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Bonkers Blog October 2015

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31 October - Cart before the horse?

It seemed a little odd to find that vehicles crossing the Cray in Bexley Village are being counted. Planning permission is already granted and work on a temporary footbridge will start in November.

Why the sudden interest in numbers?

VanA similar technique is being employed for Old Farm Park. Bexley council’s announcement on 10th February 2015 that it planned to sell it was reported on Bonkers a week later and picked up by the News Shopper on the 24th.

Since then there has been a petition, strong arguments in the council chamber and a campaigning website.

Bexley’s Conservative policy from 2006 until only a couple of years ago was primarily focused on fooling residents into believing council tax is low and keeping itself in power and crippling inward investment with its isolationist policy. Belatedly it realised it was running out of money.

Inward investment cannot be summoned up immediately which leaves the borough with a massive funding gap. By selling land the council hopes to raise more than £20 million with Old Farm Park in Sidcup providing more than half of it.

Their whole financial strategy would fall apart if the park is not sold for housing development and there is no time to change course.

Bexley council is therefore pulling out all the stops to defend its position. Having lost the consultation process 1,361 to nil it is resorting to desperate measures. Counting the number of park visitors. It has employed Ward Security, the company it used to pay to keep parks secure, to have a man sit in a van at the park entrance with a click counter in one hand and a book in the other.

A bit late in the day for the council to be thinking of the people it is supposed to serve don’t you think? The campaigners have more details on their website.

All seven of the public questions at next Wednesday’s council meeting are park sale related and most for cabinet member Peter Craske. Will they be honestly answered or will the filibuster rule? In the old days Craske could be replied upon to insult the questioner but webcasts and microphones have put paid to that. A shame from my point of view, meetings were far more exciting back then.
Question
Photo used with permission of Old Farm Park campaign spokesman.

 

30 October (Part 2) - Wandering wheelies

The brown bin fiasco shows little sign of abating. True the anti letters in this week’s News Shopper were down from four to one but Streetlife is still kept busy by victims of Bexley’s incompetence.
StreetlifeBins
I have been very lucky, an early subscriber (10th June) to the service, my new bin was delivered on 11th September and I’ve not missed a collection.

Until yesterday, the old bin I had been using - strictly speaking it was my neighbour’s but he does no gardening at all - was parked outside my house, unwanted as it has been for almost two months. There were no more nearby but there were lots a bit further along the street. Those shown above are the same as those shown a week ago except they are now a threesome.

Yesterday I returned home from an all day trip north of the river and it was obvious that some of the bins had been moved while I was away. Mine had disappeared entirely. More worrying so had the new one which is usually stored in the front garden some 25 feet from the road and totally hidden from view.

I found it not too far from home but it is a mystery that it had decided to take a walk. And it is not the first time.

Last Friday was a collection day and my bin disappeared entirely. It was eventually located in the front garden of a house five doors away.

When brown bins were discussed in a council meeting it was said that that sort of thing could not happen because a computer on board the refuse truck would ensure that the bin men knew who had paid the tax. The neighbour five doors away has not paid the bin tax so it’s double incompetence.

The whole system is a mess. Wandering bins and wandering garden waste may prove to be the system’s principal weakness.

 

30 October (Part 1) - Best not to go there

Following Wednesday’s update on the Cray bridge in Bexley, Bexley council issued a Press Release which provides all the details on the severity of the disruption to village life. Another six months of chaos for travellers.
Press release
BypassFew would doubt that the bridge is in need of replacement but Bexley council cannot resist a little truth bending. The 7·5 tonne weight limit will be continued because is has proved to be effective. Who says? If it had been effective maybe the bridge would not have required replacement.

Whatever happened to the plan to bypass Bexley from the roundabout on North Cray Road to the Black Prince?

Click map to enlarge.

 

29 October - Just photos

Broadway regeneration Phase II
Bexley council usually erects new road signs long after the road rearrangements to which they refer and maybe the new pair at the end of Church Road (Photo 1) is another example. As only left turns are permitted the new signs must refer to Broadway, eastern end. Alternatively they may refer to the yet to be completed western end regeneration, but with right turns prohibited nothing is certain, except that Bexley council must be in a hurry to extend its Restricted Parking Zones.

The new surface at Lion Road is very obviously temporary, it should look very nice in the originally planned golden yellow.
Church Road Lion Road Broadway Broadway

Lesnes Abbey
Those of us who live near the Lesnes Abbey ruins have watched the glacial progress since the old visitor centre was demolished.

These two photographs were taken on 11th January and 25th October respectively.
Lesnes
Lesnes
Today the story went around that the long awaited visitor centre building frame was being delivered but it was a false alarm.

Lesnes LesnesIt was only a delivery of more fence panels to restrict access to an even greater portion of the park.

A large gathering of dog walkers was watching proceedings, at least half a dozen ladies accompanied by more than a dozen canines of varying sizes. They were absolutely scathing about how Bexley council had ruined the park and how it would be even worse once the glass and steel monstrosity of a visitor centre arrives.

Some colourful language was reserved for the vandal who had removed “the 100 year old yew hedge”. Perhaps the ladies were all good Bonkers readers, they certainly knew all about Bexley’s sham consultations. Maybe the message is getting out at last.


Money down the tube
Lesnes’s new playground slide is coming along nicely.
Slide Slide Slide Slide
Slide SlideI learned from the installer that the original slide at this site was the first of its type in the country and they have since been installed as far away as Australia. However Bexley’s new one is not the most expensive at just over £100k. One installed in Romford cost £140,000.

The smaller structure which survived the fire is to be thoroughly cleaned before the men go back to their base in Alton, Hampshire.


Bog off
The traders in Wilton Road Abbey Wood are a bit happier. The portable toilet parked in front of a shop doorway has gone. It was removed yesterday on the instructions of Bexley council’s inspector in his luminous yellow jacket. It is now in Gayton Road where it causes no problem.

Crossrail CrossrailOnly a few weeks ago UK Power Networks filled in their hole and resurfaced the road. Rerouting the utility services so that they don’t run under the new station appeared to have been completed. It was what was said at the Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting. Gayton Road almost done, Felixstowe Road completed by next week. Some hope.

The utility hole gets ever bigger and one of the men told me I had not seen anything yet!

 

28 October (Part 2) - Snakes alive!

The bridge over the river Cray in Bexley has faded from most people’s consciousness but it is still there being regularly shaken by buses and overweight lorries which ignore the 7·5 tonne limit.

Bexley council says it is a police job to enforce the law and understandably the police say they have more important things to do.

In June the first public sign of bridge replacement appeared, a planning application, however it was withdrawn before the planning committee had a chance to consider it. Apparently the Environment Agency had voiced some objection. There were suggestions they didn’t approve of the impact on the water course of the proposed slightly wider carriageway.

One might have thought that whoever drew up the plans would have consulted the Environment Agency well in advance, but maybe I am still guilty of crediting these people with a degree of competence.

Subsequently the planning application was approved along with the required traffic management plan and I understand demolition work will commence in January.

The picture below was taken last Friday morning by a Bexley resident. It shows a traffic counting device which is, if I might say so, rather negligently installed (†). Let’s hope a horsedrawn cart doesn’t pass by and trip. There are loads of stables nearby even though Bexley council managed to illegally close the Bridleway.
Counter

Click image to rotate.

The picture suggests that someone has belatedly decided that before the bridge is closed it would be a good idea to know how much it is used. Cart before that horse? Weren’t the numbers obtained before the planning stage? Maybe not.

A slightly wider bridge might help traffic flow just a little but in other respects the bridge will be of no real benefit to residents. It will still be subject to the 7·5 tonne limit so those who live on the heavy vehicle diversionary route will see no benefit. But at least there will be less likelihood of a 132 bus crashing into the river.

† On second thoughts, maybe the overweight vehicles destroyed the cable anchor points.

 

28 October (Part 1) - Not the Transport Committee report

DriverToday should have started with a report on last night’s Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting but I didn’t manage to get to it. I was stuck at Queen Elizabeth Hospital until early evening for a CT scan. It was arranged very speedily following a fast track referral but such is the state of the National Health Service that the next available appointment with a consultant to let me know the result is in March 2016. Fortunately, even if the scan proves positive, it’s not life threatening but the scanning and follow up being so far out of sync looks like poor management to me.

Anyway, the Transport meeting. I do hope that chairman Val Clark missed me, but sadly the only news I can report is what is in the Agenda and what councillor Borella has Tweeted.

No more 96 bus to Bluewater? It’s very popular, running every eight to ten minutes, although it would perhaps be good to be rid of one of its drivers.

TweetThe Agenda reveals that Bexley is remarkably free of serious road accidents although the number of serious injuries rose from five to twelve last year. Nevertheless, on every measure, Bexley’s safety record is better than all of those boroughs which have introduced widespread or even universal 20 m.p.h. limits.

An area that has not been so good is motorcycle collisions. The statistics were not so bad that Bexley was first included among the boroughs to get special attention from the police but following a reappraisal, four more London boroughs are to be targeted, one of which is Bexley. Thamesmead in particular is plagued by illegal motorcycling.

 

27 October (Part 2) - £105,000 gets you this

Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey ParkThe replacement for the burned out Lesnes Abbey play slide is nearing completion. On Monday (Photos 1 and 2) the old twisty tube was still in place but it has since been removed and is awaiting a new one to be fitted tomorrow. However the main tower has gained a plastic slide.

The scorched soft surface will likely be removed on Friday and the replacement installed early next week with a reopening date set for the following weekend if all goes well.


Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park Photos 1 and 2 taken 25th October, remainder today. Earlier photos.

 

27 October (Part 1) - Confusing, careless and wrong

NoticeA reader from Welling referred me to the list of roads affected by the less than helpful Notice featured yesterday. Here’s an identical one found half a mile away. Click to enlarge.

It says the road, presumably the one where the Notice is on show but it doesn’t say, is to be subject to parking restrictions from next Monday. Apparently there will be no alternative route implying a road closure.

That Notice is on display in Elstree Gardens, Belvedere which is not an exceptionally long road but yesterday’s picture was taken in Abbey Road which extends almost a mile towards Erith before it continues eastward under another name.

It doesn’t seem very likely that the whole length of Abbey Road would be affected by parking restrictions at the same time but without any indication of the area affected it’s all a guessing game.

Even with the Schedule of roads available (see below) things do not improve. Both the Abbey Road and Elstree Gardens notices state that work will start next Monday, the official Schedule states a start date of next year.

And as for Danehill Walk, Sidcup, work should have started there last January and Google Earth shows it isn’t even a road!

NoticeNotice
As stated, the Deputy Director who signed the order is on one hundred and twelve grand a year - and did I mention the 20·6% contribution to his pension pot?

It may be a fairly inconsequential error but he is responsible for 21 key areas and people such as him are supposed to be sufficiently competent to run the whole borough.

 

26 October (Part 2) - Quiz night. Guess where this is?

NoticeI must be Bonkers because whenever I see one of these Public Notices taped to a lamp post I stop and read it.

This one - click to see it at a readable size - is headed ‘Welling, Sidcup and Belvedere’ and says that Thames Water has been given permission to do water meter work and it will affect parking for seventeen weeks and that no alternative route will be made available.

It sounds like someone is in for serious disruption.

Unfortunately the notice doesn’t give any clue as to which road(s) will be disrupted. One might have guessed if the notice was taped to a short residential road but this one adorns a main road which extends half way across the borough. In an area where more than half of parking spaces have already disappeared over the past year or two.

I had hoped that we might have seen the end of silly notices when Mike Frizoni took his bag of gold and ran. This one is signed by Graham Ward, £112,0005 a year salary and £57.23 an hour overtime. Even more money than his predecessor Frizoni and he offers no clue as to where the mysterious Schedule One might be found. Where does Bexley council find such people?

 

26 October (Part 1) - Resource report at last

The Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting (Thursday 22 October) may have been a little more interesting than Places and People, at least I didn’t keep looking at my watch. Apart from the first hour I was once again the only member of the public present. As you can see, they do their best to exclude visitors.
Resources Scrutiny
The chairman Steven Hall indicated that the seating arrangement was his idea and next time he might shuffle the council officers (back to the camera) along, the effect of which would be to block the gap through which the photograph below was taken.
Resources Scrutiny

Something must have been funny.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) noticed the, unintentional perhaps, further exclusion of the public brought about by the new seating arrangements but as he represents the wrong party nobody in charge was particularly interested.

The meeting began by discussing relative trivia such as the merits of delivering Agendas on paper or electronically and whether or not the council could afford to print graphs in colour and it was fully 15 minutes before the first proper question was asked. It came from councillor John Husband, Labour Lesnes Abbey.

John wanted to know whether the council’s investments of £15 million in three ‘Diversified Growth Products’ were showing a loss and if so how much. The answer from Deputy Director of Finance John Peters was that £5 million had been put into Luton Investments and another £5 million into Standard Life which were worth £4·9m and £4·86m on 19th October. The blame fell on the Chinese stock market. The remaining £5 million has not yet been invested but is likely to be put into Black Rock within the next few weeks.

Councillor Francis’ next question took the Committee to Page 22 of the Agenda where the External Auditor’s fee was listed as being down by £50,000 to £265,000. John Peters confirmed this was both true and welcome. My attention was drawn further down the same page to where Parking Income appeared to be marked down by £4,705,000. I would hope that there is more to that than meets the eye but it does say -4,705k.

