front lawn and trimmed his hedge, and managed to half fill my own bin which was in danger of going unused.

TweetHe came to his door to thank me and say that his bin had been stolen. It transpired he had absolutely no idea of the new arrangements. Obviously not a Bonkers reader.

Bexley council has recently announced that they are about to make a concerted effort to pick up their ‘orphaned’ brown bins. What an unholy mess the whole operation has been.


Bins Bins Bins Bins


Parking. One rule for them
Parking It was made very clear at a recent Places Scrutiny meeting that body overhang wasn’t penalized at parking bays, it was the wheels that counted. I wondered how that might apply to drop down kerbs.

I found out last week. The wheel of the red car was just clear of the drop down but the body overhang wasn't. (Photo 1 below.) The CEO told me it was definitely an offence and to be fair the drive owner in a narrow road would have found it difficult to get out.

Whether the PCN stayed within its torn plastic bag until the end of a very windy day is open to question.

What the motorist should have done is park on the pavement with a Bexley staff badge on the windscreen. (Photos 3 and 4.)


Parking Parking Parking Parking


Lesnes Abbey
Lesnes Abbey continues to receive the dubious attentions of Bexley council, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The new path scars the landscape, rocks are stockpiled into an easily accessible compound. The woodland paths are churned into bogs and the fossil bed has gained some sort of hardcore platform.
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes


St. Anne’s Pre-School
FacebookSt. Anne’s Pre-School is upset with Bexley council. Join the club.

Click image for source Facebook page.


Water meters
Water Water WaterJust when you had begun to get used to the sight of abandoned brown plastic right across the borough, along comes Thames Water aided and abetted by Bexley council dumping blue plastic and further reducing the space available for car parking.

When we are using less water through monitoring our water usage, Thames Water will simply raise the prices to restore their profits to former levels.


Will Tuckley at Tower Hamlets
If you are missing Will, see how he is getting along here.

I doubt he is missing Bexley and the constant need to lie in defence of councillors. There is currently no new news from the Crown Prosecution Service.

The journalist who wrote that newspaper account is fully aware of the allegations and evidence against Will Tuckley.


Email
I have always been extremely careful with my email address, or more precisely email addresses. With full access to my own mail server, if I have to leave an email address with an organisation I don’t know, I make up a new address and delete it when there is no further use for it.

If the email contact is to be ongoing I set up a memorable address for that company or organisation. The result is that I am generally spam free and when the company’s database is hacked, it’s happened to me three times now, only a throw away email account is compromised which can be deleted and replaced.

Any spam email that arrives will be to an address that identifies which company or organisation has been hacked.

For my rare emails to Bexley council I have always used an email address starting bexleycouncil@. Over the last few weeks it has been receiving lots of spam email to that address. In theory only the recipients at Bexley council knew about it. Maybe Bexley council’s mail server has been hacked, or possibly the spam is malicious. You cannot trust anyone in that place.

It’s not councillors who are responsible, I use two different addresses when contacting them.

The bexleycouncil@ address has been deleted. If I need to contact them again I will make up a different one


Southeastern Railway
Track maintenanceI came to the conclusion after several more Crossrail photo sorties to Abbey Wood station that my suggestion that you cannot be there for more than 15 minutes without hearing an apology for late running or worse was unduly generous so I looked up their current late running statistics.

After excusing everything fewer than five minutes late, which after all the inbuilt station waiting time and deliberately missing stations, can only be statistical cheating pure and simple, Southeastern’s most recent punctuality record (September 2015) is as follow…


• North Kent line (Slade Green to Abbey Wood). 83·84%
• Bexleyheath line. 86·34%
• Sidcup line. 84·33%


Crossrail
CrossrailIt’s time for the fortnightly Crossrail update. There’s a new set of photos taken in and around Abbey Wood station and a small number taken on the line down to Belvedere. There would have been more but all those taken from a train have been wrecked by dirty windows and reflections.

There are no spectacular developments around the station but compare the superficially similar pictures and you will see that things are progressing steadily towards opening the new London bound platform.

How the OBE could report that Felixstowe Road is back to normal is beyond belief. Never travels north of the Bexleyheath railway line presumably.


First Aid training in schools
This is a definitely off topic for Bexley is Bonkers, it's not something that Bexley council could influence; but what sort of heartless monster talks out Teresa Pearce’s Bill to enforce first aid training in schools?

BillThe low life MP responsible is Philip Davies who represents Shipley; what did they do to deserve him? A Tory of course.

‘Your Interests, Not Self Interest’ is his slogan. What a bastard.


Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood. One bloody awful shop
From slightly off topic to off the scale but I’m sick of Sainsbury’s in Abbey Wood.

BogsIt’s my nearest supermarket and I wouldn’t use it except that the nonagenarian aunt in East Ham insists that I stock her freezer with Sainsbury’s ready meals. Her local supermarket was Sainsbury’s and old habits die hard now she cannot get there unaided.

Often - no always - there is one item from her shopping list that Abbey Wood doesn’t have. I suppose it’s because they are getting so few customers that they have to cut down on stock. You certainly have to watch their sell by dates.

Since Asda opened in Belvedere I have never used anything but a self service till and the same goes for Sainsbury’s. Both have become a pain now that they keep asking if you have brought your own bag but at least Asda’s moves on once the question is answered.

Not so Sainsbury’s. Put the plastic bag in the bagging area and it is too light to register. It doesn’t like that and doesn’t seem to believe you’ve brought your own bag. Last Thursday I had to walk back into the shop to swap over the box of chocolates that is usually on the list. The box was quite badly damaged.

When I got back to the till - there was nobody else around so I left the other stuff there - the machine had timed out. The assistant pretended not to notice so I just took the stuff out of the machine’s out tray and started a new transaction at the adjacent machine. The first till complained I was stealing goods without paying. The assistant still took no notice.

When I had finished and paid, the machine told me that I had saved 49 pence compared to Asda which I knew was a lie. There were only two items that weren’t Sainsbury’s own label. The chocolates and a £1.49 magazine and I’m pretty sure Asda doesn’t bump up the cover price to £1.98.

49pThe chocolates I know for a fact were £4 at the Beckton branch of Sainsbury’s a week ago. £6 in Abbey Wood! Next day I checked the price in Asda, maybe they were asking £6.49. But no, £3 was their price. Sainsbury’s price comparison is total fiction.

It’s the same with my gluten free bread. Sainsbury’s is exactly 50% dearer than Asda.

Don’t use their coffee shop either. I met a friend in there about a month ago. The queue consisted of one lady who was at the till paying for her cakes and having her coffee poured. So just seconds to wait presumably. No way. My friend and I didn’t time the delay but we both agreed that we must have waited about 15 minutes for the dozy girl to work out how to use the coffee machine. And mine was completely cold. Never again.

And then there is the toilets. Nothing is perfect and occasionally things will go wrong but don’t tell customers to use the Disabled Toilet when it cannot be seen from the corridor where the other toilets are sited. (It’s in a recess around the corner.) An arrow might have been helpful.

No wonder the place is always close to empty.

 

21 November (Part 2) - At last the June Slaughter Show

After councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) made the point that conducting a user survey at Old Farm Park during a wet week in October showed a lack of forethought on a project that had been in the planning for a whole year, the OBE (Outclassed. Bested. Eclipsed) allowed councillor June Slaughter to say her piece. A decision she soon regretted if her contorted face was any guide.

O'NeillCouncillor Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) apologised for the absence of her colleague Rob Leitch, detained by his day job, and then got straight down to business. “Bexley’s Open Spaces Strategy”, she said, records that “the borough faces the biggest challenge associated with population growth and the effective provision of parks an open spaces will be essential if the quality of life is to be maintained and enhanced.”

“A key objective of the London Plan is to accommodate London’s growth without encroaching on open spaces. The strongly held views of residents are being ignored.”

“Paragraph nine of the Land and Property Framework stipulates that no land can be disposed of without the approval of the appropriate cabinet member yet the decision set out in tonight’s Agenda apparently passes to the General Purposes Committee for [quoting from the documentation] the final decision whether or not to dispose of the four sites.”

She said that their written authority seemed not to allow that and that the committee could not be regarded as impartial at that late stage of the procedure.

Mrs. Slaughter had not missed a mistake in the presentation to cabinet. The map of the land to be sold which was included in the Agenda did not match the written statement alongside it.

SlaughterCouncillor Slaughter also took issue with the report’s emphasis on the claimed “relatively high level of publicly accessible space in Bexley”. However the Department for Communities open spaces database showed that Bexley was in fourth from bottom position among the Outer London Boroughs. She suggested that the cabinet was relying on statistics that had been manipulated.

For another example the Sidcup area was said “to have an overprovision of open space without the Sidcup area being defined”. The alternatives to Old Farm Park were across railway lines and very busy roads and at least ten minutes’ walk away.

The council’s report also makes it clear that “the area is deficient in natural and semi-natural open space”. Councillor Slaughter ridiculed the suggestion the developer might be made to mitigate the damage by turning the portion of Old Farm Park that is to escape his clutches into a new natural habitat. “But that is exactly what it is already.” Neither did residents like the suggestion that a formal children’s play area might be installed there.

CraskeCouncillor Peter Craske did not escape the kicking. He had complained earlier that the campaign group did not engage with him but it was Craske who declined the invitation to meet with them.

The council claimed borough wide support for selling open spaces but as councillor Slaughter reminded us, only 394 people took part in that first consultation and what is more, Bexley council was at the time keeping the identity of those open spaces a closely guarded secret.

In March this year the council’s planning committee rejected an application for development at a sports ground “just down the road from Old Farm Park” for “absolutely the same objections made by the residents for Old Farm Park.

Tweet“The savings cannot be ring fenced.” (June is diplomatically putting the boot into Alex Sawyer’s idiotic speech now.) “Old Farm Park should not have to be sacrificed to bear the cost of the maintenance of parks throughout the borough when there are alternatives that could be pursued to meet the costs”.

The cabinet squirmed and began planning their revenge on the loose cannon in their midst. (See Tweet above.)

BeckwithWell deserved rapturous applause followed but with one exception, not from the Tory benches. Councillor Aileen Beckwith (Sidcup) said she “totally agreed with everything councillor Slaughter just said. We are trying to represent residents”.

The only official response to the onslaught came from Deputy Director Toni Ainge who said she had “struggled” to find councillor Slaughter’s Department of Communities’ open spaces figures. She alluded to the fact that statistics can be manipulated. Well she should know!

SmithCouncillor Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) made a reference to Bexley’s Listening to you slogan and noted that Bexley’s financial black hole stretching out to 2018 is exactly the same as Britain’s daily contribution to the European Union.

His colleague Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) made the point that all the Conservatives had already voted for the budget cuts, “everything since was a pointless exercise” especially so with the General Purposes Committee being dominated by Conservatives. Pointless exercise? I think Lynn must be a Bonkers reader.

Lynn was rewarded with applause from the public gallery and groans from the Conservatives. The OBE (Outwitted By Erudition) effectively said tough. “The Conservatives are in power”, like it or lump it, she gloated, as if she was speaking on behalf of ISIS in Raqqa.

I suspect I know whose head will be on the block next.

 

21 November (Part 1) - Prince meets the carbuncle of Bexley in a timewarp

Bexley’s “monstrous carbuncle” met Prince Charles yesterday to receive her OBE (Oversize Boil Exploding).
OBE
The 20th November was Friday where I live. Maybe it was different at your place.

 

20 November (Part 2) - Lights out in Welling

Today has not gone according to plan and it is no longer realistic to expect another report on last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting before the weekend.

Most of yesterday was spent in Newham and Waltham Forest. A free visitor’s parking permit in Newham (conditions apply but £2 for equivalent permit in Bexley) and playing motoring hopscotch with the innumerable yellow box junctions in and around Chingford. Sometimes you cannot help being stopped in them when the unpredictable happens, like when a child steps off a pedestrian refuge and then freezes. It’s happened to me but no resultant penalty.

According to the local newspaper in Waltham Forest some yellow box junctions are little short of being deliberate traps.

Now that Bexley council is both desperate for money and has taken the same surveillance powers as other councils, the plague will spread.

Returning through Blackwall after midnight I detoured into darkest Welling.

