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Bonkers Blog October 2017

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23 October (Part 2) - Overview and Scrutiny

SocksAn unreported two week old meeting is getting a bit long in the tooth and time is, as always, in short supply. People Scrutiny is in any case a difficult meeting to follow because the Table Snatcher forces the public to sit in a place not well served by the loudspeaker system where the view is mainly of the backs of heads. The possibility of augmenting the inadequate sounds with a bit of lip reading is eliminated. The alternative to hairy craniums is often hairy legs.

But before we abandon ‘People' and move on to ‘Places’ a couple of things from the notes taken at the time. i.e. not a review of the recording.

For all the undoubted effort put into recruiting foster parents, Bexley Council did not even reach 50% of their target last year. Nine out 20 new foster homes. Unfortunate for some poor kids.

Bexley Council has now bought 150 houses on the open market to house the homeless. That’s 75 up on six months ago.

Usually the most interesting part of a Places Scrutiny meeting is Jane Richardson’s Growth and Regeneration report but this quarter it didn’t amount to much and was easily outclassed by the annual Parking Services Review presented by Mr. Ben Stevens.

StevensIf you have ever wondered what it is like to be a parking enforcement officer (CEO) bringing misery to so many lives you will not be surprised to hear that their boss takes a similar delight in vindictive behaviour. He casually slipped out remarks like “catching motorists out early” and “sending in the bailiffs at four o’clock in the morning”. Such phrases should not be part of a formal Council report but the fact that they were provides a telling insight into the way the brains of power crazed tyrants work. Why four o’clock in the morning?

The parking report covered the period April 2016 to March 2017, the final year of NSL involvement in Bexley.

The monthly average of mobile payments rose from 14,408 in the previous year to 19,307.

There were eleven assaults on CEOs and the police had not been a lot of good. Councillor Gareth Bacon related the case of several witnesses to “a physical assault” with “racial abuse” all recorded on the body worn video which Councillor Bacon felt sure, and most people would agree, result in “a slam dunk conviction in Court” but the police were not seriously interested and the assailant was merely given a caution.

Mr. Stevens said that his department usually responds to enforcement requests such as those I made over a period of three days within 30 minutes and often much less. “The service is growing and becoming more popular.”

Blue badge enforcement and the resultant prosecution of abusers has gone up. Providing more evidence of parking infringements has reduced the number of appeals. Did Mr. Stevens really withhold some of the evidence before that change?

Referring to the London wide ‘ticket table’, Mr. Stevens said “Bexley remains the fifth lowest borough which is where it has been for a number of years in terms of PCNs” which I found to be an odd thing to say.

I still have last year's report so comparisons are easy.

The 2015/16 report clearly shows that only two boroughs, Greenwich and Sutton, issued fewer tickets than Bexley. This year Greenwich and Sutton were joined by Havering and the City of London. So yes Bexley is 5th lowest in 2016/17 but that is up from 3rd position the year before.

What is perhaps of even more interest than the sort of deception which is the norm in Bexley is that the total number of tickets has gone up from 48,447 to 64,048. Up by a third in a year. What better illustrates Bexley council’s aggressive pursuance of money?

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was the only Councillor not taken in by the attempt to confuse the statistics.

Councillor Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) queried the claim that parking enforcement requests are usually met within 30 minutes and not usually longer than an hour. I assumed it was a reference to my situation on 1st September when a report first made on the Friday had to be repeated over three days before action was taken. Councillor Hackett did not get an answer, the average is under 30 minutes, (in another breath 40 minutes) and nothing more was forthcoming. There must be an awful lot of instant responses to balance out a three day delay.

SignCouncillor Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen and Lamorbey) referred to a case involving one of her electors who was confused by a partially handwritten temporary parking sign but Mr. Stevens said “I am not aware that we were using handwritten signs last year, they are certainly printed now.”

One must wonder how this wholly handwitten sign (See Photo) came into existence if the practice was stopped the year before last.

Mr. Stevens said that if a handwritten sign was posted last year “it must have been an isolated incident”. Excuses, excuses, the truth is rather different.

Bexley’s parking machines are still accepting old pound coins and when the decision is taken to update them it will take two to three weeks to get around to them all. It is currently too expensive to adapt parking machines for use with contactless credit cards.

 

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