Labour leader Alan Deadman asked about the staffing reduction (three posts) in the Finance Department and the claimed zero impact on Service Delivery and in the same breath moved on to the cut to the Council Tax Relief Fund and the impending cut by Government to Tax Credits.

The ‘excuse’ for the staff cut was that it was agreed in Cabinet but council officer Mark Underwood’s (Head of Exchequer Services) reminder that the likely impact of reduced Tax Credits “would be in the region of £1,300 a year for families” highlighted once again the problems associated with the sudden change. It is a great deal of money to lose for people on small incomes which will be only partially compensated by things like increased Council Tax Support.

With the clarity of thought for which Bexley’s top staff are renowned Mr. Underwood was able to predict that “it will make the financial situation for that group of families harder”. Oh well done sir.

He went on to say, “In overall terms there may be some issues around people being financially stretched but that may not be one particular area that we need to focus too much on”. It sounded less than sympathetic.

In answer to a question by councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling), John Peters revealed that Bexley council is currently spending nearly £120 million on bought in services, rather more than most councils but in-house staffing costs are correspondingly less.

Finance Director Alison Griffin ran quickly through the financial situation with the same figures heard several times recently. £14 million “funding gap“, a.k.a. Black hole next year and £34 million In 2018/19.

Mark Underwood spoke of the possibility of Capita being persuaded to move out of Erith Town Hall but emphasised that this would be a long way off and at the moment it wasn’t even certain that it would be beneficial to the council.

Councillor Husband brought up the subject of the Serco (refuse disposal) contract and there was up to £200,000 to be saved by bringing it back in house but cabinet member Don Massey ducked the question.
Serco
It was pleasing to note that councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) thought the consultation which ran through the summer and produced only 333 responses was “meaningless” which puts her at odds with the cabinet member Linda Bailey who said the result was “neither here nor there”.

“Did we really mean to do anything with the consultation?” she said. “We cannot realistically take any conclusion from that at all.”

Cabinet member Don Massey said he had publicised the consultation by every conceivable means but believed that people failed to respond only when they are content with the proposals.

Councillor Francis said that in previous years there had been Roadshows, and council attendance at the Donkey Derby and in supermarkets and the response level had been five times higher.

Councillor Massey said he was no longer prepared to spend the money he is trying to save on consultations.

The discussion item I was waiting for was Agenda Item 8. What will happen to the IT contract with SopraSteria which expires next March and is there any hope for an improved website and an end to the misery of constant time outs on the democracy sub-domain?

Despite cabinet member Massey believing that Steria has provided the council with a good service, the welcome news is that Steria has been ditched in favour of a 45% cheaper contract with Northgate Public Services. There will be “an early decant from the data centre at 9 Brampton Road, releasing this site to the growth Agenda”. No one asked any questions.

There was a brief self-congratulatory report on the success of a sub-committee which had withdrawn a Local Welfare Scheme apparently without anyone noticing. Enquirers were being referred to voluntary groups and other providers, housing associations etc. There have been no new enquiries since 17th August.

The cabinet member’s formal report was the last significant item on the Agenda but Don Massey revealed nothing of widespread interest. Only one councillor made any comment. Daniel Francis referring to the ward boundaries consultation, said there was little time left for councillors’ questions. Cabinet member Massey said the Conservatives had asked questions in good time and councillor Francis should have put his in earlier.

Labour leader Alan Deadman interjected that his party had asked questions earlier but an unnamed council officer had told him by email that there was no time to respond to Labour’s questions. Don Massey shook his head and the chairman hid behind a Standing Order and very abruptly told councillor Deadman that he must not pursue the issue further. The one party state won again.

 

25 October - Pee'd off with the inconvenience

Any spare time this weekend has been taken up with keeping on top of Crossrail developments. At least it has provided an excuse for not reporting on last Thursday’s Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting. Tomorrow maybe.

Several times I passed along Wilton Road where parking was even more difficult that usual. The taxi company was not only suffering the usual loss of trade that accompanies a weekend line closure but additionally his office had been hidden from anyone who might have looked in at the station and decided a cab was the best way out of trouble.

Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton RoadA week of no parking and shops hidden behind a portable bog.

On Tuesday the traders have a meeting aimed at making Wilton Road look less like a toilet.

Unfortunately it is Greenwich council which sends someone to listen and the problems are all on the Bexley side of the road.

For the Crossrail followers, three new photo features…

The last two weeks around the station. See the canopy being installed and the never ending piling on the swamp that is to be transformed into a station. Also new track west of station.
Demolishing the TP Hut to provide the space for the North Kent line to reach the new London bound platform.
Track laying and tree felling to the east of Abbey Wood station.

 

24 October - Are you Bonkers?

I am beginning to get used to that question when out and about taking photos. I have given up trying to think of a witty retort, its simpler to just say yes.

This morning the first of two was very keen to tell me that he was right behind my position on river crossings, so thanks to the man on the bike who took the trouble to stop and offer kind words, I was feeling a little fragile after yesterday’s skirmish. A man on a bike dressed in all the gear is in favour of a road bridge as quickly as possible! Whatever next? And he blamed Boris for there not being one already.

In Wilton Road I was asked to take photographs of the new parking restrictions, access to two shops has been severely restricted since yesterday because a hole in the ground which was filled a week ago has been opened up again - and is full of water.
Disruption
The shops not only have reduced passing trade for a week but noise and a toilet facility. Customers have limited access to their doors.
Disruption
Around the corner the brick outhouse (TP Hut †) that used to power the North Kent railway line has been knocked down today. Photos here. Several hours were spent protecting the track and the new cables so that a JCB mounted pneumatic drill could safely access the site.

In the old days a couple of men with pick axes would have got it down a lot more cheaply and probably quicker too. But maybe not so entertaining.

Traction Paralleling Hut.

 

23 October (Part 3) - Crossing swords

BridgeI try to avoid subjects which may prove too divisive on the grounds that there is no point in alienating half the readership.

Because of that Bonkers tends to steer clear of the traditional no-go areas of religion, feminism, immigration etc. A natural Conservative putting the boot into Bexley’s Tory leadership can be tricky at times but not it seems as perilous as writing in favour of river crossings.

The blog nailed its colours to that particular mast six years ago and the Photoshopped image shown here first appeared in April 2013. As a regular Blackwall Tunnel user since 1984 it was the one contentious subject where sitting on the fence didn’t feel like an honest option.

The photo shows Gareth Bacon and Teresa O’Neill OBE (O’Neill’s Brampton Exclusivity) patiently waiting for a lorry to pass to illustrate their politically motivated campaign to keep traffic out of O’Neill’s Brampton ward. Look carefully and you will see it is a Cooperative van running between their branch in McLeod Road at the foot of Knee Hill to the store a quarter of a mile south of the photo site. It will run bridge or no bridge.

A river crossing is undoubtedly divisive. I am inclined to think that one group believes that East London can do without any new road crossings and thrive and if such people truly believe a city can get away with that for the next fifty years, then fair enough, campaign for the status quo. The other group thinks that improved North South vehicle access is bound to come sooner or later, so we may as well have it now.

The No To Silvertown Tunnel people have put forward reasons why a Blackwall relief bore may be extra capacity in the wrong place. They say that traffic heading south will further congest the A102 and in the other direction congestion will be spread over an even wider area to the north.

I’m not sure why two lanes of 30 m.p.h. traffic comes through Blackwall in the evening rush hour and promptly gums up a three lane 50 m.p.h. dual carriageway, but it often does. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that adding two more southbound lanes under the river can only make the A102 even busier. It may be easier to get into a tunnel but far harder to get away from it.

Whatever one’s views of the No To Silvertown campaign it would be difficult to deny that there is a certain amount of logic to it and I find it increasingly persuasive.

Moving a few miles to the east and risking controversy, I took issue last weekend with the new campaign group, Bexley Against Road Crossings (BARC). They are advocating a new crossing but it must be rail and bike only. I can see no logic in that. The extension of the Overground from Barking Riverside to Thamesmead or Abbey Wood is a realistic officially recognised possibility so why not campaign for that? The Overground carries bikes outside the rush hour, all day if they can be folded up. Everything to make BARC happy.

I doubt there are any precedents for a bridge or a tunnel which takes trains and bikes only and I posed the question, who will pay for it? Cyclists would expect to pay no more than fifty pence and their number would likely be few.

Warming to the theme I added “I suspect that tolling the occasional train will not produce enough money” in a deliberately scornful tone. I really couldn’t see any sense in BARC’s trains and bikes proposal. It’s totally impractical.

StreetlifeI half expected that failing to condemn all crossings out of hand might start an argument but I was surprised that it was largely based on my use of the word ‘occasional’. Apparently that makes me entirely unaware of the popularity of the DLR from Woolwich Arsenal. If my own two, sometimes four, DLR return trips to West Ham each week has not demonstrated its popularity then The Murky Depths blog certainly has.

The word occasional was a deliberate piece of sarcasm, a put down if you like.

The BARC campaign says “Rail and cycle crossings are more effective. As alternatives to road crossings they will be less divisive”. Even the slogan doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

If BARC is not going to campaign for the Overground extension to Abbey Wood but favour a rail crossing further east a bridge would require an incredible incline and even more blighted land space than a steeper road bridge.

So a tunnel must be the preferred way. For cyclists too remember.

Somewhere in the Erith area the North Kent railway line would have to turn north and connect with the line that runs through Dagenham Dock. Even if the third rail 750 volt DC to overhead 25kV AC complication is ignored there is the protection of the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet route on the northern side of the North Kent line to consider.

It is known from the experience at Plumstead that Crossrail does not allow the two routes to cross each other on the level so North Kent trains would have to turn south to get across the river. Dissection of the BARC scheme is now drifting back to the ridicule that got me into trouble in the first place so best to leave it there. Can anyone see how their proposal could be implemented?

It appears to be totally impractical or as I simplistically put it last week, “madness”. BARCing madness.

As for the possible traffic congestion, it’s undoubtedly a problem and to use Bexley council’s phrase, it needs to be mitigated.

One of the worst locations I see is the end of Bronze Age Way near the fish roundabout; frequently clogged with HGVs. Where I live, further west, there is little evidence of such heavy traffic on either the A206 or B213 through Belvedere or the A2016 through Thamesmead, which suggests an awful lot of trucks must come from the Belvedere Industrial Area. Presumably heading for Dartford. It can’t do any harm to give them the option of heading north from close to their own base.

The author of the criticism featured above went on to say that it’s a pity I cannot be bothered to make arguments in a rational manner. I don’t know about not being bothered, some of these blogs take many hours to write, but If he regards the BARC railway/cycle tunnel proposal as rational maybe it is me who should be laughing, not him.

 

23 October (Part 2) - Belvedere welcomes slippery customers

Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey ParkThe replacement Lesnes Abbey play slide is progressing nicely, the main job left to do is installation of a new twisty tube, the one photographed is going, and a new soft ground surface.

The men doing the work are a friendly pair, maybe it helps that one lives in Hampshire close to where I grew up. His only complaint is the rain and that everything he touches, the ground in particular, is covered in soot.

Photographs taken at 09:20 this morning. Earlier photos.

 

23 October (Part 1) - A crafty last minute advertisement

Craft FairRather late in the day I have been asked to publicise a craft fair to be held Bexley’s Freemantle Hall on Saturday. Given a bit more notice it could have been given one of the advertising spaces above which someone else asked for but never used. Unfortunately the revisions required for the graphic cannot really be justified for at best a two day appearance.

Probably the fair will be a good place for those who start their Christmas shopping early which excludes me and in any case I shall be looking out for the Crossrail contractors demolishing the last remaining bit of the old Abbey Wood station infrastructure on Saturday.

Click the advert to make it twice as big.

 

22 October (Part 4) - A fan defending the brown stuff

Bexley council achieved a clean sweep of the News Shopper's letter page yesterday. Three brown bin complaints and one excuse.
News Shopper
The latter came from the poisoned chalice holder and cabinet member for bins, Peter Craske.

I’m not yet convinced he knows what he is talking about. “The old brown bins were removed when the new food boxes were delivered” he writes. Not around here they weren’t Peter.
Letter Bins
My food bin showed up three weeks ago but the old garden waste bins are still tripping up the unwary and the mobile phone obsessed. Photo above taken this afternoon.

 

22 October (Part 3) - Please move down inside

I began to doubt my report that Bexley was in line for 22,000 new homes but fortunately confirmation came from an image that appeared on Twitter. It was first published by The Mayor’s Office and is one of several images included in the document (PDF) linked from the foot of this page.
21,500 new homes

 

22 October (Part 2) - No more Clockwork Oranges

Yesterday’s tight schedule didn’t allow for a trip to Peabody’s Question and Answer session in Sainsbury’s but returning rather earlier than expected to Abbey Wood station I made the short detour to see what was going on.

Sainsbury'sI was a little disappointed that there were no leaflets to take away and feature here, only half a dozen wall mounted images of what the new developments planned to stretch from Southmere Lake down to Coralline Walk might look like. All viewed from a favourable high angle one visitor who was in a sceptical frame of mind commented as I passed by.

I was rather more surprised to see a Bexleyheath Broadway style Shared Space planned for a pedestrian crossing in Yarnton Way.