No lights It was pretty dark and dingy in the area covered by Bexley’s no lights experiment even though the lights were still on. I’d forgotten the official off time so assumed it must be later than half past midnight and made my way home

The lights, LED I assume, were barely adequate. Nothing like as bright as the more familiar sodium lamps.

Meanwhile I suspect the lighting experiment is another example of shifting Bexley council’s budget on to someone else’s shoulders. Usually the police but this time the householders’ insurance policies too.

 

20 November (Part 1) - Broadway and Erith Shopping Centres. Who owns what?

There has been quite a lot of interest in who owns the Broadway and Erith Shopping Centres so before I listen again to councillor Slaughter’s criticism of Bexley council’s plan to sell Old Farm Park, you may wish to hear what the Acting Chief Executive actually said about ownership.

First UKIP councillor Beazley’s question which somehow failed to register with me while in the council chamber, but the recording is clear enough.

Note that councillor Beazley refers to both Bexleyheath and Erith shopping centres and strongly suggests that council officers - he had been exchanging notes with Jane Richardson, Deputy Director of Regeneration and Growth - had confirmed council ownership.

This is Paul Moore’s reply.

Note that Mr. Moore doesn’t mention Erith shopping centre but neither does he or Mrs. Richardson contradict councillor Beazley.

The fact that Mr. Moore’s answer is barely adequate is par for the course, but what is consistently disappointing about all Bexley council meetings is that when someone willfully or otherwise provides an inadequate answer, no one ever picks them up on it. It is as though their butterfly minds have already moved on to the next subject.

Maybe councillor Beazley felt that both his assertions were vindicated by a written note from a councillor officer but without that advantage I was left uncertain as to whether or not the Chief Executive was referring to one or both towns.

Postscript. Here’s the real answer…
The Mall
Erith
Source document.

You’d have thought that Linda Bailey, being a cabinet member, would have known that.

 

19 November (Part 2) - It’s official. The Cabinet member for Regeneration and Growth is an ignoramus

Beazley BaileyAfter Alan Deadman (Labour leader) declined the OBE’s invitation to deliver an alternative budget she shifted her attention to UKIP leader Chris Beazley who was ready to play her game.

He said that “there were alternatives which would have no effect on the green spaces in the borough and provide an income which would exceed any that came from the sale of green spaces. They are the sale of the Broadway shopping centre and also Erith shopping centre”.

He acknowledged the applause and no doubt felt rather pleased with his contribution; but not for long. Biffa Bailey landed her sarcastic knock out blow.

“I would just like to advise councillor Beazley, I thought he would know being a councillor, we don’t own Erith shopping centre, we don’t own Broadway shopping centre either.” Some Tories laughed as the Blonde Bruiser Kippered Chris.

MooreWhile Teresa O’Neill OBE (Oldfarm Birdlife Exterminator) relished the moment and moved rapidly on, councillor Beazley was busy writing notes and slipping them around the room.

It took just over 15 minutes for his scribbling to take effect.

To my surprise, maybe I hadn’t been paying close enough attention, Acting Chief Executive Paul Moore flicked his microphone switch. He hesitantly beat around the bush, but got to his point eventually.

Bexley council does own both shopping centres. He wasn’t keen on selling them but one point stood out clearly. Chris Beazley is more worthy of his £9,418 a year than Bailey is her £22,615.

The odd thing was that Bailey’s ignorance was not remarked upon in any shape or form. Councillor Deadman was wise not to take the leader’s bait. Even if he had come up with a decent proposal it would have been instantly dismissed.

 

19 November (Part 1) - Lesnes Abbey. Six months late the Meccano set arrives

Only six months late the kit of parts that should make up into a visitor centre has arrived at Lesnes Abbey.

Elsewhere the green of the Monk’s garden has become rolled hardcore. I expect the old abbot would be overjoyed. I wonder how many people have climbed the hill in hope of finding the toilets in the year since they were knocked down?
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes

 

18 November (Part 2) - Bexley’s cabinet states its case for being the ‘Not listening to you council’

Old Farm ParkItem 4 on the cabinet’s Agenda yesterday was entitled ‘To Consider the Outcome of the Consultation Exercise for Four Open Sites and the Next Steps’. The consultation was close to being 1,361 to nil against the Listening council so you will not be surprised that it didn’t merit a mention. The cabinet emphasis was on why their fatuous slogan was being ignored again.

The Conservatives have presided over the run down of Bexley. Charges up, services cut, gardens and historical monuments abandoned, no public toilets, motorists persecuted and levying the 24th highest council tax in London. A position just as bad as when the much maligned Labour party left office in 2006.

Nevertheless Bexley Tories are still blaming their parlous financial state on Labour, apparently oblivious to the fact they have been running the show for nearly ten years and nationally for more than five. To borrow cabinet member Linda Bailey’s favourite phrase, it’s a bit rich.

It is easy to compile a list of things that have made Bexley a far less pleasant place to be now than ten years ago and very few in the reverse direction. A couple of town centres look a bit smarter and that is about it.

However we are where we are if I may borrow one of cabinet member Sawyer’s favourite platitudes too, and having backed themselves into a financial hole, there is only one way out. The civic equivalent of e-bay.

DebtIf you disregard the fact that Bexley council is impoverished because it refused to embrace growth, Tories putting their own seats before financial security and their mate George Osborne’s doubling of the national debt, then it could be argued that half the cabinet members made a reasonable job of explaining their predicament. It made them look like ostriches at times but the numbers they came out with were frighteningly real.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill began proceedings by reminding everyone that all the Conservatives had already voted in favour of all the budget proposals. 27 sites were named in the budget for possible disposal and five had been looked at. One, Old Manor Way, had fallen by the wayside earlier. It proved to be totally unsuitable for development and the council had pretended it didn’t know that. More likely they knew exactly what they were doing.

Another thing the Leader was at pains to point out is that there would be no decision on any sale at the meeting as this would be devolved to the General Purposes committee. A jolly band made up of two Labour, one UKIP, six nondescript Tory councillors and a Conservative Chairman. Passing the decision to them appeared to herald a classic ‘wasn’t me guv’ excuse by the council leader.


AingeAfter Deputy Director Toni Ainge ran through the basic facts again and explained why Old Farm Park was “surplus” Alison Griffin the Finance Director repeated the usual bundle of bad news. The council is, despite numerous cuts, still facing a £34 million shortfall.

MasseyAll the cabinet members had been through the excuses routine many times before so some are getting quite good at putting across their blinkered views. Cabinet member Don Massey said that the alternative to more cuts and sell-offs is a 55% council tax rise. Some of the park campaigners thought that would be a good idea. He invited ridicule by stating that the usage of Old Farm Park was “low”.

The renowned gambling man, Cabinet member Peter Craske chanced his arm too. Every part of the borough must play its part with the cuts and none can be exempted. He referred back to a 2011 edict by government that councils should sell surplus land, and any opinion other than his was “fantasy”.

Craske“As is obvious“, he said. “you cannot save something once you have saved it. You cannot repeat savings”. That comment may not seem significant to you but I well remember councillor Craske arguing the reverse when he was last a cabinet member. For example, destroying the William Morris fountain was going to put £20,000 in the bank very year ad-infinitum. Perhaps he thought the closure of the tramways in 1935 was still paying dividends. Maybe he has been taking lessons from Ms. Griffin since then.

Craske said that councillors were doing their bit by agreeing to cut their numbers by 28% in 2018, conveniently forgetting that all Tories voted against UKIP’s proposal to cut allowances by 33% in 2014 and representing an immediate saving.

His list of councils nationwide that had got themselves into similar financial difficulties was not well received. Neither was his statement that the community had not engaged with the park sale. Given the two 3,000 signature petitions, 1,361 consultation responses, the newspaper features, the web presence and indeed the presence of real residents before him, it was real vintage idiocy on Craske’s part. What a shame that the Bexley Action Group was instrumental in dislodging the wrong man from office 18 months ago.

The campaign group reminded Craske that he had refused to meet them when asked.

Like a torturer relishing the next ratchet on the rack, councillor Craske predicted that things could only get worse. “Let’s be clear, while these decisions we are having to make in this four year term are harder than were made in the previous four year term, they are nothing compared to the difficult decisions the council elected in 2018 will have to deliver”. “Well you won’t have to worry about that” came a voice from the floor.” And finally the coward’s way out. Craske repeated that the decision wasn’t his to make, it was the General Purposes Committee’s.


ReadCouncillor Philip Read made the point that Bexley needs more houses but wisely kept his backing for the scheme commendably short. Judged solely by the criterion, did he make his case well? Yes, he did a pretty good job. Would his colleague Linda Bailey do the same?

BaileyBailey began by mumbling and the first audible words were her default position when she has nothing original to say. She praised and thanked the authors of the report. Then in desperation she fell back on blaming the last Labour government for forcing the proposed land sales. Beneath the chorus of disapproval I could just hear her wittering on about children and grandchildren.

The best she managed was to repeat almost verbatim Ms. Ainge’s opening address. She was still going on about if the proposal was approved by cabinet even though three out of the five present had already make it clear they would vote for it and so did she. It was a truly pathetic performance.

Whether it was more or less pathetic than cabinet member Sawyer’s performance is open to debate but I found myself looking at the ceiling while cringing almost with embarrassment. When I looked down I discovered I was not alone, some of them councillors too.


SawyerCouncillor Sawyer acknowledged the concerns and said if he lived near the park he “would feel exactly the same. The possible disposal is to safeguard other open spaces. It may not make us popular, it may not make us any friends.”

The alternative was “that other open spaces would revert to meadow and then to woodland. There would be an increase in fly tipping. There will be no sports provision in any open space.”

“We have above average levels of obesity. Many local residents use our parks for their exercise regimes and that should and must be allowed to continue.” But not in Old Farm Park presumably.

Reverting to his first theme, “there would be no dog bins and there would be the closure of 31 children’s playgrounds and 16 ball courts.”.

He “would not be able to look a child in the eye that comes from a background with less money than is available in other households and say I’m sorry there is no playground when there is an alternative.” Some of the words were lost in the general hubbub but that was definitely the gist of it.

I have heard much the same I'm a decent guy speech so many times now that I have become sure it is just an act. I was taken in by the I’m on your side really tactics over the Belvedere Splash Park but not any more. Even if it was true it makes not a scrap of difference, Alex Sawyer is Deputy Leader, there is no way he is going to rock any boat. Before ending he couldn’t resist repeating his not popular, not making friends diatribe just in case someone still didn’t believe he is Mr. Nice Guy.

I was genuinely disappointed to have councillor Sawyer confirm my growing suspicions.

The council leader, somewhat like councillor Bailey, referred to the decision cabinet members may take later. Presumably she too had not heard every cabinet member declare their intentions earlier.

True to form she then tried to set a political trap. After several £100k. plus a year council officers had spent all of 2015 formulating a carefully costed plan, she asked the Labour leader to make one up on the spur of the moment. He declined her kind offer.

 

18 November (Part 1) - Old Farm Park slips further out of reach

Old Farm ParkLast night the inevitable happened. Bexley council’s cabinet took another step towards the disposal of four open spaces the largest and most contentious being Old Farm Park in Sidcup.

Strangely, two of the seven cabinet members were absent but all the most ruthless were there. Another surprising absentee was Sidcup councillor Rob Leitch who was in detention at the school where he is a teacher, however his Sidcup colleague is more than capable of fighting her corner alone.


Campaigners The turnout of councillors was higher than normal, nearly half of Conservatives members were on the back benches and the same went for Labour. UKIP managed a 100% turnout.

I made no effort to count the members of the public but a photograph suggests an audience of about 40. Most must have been Old Farm Park campaigners because after the vote there were only five of us left, dwindling to two by the time the meeting ended soon after ten o’clock. Obviously no one is really interested in library privatisation which followed parks on the Agenda.

The Old Farm audience was quite vocal at times and meeting chairman Teresa O’Neill didn’t like it, but not as much as she didn’t like councillor June Slaughter. If looks could kill…

Note: A detailed report on Agenda 5 (Consideration of the Parks Consultation) should appear later today. Probably much later.

 

17 November (Part 2) - Bexley police’s arrest records appear to be less than reliable

I almost laughed out loud for a moment when I read Anna Firth’s Tweet early this morning but soon realised that she was confining her comments to the current security situation and I was taking a much wider view.

