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Bonkers Blog June 2011

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30 June (Part 3) - What the papers say

News Shopper front pageI think this website has been mentioned directly or indirectly in the News Shopper for something like five times in the last eight issues and the Chronicle has given it a mention in three recent issues. I not only have the editors to thank for that but the idiot councillor or official who provided the publicity boost back in April. There is an ‘audit trail’ that leads from the Bonkers Blog, via NotoMob all the way to the front page of this week’s News Shopper. No wonder someone on the council wanted me arrested.

On a personal level I’m not particularly keen on the limelight especially the label of protestor as that conjures up an image of banner waving troublemakers. Both Bonkers and Notomob play by the rules. No laws will be broken. Olly Cromwell sometimes pushes his luck further than I would be prepared to go but if he was routinely breaking the law I’m sure the council would have found some way to have him by now.

I was surprised to read in the News Shopper that Olly had not laid assault charges against “I can do what I like” Bailey as he told me had had done so, but it transpires that the police subsequently advised him that her assault was not a crime as it took place on council property. Olly, as you may have read in the News Shopper, has been banned from council meetings from next week. Bexley council never seems to learn, they keep fighting against modern communications media and by their ineptitude elevate the issue to ever higher plains. Their frantic desire to batten down the hatches has once again given Olly more publicity. He has attracted another high profile nationally known political figure to his cause today. Pushing the boundaries seems to pay dividends, Olly attracts big name MPs and MEPs and all I get is ex-councillors.

 

30 June (Part 2) - Propaganda alert

Bexley magazineBexley’s quarterly magazine is fortunately not unrelieved propaganda as those of some Labour councils appear to be, nor does it try to put the local press out of business as some councils do but personally I don’t find it as readable as the similar but fortnightly Newham magazine, possibly because that usually contains more local history, often of long standing local businesses or biographies of local people, some of them just elderly but ordinary folk with long memories. But maybe that is just a personal preference.

Bexley’s magazine is by no means a local Pravda, nor does it resort to the blatant lying that may be found on the local Conservative website (Labour councillors say there is no railway station in Bexleyheath. Labour councillor can’t find the centre of Erith); that is nonsense written by juvenile minds that might be just as capable of writing an obscene blog. The Magazine doesn’t usually make inflated claims like council Leader Teresa O’Neill who boasts she has given us one of the the lowest council tax rates in Outer London. More nonsense that has been debunked before. No, the Bexley magazine is far more subtle than that.

I don’t fully understand their reasoning on the financial savings Bexley claims to make each year from one-off cut-backs. The council ran a tram service between Erith and Abbey Wood until 1935 but it made no money and was closed in 1935. Is Bexley council still saving thousands a year because they got rid of the trams? I never took up smoking in the 1950s when many of my friends did. Have I been saving large sums ever since? I used to spend money on hi-fi gear but I’ve not done so for a long time. If I added up all the things I have ‘saved’ money on though a lifetime of changing fads and needs I would be saving more than my income. I doubt proper accounting works like that. Bexley council tells us (Magazine Page 15) they are saving £20,000 per year from wrecking the fountain. How long before that drops off the radar? It can’t be a saving for ever or the tramway would still get a mention. If it can’t be for ever it can’t be arbitrary either; accountancy is not arbitrary. Surely the only true alternative is to accept a one-off cut provides a one-off saving?

They do it again on Page 10. We are going to save £1 million every year by refurbishing the Woolwich building for the next council HQ. It may sound like a saving every year, I can see it may look that way before you think about it, but if it is true we are still saving money from building the present Civic Centre 30 years ago. Will we soon be saving the money on both HQ moves? No of course not, if it worked that way the council tax would be zero by now. I note that the ’savings’ from the enforced crossing of legs right across town have not been mentioned. Bexley magazine may not be Pravda but it does engage in low-level brainwashing.

Another intriguing statistic in the Magazine is the annual road expenditure. £3 million to be spent on frost damage and other repairs to 300 miles of road. (Page 7.) I would have thought Bexley had more road length than that but a few arithmetical assumptions suggests 300 miles could be about right. So that’s £10,000 spent on every mile, the same as last year. Quite likely much the same as the year before that. Where is the money going? Are our streets paved with gold? If we look at councillor Craske’s figures on the cost of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) it is possible to surmise that white-lining costs at least six pounds a foot. If you think that is a silly figure then blame Craske, he had to justify the CPZ charges somehow, but that sort of sum makes more than £30,000 for a mile of paint, so his £10,000 average is going to go nowhere. If you doubt all this the only explanation is that Craske’s figures were made up to suit himself or Bexley council is the most mismanaged money wasting shambles imaginable. Difficult choice I know, but having just seen how they managed TIC I am drawn towards thinking that Craske may be an honest man. No that can’t be right either.