That should be fun for the boy racers who frequent those parts.

A planning application is not expected until early next year.

As I left the store and the traffic lights outside displayed the little green man I fortunately heard the white van approaching at high speed and didn’t try to cross. He totally ignored the red light. It’s only a matter of time

 

22 October (Part 1) - An uninspiring People meeting

I didn’t think a scrutiny meeting could be much less exciting that the one Melvin Seymour chaired last Wednesday but I was wrong. Councillor James Hunt chaired an even duller one yesterday evening, and don’t blame either chairman, both do a decent enough job, it’s just that the guest speakers have little new to report and the questions are few and usually seek nothing more than a small clarification.

Almost the most interesting thing to report is that I was the only member of the public present and the blogger’s table was absent so I sat at a councillor’s desk in a comfortable chair and not one of the hard plastic perspiration inducing monstrosities that Bexley council deems acceptable for members of the public.
People Scrutiny
Usually the police commander is at the People Scrutiny meeting with some statistics to report but this time the police were not included in the Agenda. However the Clinical Commissioning Group was.

The CCG told us that everything was going well at both Queen Mary’s Hospital and in the Urgent Care Centre in Erith. Councillor Sharon Massey said she had heard the same, so it must be true.

Unfortunately two GP surgeries had been found lacking when inspected. The CCG speaker was careful not to name them but not everyone was so cautious. The Westwood Surgery in Welling has been rated ‘Inadequate’ and the Bexley Group Practice ‘Needs Improvement’. One of them is mine and for both the shortcomings were administrative rather than clinical. I am not in the least bit surprised.

The meeting moved on to Children’s Services where traditionally councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) and cabinet member Philip Read lock horns.

Mabel was rightly disappointed that yet another Bexley council consultation had fallen on largely deaf ears. 29 people had thought fit to comment on the ‘remodelling’ of Children’s Centres and she thought it was a mistake to have held the consultation over the summer period which was perhaps not the best line of attack as it had run from 24th August until 7th October. Not what most people would call the height of summer.

Councillor Read said he had done his best to encourage responses but he had concluded that the low response rate meant that “the remodelling was by and large acceptable to the parents in the borough”. Or perhaps it is consultation fatigue.

Councillor Chris Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) questioned the continued recruitment of social workers from outside the UK, mainly Irish. Councillor Read said recruitment difficulties had led to the extension of the net as far as Australia. The Agenda revealed that filling Bexley with newly qualified social workers instead of employing agency staff could save as much as £968,000 a year.

Councillor Brenda Langstead (Labour, North End) opened the questioning on education with one about parents’ choice of placements but the answer was “Bexley’s schools are very full”.

Councillor Alan Downing asked much the same question as he has asked at least twice before. He said that only one in six of those Bexley children who take the grammar school selection test pass and that it was “a sad reflection on our primary schools”.

The answer on a previous occasion amounted to Bexley’s primary school teachers are a bunch of lefties who don’t like grammar schools so the children are not coached for the examination. This time the answer was that other boroughs enter “able and bright young people for the test” and “so the competition is very fierce”. If Bexley’s children can’t compete they must be less bright than elsewhere but no, “because they do very very well in terms of the outcomes at Key Stage 2”. Keep asking the question Alan, one day you will get a straight answer.

Councillor Brenda Langstead feared that the Living Wage announcement will lead to a two tier care system where only those with substantial funds would be able to obtain a place in a care home. It was “acknowledged that it was a challenge” and there would be “dialogues with our providers”. The Deputy Director said the council was compelled by law to put eligible people into care homes and the cabinet member said she was going to see the minister about the problem next week. The days when a cabinet member would boast of financially screwing the care providers into the ground would appear to have been left behind.

The subject of housing revealed that nearly 800 people are currently in temporary accommodation and just over 400 in “nightly acquired emergency accommodation, a fair proportion out of borough”. The figures have all approximately doubled in a year. Later in the meeting it transpired that “a fair proportion” meant 300 and that 30 families were in Manchester. When Homeleigh is brought into use that figure would reduce.

There was some inconclusive dithering when the debate switched to the plan for Bexley council to duck out of monitoring CCTV. “The council is working very closely with the borough commander” but “they are unable to monitor from the police station”. It looks like good news for wrong-doers. On the other hand the borough commander is on the record as saying CCTV doesn’t in practice solve many crimes but it makes people feel safer.

By nine twenty the meeting was well into considering the budget proposals which were the same as those I had heard discussed at the cabinet meeting two weeks ago and at Places Scrutiny last week and will possibly have to endure again this evening - Resources Scrutiny - so I packed my bag and left a little early. Six or seven minutes early if the one hour fifty seven minute webcast is a reliable guide. I’m not sure it is, the first five minutes of the meeting appears to be missing.

 

21 October (Part 2) - They serve a common purpose

We know that Will Tuckley was recruited to Tower Hamlets council by Penna Recruitment Solutions and it seems reasonable to assume that Tower Hamlets council paid them a fat fee to do their job not quite as well as they should have done. As Will Tuckley said later in one of his excuse emails you only have to Google his name and it comes up with all sorts of things which he was keen to blame on that Vexatious Fascist Blogger, Michael Barnbrook.
Email
How Tower Hamlets choose to spend their money is none of my business and given Penna’s advertising blurb they had every reason to believe they would do a thorough job.
Penna
What I hadn’t expected to see from a council that is in dire financial straits and  intent on cutting staff, is that Bexley council is a big customer of Penna too. In the three months April to June 2015 Bexley paid Penna very nearly £18,000 for recruitment services.

Maybe I am becoming too cynical but the relationship between government, local authorities and agencies such as Penna too often appears to be built on jobs for the elite and get rich quick schemes and woe betide any Vexatious Fascist who dares to prick their little balloons with a dollop of truthfulness.

 

21 October (Part 1) - Murky thoughts

Unless something exceptional is on the Agenda I don’t attend planning meetings, there’s a limit to what can be reported by one person and sitting through a couple of hours of back garden extensions to get to something more juicy is a bit of a bore.

Fortunately there is someone who keeps a close eye on planning developments in South East London and he keeps us informed on his blog which goes by the name of From the Murky Depths.

The majority of posts are centred on Greenwich but yesterday was an exception, it was all about Bexley.

The author makes an interesting point, with a huge number of dwellings in the pipeline (†) and most of them in the north of the borough, it’s going to be very difficult to find a seat on the train if you live in Woolwich or Charlton until Crossrail takes some of the load. And a bridge to funnel some northwards would help.

So if you have an interest in developments around Erith Park, Tower Road, Erith Quarry, Howbury or Erith Riverside yesterday’s Murky Depths blog should be worth your time.

I thought Jane Richardson said 22,000 at last week’s Places Scrutiny meeting but I am beginning to think I may have I misheard her. Would check the tape but that could take an hour or more.

 

20 October - Out and about town

Bexley Lane Bourne RoadA reader’s report said that the newly redesigned Bexley Lane junction in Crayford (Photo 1) claimed its first victim on Saturday and it is probably true; why would anyone make it up, but by this morning there was no sign of a demolished Keep Left sign, just a couple of mud flaps from a small van in the gutter.

Another report said that the Lion Road junction with Broadway opened yesterday and the fact that the diversion signs were still in place at Upton Road at mid-day suggested that the barriers had been removed quite recently. The footpaths were not yet fully completed. (Photo 6.)

The black road surface is possibly temporary and not as attractive as the planned ‘golden’ surface but the installation of trees and benches will improve things.

The artist’s impression included street dining facilities and one can hardly avoid noticing the number of new restaurants in Broadway. On the other hand Carphone Warehouse has apparently vacated their old premises in The Mall. It's not a year since Carphone Warehouse boasted two branches in Bexleyheath.

Is it just me or does the conflicting information at the end of Church Road (Photo 3) encourage a moving traffic offence? I know that Bexley council is short of money but the right pointing sign where the CCTV is ready to pounce looks a little like entrapment. It’s not new, it’s been there since the Lion Road works started in August.

Church Road Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road
Lion Road Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey ParkIn Belvedere the new £105,000 slide is going together like some huge Meccano set. (Photos 8 and 9.)

A few more bricks have been added to the foundations of the Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre but probably not enough to show up in today’s photo below. (Photo from five days ago.)

Lesnes Abbey

 

19 October - Two councils in a panic to save Tuckley

The plan for today was to wade through 260 pages of email correspondence exchanged between Bexley and Tower Hamlets councils following the latter’s discovery that their favoured candidate for the vacant Chief Executive post might not be all they could wish for. Even though possibly half of it has been redacted and some is repetitive, anything beyond a simple summary of the fundamental issue is near impossible.

That fundamental issue is that Tuckley refused to conduct a proper investigation into a complaint and the written evidence that he did so is indisputable and published on this website. The police considered the correspondence for about six months; nine witnesses supplied evidence (eight interviewed) each taking between one and more than two hours each to make their statements. Never did the police suggest the case was frivolous and eventually decided it warranted a personal presentation to the CPS.

Bexley council’s aim was to portray the complaint as vexatious and politically motivated and to that end literally dozens of emails passed to and fro (and internally at Tower Hamlets) in the 48 hours preceding Tuckley’s formal adoption. Tower Hamlets HR department appears to have been in near panic while issuing desperate pleas to return phone calls immediately.

In Bexley both Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley were kept very busy. There was little defence to the basic allegation against Tuckley; councillor witnesses were known to be ready to confirm that Cheryl Bacon’s account of the night of 19th June 2013 was totally false yet Tuckley would listen only to Bacon. It was clearly irrational, unjust and ultimately became Misconduct in Public Office.

The only defence was to portray Mr. Barnbrook as a Vexatious Fascist Blogger although the F word appears to be a Tower Hamlet’s invention based on Mick’s one time membership of the BNP. If sympathy with the BNP’s anti-EU stance at the height of its brief period of popularity seven years ago is fascist then 27% of the voters of East Wickham ward were fascist too because that was Mick’s poll in the by-election, only eight votes short of the Conservative candidate. That result was held against Mick too, Bexley council described him as a failed election candidate.

Rather more was made by Tuckley and Co. of the ‘vexatious’ label and their emails include many examples of Mick’s questions relating to councillor Cheryl Bacon’s lies. What they do not reveal is that Tuckley’s replies were riddled with untruths because he steadfastly refused to broaden his horizons. What is one supposed to do when faced with a Chief Executive with responsibility for a complaint if he boldly states that he is not prepared to look at the evidence?

Will Tuckley told the Commissioners at Tower Hamlets on 25th August 2015 that “[a named police officer] based in Plumstead has for some time been looking at whether there is a case to answer”. Tuckley implied that the case had been dropped because the only contact with the police was in December 2014. Bexley council had sent a file to Plumstead, they showed it to me. It contained no new evidence and the police probably wanted it just for completeness.

More than four months before Tuckley wrote to Tower Hamlets that same police officer had written to me as follows…


As you are aware the matter was ready to go to the CPS for advice. I postponed the original appointment as Councillors [names redacted] contacted me and made arrangements to give statements. These statements have now been added to the file. Rather than send a paper report I have requested a face-to-face meeting with the CPS in order to ensure the matter is properly put to them without any chance of mis-reading or misinterpretation of the fairly voluminous papers.


By telephone, and perhaps as much as two months later, Mr. Barnbrook was advised that the file was indeed with the CPS but I did not get that advice in writing until 6th September. It is possible that Mr. Tuckley’s brief statement less than two weeks earlier was correct and that the case had made no progress since the previous April but it doesn’t seem very likely and he wouldn’t have known that if as stated he had had no contact with the police.

However the Commissioners were suitably reassured by Bexley council and Rachel Saunders, Tower Hamlets’ Deputy Mayor, duly dismissed Mick as a vexatious fascist. She emailed me to almost apologise that poor reporting by a local newspaper had caused the remark to be aimed at me, but the newspaper reporter and two other witnesses confirmed she had said it.

It is of course Tower Hamlets’ prerogative to appoint who they like and believe who they like but it is mine to expose the obfuscation and dishonesty that guided them. Michael Barnbrook merely wished to advise Tower Hamlets of Tuckley’s situation because he himself had not thought to mention it. Mick’s reference to the CPS was entirely factual. Somehow that simple fact got lost in the the fog of BNP membership, an electoral near miss, a history of complaining and that Mick (who currently hasn’t even got a net connection!) is the author of this website. Most of it is true but it doesn’t change the facts.

It could just as easily have been me who sent that first advisory email to Tower Hamlets, not Mick Barnbrook. If I had done so Bexley’s defence would have fallen apart. The only political party that I ever joined was the Conservatives. I have never considered standing for any election and my complaints against Bexley council have been few. I confine them to their criminal acts, not run of the mill mismanagement and whilst Tuckley threatened me with the vexatious nonsense he withdrew the threat after counting the complaints I had made and asked me to break my informal links with Mr. Barnbrook so he didn’t make the same mistake again.

 

18 October (Part 6) - In the dark

BlackVery little has been said either here or elsewhere about the plan to turn off Bexley’s street lights between midnight and 5:30 a.m. It was mentioned at the Places Scrutiny meeting on 18th February and that was about it until a few Welling residents found just a week or two ago that they had drawn the short straw.

Basically there had been no news until the revamped Bexley Times put it on their front page a week ago.