TweetThere is no alternative but to hope that the police and security services are doing “a brilliant job” right now but unfortunately their top brass is comprised of men (if there are women too I have not yet encountered them) proven to be capable of extraordinary corruption.

Long term readers will probably guess that I am referring to Daniel Morgan who would have been my daughter’s brother-in-law had he not been brutally murdered in 1987. It is widely believed that he was on the brink of exposing the corruption among South East London’s police, Catford in particular, and they were very much behind the axe that was embedded in Daniel’s skull.

Home SecretaryTwenty eight and a half years later there have been five police investigations all of which have been subverted in one way or another. Right now there is a Hillsborough style inquiry going on authorised by Theresa May the Home Secretary.

Every previous Home Secretary, David Blunkett, Hazel Blears and Jack Straw in particular, didn’t want to know presumably fearing what an inquiry might reveal. Theresa May’s speech to the Police Federation last year (click image) indicates she has a pretty good idea of what has been going on.


ShreddedThe police had a go at subverting the current inquiry too but I’m not allowed to talk about that. Things seem to be running on a more even keel now. Perhaps the Met. is feeling relaxed after shredding so much paper.

Despite that, new information continues to come to light. The News of the World employed many of the people suspected of the axe murder. Most were recruited by Andy Coulson who went on to work in the Prime Minister’s office.

When the police commenced the fifth enquiry headed by a Detective Chief Superintendent who showed no sign of being corrupt, bent cops and crooked newspaper associates were worried. The two groups connived together to derail the new investigation. They kept the CS under surveillance and the newspaper reported his ‘affair’ with a BBC Crime Watch presenter. The presenter was his wife.

They were more successful with the accusation that the Detective CS had leaked information. Surrounded by corrupt officers intent on continuing the cover up and presumably very well aware of the Met’s inclination to use the shredder, he stored some documents on his home computer. The allegation forced an early retirement and a near four year investigation. The events recently became public knowledge. The Metropolitan Police is fundamentally corrupt. They attacked the only honest senior police officer the Morgan family had ever met.

Unfortunately corruption is not confined to Scotland Yard. The police in Bexley are not exactly squeaky clean either.

Maybe you remember the Bexley schoolboy, attacked in his school playground and all caught on CCTV. The case went nowhere once the police discovered that the attacker was part of the wider police family. The judge at Dartford County Court found Bexley police to be “wrong” and “inaccurate” with its investigation and the victim won his case against them. Despite the police promising sanctions against the guilty policemen, none was ever applied.

Being deliberately wrong and inaccurate is part of the armoury that Bexley police employs to fend off complaints against themselves and their friends. Who can forget that the former Bexley blogger known as Olly Cromwell was accused of encouraging the posting of dog faeces through a councillor’s letter box? The police and Bexley councillor Melvin Seymour put it all down in black and white while the actual evidence made no reference to dog faeces, a letterbox or any name or address. They just made that up to strengthen a weak case. It was thrown out on appeal but no lying police officer or councillor ever faced charges.

FantasyThe police indulged in another bout of fantasy after Michael Barnbrook and I exchanged jokey comments with two police officers in the council chamber two years ago. The pair was so concerned that we might be criminals that they neither asked our names, made any comment in their notebooks, nor entered any reference to the conversation in the official records when they got back to base in Arnsberg Way. I was so impressed by them that I reported how pleasant they were in the following day’s blog. An enquiry from the press to find out what had gone on was answered by the police with ‘nothing criminal’.

Yet a year later, when the the truth did not suit Bexley council, the two police officers were leaned upon to record that Michael and I - and others - refused to leave the council chamber when requested and had to be forcibly ejected. Every police officer is as capable of corruption as their seniors.

So what brought all this on? Well stuck for a blog before the next round of council meetings I thumbed through the papers relating to the lady who was arrested at Heathrow while on her way home to Bexleyheath.

She had been on holiday in Montana with her husband, sharing a ranch, him buying her presents. It was an attempt to forgive and forget his affair discovered two years earlier. It turned sour when a message came through from the girlfriend. A distraught wife returned home alone on 29th April 2013 where she found herself arrested. The girlfriend scorned had apparently taken revenge.

It couldn’t have been too difficult, the bit on the side was employed by Bexley police. One of several allegations was that the Bexleyheath lady had slashed her husband’s car tyres on 19th April 2013, six days before the couple flew to the USA. You might think that such an act would have put paid to the holiday, but it didn’t. That's because the husband made no complaint. It was all nonsense and you might guess who was responsible for it.

Further allegations; assault and theft - but not the tyre slashing which even Bexley plod knew was a non-starter - went to court. The judge threw everything out. There was no evidence and the wife does not have a stain on her character. The stolen property was eventually found at a Croydon address.

Naturally she was not best pleased by the turn of events and filed a formal complaint. It has rumbled around the IPCC and the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards - oh and MOPAC too - for two years and most of the complaints have gone the way police complaints nearly always do. They were thrown out by the police who stand in judgment of their colleagues; but not all of them.

I must be careful what I say here because one or more police officers may yet find themselves back in court, however there are definitely indications that the arrest at Heathrow which could easily have been made in Bexleyheath was a stunt to amuse named police officers and their employee, that is, the girlfriend.

One reason to think that is that like my non-existent ejection from the Civic Offices, no record was made of the arrest at the time.

Police records state that the arrest was made on the 6th May 2013, I have a copy of the relevant document. It rather looks as though someone belatedly realised that a formal complaint might require the existence of an arrest record and that someone remembered it took place on a Monday but wasn’t quite sure which one. They picked the wrong Monday for the retrospective report. (The arrest was a week earlier.)

It is so similar to the police’s false and much delayed report that Michael Barnbrook and I were ejected from the council chamber. Plugging evidential gaps with lies appears to be standard practice among Bexley’s police officers. Fortunately the date of the incoming flight and the date on the arrest papers are both inviolable. It will be interesting to see how bent cops manage to wriggle out of that one but they will try. Honesty is just not their thing.

 

17 November (Part 1) - Not just an island platform, an isolated building site too

In another letter from Network Rail they recognise their work is “impacting” on the local population. Well that is one way of putting it.

In an attempt to win back friends they are going to hold another of their occasional drop-in sessions at the Community Centre on Knee Hill.
Crossrail
I think I have a question for them. If the realigned London bound North Kent line will be using the new platform by next February as planned and if above ground work on the new station is not going to begin until after that date - as I was told by one of the bosses very recently - how are they going to get their men and machinery into position? The station building’s southern footprint will be cut off on both sides by a working railway.
Crossrail
There will be no more Crossrail related line closures this year, but on every weekend in January it will be buses only again from Slade Green to Abbey Wood.

 

16 November (Part 3) - A dummy run or a run fit only for dummies?

Bexley council has promised to disrupt Bexley Village with its six month Cray bridge replacement project. You can imagine the extent of the traffic congestion and the impact on traders’ livelihoods. Actually you don’t have to imagine it because Thames Water provided a dress rehearsal this afternoon.

TweetThanks to another of their leaks - didn’t they repair a leak at that spot only a few weeks ago? - the full extent of next year’s chaos may be gauged already.

Hours before the rush hour started Bexley Village looked like this…


Bexley village Bexley village Bexley villagePhoto 1 taken soon after one o’clock, the second an hour later.

The map shows the extent of the traffic queue at that time. Pity the poor rush hour commuters.

Has Bexley Village ever gone more than three months without having its economy wrecked?

 

16 November (Part 2) - The bonkers path to a Forum

The Bexley is Bonkers website exists because Bexley council sought to tell me in 2009 that their road planning was supported by the Transport Research Laboratory when I knew for a fact that was a lie. The blog was tacked on only because a friend had set one up to cover his musical interests. I might not have known what a blog was if it were not for him but it seemed like a good idea at the time to follow suit.

The blog being an afterthought has led to complications. It has taken over the whole website yet, confusingly perhaps, it isn’t the Bonkers’ front page and from that front page the menu still leads to all sorts of long outdated stuff. A total restructuring now would be a nightmare taking far too long and probably breaking a few things in the process. It is not likely to happen.

Another weakness of the BiB blog is that it is a one way communications medium. The Contact page may help a bit but sometimes there is no time to answer messages. One such message said…


Hi Malcolm,
I love your site and appreciate your dedication towards democracy, accountability and transparency. I was wandering if you thought of setting up a user forum bulletin board for residents.


There have been other such messages.

I can see why some people would ask for a forum but it is a potentially dangerous step. When BiB was in its infancy there was an Abbey Wood Forum. It was occasionally swamped with spam messages but otherwise little used. It eventually disappeared.

However there is now a forum on Bexley is Bonkers. It has had some limited testing and a Moderator has been appointed but the Forum probably needs a soft start as the Administrator and Moderator learn the ropes and discover the pitfalls.

The Moderator is someone whose name has never been mentioned on these pages so it is pointless trying to guess who it is. The Forum Administrator is inevitably me, deciding on forum names etc. Suggestions welcome.

The Forum’s URL is not hard to guess but there is no direct link from BiB at present. Hopefully that will limit the number of users at the outset and provide an opportunity to iron out any problems.

I can imagine that it will soon be necessary to block out non-UK IP addresses (†). Most spam seems to come from overseas.

† That's addresses outside this country, not everyone who is not a supporter of Nigel Farage. Thanks to those who requested clarification.

 

16 November (Part 1) - Bexley is Bonkers on Facebook

I’ve said before that I have totally failed to get to grips with Facebook, give me php and css files anytime, they make a lot more sense to me. Even apparently successful Facebook pages look messy to me and the Bonkers Bexley Facebook page has been nothing like a successful Facebook page.

Two months ago I handed it over to a third party but it hasn’t changed a great deal since. I am told that part of the problem is that I set up the Facebook account all wrong. Probably I did.

So the Bonkers’ Facebook page has undergone some big changes this morning. Existing ‘Friends’ will be asked to rejoin. My impression is that some of the so called Friends were there to push a non-Bexley related agenda and there is a need to be more ruthless which such people in future. I’m told their is an Unfriend button somewhere.

Note: Following an attack on the Facebook page believed to be the work of Bexley council, the Facebook address was changed.

 

15 November (Part 2) - Cross with Crossrail

Cross with CrossrailThe Cross with Crossrail march took place this afternoon. Starting at St. Benet’s Catholic church it took a circuitous route to the Abbey Arms in Wilton Road. Scouts and chanting choirboys aplenty, topped off by a Morris dancing display.

45 photos may be viewed here.

 

15 November (Part 1) - Bexley. The black bag borough

ZafiraWhile Bexley council imposes petty rules about bin lids and charges for removing large items, fly tipping will not go away. A single settee costs £30 to get rid of. In Greenwich there is a much more generous charging formula for things like three piece suites and in Newham it’s all free.

Then there is the £33 charge for garden waste. That will take a while to get used to. Even so, the amount of rubbish dumped in Belvedere at the moment is rather shocking. Is it the same everywhere?

Probably the burned out and aptly named Vauxhall Zafira doesn’t count as fly tipping but all these pictures were taken in the space of ten minutes. I could have taken more pictures of broken food waste bins if I had gone on to private property. So much for councillor Craske’s story about only ten having been reported broken.

Flytipping Flytipping Flytipping Flytipping
Flytipping Flytipping Flytipping Flytipping

 

14 November - Convenient for the station

The end house in Florence Road, Belvedere was demolished to make way for Crossrail’s box of electrical tricks but the house next door was shored up and put on the market. (For Sale sign Photo 1.)

One of Balfour Beatty’s men told me how much was being asked for it. I forget what the price was but I remember it was more than I thought my own house would fetch and when I mentioned it to neighbours the response was “ridiculous”.

However it is undoubtedly ideally placed for any deaf commuter and in recent weeks what might be an estate agent (Photo 2) has been seen taking an interest and now the house appears to be occupied.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

 

13 November - Blue sky thinking

Attending council meetings is not my favourite activity but I dragged myself to yesterday’s General Purposes Committee meeting because the subject matter was far too important to miss. The Committee was set to approve - or not - the Conservative’s ward proposals to the Boundary Commission (BC). Oh, who am I trying to kid with the not word? A Conservative party proposal was to be considered by a committee with a Conservative majority. The result could only go one way.

The importance of the decision cannot be over emphasised. It will affect the number of Bexley councillors and has the potential to change the colour of the council. When the parliamentary boundaries were up for discussion four years ago, the local Tories’ proposals were blatant gerrymandering. It proved to be of no consequence but only because the traitorous LibDems backtracked from their coalition agreement with the Conservatives.