Pravda : “The official organ of the Russian Communist Party until 1991.”
Brainwashing : “Mind abuse / thought control first practiced by North Korean Communists circa 1951.”

 

30 June (Part 1) - Plod’s plodding pace

V for VendettaIt is more than eleven weeks since someone, presumably a councillor with something to hide and without the intelligence to work out that his actions would increase the readership massively, asked Bexleyheath police to get this website closed down under threat of arrest if I continued with it. Since then I have continued to write about Bexley council and the police have done nothing. They have also done absolutely nothing about my complaint that the police were being used by a council bent on clamping down on open democracy and that the police were helping the cowards to remain anonymous. The Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards say they are monitoring the situation which I believe means they have put the file on one side until something happens. I was promised a phone call seven weeks ago and the DPS promised the same again last Monday but nothing happens.

It is more than three weeks since I reported a crime, apparently by someone at Bexley council, to Bexleyheath police and as nothing had been heard after two weeks (23rd June) I wrote to the Deputy Commander as follows…


I made a report on 8th June of some developments that indicated a crime carried out by someone closely associated with Bexley Council and you issued the above crime number. Since then the Chief Executive of the Council (Will Tuckley) has advised me that he also thinks on the evidence provided that a crime has been committed and has told me he has also been in contact with Bexley police, presumably at a senior level.

Part of the evidence indicated that I and a friend had been tracked on a visit to the Civic Offices and that at least two such visits were ‘blogged’ on a website within hours of the event in objectionable terms that were detailed on the 8th June. Mr. Chris Loynes of Bexley Council arranged one of the ‘blogged’ visits so he should be a primary source of information, as should Mr. Tuckley as the content of the website was deleted immediately after I told him about it.

In the past two weeks it should have been possible to conduct investigations given the amount of clues and leads provided. I would be grateful if you would tell me of the progress you have made towards bringing the culprit to justice.


It was my intention to write again today to indicate that I wasn’t prepared to let the issue of the obscene blog drag on as has happened with the Harassment Letter and go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission next week but while I was in Ashford my colleague Elwyn Bryant who was also named in the obscene blog sought a progress report by telephone. Getting hold of the police by telephone is near impossible which is why I long ago stopped reporting petty crimes and Elwyn was on and off the phone for two days listening to ringing tone and being bounced from pillar to post and waiting for call backs that never came. However eventually an Inspector called and helpfully offered to look at the file in order to give Elwyn a little feedback. He found the file was marked ‘Restricted’ and access forbidden so no real information was forthcoming. At least there is one Inspector who did what he could.

Marking a file ‘Restricted’ may indicate the crime is being taken seriously - or is it part of a cover-up to protect a guilty party within Bexley council? The inaction over the Harassment Letter and the refusal to name the accuser does not augur well, but maybe the new Commander will come to recognise that not all is well at Bexley council. His officers have been asked to speak to Martin Peaple who the council now admit broke no law, they were called out to protect councillors from a handful of pensioners, they have been asked to prevent motorcyclists entering the Civic Centre because one wanted to wear a V for Vendetta mask and they were told of an incident involving councillor Linda Bailey. Almost every week he reads about Bexley council acting stupidly in the News Shopper, he must wonder what on earth is going on in this rotten borough.

This morning I received a letter from the police…


Your allegation is being investigated by officers from Bexleyheath police station. As I am sure you can appreciate the nature of the allegation requires the use of a data specialist. This unfortunately is a thorough process and can take some time to achieve th ebest evidence.

Although you have not been updated as to the progress of the investigation you can be assured that when there are matters to be disclosed, you will be contacted.


Yes I can appreciate that the case requires a data specialist so I suppose patience is called for - but not for ever and not if it turns out to be a white-wash.