Deputy leader Alex Sawyer says it is going to save £300,000 a year if extended borough wide. He says it will be “if the council deems it successful”. Good to see that he has abandoned the pretence of further consultation.

The likelihood is that the expenditure will be transferred to other budgets, the police, Accident & Emergency, insurance companies and undertakers. Leaving parks unlocked at night has seen some unintended consequences but no doubt time will tell.

Bexley council’s notice to directly affected householders may be read here. It includes a map but as it is devoid of street names it is quite useless to anyone unfamiliar with the area. Bexley council at its best.

 

18 October (Part 5) - Is Bexley really totally against road crossings?

I stumbled across a new local website at the beginning of the week but was instantly put off by its appearance. Sorry but I have a possibly irrational dislike of websites which occupy a great deal of screen space with text that doesn’t screen wrap. Effectively a large poster not a web page and the Bexley Against Road Crossings website was quickly forgotten until Hugh Neal of Maggot Sandwich fame reminded me of it in his latest blog.
BARC
It’s no great secret that I believe Bexley has been held back by North South transport links which are not much better than they were a century ago and I fail to see how that can be a sustainable position.

Idiots The borough is suffering right now because certain politicians delighted in being Luddites when first elected and it took them a long time to wake up to the impact on their finances. The north of the borough will be their salvation if modern industry is attracted to occupy the old brown field sites along the river. Would Ocado be building a half million square foot warehouse and “logistics hub” if it was likely that Bexley was going to forever remain an isolated backwater accessible only with difficulty?

Ocado has already placed its £100 million bet and big money talks.

The new site, already under construction, will include 1,377 car parking spaces, another 380 for vans, 44 for trailers, 40 for their tractor units and 32 more for miscellaneous HGV use.

I don’t think Ocado is giving much thought to carrying on their trade using public transport and Bexley borough cannot survive without the income from large commercial units and the residential housing that helps to support it.

Bexley Against Road Crossings make no concessions to anyone; they want a river crossing for trains and bikes, nothing else. They boldly say so…
BARC
…and it is madness. Some people must think that goods are delivered to shops by fairies.

How will cycling over the river be a better fit to Bexley’s Strategic Plan? (See footnote.) Does BARC even know what it is? The only real plan at the moment is to stay solvent and for that the two chumps pictured above have had to swallow their stupid pride and to some extent adopt local Labour Party policies.

I suspect that tolling cyclists or even the occasional train will not produce enough money to pay for the bridge.

Only last week I heard the two main political parties in agreement that there was now only one sensible way forward and Bexley council is taking it. It was unforgivably slow to see the light, preferring to put political careers first which has led to selling parks and the like, but as the deputy leader has said about other things, “I am not comfortable with it but we are where we are”.

Having cocked up big time my only continuing gripe with Bexley council is their constant spinning and occasional lying to cover up their mistakes. If Bexley council could one day be wholly truthful I would be straight out of here, there’d be nothing much to say.

The author of the BARC website seems to be unconcerned with the financial reality which is to go for growth or go broke. The site is unrelentingly negative. TfL’s projections of traffic levels may be based on flawed data or they may not but are ridiculed nevertheless. BARC’s guesses about the impact on several named local roads are apparently fact.

It is perhaps what one might expect of a campaigning website but I would have hoped for a bit more balance and half an eye cocked on the benefits, but BARC sees none.

I have misgivings about the Say No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign too but it does make a case that even cynics like me are prepared to think about. Blackwall needs a relief tunnel every time some idiot runs out of petrol and at peak hours but how one can restrict the A102 traffic to no more than it is already is more than a little tricky.

In Thamesmead and Belvedere northbound traffic has to go east or west, to give it a third choice could possibly reduce congestion but Bexley council’s long history of narrowing roads and introducing pinch points is likely to bite it in the bum.

Who would have thought that the 1990’s plan to tunnel under Plumstead directly to the A2 would ever look attractive?

Note: Bexley’s Transport planning webpage is hopelessly out of date. Data includes reference to Peter Craske being Cabinet Member for Public Realm, a postion he held only until June 2012 when the police felt his collar.

 

18 October (Part 4) - Rising from the ashes

The contractors who were in Lesnes Abbey Park early on Friday morning with a lorry load of new slide have not been hanging about. Yesterday the main vertical support members were installed.
Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park Lesnes Abbey Park

 

18 October (Part 3) - UK Power not nitwits any more. But Thames Water may be

Two months ago the Knee Hill Abbey Road junction in Abbey Wood was disrupted for two weeks by totally unnecessary three way traffic lights. The reason was that a barrow load of earth had been dumped in the road and it had to be protected. The work itself was wholly on the pavement.

Abbey Road Abbey Road Abbey RoadThis week UK Power was back to dig up exactly the same spot but had acquired a little common sense. They have dumped the spoil a few yards away on the pavement.

Much better; maybe Bexley council leaned on them, they seem to be good at leaning on utility companies but common sense may be in short supply as this reader’s tale from Townley Road, Bexleyheath explains.


Thames Water’s stopcock outside my house was found to be seized and last Saturday two men came to replace it. They lifted a paving slab and dug a hole down to the valve and simply cut through the lead pipe and connected plastic pipe and a plastic valve.

They said the rules did not allow them to fill the hole and that someone else would come later. Barriers were placed around the hole and they departed.

The work had been done without turning off the mains water flow so seeing water in the hole was not a surprise; however it did not drain away.

On the Monday evening a neighbour baled out the water to below the new plastic pipework but within a few minutes it was back to its previous level. One or more of the new plastic pipe joints was clearly leaking. Thames Water was informed.

On Wednesday Thames Water turned up again and were asked if they had come to fix the leak. No we are here to fill the hole they said.

The leak was only too obvious but they insisted the hole must be filled immediately because the permit from Bexley council expired that day and if it wasn’t filled there would be a fine of £1,000 for each day the hole remained open.

A quick phone call to Thames Water confirmed that the watery hole was being filled as a consequence of Bexley council instructions and to avoid the fine. The leak was on their list of things to do but first they must apply for another permit from Bexley council.

Meanwhile the men were still filling the hole, not with the old spoil but with Type 1 material rammed down to the compaction strength specified by the council. Then a new paving slab was produced but instead of cutting it to fit the valve access plate the gap was filled with concrete. The men then left the scene leaving the safety barriers leaning against a garden wall.

Later that day yet another man arrived in a van and the driver collected the barriers.


If you have ever wondered why jobs done by public bodies always cost more than you might estimate, this is as good an example as any. If Bexley council operated its permit system a little more flexibly the costs might be reduced. On the other hand a lot of Thames Water sub-contractors might be out of a job.

Does FM Conway have to pay the fines too? All the major jobs overrun.

 

18 October (Part 2) - Progress at last - but slow

It won’t win any speedy bricklayer competitions but a week on from the first bricks being laid the footings of the new Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre are now up to the third course.
15th January 2015
Lesnes

 

18 October (Part 1) - Will it or won’t it? Probably not

BexleyBexley council thought the Lion Road junction would be open some time last week but these pictures from last Thursday afternoon suggest a degree of optimism.

For pedestrians the situation was definitely not improved, the exit from Lion Road which led to the pedestrian crossing - far left of Photo 1 - was blocked and the exit shown in Photo 3 led to nowhere in particular where crossing Broadway was a life in your hand job.


Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road Broadway
Broadway Broadway Presumably, when work on Lion Road ends, congestion in Broadway will not be improved and the man with the Stop Go board will be replaced by something more permanent.

 

17 October (Part 2) - Toilet rolls will be the key to recycling success

SeymourFollowing the Parking Report the Places Scrutiny Committee moved on to Finance and how the 9% reduction in government funding in each of the next four years will affect services in Bexley. The council is still searching for around £4 million of savings before next April if it is to balance its 2016/17 budget.

The exchanges lacked focus and flitted from one subject to another with few succinct answers that can be easily summarised here.

NewmanCouncillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said his party was broadly in favour of what the council was doing but felt it could be improved upon.

He launched a succession of questions, eight or more depending on how one might divide them. Council officer Jane Richardson said she ran out of fingers and if there was a common theme lying just below the surface of Seán’s questions it may have been that some things could have been implemented earlier.

Cabinet member Linda Bailey explained that she and her officers had been working hard on regeneration projects but sometimes she despaired. The lack of language skills was a particular problem likely to rule Bexley‘s workforce out of contention at the Paramount Leisure Centre being built just over the borough border in Swanscombe. Recruits would come from France.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) said that the bulk of his casework involved street cleaning and recycling and cabinet member Peter Craske managed to walk the tightrope of not really taking responsibility. It’s the cuts stupid! but even Craske wasn’t rude enough to put it quite like that.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) picked up the earlier theme that the Conservatives had failed to see the iceberg on the horizon and did little to change course until the current year. A case of great minds obviously as that very point had been made here the day before. (Final paragraph.)

Council Officer Richardson had earlier mentioned a total of 22,000 homes in the pipeline for Bexley which would bring in the New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy, not to mention the council tax.

Other councils, Greenwich, Camden, Stefano said, had gone for housing growth much earlier and were reaping the financial rewards. Why did Bexley council not wake up to the opportunities in 2010 instead of leaving it until 2014?

CraskeCabinet member Linda Bailey went on the defensive saying these things “do not happen overnight” and she had been planning a change of direction before 2014. At least 18 months before. Probably she has forgotten that the Conservatives have been in power since 2006.

Councillor Borella described the new refuse arrangements as “shambolic” and there would likely be an impact on the recycling rate. Cabinet member Craske however had a master plan, he was encouraging the recycling of toilet rolls. I think he meant the centre cardboard tube. His point was that people who recycled in the kitchen tend not to do so in the bathroom. So don’t forget your soap dispensers, Peter wants to clean up his act and roll out the Andrex.

Deputy Director Bryce-Smith said the new garden waste service was a success - and so sure of it he said it again - but there had been logistical challenges. He expects overall savings to be at least £330,000 this year and £700,000 next year. Bins “are a good news story”. And with that, the chairman moved on to the next Agenda item.

 

17 October (Part 1) - Tuckley tells tales to Towers

TowersWill Tuckley was recruited to his new position in Tower Hamlets by Penna Recruitment Solutions and as he was going for an important job he was interviewed by the Managing Director, Julie Towers.

When Mick Barnbrook told the Commissioners at Tower Hamlets that Tuckley was under police investigation (see yesterday’s blog) and it became obvious that he had kept that fact under his hat, Tuckley felt obliged to attempt to blacken Mick Barnbrook’s name and denigrate this website.

Most of what Tuckley said was irrelevant and the remainder was less than truthful.

For new readers a brief history of the case…


In 2013 Bexley councillor Cheryl Bacon excluded every member of the public from her Scrutiny meeting on the grounds that one of them intended to audio record it.

Realising afterwards that this was a minor breach of the law she invented a story to excuse her actions instead of doing what any sensible person might do. Apologise and promise not to do it again.

Bexley TimesAfter initially exaggerating the actions of one member of the public the case was ramped up in correspondence to include every member of the public present.

They were all in the mood for a riot apparently and were shouting, waving papers and running around. None of it was true and ten witnesses were prepared to put that simple fact in writing. No one but Cheryl Bacon was prepared to say anything in favour of Cheryl Bacon. Five councillor colleagues failed to do so when invited to comment,

But not all were so reticent, several were among those prepared to state clearly that no one, not even the man with the recorder, had put a foot wrong. Polite and civilised throughout councillors said.

The police who were called cracked a few jokes with the ‘rioters’ and didn’t so much as ask their names or make an entry in their notebook. Quite some riot!

Will Tuckley was asked several times to interview a councillor witness to the events so that he might better know what went on. However he chose to read only councillor Bacon’s fanciful account and refused absolutely to ask anyone else who was present at the meeting.


After nearly 18 months of fruitless correspondence five members of the public headed by Michael Barnbrook made a formal allegation of Misconduct in Public Office to the police.

Mr. Tuckley began his excuse letter to Julie Towers with a personal attack on Mr. Barnbrook. Apparently it is relevant that he was for once a member of the British National Party and has complained about Bexley council’s malpractices many times.

Tuckley did not refer to Mick’s numerous complaints to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards which helped to bring down 17 MPs during the expenses scandal. For some he was the sole complainant (see below). However in Bexley complaints don’t really work, they are all dismissed out of hand. The Chairman of their Code of Conduct Committee is Cheryl Bacon, the liar in chief. How very convenient.
McShane
McShane was subsequently imprisoned.

Mick Barnbrook is a serial complainer it is true but not without reason. He felt obliged to leave the BNP after complaining to the police that its leader was not above reproach financially speaking, something later proved in court. He is one of very few people to have taken Easy Jet to court and won. But being a frequent complainer is not a crime, except in Bexley which has imposed a ban on any more in an attempt to make themselves immune from criticism.

In his excuse letter Tuckley admits to declining requests for an investigation on the grounds that there was no new evidence. This is a total lie. I have messages from councillors who were amazed that Tuckley, or rather his legal team, was refusing to accept their evidence that Cheryl Bacon had lied about the reasons for excluding the public.

Only the fact that I know that Conservative councillors who do not toe the line become the victims of kangaroo courts prevents me from publishing the evidence - but the police have it and their own source confirmed it.