So important was the decision last night that joining me in the public gallery was leader Teresa O’Neill (Obsolescent Boundaries Excised), cabinet members Don Massey and Philip Read and councillors Geraldine Lucia-Hennis and Joe Pollard. Joe graciously acknowledged my presence, the others pretended I wasn’t there. No other residents were there either.

Among the other people who weren’t there was all the Labour and UKIP councillors apart from the two and one respectively who are committee members. If nothing else it gives the impression they are not really interested.

The Committee is chaired by relative newcomer Cafer Munur whose approach to the job tends towards the informal and laid back. Almost a homely chat about politics with his mates while watching the football and sinking a few beers. There is no beer but he is not at all bad as a referee. Whatever his technique it works quite well.
General Purposes
The picture above hides all the Tories apart from councillor Hurt in the right foreground. Behind him were councillors Rob Leitch, Linda Bailey, Sharon Massey and well hidden from the lens, vice-chairman Nigel Betts.

If you take a close interest in the existing ward boundaries you may come to the conclusion they are not particularly clever. Where I am, near Lesnes Abbey, the ward extends north across the railway line towards Thamesmead and southwards up the hill through the woods towards the Woolwich Road and Brampton. I regard neither direction as being part of my home patch. However if I walk east or west I cross the ward boundary within little more than five minutes.

The centre of Welling is hopelessly divided. You can be in four different wards just by crossing the road. It’s not the best way of building a community. Further to the south, wards straddle the A2. All rather silly.

The new plan is heavily biased towards natural and man made boundaries. The three cross borough railway lines, the A2 trunk road and the almost straight line marked out by Crook Log, Broadway, Albion Road and Watling Street.

Being parochial again, I regard my home territory as running from the borough boundary in Wilton Road through to the Asda store flanking Picardy Manorway. To the north the railway is an obvious barrier and to the south the uninhabited escarpment which marks the edge of the Thames’ floodplain forms a natural barrier. And that more or less marks the proposed ward boundary too. Nice.

As far as I can see other wards are similarly logical but there are bound to be anomalies here and there. For example the new Brampton ward excludes more of Brampton Road than it includes.

To keep the BC happy each councillor has to have a similar number of electors to represent so it won’t always be possible to have a perfect community based ward and as I understand it, that is where the UKIP proposals fell down. The plan under discussion yesterday evening must have taken a great deal of thought and senior officer time and UKIP simply doesn’t have the resources to emulate that. It may explain the leader’s mocking praise at the council meeting.

One of many things that makes setting boundaries difficult is that the numerical target of similar ward populations is a moving one. The 21,500 homes planned for Bexley is going to upset a few apple carts but apparently the BC will only take into account those with planning permission, so that is relatively few. Bexley council has assumed that the number of electors will rise from its present total of 179,439 to 189,189 by 2021.

One reason for Bexley council being keen on community based wards is that the BC rates them very highly. Instead of adjusting ward boundaries to justify three councillors it would much rather that the number of councillors is adjusted to suit a community. This has led to Belvedere, or at least the part of it centred on the Nuxley Road shopping area, being defined as a small self-contained community to be represented by one councillor.

But enough of the generalities, what did the committee members have to say? First Mr. Nick Hollier the Human Resources manager related what had happened hitherto.

The council had unanimously decided that 45 was a reasonable number of councillors and the BC had been persuaded to agree.

The BC had encouraged members of the public and political parties to submit their ideas directly to it. Mr. Hollier said that UKIP and the Conservatives shared their ideas with council officers but Labour had decided not to do so, a decision which allowed the Conservatives to make merry later in the meeting.

The definitive proposals must reach the BC by next Monday.

The first councillor to speak was Sharon Massey who said she was pleased to see that her ward, Danson, would no longer be like a big doughnut with the park in the middle. The new boundary will be Danson Road.

Councillor Rob Leitch was also very pleased to see “natural boundaries restored”. “Common sense had been brought back into boundaries.” The proposals are “extremely good”. Councillor Nigel Betts said “the division of long roads into three pieces was absolutely barmy but that has all been ironed out now”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) thanked the officers for the great deal of time they had spent on answering his questions but he was concerned about the electoral numbers. “There are a number of developments which we somehow missed and in my ward there are whole blocks in Belvedere Park where we are lucky if there is 5% registration and some are zero and elsewhere some have been counted twice.” (†)

Daniel found it “bizarre that GLA and Bexley led” housing schemes do not appear in their own housing assessment projections. Similar anomalies, he said, appeared with Peabody Housing funded schemes.

Councillor Francis is a great technician when it comes to dissecting council policy but the Conservatives were not in a mood to backtrack. The chairman said that the methodology had been discussed at the first Working Group and “there was a strict timescale and we needed to draw a line in the sand and the figures are predictions and not an exact science”.

Councillor Francis repeated that, for example, “the housing zone in Thamesmead are very large numbers.” “What would it do for the [electoral] variance?”

Mr. Hollier said his “figure of 189,189 had taken account of those things already”.

Councillor Leitch said the proposals were “an absolute best fit that tick the boxes set out by the boundaries commission. It is a very well thought through proposal”. It seemed to be a fair summary that could have brought the meeting to an end but his colleagues had other ideas.

Councillor Linda Bailey said “it would have been nice to have seen the Labour proposals. We have no idea of their proposals and it is a bit rich, for, you know, to be critical on that”. She “couldn’t see what the problem was”.

Councillor Sharon Massey however could “understand what councillor Francis is saying but we are going to have to agree to differ is the way forward on this. There had been nothing to stop him putting his figures forward. If you think you have something else which will have an effect you have a duty to bring it to this committee and not just report it to the boundaries commission”.

Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP) thought the road he lived in in Welling had been carved into three and his community was divided. He provided several reasons for so thinking but councillor Leitch provided counter-arguments. The chairman interrupted by saying it was an issue that should have been debated at the Working Group.

Councillor Francis returned to the subject of electoral equality but rapidly moved on to the remaining trunk roads that will still be crossed by ward boundaries. One was North Cray Road and the other the A2016 in Erith. He also thought that using the Bexleyheath railway line as a boundary was “quite ridiculous in some cases” and reeled off a list of easy crossing points. He wasn’t happy about dividing the roads that climbed the escarpment that runs through Belvedere. Heron Road and New Road got a special mention. Neither was he happy with Belvedere Village and Picardy being designated single member wards.

It wasn’t difficult to predict some of the answers he would get while voices on all sides became raised. Hardly anybody lives east of North Cray Road so linking it with the western side seems to be the sensible course and New Road has a distinct top and bottom with a large uninhabited gap in the middle.

Cabinet member Don Massey stepped in to give the official answers. Allowing one two or three member wards had provided much needed flexibility and reducing ward numbers inevitably led to some new divisions. The east west “railway lines are a barrier even where there is a number of crossings. Separate communities have developed on either side”. There are acknowledged issues with the escarpment in the north of the borough. “It restricts actual movement. It’s a barrier”.

Councillor Massey said only 300 people live to the east of North Cray Road. He was “not in general in favour of one member wards but the community grouped around the Belvedere triangle was a natural one”.

The cabinet member’s defence of the Conservative proposals were both comprehensive and convincing. Councillor Betts said the proposals “were the best compromise there is”, which is probably a very fair assessment “and I think we should go with it”.

Councillor Rob Leitch agreed but added “there is nothing else on the table”. Turning the screw on Labour he said “it is easy to criticise when you don’t contribute”.

Councillor Francis made his point about future proofing the numbers again, or robustness as he called it. He believed there was “a deliberate attempt to split the community” around Belvedere and suggested it was “political expediency”.

Next he criticised the names of some of the wards a few of which referred to places or historical facts which fell outside the ward bearing their names. Voices became raised again. Some of the comments smacked of nit picking. What’s in a name? As councillor Betts said, the BC has previously not objected to late name changes.

Councillor Sharon Massey said she had been studying the map of councillor Beazley’s address and decided she was sympathetic to his concerns but felt “every ward would have some sort of anomaly like that”. She was however “disappointed with Labour tonight”. “If ward names bother you so much you could have come up with alternatives [before] and discussed it”. It seemed to be a reasonable point.

She then very sarcastically said that Labour’s submission to the boundaries commission would be six words. “We don’t like the council’s proposal.” Labour was “lazy”. Sharon Massey can be a sharp tongued woman and it could be heard again in her tone of voice as she said “I know you find it hard to imagine but we have seriously tried to do it on what is the right thing for the borough” and on the face of it, sharp tongued or not, it would be difficult to disagree,

The last time there was a ward submission to the BC she said, it was the Labour proposal that was adopted and not the Conservatives’ “and we have won the elections ever since so we are obviously not very good at drawing up the right things to get us the right vote if that is what you think is the hidden agenda”. There was no logic to it but it sounded good at the time.

This was not Labour’s finest hour and the proposal went to the vote. For some unaccountable reason UKIP voted with Labour prompting yet more sarcasm from Sharon Massey. For good measure she told Daniel Francis to grow up. Don’t expect dignified decorum from a councillor more at home in strip clubs.
AgainstFor
Maps of the council’s boundaries proposal are contained within the Agenda. Far too large and numerous to be shown here.

† some of the quotations related above were extracted from much longer speeches but for convenience have been compressed into one or two sentences.

 

12 November (Part 3) - Amber Dudd

Mayor and DeputyThe last 20 minutes of the Full Council meeting produced a few fireworks and the first followed councillor Brenda Langstead’s (Labour, North End) attempt to interest the chairman of the People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the plight of homeless people.

After allowing her to speak for two and a half minutes, interrupted only by Tory laughter, councillor James Hunt (Conservative, East Wickham), said that homeless people were irrelevant to his People committee. Every Tory agreed with him.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) put a recycling question to the chairman of the Places Scrutiny committee. He thought that the new recycling arrangements might lead to an increase in the use of the Recycling Centres. Had the chairman taken this fully into consideration?

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) refused to answer that question or a similar one from councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) on the grounds that they should have been asked at Scrutiny and “I do not think that is acceptable, it’s unhelpful and it is not the way to go”. He thought asking questions at Full Council meetings was “grandstanding for the TV” and that the high take up of chargeable bins will have minimised any increase in fly tipping. “We made the charge sensible and people are not stupid.”

With three Labour councillors failing to get much from their questioning, councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) tried his luck. He was concerned that the Resources committee “operates differently to the other two”. He questioned the need for the new seating arrangements which chairmen Steven Hall had said was “experimental”. It obscured the public view and to a degree interfered in democracy. Resources was the smallest of the three committees so the need to do it was “a struggle to understand”.

He generously suggested that putting the two vice-chairman on the top table might be to justify the newly introduced allowance of £3,000 each. (None existed previously.)

The Mayor decided she had heard enough and tried interrupt proceedings but councillor Francis appeared to persuade her that his complaint was justified - but not for long.

Daniel Francis complained of being criticised for asking a council officer a question about the budget during a trip to inspect the Capita operation at Erith Town Hall and a Scrutiny vice-chairman who admitted to not having read the budget papers accused him of making things up. It was too much for the Mayor and she resorted to her old friend, the broken clock. Time was running out. She told councilor Francis she was “sorry but you are now moving away from Resources” and she ordered him to sit down. “I have ruled that you are not talking to the Resources Committee.”

Councillor Francis called Standing Order 41 whatever that may be but the Mayor loud mouthed over him. When allowed a word in edgeways he insisted that he was referring to things said at the Resources Scrutiny meeting. “Watch the webcast.”

The Mayor’s only defence against the truth was to say “Councillor Francis you are well over your time and you were disrespectful”. Which is worse? Disrespecting a retired headmistress or her disrespect for democracy itself?

Getting the better of the Mayor is of course a heinous crime, so some Tory imbecile decided it justified a gross distortion of the truth be posted to the web.

Scrutiny chairman Steven Hall tried to answer some of the questions but the Mayor said he had misunderstood them and told him to “please sum up” instead. It would be a shame if a Labour member’s question was actually answered.

The final item on the Agenda was looking after councillors’ allowances. Councillor O’Hare moved they all be adopted without delay and Rob Leitch immediately seconded him. They are the chosen cheer leaders for this year and they must be the obedient Jack in the Boxes jumping up and down on cue for the Mayor at every vote. Personal opinions are not permitted within Bexley’s ruling clique.