 

29 June - The Audit Committee

I was attracted to the Audit Committee meeting because the agenda included an item on Bexley council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which some councils use to excuse covert surveillance of residents in an unreasonable way. Given Bexley council’s unlawful use of the police to threaten residents and the near certain use of obscene blogs in an attempt to discredit me and some other residents the misuse of RIPA cannot be entirely ruled out. The meeting was chaired by councillor Steven Hall who began by welcoming members of the public. At the outset only three were present (plus one child) and the number subsequently grew to five but I do not recall a committee chairman acknowledging the public before except to warn them of the consequences of ‘bad behaviour’. Could we have the first councillor who respects the public?

The District Auditor was present who said that in the two previous years the council was guilty of overstating assets and liabilities in their draft financial statements. The auditor is going to specially check this area in this year’s accounts which are due in tomorrow. The auditor will charge £289,900 which will be rebated by £29,545 due to two separate ‘government’ grants.

The RIPA discussion did not in the event prove to be particularly interesting. Bexley council claimed to have used its powers twice in the last year, once against shopkeepers who persist in selling alcohol and tobacco to minors and once against fly tippers. Hopefully the sort of people against whom councillor Tarrant’s conducts his vendettas will not be spied on. The government has proposed that only crimes that would attract a prison sentence should be pursued via RIPA but Bexley and other local authorities are campaigning that this safeguard is abandoned thus ensuring that those whose dustbins are vandalised and have the contents distributed along the street can continue to be persecuted.

I only just made it to the Audit Committee meeting as I was in Ashford again all day. Ms. B. proved to the Ashford Employment Tribunal that she had been unfairly dismissed by Bexley council and that she had good reason to blow the whistle on criminal activity at the Thames Innovation Centre but the Tribunal refused to award her compensation on a legal technicality. The Court very specifically said that Bexley council’s procedures were unfair. As a one time manager of an outfit several hundreds of times bigger than the Thames Innovation Centre in terms of staff numbers, I was amazed at how everything done there was a management disaster. I noted absolutely nothing of which a half decent manager or director shouldn’t be thoroughly ashamed. Given the necessity to report the details accurately I anticipate it will be Friday before anything more about it appears here and that will have the advantage of putting it in July’s blog rather than publishing tomorrow and having it effectively lost at the end of the day.

 

28 June - The case continues…

The weather in Ashford where the Industrial Tribunal hearing got underway would seem to have been rather better than at home, it missed the rain. The hearing is scheduled to finish tomorrow and I’m sure it will. Bexley council has two of its legal staff there and three witnesses. The TIC manager who one might have expected to be the principal witness was missing - detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure after pleading guilty to paedophilia charges. I sat at the back trying to follow proceedings and occasionally felt like a powerless boat in a storm; at one moment flung towards the rocks and then towards safety. It’s probably wise to reserve further comment until another day but I did spot one claim by Bexley council which I know to be untrue (by accident or design) so I have printed out the documentation in the hope that B’s representative will be able to make use of it tomorrow.

If I am as late home tomorrow as I was today and attend the evening’s Civic Centre meeting too it may well be Thursday before you see anything new here.

 

27 June (Part 3) - Bexley council - they’ve been lying again

It would appear that Olly Cromwell has shown that Bexley council was lying when it decided to go against government guidance on recording council meetings and said the decision was solely to protect members of the public. All the ‘public’ at last Wednesday’s meeting were known to Olly. He knows that every single one of them is happy to appear in his video. For proving that Bexley council has lied again he has been banned from all future council meetings - subject to review in six months time.

The official reason is that he created a disturbance. That is a gross exaggeration. I was totally unaware of anything out of the ordinary going on until councillor Linda Bailey decided to start a wrestling match. Olly says that he and several others witnessed councillor Ball saying the real reason for banning filming is because councillors don’t want to be filmed. Since he was one of the members of the committee that had filming banned and questions restricted, make of that what you will.

 

27 June (Part 2) - Thames Innovation Centre (TIC)

Thames Innovation CentreTomorrow will be the first day of the claim for unfair dismissal at Ashford Employment Tribunal brought by the whistleblower at Bexley council’s Thames Innovation Centre. The whistleblower is still reluctant to have her name mentioned here because she wishes to distance herself as much as possible from what has been going on down there, she is apprehensive of reprisals. I shall call her B.