Tuckley is still under the impression that Michael Barnbrook has some sort of editorial control of this website. He does not nor has he ever sought it. He is just another resident (now ex-resident) whose experiences of Bexley council are reported here.

If he and this website were always wrong one might think that Bexley council would try to counter it but their only venture in that direction was nearly five years ago when they suggested to the police that my intention was to put a match to the town hall. The front page of this website has been headed by the words “The lies of Cheryl Bacon” since 4th December 2013. It doesn’t exactly pull its punches. The council knows the report is accurate and nearly everyone who witnessed the events of 19th June 2013 and has read Bacon’s account of it has been prepared to swear that it is true.

Obviously I know Michael better than most other residents, he and I are often almost the sole attendees at council meetings but except when we were once both invited to the same wedding we have never been together at a purely social event. We aim to meet every three weeks to exchange Bexley related stories but recently not even managed that. I’ve no idea how linking BiB to Mick Barnbrook mitigates Tuckley’s refusal to investigate Cheryl Bacon’s lies but presumably it has fooled Julie Towers.

Tuckley sums up his defence with the words “I believe that the council has dealt with these complaints properly but robustly and that any thorough investigation will show that to be the case”.

Well he got that wrong didn’t he? Two police officers spent more than six months wading through the evidence, spoken written and audio-visual, and if they felt the case against Tuckley was unfounded I am sure they would have said so. Instead they indicated that if the case could be got to court there might be a prison sentence and made a presentation to the CPS to make sure a complex case was fully understood.

Tuckley’s email may be read here. I took out the name of the investigating police officer. Tuckley redacted Julie Towers’ name. Perhaps he thinks no one knows it.

 

16 October (Part 3) - Secretary of State Greg Clark is ill-advised, or maybe just a fool

TuckleyHe’s gone. Will Tuckley that is. Chosen to be the new Chief Executive at Tower Hamlets.

The government appointed commissioners running Tower Hamlets council decided to risk ridicule and embarrassment by ignoring the information provided by Michael Barnbrook. viz. that Tuckley has been investigated for Misconduct in Public Office and the evidence against him persuaded the police that the case should go to the Crown Prosecution Service where it remains.

That evidence included statements by four Bexley councillors at least one of which specifically stated that they had offered themselves for interview by Tuckley so that he might come to realise that councillor Cheryl Bacon had lied comprehensively in an attempt to save her skin. Not being interested in the truth, Tuckley repeatedly rebuffed all such requests. It is that which forms the basis of the allegation against him.

The reason the commissioners dismissed Michael’s email is because Will Tuckley told them he was innocent. Well he would wouldn’t he? But it doesn’t change the fact that the police were not so sure and consequently his name is with the CPS’s Serious Case Department.


Greg ClarkBecause the commissioners didn’t reply to Mick’s email which was dismissed by Tower Hamlets’ council as the ravings of a Vexatious Fascist Blogger he complained to the Minister who appointed them, the Right Honourable Greg Clark.

Rather late in the day, Mr. Clark has replied. “the complaint set out in your email is wholly without foundation”.

So the situation now is that Mr. Tuckley did not own up to the police investigation when applying for the job of Chief Executive.

When the Commissioners were made aware of the investigation, Tuckley told them that Mick Barnbrook was some sort of raving lunatic even though it is beyond all doubt that what Mick told the commissioners was 100% truthful.

Within the past few weeks the police have confirmed to me in writing that the case against Tuckley is serious enough to warrant their file being submitted to the CPS.

But Greg Clark doesn’t believe it. The man must be a total idiot which appears to be a required qualification for being a minister in the present government.

The practical effect on the country is obviously dire which is well beyond the remit of this website, but the impact on the Tuckley case becomes ever more difficult.

It has always been my expectation that the CPS would sooner or later be given instructions to somehow lose the Tuckley case to protect the reputation of the bunch of liars at the top of Bexley council but now they are going to have to lose it to protect the moron who goes by the name of Greg Clark.

When that happens it will be confirmation that political corruption has become the norm in this country and the suspicion will then be that Greg Clark is part of the web of corruption.

 

16 October (Part 2) - Don’t kill the Golden Goose. Oh, they just did

Deputy Director David Bryce-Smlth and bin man Peter Craske were in self-congratulatory mood at the mid-week Scrutiny Committee meeting. They believed they had done a magnificent job with the brown bins and in a way they have.

StreetlifeThe target was for 40% of households (30,000) to pay the bin tax and depending on which council story teller you choose to believe, that is close to what has happened. The financial break even point was calculated to be around the 17,000 households mark.

So the take up rate was good but the scheme implementation was simply crazy. Not confident enough to order 30,000 bins in the summer they went for batches of 10,000 and aimed to issue them on a first come first served basis.

Delivery trucks criss-crossing the borough was never going to be an efficient system but coupled with a street by street, area by area collection of the old bins, chaos was inevitable.

Those like me who ordered early and whose old bin collection was late have got away relatively unscathed. Those who paid the bin tax later and were in an area with an early collection have been left with no service for up to six weeks so far.

There have been many false dawns including press reports that everyone who had ordered one would be provided with a new bin by 4th October. Now they are sending out this email.


Thank you for signing up to Bexley's new garden waste service.

Delivery of the new larger garden waste bins is now well underway on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. The first 20,000 customers will have their new bins by the end of this week (Friday 16 October). Once these deliveries are completed we will start to deliver the third list of 10,000 bins which includes your garden waste bin.

Because this is later than we originally planned, your membership will be extended so that your renewal date will be 7 December 2015. This will ensure you receive the 25 annual collections that you paid for.

When you receive your bin, you can start to put it out for collection in your 'recycling only' week (the opposite week to your residual waste green wheeled bin collection).

In the period until your new bin is delivered, please either take your garden waste to the Reuse and Recycling Centre at Thames Road, Crayford or Foots Cray, Sidcup or store it until your new bin arrives.

The majority of the ‘old’ brown compost bins should now have been removed for recycling and all 75,000 of the containers used for the Council's new free food recycling collection delivered.

If either has not happened, please report this via our website at www.bexley.gov.uk/foodandgarden, where you will also find more information and updates about both services.

Please share this information with your family, friends and neighbours.


The reason for the high take up rate is not difficult to fathom. Bexley’s fee is just about the lowest of any borough with a service promised to be among the very best.

In Bromley the charge is £60 (Bexley currently £30) for an inferior service and the take up rate has been 14%. Not surprising, at that price I would stick an incinerator in the garden. At 30,000 households and probably more when spring comes along, the numbers are well above the break even level and there will be no excuse for a price rise, but maybe Bexley council will get greedy.

Like when they raised parking charges by 50% last April.

Gayton Road Gayton RoadIt’s a plan that seems to have misfired.

Noticing much increased street parking outside his home, a Welling reader took an interest in his nearest car park. It appeared to be half empty so he resorted to the Freedom of Information Act.

The unusually frank reply is very interesting. It shows that in the period after the price increase, all day parking fell to 60% of its former level.

The loss of revenue amounted to £28.69 a day which doesn’t sound much but over a year (220 days assumed) adds up to more than £6,300. And that is just one car park with only 155 spaces.


ClarkClose to home in Abbey Wood car parking capacity has been reduced to less than 50% of pre-Crossrail levels and the remaining car park in Gayton Road came under great pressure. Today at a few minutes after nine o’clock it was 25% empty.

As the man from Welling said, “great economics guys, causing residents even more cuts and debt”.

When he brought the situation to the attention of his ward councilor she professed to be unable to understand his point. “Not sure what you are referring to”. And you elected these cretins.

 

16 October (Part 1) - Money to burn

The Lesnes Abbey park slide was destroyed by fire on 9th June, allegedly by teenagers who were interviewed by the police but never charged.

Since then Bexley council has sought to attract more teenagers to the park with the installation of a parkour and agreed to spend in excess of £100,000 on replacing the play facility.

Lesnes Park Lesnes Park Lesnes ParkIt was delivered to site this morning and one begins to see why a facility such as this costs so much money.

Among other things a secure shed must be provided for tools and the installation crew are booked into a local hotel for a couple of weeks.

One of the men was involved in the original installation and sad to see the destruction but probably not surprised. He said that when he was last at the Lesnes site there were incidents of arson on work that was not even completed.

It looks likely that children’s fun will be restored by the end of the month as promised by councillor Craske, but for how long I wouldn’t like to say.

 

15 October (Part 2) - Parking Places

If I had to choose a favourite from the three scrutiny committees it would be Places. Mainly because it covers a subject which most of us encounter every day, the Public Realm, and because its chairman councillor Melvin Seymour plays it straight without any hint of being too officious or an ambition to be a comedian. Not that things are entirely humourless but somehow he strikes just the right balance. Maybe he is lucky to be supported by councillors who are not all members of the awkward squad although that was something difficult to check last night as members of the public were afforded their usual excellent view.

Unfortunately last night’s Places meeting was not the most interesting I have ever attended.

Waters Slaughter PollardThe first major item on the Agenda was the Annual Parking Services Performance Report in which the joint Bexley and Bromley manager Ben Stevens tries to portray himself as a reasonable man.

In some ways Bexley’s is a more benign regime than many councils in London with only Lewisham, Havering, Sutton and Greenwich issuing fewer parking penalties (PCNs).

Mr. Stevens said that the new 30 minute parking tariff had been well received and the swingeing increases to the long stay tariffs had had the desired effect - driving away commuters.

In common with other boroughs the number of PCNs issued has been falling but the number of appeals going to the adjudicator at 1·5% is above average. Half were successful. Councillor Seán Newman thought that was a figure that reflected badly on Bexley council.

Parking services made a profit of £1,065,000 excluding car park revenue.

Councillor Val Clark was concerned that there were twelve incidents in the year in which Civil Enforcement Officers were abused but only one prosecution. Councillor Gareth Bacon suggested that the police’s attitude to a very serious assault captured on body worn CCTV was that they “couldn’t be bothered” and they “made decisions which are clearly ridiculous”. In future, he said, the cabinet member (Peter Craske) should become involved and put pressure on the police to take action. Councillor Craske is only too well aware that Bexley police can be reluctant to pursue law breakers.

Councillor Joe Ferreira said that when the 50 pence rate was introduced the street signs relating to pay by phone showed the wrong price and in some cases people were being charged incorrectly.

Stevens Mr. Stevens said the problem had affected only “a couple of locations” and only “dozens” of customers and it was all resolved within a couple of days.

Councillor Newman asked whether Bexley was likely to adopt Bromley’s policy of charging the disabled for parking when the two services are fully amalgamated this time next year. Deputy Leader Alex Sawyer said “at the end of the day we have to look at all areas of finance and if it is a route we have to go down it is a route we have to go down”.

Councillor Brian Bishop asked Ben Stevens to define ‘parking outside the bay’. It's wheels outside the bay, not body overhang.

Councillor Stefano Borella remarked on the high number (3,033) of penalties written off. Among the reasons given by Mr. Stevens perhaps the most surprising was his assertion that the records held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are “only 90% accurate at any given time”.

Councillor John Davey commented on the fact that Bexley has the highest car ownership per head of any London borough. Perhaps with no Underground, no Overground, no trams, no riverboat service and too many meandering bus routes, that is not so very surprising.

 

15 October (Part 1) - Labour of love

If you ever thought that Labour councillor for Lesnes Abbey, Danny Hackett, was slightly mad for being a Blairite or once a schoolboy whose ambition was to become Bexley’s youngest councillor, today you get the confirmation you have been waiting for.

BellendenDanny is right now walking to and from eleven London Town Halls for charity!

Click the image to visit his fundraising page.

And what the hell is LandAid Day?

 

14 October (Part 2) - Bins trashed

News Shopper“I wonder if the Bexley is Bonkers chap is following this farce” comments Gema on the News Shopper’s website. Click image for their ‘trash’ report.

Well of course he has but it would become boring to mention it every day.

I think this may be a comprehensive list of bin related blogs since I first predicted the charge 15 months ago.


Prediction that charge would be introduced - 22nd July 2014
New Waste Management Strategy - 24th October 2014 (Waste processing costs)
Bin charging policy announced - 16th January 2015 (Consultation comes later)
Cost of new bins - 26th January 2015
Bin tax debated in council - 19th February 2015
Tory councillors defend Bin Tax - 10th March 2015
First reference to public disquiet - 16th March 2015
Press Release - 1st June 2015
Bexley council lies about cost of new bins - 24th June 2015
Bin Road Shows - 1st July 2015
Leaflet distribution - 9th July 2015
Bins oversubscribed. It's a fib - 5th August 2015
Bins on Streetlife - 4th September 2015
Bin goes missing - 5th September 2015
Complaints via social media - 7th September 2015
Resident complaints. Council excuses - 9th September 2015
Bin delivery - 11th September 2015
Bins on Streetlife again - 12th September 2015
Bins unhappiness - 14th September 2015
Bin leaflet for gardeners - 19th September 2015
Bin correspondence - 19th September 2015
Bexley committed to good waste practice! - 22nd September 2015
Bins left all over the borough - 29th September 2015
More bin problems - 2nd October 2015
Multiple bin deliveries - 3rd October 2015
Broken kitchen caddies - 9th October 2015
How the service could have been delivered at little cost - 11th October 2015


That’s quite enough I would have thought.