However councillor Borella had other ideas, a very good one as it happens. He moved that the six vice-chairman who were appointed after the 2014 election for no other reason than to lavish cash on them - they were unpaid until then - should have their pay cut. Councillor Borella wanted the £3,000 allowance (times six) to be halved and was allowed five minutes to put his case.

However even the thickest of Tories can divide by two and councillor Borella got his point across in fewer than ten seconds.

Cabinet member Don Massey (Conservative, Cray Meadows) immediately flew to his feet to ask his cronies to vote the amendment down. They needed no persuasion and the opportunity to save £18,000 a year was thrown out by the money grabbing party.

The meeting ended two hours and ten minutes after it started. Another lesson in democracy handed out by the head girl.

 

12 November (Part 2) - If at first you don’t succeed…

First they returned to remove the old tram rails.

Bexley Lane Bexley Lane Maybe the three days spent so far on rectifying the design errors made at Bexley Lane will see the end of the job started last June. One can but hope.

Photos by Brian Barnett.

 

12 November (Part 1) - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Lesnes Tower Slide is open for business. Good
Slide Slide Bexley LaneThe fence around the new £105,000 slide at Lesnes Abbey was removed this morning. The nearest fire hydrant is on Abbey Road.


Christmas comes early to Abbey Wood. Very good
Christmas Christmas ShopI saw my first Father Christmas in a neighbour’s window before Halloween so the shop windows in Wilton Road are perhaps not too premature.

The decorations are a small part of the £300,000 regeneration project and is the idea of the project consultant Sally Williams.

However hard she tries, Sally is unlikely to be able to restore the street to its former glory. (Photo 3.)


Crossrail doesn’t care. Bad
I haven’t access to any privileged information on this one but on the face of it Crossrail is in danger of losing its reputation as a considerate neighbour.

FacebookFirst it was the half mile detour over Harrow Manorway for anyone unable to manage stairs.

Then it was the demolition of a footbridge without opening a new one which creates a detour in the region of a mile.

Now they have caused the closure of a church hall.

Crossrail Crossrail CrossrailIt took four train journeys to get the pictures of the back of the church. First the memory card was full, then a mobile digger was in the way. The third train’s window was so filthy that the lens wouldn’t focus through it but I eventually struck lucky with what I assume were church people on the roof taking a good look at their future being bulldozed away.


Lesnes Abbey. The wrecking gathers pace. Ugly

While taking a look at the park this morning I saw a group of tourists with Nikons slung around their neck none to pleased with what could be seen. Why do Nikon owners always seem to have massive telephoto lenses? Nearly all those you see on Bonkers are taken with a fairly extreme wide angle. But I digress.

Even more of the park has been barricaded off than at the beginning of the month. Now the steps down from the abbey area to the Monks’ Garden are inaccessible. However you are welcome to slide down the grass bank on the rotting leaves which Bexley council no longer picks up.
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
What a Dartford recycling bin is doing by the mulberry tree (Photo 4) is anybody’s guess. Perhaps councillor Craske knows.

 

11 November (Part 2) - Odours. Bad. Exceptionally so

HeadlineIf the News Shopper’s letters editor is content to see eight consecutive issues in which Bexley’s council‘s brown bin fiasco is the dominant subject matter, it may not be too excessive for BiB to follow in his footsteps not much more than 24 hours after it last did so.


MagazineNow that the backlog of undelivered bins has been much diminished the focus has shifted to the plastic detritus that Bexley council has fly tipped right across the borough. If anyone else had done it cabinet member Peter Craske would be having them in court, but he is loathe to charge himself with the same crime. Maybe someone else should but last time that happened Bexley police had to set up a special meeting with the CPS to “resolve his situation”.

Bexley council calls the abandoned bins ‘orphans’, which is probably a good name considering its past record of neglecting real orphans, or Children in Care as OFSTED called them in its damning report.

One of the two letters about the orphaned bins reminds News Shopper readers that the old bins were supposed to have been collected in September and concludes that the council leader should be deprived of her OBE given the extent of her failure.


Letter BinThe second correspondent referred to a bin in Bexley Lane which has been stinking outside the writer’s house for the past nine weeks, however Ms. Houghton’s problem is not unique. It took me all of five minutes to take a short walk armed with a camera to find a similar one. In fact I found two.

Ironically, at the very moment I had packed the camera back into its case an open truck went by with around a dozen old bins on board. I thought it might turn into my own road where seven orphans litter the footpath, but it carried straight on, presumably on some aimless meandering diesel wasting mission.

 

11 November (Part 1) - Playing catch up

The claim made by council leader Teresa O’Neill during her report to council, that the Lesnes Abbey improvements being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund are on schedule, very nearly made it into the not entirely true list. Claim
Dates Path StoneHowever not everything at Lesnes Abbey is running behind schedule and it is still possible that the work will be completed by next summer. Click the green graphic to read the larger copy.

The new Visitor Centre should have opened by now but if the outstanding jobs are done in parallel as it were, instead of serially as originally planned for no obvious reason, the scheduled completion date is still achievable.

This week another of the scheduled tasks has commenced, the beginnings of a new path from the children’s playground to the abbey ruins has appeared.

In that children’s playground, the Tower Slide continues to be fenced off a week after the installation contractors left the site.

Fence

 

10 November (Part 3) - Bonus bins

Bin Both Peter Craske and Teresa O’Neill said last week that the last of the long outstanding bins would go out by next Friday and that appears to be happening. On Twitter, on Streetlife and by email the good news is spreading fast. One overjoyed resident even sent me a picture with the bin proudly daubed with her address. A good idea, my bin has taken a walk twice already.

An email, from where I am not sure, said a second bin had arrived. The first came in the September batch but now it has a companion.

It's the first time I have come across someone with an additional bin, up to five can be ordered, so a second delivery is new territory to me. It was news to the resident too. He neither ordered a second bin nor paid for one.

There is no pleasing some people. He is complaining that there is insufficient room for one bin in front of his small terraced house. Now he has two.

Never mind. It will soon get stolen.

 

10 November (Part 2) - The price of cuts

Danson House Hall PlaceI think I could be developing Stockholm Syndrome with councillor Peter Craske.

His home telephone line may have been used for posting obscenities about me and three other Bexley residents apparently without him noticing but does he deserve all the punishment heaped upon him since?

Closing down children’s play areas, parks, libraries, the garden waste service and Albion Road are all unpopular measures that have landed in his lap.

Today he is behind a spate of Press Releases designed to put the best gloss on things.

Bostall Library. The service is to be ‘enhanced’ by a community group.
North Heath Library. Eco Communities has grabbed this one to add to its Bexley and Howbury libraries.
The closure of the Registry Office in Sidcup. The service has been operated by Kent County Council for several years but it is to be moved out. Another building that can be sold.

It was inevitable that sooner or later the savage cuts to the grant to Bexley Heritage Trust would reach a critical level and sure enough Danson House is to be taken back in house by Bexley council. Councillor Craske provides “an assurance that the Council will continue to support the Trust’s work at Hall Place”.

Shutting Sidcup Manor House, cutting the grant to Danson House and filling it with the Registrar’s staff looks like quite a cunning move. Maybe the downside will be restricted public access.

 

10 November (Part 1) - Questions for the Leader

O'NeillThe council leader’s report covered the Boundaries consultation during which she criticised Labour members for having no proposals ready and heaped mock praise on UKIP for producing one which she said was “non-compliant”.

The sudden exit of the Chief Executive Will Tuckley was briefly mentioned. UKIP had suggested that the post be dropped thereby saving a million pounds by the time of the next election. The OBE (Overpayment Burden Extended) said “we couldn’t afford not to have a chief executive”. She plans to replace him next year.

When Eric Pickles was Communities Minister he said that councils should not need to employ both a full time Leader and a Chief Executive so by Eric’s standards it would appear that Teresa does not consider herself to be fully competent.

Inevitably garden waste was mentioned. “We got caught out with the numbers because all the predictions were we would get about 17,000 people to sign up. We got over 31,000 and that is absolutely fantastic”.

As said previously, commendably the leader does not outstay her welcome, so she wrapped things up there and invited questions.

First up was councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford). It was not a question but he was keen to win favour with his leader. The Road Safety team had “done an absolutely excellent job“ and he asked if Teresa O’Neill agreed with him. Of course she did because the statistics are among the best in the country. Second lowest ‘killed and seriously injured’ in the country.


O'NeillCabinet member Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Barnehurst) spoke about the Care Act and how its delayed introduction appeared to have saved some money. Unfortunately the introduction of the Living Wage had snatched those savings away. “People might think we have that money, but we haven’t.” She had spoken to the Minister for Social Care about it.

I was still waiting for a proper question but fortunately councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) came to the rescue with a multitude of questions about, mixed with criticism of, “the bin roll out”, the police, and the very direct and pertinent one about a Plan B for Old Farm Park. As we discovered, there isn’t one one but Teresa O’Neill thought that was OK because “you [Labour] haven’t come up with an alternative”.

She obviously has no intention whatsoever of listening to residents.

In answer to Joe’s police question, the leader said that there were more police than ever in Bexley, however they were not in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams but “that is down to deployment locally and the borough commander has carved up the pot differently”. So that’s CS Jeff Boothe put in his place.

On garden waste “there is no doubt our residents have been fantastic. Over 31,000 when everyone was predicting 17,000 is a hell of a difference, but it was cheaper to collect all those bins at the same time. It was cheaper to put out all the food bins at the same time. If the numbers had been as predicted as happened elsewhere, then the new bins would have gone out in a relatively short space of time. Because the numbers spiked they had to be ordered and then they were delivered in a fair way within the 10,000 batches into a particular area”.

“The Contact Centre was skilled up, they got the information very quickly, but we were let down by temporary workers that decided to walk off the job leaving a whole load of bins out there but lots of people put in lots of effort to ensure residents did not have the sorts of problems that you are talking about and your numbers [of complaints] are not vast numbers. The staff have been superb.”

LetterConsidering that the number of bin letters in the local newspapers ran into double figures the number of complaints must have been high and the leader’s excuses come across as a rearguard PR exercise as Mr. James said in last week’s News Shopper. (Click image to read.) One of three such letters on Page 14 of that issue.

Councillor James Hunt asked the leader a question and she passed it to Cabinet Member Craske. Something about diabetes. Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour North End) reminded councillor O’Neill it was leader’s question time not Peter Harold Craske Question Time and asked her about the bins again. His mother was without a bin for eight weeks. Then Stefano made the point made here many times. At the February Scrutiny meeting he had asked the appropriate question and was told that the council was banking on 32,000 sign ups. They actually said 30% which I conservatively estimated to be 30,000. Presumably Stefano asked for a more precise calculation.

The 17,000 bin excuse sounds very reasonable except that it was belatedly manufactured to mitigate criticism. That figure was not mentioned at any council meeting during the year, but admittedly it’s a clever piece of deception.

Councillor Borella also sought a reason for the drop in car parking revenue, while alluding to the 50% price hike.

On Bins Evading councillor O’Neill made no attempt to answer the question apart from saying Stefano was “wrong” and the drop in car parking receipts was due to the “loss of the car park across the road”. That'll be the little one behind the old Civic Offices.

Stefano may have stuck his oar in again but the Mayor said time was up. How convenient.

 

9 November (Part 2) - More traffic chaos planned. This time it looks like being permanent

Bexley council proposes to mess around with Albion Road again to make it look more like Broadway. Wreck it might be a better description. Yet another consultation is in prospect but don’t expect that to make a scrap of difference.

Today Bexley council has issued a Press Release on the subject. The work is going to take a year. Oh joy!

Albion RoadThe central reservation from the Bowling Centre to Townley Road is to be removed and the four lanes reduced to two. Two lanes are to be lost between Townley Road and Highland Road too.

From there to Gravel Hill four lanes will be retained.

The now abandoned Tesco plans included closing Highland Road altogether turning Bexley into one huge roundabout. It is not clear to me yet whether that crazy scheme has been abandoned or not.

At first sight the plans look to be absolutely Bonkers. The queues in Albion Road can be quite long enough without halving the road capacity.


Plan
Click image above for larger PDF version.