B worked at the Civic Centre as a temp but when the receptionist at TIC walked from her desk one morning and never came back, B was drafted in to fill the vacancy. Within a few months she had done so well that she was offered a permanent position on Bexley’s staff roll. She became aware of a love triangle among the staff there which she might well have accepted except that she was concerned that one of those involved was misdirecting post in favour of one of the others and that it was known that huge sums of money were going astray. B was worried that the events were linked and reported her concerns to her line manager but within days he was arrested by the police amid allegations of child pornography being found on his office computer.

One would have thought that the line manager might be suspended pending the police investigation but Bexley council decided to keep him on full time despite there being a mother and baby unit within TIC to which mothers inevitably bring their older children too. Bexley council still refused to suspend the alleged paedophile even after the police charged him. In fact he pleaded guilty to the charges but Bexley council never did see fit to sack him. He eventually resigned. Meanwhile B voiced her disquiet about the situation , her career took a dive and she was eventually sacked.

The stated reason for B’s sacking is not of course the fact that she was unhappy that Bexley council employed a paedophile in a building frequented by babies and young children, nor that she was concerned that letters and possibly money was being siphoned out of the system but that she was slow to provide personal ID as required by employment law and that she had not kept a rack of brochures and similar papers well stocked. What will happen tomorrow is unknown but I did notice that although B supplied the ID documentation later than at first asked she did supply it well within the extended time scale she requested and was granted. Given that she was officially excused the delay (for which there was a reasonable explanation) I can’t see how it becomes a sackable offence. The responsibility for the brochure rack is not mentioned in any job description so that is a bit of a grey area. Bexley council claims that it gave permission for post to be siphoned off through unusual channels so B was making a fuss over nothing. If that is true one must wonder why no one told B.

Having examined the papers I conclude that B may well have been unfairly dismissed. That’s not me of course, I would never attempt to prejudge a legal case especially one where one side can afford an expensive barrister and the other can afford nothing. Those words were extracted from Bexley’s own papers, once stated by one of B’s managers and again by those who dismissed B’s appeal.

 

27 June (Part 1) - Bexley police are still protecting Bexley council

It’s more than two months since I complained to The Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards about Detective Inspector Keith Marshall of Bexleyheath police threatening me with arrest if I continued to “harass” Bexley council by publishing news about them they don’t like in a way they don’t like. I was given a reference number a couple of weeks later and told by the DPS that “we take serious account of any complaint from a member of the public”. When nothing had happened by 14th June I sent an email enquiring what was going on and was rewarded with total silence; so this morning I telephoned to ask what the current situation is. The answer is that The Directorate of Professional Standards is “monitoring” my complaint. They did not express any surprise at all that there has been absolutely nothing to monitor. It looks like the next port of call will have to be The Independent Police Complaints Commission.

It can’t be long before my unanswered Subject Access Request to Bexley council goes to the Information Commissioner’s Office, I suspect that an honest answer to that would reveal who made the harassment complaint and who wrote the obscene blog. It can’t be coincidence that the two FOIs about this blog are still unanswered six weeks after the lawful answering date too.

 

26 June - “I can do what I like” - Click the YouTube button to see the video full-size

I have wasted too much of the day trying to find out why the inclusion of the ‘flipping pages’ on 23rd June was stopping this page being displayed with larger or justified text and now that that fault is fixed I am not going to spend much time on a blog. I bring you instead Olly Cromwell’s video from last Wednesday’s Public Realm meeting. I should perhaps point out that I and my immediate colleagues play by the rules at council meetings and don’t go beyond investigating and reporting on what we believe to be a thoroughly disreputable council but we fully recognise that for some it is too leisurely an approach. Sometimes the alternative approach is more revealing as with this video in which councillor Linda Bailey (Danson Park, £22,615) tells the world that she “can do what I like”. Those few words neatly sum up Bexley council’s entire attitude to practically everything.

Press the central Play button to start the video. I believe the audio is deliberately masked until after the police have finished with the tape.

 

25 June - No to Mobiles - Click the image to read Craske’s announcement in full. Only mobile phone users may park in streets of Bexleyheath and Welling

Davis of BelvedereDuring last Wednesday’s Public Realm meeting, councillor Craske mentioned in passing his plan to inflict a telephone based charging system for parking in Bexley. He first mentioned it in the Strategy 2014 document and claimed such a system would save £30,000 a year. If is not an additional service but a ‘cheap’ replacement for parking meters intended to complicate payment for parking and involve the public in additional hidden costs.