BinI know of no missed collections in my road, unless you count the old brown bins which have been laying around for a fortnight next Friday.

However I know I have been very fortunate, at last night’s Cabinet meeting I heard several stories about orders for new bins being placed during Week 1 (June) which weren’t delivered until this week and only after several phone calls and emails.

The whole system seems to have collapsed into chaos, even the communal bins are being neglected and councillor Craske who is responsible for the fiasco has felt obliged to write to the press again.

Maybe the weight of a full 240 litre bin explains the back ache I have had for a week.

 

14 October (Part 1) - Balancing the books

When I eventually managed to download the Agenda for yesterday’s Public Cabinet meeting I was relieved to see nothing in it to justify more than 30 minutes and fortunately that estimate proved to be about right. Half the Agenda, 28 pages, was a list of the services to be cut and how much money those cuts might save. There was nothing new there, the pain has all been published before.

ChairmanChairman Teresa O’Neill OBE (Ordering Budget Excisions) began by saying it was Will Tuckley‘s last week in Bexley and as he was absent hopes were briefly raised that Greenwich police might have arrested him, but alas that case is still with the Crown Prosecution Service. It transpired that he was simply demob. happy and decided to hand over to his stand-in Paul Moore early. In the event, Mr. Moore said not a word to justify either his presence or his salary.

Finance Director Alison Griffin was the main, indeed very nearly the only, speaker. As expected she ran through the progress made towards getting the books to balance in the next financial year. She thought that recent government announcements would knock Bexley’s income by a further £800,000 and several unknowns were likely to make things even worse than predicted earlier in the year.

The introduction of the Living Wage would fortunately be almost balanced by a delay until 2020 to introduction of the Care Act which carries with it various adverse financial implications.

Bexley’s savings target for next year is £14 million and so far those identified lie somewhere between 9·6 and 10·9 million. It does not augur well for residents hoping to stop the sale of parks.

Unfortunately this year has so far seen an overspend of £740,000. Ms. Griffin reminded Cabinet that the 2015/16 budget had been balanced by a number of one-off measures which cannot be used again so things can only get worse.

Ms. Griffin briefly mentioned the consultation which had taken place over the summer and summarised it by saying that the council’s 19 business cases “had been broadly supported”. After speaking for just short of 14 minutes, the Finance Director recommended her report to Cabinet.
Cabinet
Cabinet member Don Massey said he wanted to “echo” what Ms. Griffin had said and took nearly seven minutes to do so. He likes the sound of his own voice and prides himself as a thought reader too. He believed residents understood the council’s financial predicament. More likely, most don’t even know about it.

Like John Peters at the Audit Committee meeting, Massey made reference to judges who give directions that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Cabinet member Linda Bailey lamented the poor response to the summer consultation but said “it was neither here nor there” and rapidly moved on. Readers may be interested to know that of the borough’s 220,000 residents, just 333 had commented on Bexley’s plans.

It is a figure that makes the result a total nonsense, 333 is a number that could indicate that respondents came predominantly from local Conservative Party members doing their leader’s bidding, a scenario which might explain that those in favour of the various savings outnumber those against in every category. Mostly by a significant amount.

Labour councillors had warned of the dangers of running a summer consultation when the idea was floated, a fact which councillor Daniel Francis brought up again yesterday. The Chairman said that some people have more time during the summer. Probably everyone in Bexley who might at one time have responded knows by now that Bexley council will always do exactly what it first proposes and they are no longer prepared to waste their time.

Councillor Stefano Borella was critical of the wording in consultations presumably aware that the questions tend to dictate the required answers. He said that a contributory factor to the present financial woes was the council’s refusal to begin easing up council tax five years ago. Teresa O’Neill said not doing so was good for residents "as we saw at the ballot box, probably the biggest consultation of the lot”. Not the first time that she has admitted that electoral success was put before longer term financial security.

Unfortunately the council is now so seriously short of cash that no reasonable increase in taxation can solve the problem; it is just a shame that they didn’t introduce some of the efficiency savings and cuts earlier but that of course would not have served their electoral ambitions either.

 

13 October - Will it or won’t it?

BexleyLion Road is supposed to open again this week and maybe it could be, there were quite a lot of men working on it at four o’clock this afternoon.


Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road
But I doubt it can look like this by Friday.
Lion Road

 

12 October - Why are we waiting?

You will have guessed, since it is 9 p.m. and still no blog, that nothing of note came to my attention today but there is a Public Cabinet meeting tomorrow and I thought it was about time I looked at the Agenda.

As anyone who has tried to use Bexley council’s website will know, it can be best described as a huge mess, especially the bit on the democracy sub-domain which is the section I normally use.

It has been especially crap for the past couple of weeks to the point of being unusable. As I write I am still waiting for the relevant page to respond and I must have been waiting ten minutes for pages before I decided it might be worthy of a quick blog. I’ve been navigating from the website’s home page which involves multiple clicks and so far the quickest a single page has come up is just under four minutes.

Bexley's crap web server My own net connection is currently providing me with a 76 megabytes per second download speed and I can ping most nearby sites in seven milliseconds. Sites in the USA are only 15 milliseconds but Bexley does not respond at all.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, Bexley’s democracy site is nearly always bad but recently it has been unbelievably bad. Occasionally off air for hours on end. Don’t councillors ever notice?

Bexley council which probably employs no one who knows anything about the web was recently planning on renewing their contract with the crap IT supplier Steria Ltd. who operate from a shed in Brampton Road.

I could probably have walked there quicker than Steria delivered the required PDF down the line. Bexley paid Steria Ltd. £433,966 in the last month for which figures are currently available.

Bexley’s webserver is so damned slow that it still refers to the mayor as a him! And this crazy council thinks it is going to successfully move all its business to the web. It will probably be as successful as the brown bin rollout.
Out of date
Ping: To bounce data off a distant website and time how long it takes to come back. Under 10 milliseconds is extremely good. Anything under 30 can be regarded as pretty well instantaneous.

 

11 October - Money to waste

I spent the weekend in Wiltshire where the council has recently adopted the same system as Bexley for garden waste disposal. i.e. What used to be free (part of council tax) is now chargeable. The only real difference is that it always was a 240 litre bin in Wiltshire, collected fortnightly instead of 140 litres weekly as used to be the case in Bexley.

Another small difference is that Wiltshire’s green bin (brown in Bexley) has always been for garden waste only, food goes in general recycling.

Bin BinWhere there has been a big difference is in the way the change has been managed. Wiltshire has spent almost nothing and upset not a single paying customer. Bexley has probably spent all of its first years‘ subscription income on capital equipment and annoyed a huge number of residents.

It scrapped all the old brown bins, 30,000 larger ones have been bought to be issued eventually, 75,000 kitchen waste bins have been purchased and new refuse trucks brought into use.

The changeover has been chaotic with residents left without service for a month or more.

North Wiltshire allowed residents to keep their old bin if that is what they wanted to do. No new bins have been purchased at enormous expense. All they did was issue a sticky label to residents prepared to pay the fee.

Label Bexley council has always justified paying top dollar to its senior executives on the grounds that running a council requires the best brains to ensure best value, however it would appear that the country bumpkins of Wiltshire run rings around the dross employed by Bexley. Their new chargeable garden waste service cost next to nothing to introduce with no interruption to service to those residents who opted in.

Unlike Bexley where you can have up to five bins at £33 each for 25 collections annually, Wiltshire imposes no limit on the number of bins but the charge is £40 for 24 collections. Guess which system, new labels or new lorries, is likely to have the biggest impact on keeping council tax low.

Sticky labels are not an entirely new concept for Bexley council. It uses the same system on green bins for households which satisfy its criteria for having two general waste bins.

 

10 October - The comical copper

In June 2012 I, along with Mr. Elywn Bryant, made a formal complaint to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe about Bexley police’s failure to seriously pursue the author of Bexley council’s obscene blog. In 2013 it was escalated to an allegation of crime against borough Commanders Stringer and Olisa after certain evidence was obtained on my behalf by Teresa Pearce MP.

Over three years the complaint has been kicked around aimlessly by three different investigating officers all intent on dodging the issue. The first manufactured nonsense (confirmed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) to excuse the initial refusal to investigate the crime. The second went a year without even bothering to read the original police file before passing it on to another officer, having achieved absolutely nothing.

I’m not aware that the current investigating officer has done anything other than make me laugh out loud this week. Three years and four months after the original complaint during which nothing has been achieved, he wrote to me this week to say that he would be out of the office for three weeks and unfortunately the case cannot be progressed during that period.

Funny man.

 

9 October (Part 3) - Abbey Wood parking problems

Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton RoadThe Crossrail bosses may assure residents at the Liaison Panel meetings that their contractors are not allowed to block shoppers’ parking bays but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Nor can it. It’s hard enough to do a DIY job away from home without easy access to your own tools so when you are paddling in a six feet deep hole to joint a massive electricity cable it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the tools to be stored on the other side of the railway line in Felixstowe Road. The shopkeepers appear to be a stoical lot.

Within the station compound there has been one very obvious development this week. The installation of the much needed canopy has begun.

For reasons that the station staff could not explain, the line closure schedule has been removed from the station entrance, the lift and the footbridge. However they were sure that the closure scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday will go ahead.

The weekly pictorial progress report on Crossrail developments around the station has been updated.

More Crossrail related blogs.

 

9 October (Part 2) - Unhinged

Bin BinWell that bin didn’t last long!

However despite the criticism on social media and three readers’ letters out of five in this week’s News Shopper telling everyone that the reduced bin service is a fiasco, the service offered at my address and probably the whole street, has been uninterrupted. The old bins still litter the street but other than that all is well.

It seems reasonable to assume that the brown bin I used on September 5th was stolen rather than officially collected.

The new garden waste bins were emptied on schedule this morning but I had been suckered into believing Bexley council’s story about new 2015 registration computer equipped trucks telling the driver where to go. He showed up in VU58 JTY the same as always.

An early morning walk into Abbey Wood suggested that no one is bothering to lock the lid on the food waste caddy. It is perhaps not terribly obvious that it can be locked and if the broken handle I picked up is any guide, they are not as strong as I thought they might be.

 

9 October (Part 1) - Progress at last

Yesterday saw the first sign that construction of new Lesnes Abbey Visitor Centre may be about to commence. It has been held up by the discovery of historical artefacts.
11th January 2015
Lesnes
9th October 2015
Lesnes

 

8 October (Part 3) - It’s madness

Cow CobBelvedere has its galvanised steel cob, Erith has its ceramic fish and not to be left out, Crayford has a herd of tin cows right opposite the new Bourne Road roundabout.

Inviting well deserved ridicule, the cows are marked ‘Madder’.

Only a few paces to the west the road sign that Brian Barnett photographed last week is unchanged. It is still there telling everyone they are about to encounter a slightly weird T junction.

The junction, now a mini-roundabout, environs are still being landscaped and the south eastern corner cycle path is not quite finished. Photo 2 below.


Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road
Adjacent to that cycle path and next to a footpath still under construction is a new permanent artwork to complement the tin cow - only even madder.

It looked like old railway line but a helpful passer-by told me it was tram line which was dug up when the new junction was excavated. Well put it in a museum then or plant it in one of the new raised flowerbeds! But only a mad cow (Officially Bovine Encephalitis) would think that plonking it between a cycle path and the pedestrian route makes sense.

If a car hits it It won't be pretty and a cyclist might be severely injured but an inquisitive child trotting alongside mum on the new footpath who fell on it would likely find itself in A&E. Some of the edges would do King Gillette proud.
Tram line
Leave your hedge uncut and it becomes a pavement hazard. Bexley council will take enforcement action.

Park your car with a wheel on the footpath and it’s a criminal obstruction punishable with a fine but block a path for a week with brown bins and it is perfectly alright.
Bins
It’s the same with littering the highways with rusty lethal weapons. As long as Bexley council does it. it‘s absolutely fine.

Station RoadOnce again there was not a great deal of traffic about; for that I had to go along to Station Road where long queues were forming every few minutes when the pedestrian crossing went red. (Adjacent photo.)

By the way, following my minor altercation with the Conway man in Crayford someone emailed to say the reason he didn’t want to appear in a photo could be because their workers are not always happy to be associated with damn fool projects. Maybe my correspondent makes a good point. As you may have noticed I blurred the worker’s image. Unlike the bus driver that day who had probably put me in a bad mood, Mr. Conway was perfectly polite.

 

8 October (Part 2) - Bexley Times. Welcome back

What little feedback I heard on the subject was that the magazine style Bexley Times that has been distributed in the south of the borough for the past couple of years was not well received. ‘Straight in the bin’ was what a couple of my colleagues who live down that way said.

In reality there were quite often some decent feature articles in it, more serious and thoughtful than is usually seen in its main rival, but I must admit that it always felt like hard work to find the gems among the adverts.

So it was a relief to see the announcement in last week’s issue that they would revert to an old style newspaper today. This is their first front page headline feature.
Bexley Times
Switching off the lights is something that Bexley council has said very little about and which should be watched like a hawk, or should that be owl? Maybe I should forgive Archant Community Media Ltd (Docklands and East London Advertiser) from reporting that I am a Vexatious Fascist Blogger.