 

9 November (Part 1) - Yesterday’s news

If you are really bored the Daily Mail’s website might provide a few minutes of entertainment.

It is obsessed with reality TV shows and surgically enhanced Essex girls which somehow makes it the most visited website in the world. It covers news items too and the readers’ comment columns appear to be the sole preserve of UKIP supporters; but it is all good for a laugh and it’s sometimes good to get away from Bexley council matters.

Daily MailUnfortunately this morning The Mail served only to drag me back to Bexley council, and their report was once again good for a laugh. But not for the right reasons.

None of the people named as being overpaid Bexley council employees work there any more. Mark Charters not only left almost 18 months ago, he has subsequently fled from his new job too.

You shouldn’t believe all that you read in the papers.

The Tax Payers’ Alliance survey in 2011 reported that Will Tuckley was the sixth highest paid council bureaucrat in the country. Since then he has been left well behind.

Click image to read the Daily Mail report in full.

 

8 November (Part 4) - Piles of concrete and steel

CrossrailIt’s a fortnight since there was last a proper photo update on what has been done in Abbey Wood to prevent the new station sinking into the ground.

There have been pictures of lavatories plonked on shop doorsteps and of dozens of leylandeii removed from the trackside between the Lesnes Abbey footbridge towards Belvedere, but progress on Abbey Wood’s new platform, its canopy and the constant piling have been absent.

The latter is a particularly messy job; the hardcore on which the heavy machinery stands soon turns to slime and has to be replaced. A casual observer might think that the scene doesn’t look much different to what it was like two weeks ago, but that is because most of the changes have been pushed 30 feet into the ground.

I understand that the new posters on the station, see image, are the work of Crossrail’s new Communications Manager. Among the new photographs uploaded today may be seen two of the top men from Network Rail - the smiliest pair -showing their colleagues from South Eastern what a flat well drained platform should look like. They are more used to a shalow paddling pool.

More Crossrail related blogs and features.

 

8 November (Part 3) - Optimism. Bravado. Exaggeration. It must be the OBE’s report

The leader’s quarterly report to Full Council does not usually get much of a mention here. It generally runs to around a score of A4 pages and Teresa O’Neill does us the favour of not reading it all. A quick summary and she sits down and takes questions.

This time I couldn’t help noticing how much of what was reported was not strictly true.

It started well enough with approximately three pages out of 18 devoted to schools and education and the achievements of young people. Maybe that has something to do with education being run by a cabinet member who doesn’t believe that his first priority is criticising members of the public and throwing metaphorical brickbats at the opposition parties. Cabinet members Craske, Massey and Read could take lessons; all of them have been guilty at one time or another.
Bexley Lane
SignAs we all know, the work at Bexley Lane was not designed to a sufficiently high standard.

Maybe no one told their Dear Leader.

Moving into the barren wastelands of the North, another place of which the Leader knows very little, she gave the impression that the Crossrail related work in Felixstowe and Gayton Roads was complete.

The council leader said there had been meetings with other councils to gather support for a Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet.

Crossrail
Felixstowe GaytonI had no idea the realignment was completed so I went to take another look. As you can see, it is complete in the sense that vehicles can drive through but both roads are a long way from being back to normal.

What else did the OBE (Optimism. Bravado. Exaggeration.) say?

Oh, yes. There had been 130 responses to the Wilton Road consultation.

I made contact with the boss of the company appointed to make the plans for Wilton Road and she confirmed that 222 people filled in her forms and there was more comment on the web. So where did 130 come from?

Wilton Road
Perhaps it was to make Bexley’s miserable 333 response borough wide consultation look a little bit better.

There was a little bit of news about the brown bin fiasco and an admission that things did not go entirely according to plan.
Bins
I have some sympathy with the position the council found itself in. Other councils had not fared particularly well with take up but Bexley was setting a much lower price. Maybe a survey of some sort would have helped refine their best guesses.

My only real complaint is that last February’s debate on the issue revolved around the likely take up rate. There were some rather acrimonious exchanges and some dubious arithmetic all based on the council’s assumption that 40% of households would sign up.

40% is just over 30,000 so why is a 31,000 take up being proffered as the principal excuse for the less than perfect transition from a free service to one which for most people equates to a 3% council tax increase?

Another of the leader’s claims which was somewhat optimistic concerned the Lesnes Abbey tower and play slide.
Slide
SlideIt may have been replaced but it shows no sign of being the focal point of anyone’s attention as the scene from Wednesday confirms. Nothing has changed since then.

And finally the leader said that the sale of Old Farm Park will be up for discussion at the Public Cabinet meeting on 17th November. Hardly worth the effort of attending, I think I know already what is going to happen there.

 

8 November (Part 2) - Weeping over willows

It’s not been a good week for trees in Bexley. The council set out to soften up residents in Bexley Village with a letter before they inflict six months of bridge replacement misery on them. Below is a small section of it.
Letter
It said nothing about the destruction of the willow trees by the riverside.

They used to look like this…
Google Street View
On Friday the trees were cut down.
Trees Tree

Click image for wider view.

Trees may be the biggest casualty of Bexley council’s push for growth. Eighteen months ago their Manifesto spoke of 5,000 new homes.
Manifesto
Now the number is up to 21,500. ‘The Listening Council’ forgot to consult about that.

Photos by Bexley Village businessman.

 

8 November (Part 1) - Crossrail Crucifies Catholic Church

At all the Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings this year I have heard about the problems at St. Benet’s Church in Abbey Grove.

Their church hall backs on to the railway line and there is a passage which is used as a fire escape. I didn’t take a great deal of notice of the Panel discussions; the hall had been used by all the usual groups, scouts etc. ever since the church existed but Crossrail said the land behind the hall was theirs.
Hall
I assumed common sense would prevail in the end. It’s not as though there is no room for a passage behind the hall, there will be fifteen or more feet between the passage and the realigned railway line.

However it seems that common sense did not prevail and Crossrail has compulsorily purchased the land which has been a vital asset to the church since God knows when.

Without a fire escape there can be no church hall and with no church hall a major source of income is lost and the church itself is threatened. It’s not only the shops in Wilton Road that are being driven to the edge of existence by Crossrail.
St. Benet's
Next Sunday all the Catholic congregation and the many groups the church supports will be making their way to the pub to protest about how Crossrail has railroaded through the wrecking of their much loved church.

The Greenwich Morris Dancers are expected to be there, but don’t let that put you off!

There is a Facebook page where the issue is being discussed.

 

7 November (Part 3) - Almost unprecedented

After councillors’ questions was wound up the 4th November council meeting Agenda moved to Motions.

I’ve never seen the point of motions. When they are on national issues no one outside Bexley is going to take any notice and people within the borough are powerless, so it’s all hot air.

If the motion is on a local issue why just talk about it? Depending on the circumstances, put up a plaque, print some diplomas, send out a letter, cast a medal, throw a party. Do something that will be noticed. Raising a few hands to back a few fine words does nothing for me.

But I must be wrong because last Wednesday, councillor Rob Leitch (Conservative, Sidcup) was the Man with the Motion and as he has proved himself to be an all round good egg, I must assume that Motions have something going for them which are beyond my limited comprehension.

Rob’s Motion was…
Motion
…and he spoke on the subject without hesitation, deviation or too much repetition for eight minutes and twenty five seconds and wasn’t interrupted.

He concluded by saying he hoped for support from all parts of the chamber.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, St. Michael’s) - now there’s a name that you don’t see often on Bonkers (†) - said she would second the Motion. You wouldn’t think that would take long but Caroline managed to spin it out over five minutes before the Mayor asked her to wind up, which she did instantly.

Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) felt bound to get in on the act. He droned on for just over four minutes piling one good educational statistic on top of another. Surely everyone had got the point by now?

When he finished, councillor Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour, Erith) put forward an amendment. Did she have a spanner to throw into the works but when the ever helpful Dave Easton handed me a copy it looked entirely reasonable to me. It added School Support Staff to the list of those to be congratulated.

Would the Tories be stupid enough to throw it out? They usually do. But it was Rob Leitch’s Motion and he graciously accepted the amendment which spiked even the most irresponsible of Tory guns.

Hence the picture below, a first. All the hands, Conservative, Labour and UKIP raised in agreement.
Vote
FullerTwenty seven minutes and forty seven seconds after announcing that 30 minutes would be allowed for the Motion, the Mayor said that the time allowed was expired, but nevertheless invited Cabinet Member for Education, John Fuller, to speak over the time limit - except that it wasn’t over the time limit. Mayor Camsey has difficulty with clocks.

In the event John Fuller spoke right up to the 31 minute mark, or maybe 33 and a bit minutes if you are on Camsey Time.

Rob Leitch is a teacher at a local comprehensive school.

† Last mentioned in February 2014 - and that is just about it!

 

7 November (Part 2) - South Eastern Railway. Absolutely hopeless as usual

I used to think that South Eastern Railways were not too bad although maybe I was biased because I don’t have to pay thanks to younger people who fund my Freedom Pass. I changed my mind when I started lingering like a train spotter on Abbey Wood station snapping away at Crossrail’s battle with the underlying swamp. You cannot do that for more than 15 minutes without hearing the announcement that “South Eastern is sorry that…”

Not necessarily a problem on a short trip because of the ten minute interval service but ‘down’ trains take three different routes, so for lots of people it’s really only a half hourly service.

The only Bexley council related thing in the following story is that I had an appointment in Dartford this morning with someone who I hoped might spill some Bexley beans that would eventually end up on these pages. I said I would catch the 09:57 all stations with a fallback of the 10:13 fast in case of a cancellation. However South Eastern did far better than that.

I arrived at Abbey Wood station just after 09:45 to give time for a few more photographs and saw the 09:38 to Charing Cross was at Platform 1 and everyone had been ordered off. The staff announced it had broken down but I am not convinced that was true because of what transpired later.

On Platform 2 the 09:37 Barnehurst train was shown as due in a minute (Image 1) while the spoken announcement apologised for it being four minutes late. It was already ten minutes late and when I left home just after 09:30 my Windows Desktop Gadget was showing everything on time.

Soon after ten o’clock the broken down (?) train left and revealed a Platform 1 destination board which said the next train was terminating at Plumstead and due in one minute. It could be seen waiting at Belvedere where it stayed for another five minutes and eventually reached Abbey Wood apparently empty.

A platform announcement said there was an obstruction on the line. Where and how big it did not say. I imagined a fence panel or some such thing blown on to the track and the fact that trains were terminating at Plumstead suggested it was somewhere west of that station.

Any regular traveller could then guess that up trains would be reversing at Plumstead and we could expect a service of sorts before long with only the Gillingham trains being cancelled. Indeed that is what the destination board seemed to be suggesting. Image 2.
Delays and cancellations Delays and cancellations
However the trains that presumably reversed at Plumstead all went through Abbey Wood non-stop.

I can only assume that this is the same ‘to hell with the passengers’ attitude that causes South Eastern to run ‘slow’ trains fast to London Bridge in order to get them back on time but making passengers requiring intermediate stations get off and wait. The company has no interest whatsoever in their passengers but this government extended their franchise unchallenged on a plate.
Delays and cancellations Delays and cancellations
No trains GadgetBy about half past ten it was obvious that everything was cancelled (Image 4) and no trains had gone through to Plumstead for the past 20 minutes. And all the time the rain was piddling down (see spots on lens) on a platform which provides shelter for only half a dozen people.

When I left the station via the main ticket hall I spotted a notice that said the obstruction was not a fence but a whole tree. If eastbound passengers had been told it was a tree on the line they may have been able to reach a decision earlier, but South Eastern was happy to let them soak.

By the time I got home the Desktop Gadget was displaying what I assume was the truth but I have yet to see a train go by from my window.

It may not be South Eastern’s fault that a tree fell across the line but they didn’t announce more than “an obstruction” which could have been relatively trivial. And there can be no valid reason for running down trains through Abbey Wood without stopping.

The sooner South Eastern loses its franchise the better.

For those thinking ‘Overground’ I should perhaps mention that I know three people who live at the end of the Chingford line which was taken over by TfL in May and they all say it is worse than ever. My one experience of it last month suggests they are right.

 

7 November (Part 1) - Pity the birds

When I get fed up with reporting the goings on at Bexley council it can be a relief to read what those more genteel souls at Bexley Wildlife have to say, though even they are not free of council criticism.