The lady who reported the installation and subsequent removal of new parking signs in Townley Road has sent an update on the situation there. Notices have been put up to the effect that payment will shortly switch to credit card and mobile phone. What happens if you don’t have a mobile phone asks my lady informant, adding that she doesn’t have one? Another lady, this time from Orpington, tells me that when the system was introduced there it was not a success and had to be augmented with more traditional payment systems. The problem with Craske’s idea, even if you have a mobile phone and credit card and would trust Craske with the number, is that it only needs someone to transpose a number and you will get a fine. No wonder Craske is in favour.

The lady is not alone in not having a mobile telephone, neither have I but I doubt the new charging system will affect me as it must be at least ten years ago that I decided to avoid shopping anywhere in Bexley because of its unfriendly attitude to motorists. This won’t make me popular among Bexley’s business community but I estimate that no more than £150 of my money has gone their way this year. In part that is because I live near the boundary with Greenwich and the nearest shop I need is in Greenwich as is the nearest Post Office, railway station and supermarket. It is so much easier to spend money elsewhere. Craske will end up killing this town with his desire to screw motorists at every opportunity. I did make an exception two years ago and renewed all my kitchen appliances from Davis by Belvedere station. Can’t stand the big warehouses and the net would be too much hassle if there should be a problem.

 

24 June (Part 3) - The Old Bailey next?

Councillor Linda BaileyYesterday’s meeting wasn’t as event free as the blog below may suggest, far from it in fact. Notomob’s presence was a protest against the money driven war against motorists which is not legal. There really is no excuse for councillor Craske to have announced last year that he plans to “commence enforcement of moving traffic contraventions using Mobile In-car Camera Enforcement and fixed CCTV. Also use fixed CCTV for no stopping parking contraventions” because it will provide good “value for money” from the investment in CCTV. Craske wants to get you by every means possible even though his motivation is illegal. The law says the object of enforcement is to drive down offences to the point that no penalties are issued where possible. I am amazed that someone as slippery as Craske let that fact get into the Strategy 2014 (The Financial Cuts) document. On the other hand he would have written it before Bexley council came under daily scrutiny.

Although Notomob’s intention to attend the Public Realm meeting had been known to some for a long time, no advance publicity was given in case it tempted Bexley council to waste £1,320 on bouncers again as they did last March. Taking the Notomob photos took us perilously close to the meeting start time and my closest colleagues and I took our place in the council chamber. What we didn’t know at the time was that the Notomob’s entry behind us prompted someone to dial 999. Fortunately the police remembered their job was to uphold the law and not to jump at the end of Bexley council‘s string and Notomob’s members filed into the chamber.

About half way through the meeting, the Chairman halted proceedings saying "there is a disturbance outside". From what I could see and have been told today someone was filming councillor Bailey from the lobby area beyond the chamber through the partially opened door. Councillor Bailey objected to being filmed, giving the lie to the council’s official excuse that they ban filming and photography to protect members of the public. Everyone in the public gallery was in some way connected to Notomob who have previously made their agreement to being filmed very clear.

Councillor Bailey was not content with mere objection, she decided to take the law into her own hands by trying to restrain the cameraman and when asked to desist responded with the words “I can do what I like”. I confess to not clearly hearing that for myself but as Bailey made the basic mistake of not checking if the camera was still running when making her assault on the owner you can be pretty sure that the actual words will soon make their way on to the net.

The councillor later made it plain that she did not want the cameraman to remain on council premises and summoned the doorman, a pleasant individual who probably has more sense than Linda Bailey. He deemed it unwise to lay hands on a member of the public and possibly because the police were not exactly helpful to the council earlier in the evening, they do not appear to have been called in. With the film maker safely back in the chamber the meeting continued on its course, chairman Cheryl Bacon apparently unfazed by it all.

A claim of assault by councillor Linda Bailey was placed before Bexley police today with the camera tape as supporting evidence.

 

24 June (Part 2) - Public Realm and Scrutiny Committee - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

The Notomob - We are watching youThe first of the new Public Realm Committee meetings was held yesterday and chaired by councillor Cheryl Bacon with cabinet member Peter Craske in attendance. I didn’t do any counting but I was told there were slightly more observers present than councillors. Certainly the numbers must have been close and that is thanks to Notomob who had come to hear about our roads and CCTV system. Martin Peaple who was the subject of police action for asking his customers not to park outside the shop where he works was also present. Bexley council has subsequently admitted that Martin broke no laws (admission obtained via FOI) but they have yet to get around to issuing him with an apology.