The News Shopper by contrast came up with one of their least interesting front page headlines for some while. I know just how difficult it is to keep things lively when nothing interesting is going on, there have been a number of turkeys here in recent weeks, but a man who was filling his petrol tank when the pump was switched off in error? The flying car in Geddes Place (relegated to Page 7 with a picture from BiB) may have been more interesting.
News Shopper
There’s more good stuff in today’s Bexley Times. The bin fiasco, an interview with Teresa Pearce MP and quite a lot on plastc bags; on the letters page too.

I wonder for how long they can keep that up.

 

8 October (Part 1) - Reckless but maybe not guaranteed wreckless

The last report received (via councillors) from Bexley council about Ye Olde Leather Bottle public house was that nothing illegal was going on. Well maybe not but something totally reckless may have.

I would hate to live in the flats above the bomb site that has been created on Heron Hill. The residents used to live above a slope made stable by trees, now it is more like a cliff awaiting the next downpour and the consequential landslip.
Leather Bottle Leather Bottle Leather Bottle Leather Bottle
How has Bexley council allowed that to happen under their noses?

 

7 October (Part 2) - Bad design leads to bad driving

The very frequent traffic queues in Harrow Manorway are getting to be a thorough nuisance; all carefully engineered by Greenwich and Bexley councils.
Congestion
You can be held up at the pedestrian crossing which is set to serve the new station and in the distance the lights outside Sainsbury’s might be at red too. However before you drive the 150 yards to those lights they will have gone green and back to red again.

The result is long queues. At last week’s Crossrail meeting the bosses there were speaking of building a station capable of handling tens of thousands of passengers a day. Things can only get worse.

Not a stone’s throw from Sainsbury’s is a roundabout on which it is quite impossible to maintain any form of lane discipline. I have given up trying to stay in lane. No one expects it and it confuses the masses to try.

Thamesmead is one of those places where drivers regards roundabouts as short dual carriageways built for overtaking, Knee Hill and Yarnton Way being prime examples. The poor road design brings out the worst in some people as this dashcam footage illustrates.

 

7 October (Part 1) - More brown bin excuses

Bexley council is still in trouble with its brown bin roll out. It has issued another Press Release to advise residents when they might be provided with a bin.

They appear to be very concerned about the charging period that will apply. The important thing to remember is that the contract is for 25 collections. Make sure you note the date of your first collection.

The excuse that demand exceeded expectations is of course entirely bogus. When the subject was first aired in council the expectation was that 40% of Bexley’s 75,000 households would sign up. Lying comes naturally to Bexley council.

If it was really true that they they had initially expected orders for only 10,000 bins as the Press Release indicates and now they are having to distribute 30,000 there would not be enough refuse trucks or manpower either. In case you haven’t noticed, all the old garden and food trucks have been replaced by new ones with 15 registration plates. Bexley council is not complaining there are not enough of them.

Bexley council is making excuses for its failings again.

 

6 October - “It’s a no-brainer”

It is the season for consultations. The Blackwall relief road otherwise known as the Silvertown Tunnel now and the Gallions and Belvedere proposals in late November.
TfL Letter
Click image for the ’Have your say’.
MapFor an alternative view of these proposals there is ‘Say No To Silvertown Tunnel’.

Personally I have never been convinced by the argument that the ‘extra resilience’ a new tunnel will provide for Blackwall will increase congestion and not reduce it. As a regular off-peak tunnel user the unpredictability of the journey time is a constant nuisance and turning off the car’s fresh air intake on the approach road is a necessity.

Air pollution from diesel powered vehicles is undoubtedly a problem and TfL’s answer to that is that faster moving traffic will mitigate the problem.

A new tunnel would not become available until 2023 and one would hope that the recent revelations about Volkswagen will lead to a reduction in the number of diesel engines by then. The move towards electric power is sure to have gathered pace too.

The alternative to the various TfL proposals is to leave the area for which it is responsible with the same road crossing facilities as were in existence 48 years ago.


• First Blackwall Tunnel : 1896
• First Dartford Tunnel : 1963
• Second Blackwall Tunnel : l967
• Second Dartford Tunnel : 1980
• Dartford Bridge : 1991


With the Conservative Party announcing at their conference this week a renewed emphasis on infrastructure and the appointment of Lord It’s A No Brainer Adonis to the new National Infrastructure Commission the direction of travel looks pretty clear to me.

Lord Adonis
But if the tunnel is to be just another bus lane it is a complete waste of money.

Video best played with the sound off. There is no commentary and the music is pathetic.

 

5 October (Part 3) - Zacharias is no Sir James

I feel a bit sorry for some of our Labour councillors, I don’t think they will all be enthusiasts for their new party leader.

It did cross my mind to offer them some consolation last Friday when Zac Goldsmith was chosen as the Conservative candidate for next year’s London Mayoral election.

On a Wednesday evening last month, I think it may have been the 16th a little after seven fifteen, I tuned in to LBC radio while driving to Bexley village to meet up with some friends. Out of the speakers came the voice of some dreadful old school socialist who wanted to tax everything that moved. (†)

I was flabbergasted when I discovered that I had been listening to Zac Goldsmith. Disappointed too because as far as I can remember I quite liked his dad’s politics.

There is a website to sing the praises of Zac Goldsmith, you may reach it by clicking the large image below. That image is a condensed version of the real thing but it would appear that twelve Bexley councillors are publicly backing more taxation.

Unless my eyes are deceiving me, councillor David Leaf is pictured but is not listed among the names.
Zac
† Zac Goldsmith was a keen advocate of road pricing within the M25 boundary. Stuff him! May as well vote for a real socialist.

 

5 October (Part 2) - ECOnomic disaster zone?

MasseyIt’s back to cabinet member Don Messy again, not only is he the architect of Bexley’s downgraded refuse collection services but he was also the mastermind who thought it was a good idea to remove the Howbury Centre from the care of the very successful money raising group known as Howbury Friends and hand its management to a company saddled with debts and a County Court Judgment.

Maybe the intention was to give a friend an opportunity to get rich quick; if so the plan seems to have gone a little off the rails.

Perusal of Eco Communities accounts show some unwelcome changes in the year following the takeover of the Howbury Centre in 2013.


• Cash in hand down from £5,375 to £3,604.
• Net worth from negative £12,547 to negative £126,788.
• Total current Assets down from £118,118 to £19,807.
• Total liabilities improved from £149,832 to £92,391.


Cabinet member Messy rated ECO Communities well above the volunteer group with a proven track record for fund raising and it is difficult to see why.

The story about the unpaid council tax looks to be ever more believable.

 

5 October (Part 1) - The perfect storm making recycling a chore

Today is a black day for obsessive recyclers like I somehow became. I’m not sure how I descended to that level of nerdiness because when the first sign of all the rules, regulations and landfill taxes were seen in Europe I felt as I do about most things European. Mind your own bloody business.

But Bexley council made recycling an easy thing to do and most importantly made no attempt to impose draconian conditions, fines etc. Credit where it is due, the scheme was introduced under the auspices of cabinet member Gareth Bacon. Maybe it was actually his idea, I don’t know.

I was particularly fortunate to have some big communal bins nearby but out of sight so I didn’t need to have a garden cluttered with anything more than one green and one brown bin. The ease of recycling and lack of onerous regulation allowed Bexley to rise towards the top of the national recycling league tables, in part because it was happy to take away large quantities of heavy garden waste, thereby bumping up the percentage of total waste that could be recycled.

Then the council started to throw those advantages away and introduce petty rules about bin lids not fully closed etc. A year ago cabinet member Don Messy decided to overturn everything and risk a change that has affected every household in the borough.

TweetAs everyone must know by now, garden waste removal has become a chargeable service and the transition period has been anything but smooth.

From today all gardeners are either disadvantaged or charged and non-gardeners must suffer too.

Where they used to have a food waste bin of 140 litres emptied every week, they now have only a 23 litre bin. That was the figure mentioned in council, I’ve not checked it but is is undoubtedly much smaller than 140 litres.

On the other hand it is far too big to keep in most kitchens. Almost no one is happy and even those residents who never usually give their council a thought have reason to bear a grudge. Not the best of council strategies.

While Bexley council is intent on making life difficult for its residents, the government is intent on making life more difficult for almost everyone. From today the supermarkets are forbidden from offering free carrier bags.

Out of consideration for the refuse collectors, all my green bin waste has been carefully wrapped into carrier bags. I’m not sure where they all come from (a visitor probably) because I have used an old fashioned cloth bag for many years past, and more recently a big canvas thing from Tesco, when doing my shopping.

BagsWhen my stock of bags is exhausted the rubbish will have to be tipped loose into the green bin. Either that or I buy black sacks which doesn’t exactly help the green agenda does it? Thank goodness for those charity sacks.

The onward march of compulsory water meters in Bexley is another step towards making recycling more difficult. I have already stopped washing tins but haven’t yet been able to bring myself to throw unwashed marmalade jars away. But I am working on it.

Companies that impose a levy on their customers without any legal requirement, charitable or not, I avoid like the plague. Who do they think they are deciding where my money goes? The blasted European Union?

If he had not already provided me with several dozen reasons to never vote for him again, David Cameron has given me another one today.

If you are surprised by the rebellious streak, you shouldn’t be. Without it there would be no Bexley is Bonkers.

 

4 October - Crossrail. Not a hive of activity

I think most people affected by the Crossrail work in Abbey Wood accept that inconvenience is unavoidable while the work is going on and the enormous benefits bestowed by the new railway line will make it all worthwhile.

Yesterday while out and about in the area I spoke to two people who were unaware that the train service was subject to another weekend closure, the sixth since the end of August with three more to come up to 1st November. One young man who had approached on foot from Felixstowe Road and who I assumed was a local, had no idea of what was going on. He was amazed when I told him about the tunnel not much more than a mile away and confessed to never having looked out of the train window on his way to London. Or read any of the station notices presumably.

Over the past five weeks about 750 metres of new track has been laid in three weekend sessions to the east of Abbey Wood station with another one to come. A new bridge has been installed at Bostall Manorway and the old one removed, but this weekend there is very little work in evidence.
Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail
A trip along the whole length of the line from beyond the Green Chain bridge (which Crossrail calls the Thamesmead bridge) to the tunnel revealed just a handful of men scratching around in the track ballast east of that footbridge. Elsewhere there was not a soul to be seen.

It must be very difficult to book a line closure with the train operator many months in advance of the required date and coordinate the work and the contractors such that they can always make good use of it.

Crossrail Crossrail CrossrailRather less spectacular work than bridge installation has continued on a wide front during the week. Utility cable diversion continues in both Wilton and Felixstowe Roads (Photo 6) and trackside fencing and cabling continues almost everywhere, along with some tree trimming.

To the east of the station the steel gantries that will support the 25kV overhead power cables now boast their horizontal supports (Photos 3 and 4) and track is delivered daily into the tunnel.


ExpectationUnfortunately the past six weeks have not improved the situation for the travelling public or residents in general. Access to the station has become more of an obstacle course and the removal of the Bostall Manorway footbridge with no immediate prospect of the replacement being brought into use is not helpful.

The diversion was not planned (see Crossrail document) but it causes a mile long detour and its semi-permanency was emphasised this week by the wooden barriers shown in Photo 7.

Crossrail management has been keen to avoid attributing blame for this sorry state of affairs but I see no way that Greenwich council cannot be the ultimate obstacle.

If I have correctly interpreted what was said at the Liaison Panel meeting last Tuesday, no formal planning permission was required for the bridge as the 2008 Act authorised all the necessary infrastructure. However it was said at Tuesday’s meeting that Greenwich council must authorise use of the footbridge and the council representative made no secret of the fact that permission had not been given.

Network Rail on behalf of Crossrail may well be playing a diplomatic game but my guess is that they would happily open their new bridge if only Greenwich council would give them the nod.

 

3 October (Part 3) - Roundabout the Crayford cherry

The new junction layout in Crayford pictured yesterday was widely ridiculed by local residents, cyclists, those who are required to drive by and probably by ordinary Bexley council watchers who one might imagine would by now be immune to such things.

There was one vote in favour which said it will be easier to turn left from Bourne Road. That may perhaps be true If the A223 is wide enough but there are no suitable lane markings and Bexley council has a history of discouraging dual lane entry to roundabouts as anyone who is regularly held up in Penhill Road will testify.

Roundabout Roundabout RoundaboutThose whose business does not take them to Crayford and overlook their financial contribution to the rearrangements there may prefer to take a relaxed view of them. One has idly speculated on what might have been a more imaginative use of the space available with clear references to the Splash Park and the proposed sale of Old Farm Park.

I’m not sure who he could have been thinking of with the Cherry Tart. Maybe a fruit cake would have been more appropriate.

 

3 October (Part 2) - Beating the bin system

The food waste bin arrived here this morning which means there is only the one stage left before the changeover is complete; collection of the old garden waste bin.

Bin Bin Bin BinThe much maligned hinge allows the lid to be locked and become fox proof. It seems to be quite effective but maybe not very strong. But looks can be deceptive, PVC can be pretty tough stuff.

Some houses appear to have been given two bins, I have noticed two not very far from home, one address I am absolutely sure has only two occupants so Bexley council’s system, if there is one, remains a puzzle.

Multiple bins and neighbour cooperation is obviously a good thing if you can get away with it. Yesterday my green bin was filled almost entirely with my next door neighbour’s rubbish - five occupants there and only one here - and their brown bin was entirely filled by my garden waste and some imported from Bromley.