Yesterday they were bemoaning the fact that Bexley council’s tardiness over Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation has facilitated a land owner removing all his trees from along the Sidcup to Bexley railway line.

If someone on a loop line train from Sidcup sits on it for 25 minutes and looks to the south as it approaches Abbey Wood he will see similar devastation.

During the past two weeks or so all the trees that may be seen lining the track below (© Google Earth) have gone.
Google
ParakeetI used to wonder why all the fuss about the declining sparrow population, I could nearly always count them well into the teens in my own front garden.

They may be harder to find in future. Never mind, there is always those greedy parakeets to chase away from the bird feeder.

The Crossrail inspired tree removal pictures have been added to the Crossrail Index.

 

6 November (Part 4) - Sent to the back of the queue

if a member of the public wants to ask a question at a Full Council meeting he has to be quick on the draw. Questions are listed in the Agenda on a first come first served basis; or at least they are supposed to be. The sequencing is done by cabinet member Peter Read’s wife so there is the possibility of abuse, but then, apart from there being less danger of news leaking out, any council employee could come under pressure to bend the rules.

I had always assumed that councillors went through the same procedure which made me think that councillor June Slaughter must have been asleep on the job to have allowed her Old Farm Park question to be last on the list. 39 out of 39.
Question
O'NeillJune is one of the more approachable Tories so I made a rather jocular comment about her lapse. She looked over her glasses at me and said it wasn’t her fault and mysteriously added. “it doesn’t work like that”.

So what does it work like? I made some enquiries.

I am informed by a source I believe to be reliable that the Dear Leader exercises her right to have the final say on councillor’s questions. June’s 39th position was a deliberate act of spite by a leader not best pleased at having awkward questions thrown at her on a previous occasion.

After the Mayor made it obvious that she cannot read a clock accurately and piped up ‘I’m in charge’ while the public laughed at her…

Craske…councillor Gill MacDonald was allowed to put her question. It politely said that implementation of the garden waste scheme was a right old mess and would cabinet member Craske apologise for it?

He apologised immediately and excused himself by saying that more than 31,000 people had signed up for the garden waste service and about 20 new ones came forward every day.

Councillor MacDonald thought the bins were too big and heavy, they could not be taken through terraced houses or along alleyways. She asked if there had been any consultation to ascertain whether or not the bins were fit for purpose.

Councillor Craske said that the proposed service was put before the (Conservative dominated) Scrutiny committee in February and “at no stage did a single Labour councillor raise the issue”. It is too late now, he “has ordered 40,000 bins”. His Conservative colleagues were immune from the criticism.

Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) asked how many food waste bins had been reported broken. Councillor Craske said that “as of today the number of food waste bins that had been replaced was ten”. He said that if there were concerns about the caddies the time to have raised them was in February neatly avoiding the fact that no one had any idea of what they might look like back then.

A question from councillor Esther Amaning (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked about the medical and retail infrastructure that should support the housing developments in Slade Green.

Cabinet member Linda Bailey said the provision of medical and retail services is not the council’s responsibility although space for such would be provided.

Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands), who shows no sign of being the sharpest tool in the box, or even sharp at all, asked Peter Craske if he could tell everyone how wonderful the garden waste scheme really is.

Councillor Craske was keen to oblige.

31,860 people had signed up, a figure “far above any other council in the country”. Everyone will have received their bin by the end of next week.

Councillor Leaf could not have been listening because his supplementary question was to ask when the last of the bins would go out. The repeated answer included the interesting fact that the bins had cost only £1.50 each in batches of 10,000 at a time.

After managing to slip in a jibe about Labour councillors not being up to the job, Peter Craske sat down again, his bullet proof vest having once again performed flawlessly.

Davey MasseyThe thirty minutes of question time (public plus councillors) was close to being expired but councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) was allowed a final question for cabinet member Don Massey. He wanted confirmation of his belief that new technology would produce efficiency savings.

Don Massey agreed that it should and would improve service to residents. He expected savings of £750,000 by 2018.

After short changing public questions by a minute and a half the Mayor brought councillor Massey to a halt at the 30 minute point to the very second thereby proving that there was nothing wrong with her clock 16 minutes and 23 seconds earlier.

She is just as bloody minded as most of her predecessors. Psst! Don’t mention Mayor Val Clark.

 

6 November (Part 3) - Finished, sort of, a month ago. Time to dig it up again

Getting things right the first time saves an awful lot of time and money. It’s a management technique that has passed Bexley council by.

Bexley Lane Bexley Lane Bexley LaneBexley council spent four months constructing a roundabout at the the end of Bourne Road in Crayford.

Then they set some upturned tram lines into concrete as an added road hazard. When they realised it was a damn fool idea they spent our money on getting rid of them.

Associated with that work was the redesign of Bexley Lane. Teresa O’Neill thought the success of the project warranted a mention in her quarterly report to council.

Probably no one told her it ran a month late and is even now not yet completed.

Bourne Road
BashfordNot only is the project incomplete, next Tuesday it is going to be dug up again and one of the warning signs appears to be entirely blocking the footpath.

Vehicles cannot negotiate the redesigned junction without demolishing the pedestrian refuge. Dangerous if you happen to be standing on it at the time.

Presumably they are going to try to fix it. If at first you don’t succeed…

And they call themselves road designers!

Note: The misspelt sign (Photo 3) was corrected soon afterwards.

 

6 November (Part 2) - They are Bexley Tories, they lie. It’s what they do

There are no depths to which Bexley’s Tory leadership will not stoop.

Bullshit BitchAt Wednesday’s Full Council meeting Agenda Item 10 allowed councillors to question the chairmen of all the various committees. Most go unchallenged but councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) questioned councillor Steven Hall’s decision to rearrange the seating at the Resources Scrutiny meeting that he chairs such that the public has much reduced opportunities to see what is going on.

Steven Hall says it is an experiment and I can see the advantage it might bestow on him but as an observer it is very annoying to hear a voice but often have no idea who is speaking.

Daniel Francis is one of those rare councillors who is interested in democracy and the need to protect the public’s interests. Naturally he got short shrift from the Mayor and all her cronies.

He questioned other things too but that is a subject for another day, here the only concern is his defence of the public over the relatively small issue of providing them with the opportunity to properly see democracy in action.

The Conservatives have seen Daniel’s concerns as an opportunity to lie. They have set up a web page that hopelessly distorts the situation. Lying is what they do.

Web
The website says that the exchanges took place during a “debate” on “the reduction in funding from central government”. Is that two lies or one? It wasn’t a debate and the subject wasn’t central government funding.

Daniel Francis is said to have called for “a thorough review of seating arrangements at council meetings”. I rather wish he had because the new chamber is dreadful, but the fact is that the most he did was call for the chairman of the Resources Scrutiny meeting to reconsider his experiment.

“Residents were astounded” is another lie. At the time there were no more than three present and they remained impassive. You would have needed to be at the Resources meeting in question to appreciate Daniel’s comments and of those three only I was.
Web

Click image for source webpage.

And another lie, there weren’t 15 Labour councillors present, one has been seriously unwell and could not attend. The webpage has all the hallmarks of being made up by someone who wasn’t there.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill’s OBE (Odious Bitchy Expositions) comment about what a resident said after the meeting is especially interesting.

By the end of the meeting there were four people sitting in the public gallery. There was a lady wearing a Bexley council badge on a ribbon around her neck.
Empty
There was as silver haired gentleman who I had never seen before.
Empty
There was me.
Empty
And there was former Mayor Ray Sams although the webcam never picked up more than his knees. It may be his jacket in the top right corner of the first picture.
Empty
The member of the public who made derogatory comments about Labour certainly wasn’t me and after the meeting ended and I looked back at my desk to make sure I’d not left any lenses behind there was no sign of the silver haired gentleman.

The woman wearing the ribbon is not a member of the public, which leaves only the former councillor who is.

So the possibilities are that a man who I have not seen in the council chamber before left his seat after his very first attendance to seek out a Tory ear or the anonymous member of the public quoted by Teresa Bloody O’Neill is in fact a Tory friend of the leader.

Given Teresa O’Neill’s track record for dishonesty and underhand dealing I know which possibility my money would be on.

If the comment was made it was a very silly one. “I thought Labour was elected to stand up for residents”. What a prat! That is exactly what Daniel Francis was doing.

Will Daniel Francis be cowed by being maligned on the Conservative’s website? Probably not but in a manner of speaking he has been.

 

6 November (Part 1) - More traffic chaos on the cards

News filtered through via Streetview at the beginning of the week that Bexley council in league with Transport for London are going to mess around with Northend Road, the A206 from Erith to Dartford. Local residents had received warning letters but there was nothing much on the council’s website at the time.

LegalHowever yesterday they published the Legal Notice and things became a little clearer. Naturally now that Bexley council is raising income from No Right Turns, they are taking the opportunity to introduce a new one.

Traffic going towards Erith will not be allowed to turn right into Bridge Road.

There would be similar arrangements at the Colyers Lane junction.

I'm not familiar with current arrangements although I do recall being on a diverted 229 bus which had to go all the way to the Perry Street roundabout before it could use the other side of the dual carriageway to return to Colyers Lane. I’m not convinced that situation will be improved. The fact I’m not sure exactly what is going on may speak volumes for the clarity of Deputy Director Graham Ward’s notices.

TfL claims that allowing buses to right turn out of Bridge Road will save it £70,000 a year and is prepared to stump up a million pounds on the two traffic schemes.

The introduction of two new sets of traffic signals should work wonders for the flow of HGVs out of Erith, just as it has on Harrow Manorway.

Click the image below for a fairly good explanation of what delights Bexley council has in store for you.

Plan

 

5 November (Part 4) - No 15 minutes of fame

MayorEvery three months Bexley council allows members of the public to ask it questions. Cabinet members don’t like it so there is a whole set of rules to negotiate before a question is deemed acceptable.

The rules are not as draconian as they used to be, until a couple of years ago any resident seeking to question Bexley council had to agree to having both his name and address published on the council’s website.

It was a big disincentive to anyone still living with parents etc. or less likely but possible, spouses who had escaped abusive partners. Leader Teresa O’Neill didn’t care about that but fortunately the Information Commissioner did. Within a couple of weeks of his office getting wind of it the practice was dropped.

The OBE had to hit back somehow but the best she could come up with was getting questioners to recite their question in full. Previously it had been taken as read. It may seem trivial but it helps to shorten question time and occasionally cheating the public of a few minutes out of their miserly hour a year can pay dividends to a council that prefers opacity to transparency. Last night may have been a case in point.

I was surprised at how many people believed I had broken my practice of reporting questions but never asking them, but the first questioner was Malcolm Wright who is a leading light in the Save Old Farm Park campaign. What’s two consonants between friends?

I’m surprised that any of that group still speak to me. While sharing their views on the subject I have been nothing but pessimistic about their prospects. I’ve seen Bexley council in action for far too long but some of my most negative comments have not been mine at all, they are quotes from private conversations with councillors.

If the Old Farm campaigners had stayed a little longer than they did they would have heard councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) ask Teresa O’Neill if there was a Plan B in the event that the council voted against selling Old Farm Park. It was confirmed that there isn’t one but the campaigners are not going to go down without a fight and with luck they will help expose Bexley councillors for the shysters many of them are.

The mayor started her 15 minute timer…

…and after she wasted 14 seconds on pointless introductions, Malcolm’s first question was…
Question
Malcolm Wright CraskeCouncillor Craske began by denying he made any such statement and continued with the well known tale of woe about Bexley’s dire financial situation. He said “the council had formally approved its budget last March and it was now being implemented. The 39 proposals put forward then were justified then and justified now“.

One wonders why the council ran its consultation over the summer if it had already justified the sale to itself. Craske said that the sale was a mere two hectares out of a park total of 623 and emphasised that no decision had yet been taken. The decision was not for him anyway it was the General Purposes Committee’s. And Pontius Pilate sat down looking very pleased with himself.

Four minutes and forty two seconds had elapsed since the Mayor lowered the chequered flag.

Mr. Wright asked as his supplementary question what the long term benefits of a sale would be and referred to possible debt repayment or capital investment. Councillor Craske said the money would go to neither of those things. The proceeds from the sale of two hectares would ensure the maintenance of the other 621. For ever presumably, in which case does that not imply putting all those millions into reserves?