Maybe I should offer my food waste bin to my neighbour, no food gets chucked out here, but then I don’t have three children in the house. Meanwhile the toilet rolls in the under stairs cupboard have a new home.

 

3 October (Part 1) - Confusion by design

By venturing further towards Bexleyheath yesterday evening than I had earlier in the day, Brian Barnett has noticed something about the new but little changed Bourne Road junction that I missed.

Bourne RoadBourne RoadThere is a new sign showing a roundabout on the eastern approach but on the west the old sign is still in evidence.

What sort of council puts people at risk by opening a new road before it gets its signage ready?

A council for which that is the norm presumably. i.e. Bexley where the last roundabout sign near Trinity Place was not swapped for a T junction sign for several weeks after that roundabout - sorry T junction - opened.

Brian, with the eye of a keen cyclist, says that the cycle lanes are a bad joke.

Bexley council. Not listening to you, trying to kill you.

 

2 October (Part 4) - The blob comes to Crayford

Bexley TimesIt’s been closed for exactly four months but the London Road/Bourne Road junction is open again. The closure must have done untold damage to the businesses on the adjacent industrial estate.

It’s a bit off the beaten track for me but I have driven up Bourne Road from Bexley a few times and it’s always been the same. A queue at the T junction waiting for traffic heading towards Bexleyheath and all points west.

The junction is blessed with a huge amount of space for improvement so it came as a surprise to most people that Bexley council seemed to be creating another T junction little different to the old one.

Then yesterday, the Bexley Times, while reporting that the road had opened earlier that morning, referred to a roundabout. How could I have gone there several times and missed a blooming great roundabout was my first thought. How horribly embarrassing.

But I needn’t have worried; a lunchtime visit showed that the four months of chaos have produced nothing but a silly blob of white paint.

Bourne Road
As the picture above indicates, there is no shortage of space in which to build an effective free flowing junction, but Bexley council didn’t want to.

At one o’clock in the afternoon there was little traffic about but in the morning peak, instead of having to wait for a stream of westbound traffic which has right of way you will have to wait for a stream of westbound traffic which has right of way. Progress Bexley style.

The white blob after only 36 hours use (according to the Bexley Times) bears the marks of traffic turning right but none heading towards Bexleyheath indicating that they are going straight over. Any turning motion would have left its mark.

There are indications of landscaping on the south side but cyclists are given little consideration, they are shunted back into the path of traffic as soon as they are around the bend. Photo 4 below.
Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road
It is no better on the other side of the road. They are probably not the shortest cycle tracks in the borough but they are both little more than a bus length.
Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road Bourne Road
Bourne RoadThe nearby Bexley Lane forms part of the rearrangements and it too presents a bit of a puzzle. If you exit it in anything larger than a saloon car you might find it difficult to turn right (Photo 7 above), and if you are a cyclist you are encouraged to go up a one way street the wrong way. (Photo 8.)

You don’t have to be mad to be part of Bexley’s road planning team but it certainly helps.

If you have forgotten what the junction used to be like, click the final image from Google Earth. Can anyone see what Bexley council was trying to achieve? To waste your money is not a valid answer.

 

2 October (Part 3) - Never ending bin problems

BinsI was a little premature with the report that my brown bin wasn’t emptied this morning. I always leave it in the same place with the handle facing the road on the assumption that is easiest for the collector who usually comes soon after eight o’clock.

Two hours later it was in a different place with the handle facing the other way. It looked as though someone had taken a look and thought better of it.

However at midday the bin was empty and lying with a fallen comrade. Where that came from I have no idea because the only other brown bin on the street nearby earlier was of the new variety and they aren’t due for collection until next week if service is to alternate with the green bins as Bexley council has said.

Residents are having to do an awful lot of date guessing during the transition period.

‘My’ brown bin was actually my immediate neighbour’s because the only gardening ever done at his address is done by me so I have no hesitation in borrowing it. The one that I had regarded as mine disappeared a month ago. I am beginning to think someone stole it and I shouldn’t have blamed Bexley council. In fact except that I have no food waste bin I don’t really have anything to complain about. The same does not seem to be true for everyone…


A complete shambles.

Yesterday our new kitchen waste bin was not emptied. Neither was my neighbour’s. She rang the council while I made a web report. At 5:15 a truck arrived to empty the neighbour’s bin but not mine.

“You are not on the list.” Fortunately I’d printed the web receipt and the men with more sense than their managers agreed to empty my bin too. They had clearly experienced the same before.

Whilst this was going on another neighbour asked if they were collecting brown bins. They said they were not as those bins were finished with. The neighbour said she meant the new larger bin and the confusion arose because she had two new bins, it wasn’t clear whether that was a mistake or not, but only one had been emptied.

When the new system is up and running will the collectors check who has paid or simply empty any bin put out? †

At 8:00 this morning another crew arrived to empty my bin!

When I explained what had happened the man said that it was all a complete mess. He kindly took my garden rubbish away (not due till next week) and put it in with all the kitchen/garden stuff which was mixed together. He also told me that the new fleet of lorries is a nightmare and that there is a problem with the reverse gear. Something about it only being on for a short time before it cuts out. He said it is a real problem when stuck in a tight spot without a fully working gearbox.


† Bexley council has said the new rubbish trucks are equipped with computers which tell the crew where to go.

 

2 October (Part 2) - Amateurs versus Pros

BinsBexley council doesn’t like amateurs even though in the derogatory sense of the word much of what it does is amateur. Is there any need to remind readers of the total mess they have made of recycling over the past month? I am still awaiting delivery of my food waste bin and the garden waste was not collected this morning. Probably the bin will now adorn the street for ever. It says it is the property of Bexley council so I shall leave it where it is until they take it away.

An example of not liking amateurs is Bexley’s plan to get rid of the Splash Park in Belvedere. Having been shown the stipulations laid down by the council for the band of volunteer splash park saviours, my verdict is that they are deliberately contrived to make sure ‘the amateurs’ have no chance.

Getting a charitable group together, raising funds, obtaining price quotes from equipment suppliers and having to submit a business plan in less than two months is probably asking the impossible of enthusiastic mums and dads with busy lives to run.

Something similar went on two years ago when Bexley council was intent on selling off as much of the Howbury Community Centre as possible.

It had been run very successfully for many years by a volunteer group known as Howbury Friends but cabinet member Don Massey was absolutely determined to hand over management to a totally different sort of friend. Another politician and allegedly a former Conservative election candidate.

RatedThe consortium of which he was part went by various names at the time, one of which was Eco Communities. The council claimed they were experienced in running community facilities and financially sound. They rated them well above Howbury Friends in the financial stakes. (See table.)

Howbury Friends had been raising up to £100,000 a year for eight solid years. The money financed local activities geared towards helping the disadvantaged and their children in and around Slade Green.

Bexley council ignored that amazing record. They also ignored Eco Communities’ amazing record which included a County Court Judgment against them and no money in the bank.

But they weren’t amateurs so that was alright. And they were political friends, so that was doubly alright.


Flat brokeWhere Howbury Friends had been charging a pound a session for their after school activities enabling working mums to work for longer, Eco Communities were looking for £8. It was a commercial enterprise, there were wages to pay and a profit to be made.

If all has been going well they should have plugged that £53,300 hole in their accounts by now.

Maybe they have but maybe they haven’t. Stories have been circulating about Eco Communities for the past three or four weeks.


FalseLike too many of the things that Bexley council would rather you didn’t know it can be hard to get at the facts.

Rumours are not good enough. If BiB is to avoid getting things wrong and acquiring the sort of reputation it could do without, documentary evidence is a must, or failing that, assurances that come from the heart of Bexley council and sources that experience has shown are not there to set traps with false information.

It has taken a while and the evidence comes only in the form of an assurance from a trusted source with official access to the guarded information. It is reported that Eco Communities has not paid its council tax and is £17,000 in arrears. This may of course be nothing more than forgetfulness and a muddle to do with charitable status but it nevertheless makes a mockery of Bexley council’s decision to choose ‘professionals’ over experienced amateurs.

My source mentioned unpaid utility bills too.

 

2 October (Part 1) - Abbey Wood 7. Lower Belvedere nil

It can’t be much more then ten years ago that there were no cash machines at all in Abbey Wood and now there are seven within 100 metres of the station.

Asda Asda AsdaFor reasons unknown the one outside Nim Bhadare’s taxi office (Station Cars, 18 Wilton Road, 020 8311 1199) refuses to give me any money.

I’ve tried three times now and I can hear what sounds like the counting of notes, but no money issues forth. However to the best of my knowledge no one has ever taken revenge by nicking the whole damned thing!

In Lower Belvedere they are less tolerant. When I arrived at the Asda store yesterday with less than a pound in my pocket all three machines were covered and a plastic barricade prevented access. The police van wasn’t there.

As I left the store, wondering if the ATM service might have been withdrawn, I asked the security man what was happening to the cash machines. He said they had been stolen “again”.

By then the police were in evidence, making the answer to my question rather more obvious.

 

1 October (Part 4) - Judge, Jury and Appeal Judge - all in one

TweetMr. Mustard is spot on. Bexley and Bromley council will now not only issue you with a parking fine, often for no good reason (†), but now it will offer advice on whether or not an appeal might succeed.

Surely if they are doing their job properly no appeal would ever succeed, and if their intelligent (?) software predicts that an appeal would succeed they should be automatically cancelling the ticket. Isn’t that what an honest outfit would do?

The system can only be the product of a criminal mind and in Bexley we have an abundance of them. Bexley’s own internal audit team condemned the parking department’s dishonesty and so did the Local Government Ombudsman.

But their money making juggernaut is allowed to cast justice to the wind.

Click here to see what the fuss is all about.

Mr. Mustard is one of Barnet’s many bloggers. He specialises in parking malpractice. Click here for his blog.

† The dishonest entrapment described in the blog dated 27th May is a regular occurrence. Twice I have noticed it this week. Wish I had taken some new pictures now!

 

1 October (Part 3) - The Lion sleeps

Yesterday’s Twitter announcement by Bexley council that Lion Road will not reopen until mid-October has me a little confused.

TweetIt’s said to be an Update, but is it supposed to represent a change?

The council originally said that work would start on 10th August, their website still says that, but it didn’t happen.

It actually started about two weeks later. The signs were photographed a few days beforehand and clearly show the revised start date; 24th August.


AnnouncementThe signs also say that the work would last for seven weeks. Seven weeks, if you think in terms of five day weeks, ends on Friday 9th October, pretty close to both week commencing 12th and mid-October.

It looks like business as usual.

The reason for slow progress is not very hard to see. There is no one there, but by Bexley standards a week’s delay is nothing. Remember Sidcup?

Lion Road
Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road Lion Road

 

1 October (Part 2) - In a hurry to get to church?

There’s a twenty mile an hour limit in Arnsberg Way. How fast do you need to go to get a small car to fly?
Geddes Place Geddes Place Geddes Place Geddes Place

 

1 October (Part 1) - In Bexley nothing is quite as it might seem

MayorSo far as one can judge, based on just one council meeting since her inauguration last May, councillor Sybil Camsey is as good a mayor as any Bexley has had in the past six years. The period over which I have taken an interest in the subject.

At that inauguration she was proposed by fellow Brampton ward councillor John Wilkinson and seconded by another from the same ward, council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE. (Objectionable Brampton Endomorph.)

From their speeches in favour of councillor Camsey’s appointment I learned that she had been a teacher for 42 years at Barnehurst Junior School, the last 14 of them as headteacher.

Council websiteIt’s a fact confirmed on Bexley council’s website. Sybil Camsey was headmistress until 2009.

“Well known and respected” was what John Wilkinson said and if you read the OFSTED report from December 2008 that does indeed appear to be the case. However OFSTED rated Sybil Camsey’s management of the school rather more harshly. The word ’underachievement’ appears more than once and teaching and learning were said to be Inadequate.

The school was placed into Special Measures. The verdict appeared to be that Barnehurst Junior School was a nice friendly place to be but the educational standards were not good enough.

OFSTED
Following headmistress Camsey’s retirement at the end of the 2009 school year, OFSTED returned six months later to see how the new management team was faring.
OFSTED
Based on the OFSTED report one might conclude that councillor Camsey is well suited to her role as mayor but is unlikely to ever challenge the leader.

Note: I was a little uneasy about reminding reader’s of Sybil Camsey’s past, it could look a little mean spirited, hence the rather late publication today. However I reminded myself that we are up against a council that doesn’t think twice about being as nasty as it can to residents.

Teresa O’Neill tried to get me arrested for threatening the old Civic Offices with an arson attack. Totally untrue obviously. Cabinet member Philip Read succeeded in getting a blogger thrown in a police cell on no other basis than his vivid imagination.

Councillor Melvin Seymour fabricated a story about dog faeces and letter boxes to try to put that same resident behind bars for longer. Cabinet member Peter Craske took expensive revenge on Felix Akele after he misunderstood the council’s requirements on footway crossovers; possibly the most vindictive act by a councillor on any resident in the past five years, and Teresa O’Neill successfully convinced her pals in Bexley police that criticism of councillors is an arrestable offence.

While she continues to be elected their leader there will be consequences for other Conservatives.

At least the report about OFSTED is factual unlike the dog poo and arson stories.

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