The Mayor then invited Mr. Wright to put his second question and wasted another eleven seconds while she did the introductions all over again.


An email conversation between a Sidcup resident and the Head of Communications, confirmed that 'detailed background information' on the technical evaluation of the sites was missing from the 'Related Downloads' link on the Consultation page of the Council's website. Links to the site plans and technical evaluation were not added until 7 September - just 11 days before the consultation closed, meaning that residents did not have access to all information to make an informed decision. Even though there was an overwhelming, near 100% response against the Council's proposal from 1,361 responses. How valid does the Council believe the consultation was, given vital information was missing?


This looked like a killer question to me but councillor Craske said it wasn’t. He wasn’t in the slightest bit bothered about it and the consultation was “completely valid”. He repeated that it would be the General Purposes Committee that would make the final decision and Harry Houdini sat down looking very pleased with himself.

The supplementary question asked how councillor Craske planned to deal with the question of the 3,000 plus signature paper petition, a similar sized on-line one and the 1,361 responses “in a fair and democratic way”.

O'Neill Councillor Craske said he had read all the consultation responses and it was himself who authorised the release of their number and all the decisions had been made in public so it was all democratic. The logic of that escaped me. Does being able to watch in silence while the sheep obey the Great Dictator make for a democratic process? Probably it does in a first past the post electoral system. Teresa O’Neill is constantly crowing that she won the election and nothing else matters. She did so again last night.

Councillor Craske then repeated his General Purposes Committee hand washing routine.

Another questioner was Mrs. Tracey Bridge and the introductions were completed in only twelve seconds.

Mrs. Bridge asked…


What guarantees can the Council give to not mislead the public again with these and future budget problems, like they did with sale of parks and open spaces by implying that the money would be used to maintain what's left, and what they intend to sell once this money has gone?


Tracey BridgeCouncillor Craske claimed not to understand the reference to misleading. The policy, he said was very clear. “It was clear when it was set out in October, it was clear when it was set out in January, it was clear when it was set out at the budget” He repeated the story that two hectares would pay for maintenance of the 621. No other sites are being listed for disposal.

The supplementary question asked for an exact explanation of what the sale receipts would be used for as various stories had been circulating.

Craske’s answer was entirely predictable; the money is to be used for park maintenance. “It’s not going to be used for anything else at all.” But what happens when it runs out Mr. Craske?

Thirteen minutes and thirty seven seconds after she fired the starter’s pistol the Mayor declared that time was up.

The public was not amused.

Just over a minute later while introducing councillors’ question time the Mayor fired the same pistol straight into her foot.

It was still not fifteen minutes since the Mayor had set her question timer.

I have not seen the public so blatantly cheated since Mayor Val Clark played the same dirty game four and a half years ago.

 

5 November (Part 3) - It’s Abbey Wood Village if you don’t mind

Abbey ArmsSally Williams is the consultant appointed by Greenwich and Bexley councils to see how Wilton Road might be transformed into a nicer place to shop. She addressed another traders’ meeting last night which was well attended. Sally showed her confidence in local businesses by hosting the event in the Abbey Arms which has been noticeably improved externally over the past month or two. Internally, I wouldn’t know, I’d never before been inside.

It wasn’t clear to me who had called the meeting. Everyone I spoke to was saying Bexley council, but Greenwich has done so previously. If it was Bexley it was especially badly done. I heard two different days at two different times before things settled on 4th November at the very same time as Bexley was running an awards ceremony followed by a Full Council meeting.

Only Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) managed to squeeze in a brief appearance. No one thought to invite the MP, Teresa Pearce.


Sainsbury'sIt was primarily a progress report including a summary of the public consultation. 222 people had filled in the long form at the street tent which considering how many responses Bexley council usually gets across the whole borough, 333 last time, is a very good score indeed.

The theme generally was that people would like to see all sorts of improvements but while the area suffers more than its fair share of anti-social behaviour people will tend to stay away.

For example, 100% of respondents thought it would be nice to have street benches but barely half wanted them to be installed, fearing they would attract more and even longer term problems. Experience outside the new Sainsbury’s suggests they may have a point. (Photo 2.)

On a brighter note, shoppers praised the good service and reasonable prices on offer.

Formal submission to traders of the proposed redesign is still up to a month away but some sketches were available for viewing. It is already clear that the consensus is moving towards the new name being ‘Abbey Wood Village’.

A brief discussion of crime levels revealed that traders do not always report the petty crime that goes on and one lady said that police foot patrols are entirely absent. She may be right. In all the years I have made near daily trips to Wilton Road I don’t remember seeing a copper there either.

A council officer from Greenwich pleaded with the traders to report crime to her even if they were reluctant to involve the police. One man who I did not recognise said he would not be “a snitch” on his customers and stormed out of the meeting at the very thought that his fellow shopkeepers might become “grasses”.

I suspect that Wilton Road is not the easiest problem for Sally Williams to solve what with the Crossrail disruption, the very difficult parking situation and the division between two boroughs neither of which has shown the area much love. The last thing she needs is bolshie shopkeepers.

Note: I was able to stay only for the first hour because of the aforementioned Bexley council meeting.

 

5 November (Part 2) - When the fat lady sings

Fat ladyPerhaps it would be wiser to keep this one to myself, maybe attending more council meetings than any councillor - probably - is beginning to get to me, but last night I had a weird dream.

I was out with a group of friends and somehow got detached from them. They all got in a lift and I was left behind. Never saw them again.

I searched a public library and got even more lost in a small castle that just happened to be standing next door. I ended up in the main banqueting hall which was far more modern than it had any right to be.

The entertainment was a solo singer and it was unmistakably Teresa O’Neill OBE. (Operatic Bacchanalian Entertainment.)

Afterwards she spoke to me, putting an arm on my shoulder as she did so and all entirely friendly. It was a very weird dream.

I woke up with an aching shoulder.

 

5 November (Part 1) - Not the only clock up

Sidcup Place Sidcup PlaceBexleyheath’s clock may have been wrong for the past ten days but its counterpart in Sidcup has, as the old joke goes, been right twice a day.

It is affixed to the old council offices in Sidcup Place and Bexley council has not bothered to maintain it since they vacated the premises in, well I forget, but several years ago.

It has an interesting history as the plaque makes clear. Generous Mr. Jackson, born in 1832 or 1833, must be spinning gently while his clock isn’t.

 

4 November (Part 3) - Lesnes slide. Apparently completed

Lesnes slide Lesnes slideAt the weekend the chaps from EJ Services said they expected the replacement slide installation to be completed by today.

All that was left to be done was digging up the old soft surface and laying a new one.

The surface now appears to be down and the EJS van has disappeared.

How long before Bexley council gets around to removing the fence and will cabinet member descend on Belvedere with a roll of pink ribbon and his big scissors?

Photos from Sunday and today respectively.

 

4 November (Part 2) - Bexley’s gutter politics

Abbey RoadThere was some rain overnight, nothing very exceptional, and Bexley is awash again.

TweetI no longer attempt a trip along Abbey Road (†) towards Abbey Wood to the newsagent on a rainy morning because the chances of not being drenched are remote.

Today the police remarked on the situation, so did the News Shopper.

† Note the ubiquitous abandoned brown bin.

 

4 November (Part 1) - You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Since two pedestrian crossings and a roundabout were installed within a quarter of a mile of the foot of Knee Hill, traffic no longer flows freely into Thamesmead.

This morning (07:52) the Knee Hill roundabout was close to impassable to anyone approaching from Abbey Road intending to ascend the hill and similarly jammed for anyone coming from Thamesmead planning on getting to McLeod Road.

And no Crossrail yet.

When it comes things can only get worse.
Knee Hill
The photo unfortunately doesn’t really begin to show the extent of the problem. 30 seconds earlier there was a two lane queue for Harrow Manor Way.

 

3 November (Part 3) - Unintended consequences

Bexley council no longer pays for playgrounds to be closed at night. Two have been burned at a total cost in the region of £120,000.

Leaves FloodBexley council no longer pays for the autumn leaves to be cleared from parks and other green spaces.

The wind promptly blows them into the road and the rain washes them down the drain.

It’s a neat solution, whatever could possibly go wrong?

 

3 November (Part 2) - Bexley repudiates Greenwich time

I’ve had to visit Bexleyheath every Tuesday for the last few weeks, consequently most of the Broadway regeneration pictures have been taken on a Tuesday.

Last week I noticed that the Market Place clock was an hour fast, but it was no big deal, it was only 36 hours after the reversion to Greenwich Mean Time.
 
Clock Broadway BroadwayThe News Shopper however has run with it as a news story. It may be trivial but the reason for the clock being wrong for more than a week, the photo was taken at 14:41 today, is worth repeating.

Someone lost the key to the tower.

At the other end of Broadway Bexley council has unveiled its 20 m.p.h. signs. The Traffic Order was published on 23rd September.

Maybe I have been lucky but I have not yet seen any serious traffic congestion around Lion Road although a reader reported it took 20 minutes to get there from Crook Log last Saturday morning. A different problem presumably.

 

3 November (Part 1) - The destruction continues

There was nothing to report yesterday and then my net connection failed so I took it as an excuse to take a day off.

There is nothing much to report today either but collecting photos for the next Crossrail diary (scheduled for next weekend) has continued.

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes AbbeyA diversion to look at Lesnes Abbey showed that the vandalism continues. Last week’s and Sunday’s pictures provoked yet more complaints from park visiting readers.

I have yet to hear a single word in favour of Bexley council’s plans for the park, most of the complaints being face to face in the park. However that is not a good excuse for demolishing the Lottery Funded sign.

 

1 November (Part 3) - Making the worst of a difficult situation

CrossrailUK Power Networks would appear to be Crossrail’s weakest partner, one for which there is probably no alternative when it comes to rerouting the power cables they own.

It’s clearly not a simple job which is exacerbated by the water that threatens to overwhelm their holes but the impact on the local environment is greater than it need be because UKPN’s work lacks the attention to detail which is usually, or at least more often than not, a hallmark of the Crossrail project.

Thoughtless is the word that springs to mind.

A week ago UK Power Networks dumped a toilet outside a shop doorway and it’s not so long ago that they set up three way traffic lights because they were too lazy to take a wheelbarrow load of earth away. Instead they left it in the road protected by barriers and a closed pedestrian crossing. The work to be done was entirely on the footpath.

The Wilton Road excavations have grown bigger over the past 48 hours. The eastern footpath is now completely closed off.

At the railway end a notice diverts pedestrians (Photo 1 above) and they are left to walk in the carriageway. Photo 2.

At the southern end a big blue sign attempts to divert traffic on to the footpath. Two more further along make rather more sense.

Pedestrians approaching from the same direction are given no warning that the footpath goes nowhere (Photo 4) and the two houses that face the road are close to being inaccessible.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

 

1 November (Part 2) - The trashing of Lesnes Abbey Park

Lesnes LesnesNothing done to Lesnes Abbey and the surrounding gardens over the past year has been anything like an improvement.

The Lottery funded enhancements are supposed to provide fancy wrought iron gates, a new Monks’ Garden and an ultra modern glass visitor centre to complement the twelfth century stones - please excuse the sarcasm. And nothing whatsoever to improve security.

So far the only thing delivered has been a collection of eyesores. Two ancient hedges removed, the Visitor Centre a building site since last December and within the last few days the formal gardens placed out of bounds.

Off Abbey Road what appears to be a contractors’ base has been established.

It had better be good for £3·5 million and what looks like being nearly two years of disruption.

Lesnes

 

1 November (Part 1) - The end of the line

Tram linesThe potentially lethal ‘art’ that Bexley council stupidly installed at the London Road, Bourne Road junction in Crayford has been removed. So, it would appear, has the stupidly positioned keep left sign at the end of Bexley Lane.

It’s amazing how Bexley council manages to get road design wrong so often. My son who is a vehicle safety consultant to the European Union insists there is no excuse for it. You plot a proposed design on a computer and software tells you what sort of vehicles can negotiate it, or perhaps more usefully, specify the vehicles that need to be accommodated and the software designs the road.

The keep left sign at the end of Bexley Lane was demolished almost daily according to a reader who lives close by but what would you expect from a council that cannot even design a road sign that shows a roundabout?

All the photographs below taken this morning in the fog. Crayford got off lightly compared to Abbey Wood.

Bexley Lane No tram rails Wrong sign Footpath

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