A lot of the meeting was taken up by senior council officers explaining their roles to the new Committee which probably restricted the Chairman’s opportunity to show her true worth. Overall things seemed slightly shambolic to me but there was probably no other way, we were well away from a Val Clark style shambles. There were few questions from councillors, Colin Tandy asked when Bexley (I assume he meant the village area) would be covered by CCTV - by the end of this year apparently - but the real star of the show was councillor Munir Malik. I think I can see why he is on some disciplinary charge at the moment because he asks pertinent and sometimes difficult question. That’s going to label him a rebel straight away.

His first question concerned a road right on the edge of the borough, County Gate, which suffers appalling traffic problems caused by lorries trying to get to the A20. Councillor Malik had hoped to have a resident describe the situation but Munir may be alone in supporting democracy as his idea had been stamped on by the Chairman; instead some photographs were circulated. They were bordering on the horrifying and something needs to be done urgently.

Councillor Craske agreed and explained how he had gone as far as getting contractors in to implement a solution soon after the council went Tory in 2006 but on the day before work was due to commence Greenwich council took action under “the GLA Act” which allows neighbouring councils to exercise some control over borough boundary issues. His plan had been blocked for five years and he said this was because a Greenwich councillor lived in the next road along from County Gate and the Greenwich councillor was concerned lorries might be displaced into his road. Councillor Craske said that this was “disgraceful” and one can only agree with him. Something like that would never happen in Bexley. No councillor would try it on with a planning application for example.

Another of councillor Malik’s questions was about the council’s persecution of motorists who stop for just a few seconds in a restricted area and referred to a letter which appeared in last week’s News Shopper from someone who had successfully had his penalty notice overturned by the adjudicator who described the offences as “trifling”. Mike Frizoni, the council officer and deputy director in charge of parking was dismissive of the question adding that the case featured in the News Shopper was being appealed by the council. I seem to have scribbled the word “bastard” in the margin of my notebook but I’m no longer sure who I was thinking of at the time.

A friend of a friend is the Chief Adjudicator of the England and Wales Traffic Penalty Tribunal and from that source comes the information that stopping, getting out to read the restriction sign, and driving off after realising that the time of day prevents stopping is not an offence. It seems that the London Adjudicator agrees. A pity that Bexley council thinks it is above the law.

Councillor Malik’s final question was to ask which other local authority was supposedly interested in using Bexley’s CCTV control facility and so help pay for it as the council hopes. Mr. Frizoni refused to answer his question. Councillor Malik represents Thamesmead East so I didn’t understand why he is so concerned about County Gate which is in Longlands ward, but Thamesmead voters seem to be in good hands, at least until the one-sided Standards Committee finds a reason to shackle him.

The only other thing of interest to come from the meeting, thanks to a question from councillor John Waters, is that the stupidly placed width restrictor on The Green, Sidcup, and the adjacent fire gate, will be removed or otherwise attended to in 2013. Personally I find the silly width restrictor to be quite good fun. Swing to the left to approach it head on, place offside wheel close to the post and go straight through without slowing at all.

 

24 June (Part 1) - Now we are famous

As the Bonkers team emerged from the Civic Centre last night and headed off towards Sainsbury’s car park - we are not going to pay the council’s inflated fees - a man standing on the corner of Highland Road asked if we were councillors. “No” we said and walked on. "Then are you the Bonkers crew?” he asked, which caused us to pause and listen to what he had to say. “I read Bonkers every day, if it really is you can you get them to fix this railing? It’s only been here two weeks and its falling over already. Not concreted in properly.” So we said we would mention it, hence these few words, and also to prove to the man on the corner of Highland Road that we were not fibbing, it really was us. Now that he knows we weren’t fibbing he can also be even more sure we aren’t councillors.

NB. I had fallen behind other members of the team and so these words are second hand and may not be word perfect.

 

23 June - Throw the book at them; the committee is bound to cover it up

Bexley council would claim that they have an independent standards committee to keep rogue councillors in check but their committee does not conform to government recommendations and instead takes advantage of every legal escape clause to pay mere lip-service to the requirements. The opposition party is under-represented and the chairman is not truly independent. He is selected and approved by councillors and his income depends on him retaining their approval. If he fails to do that the £2,133 awarded for attending a few meetings would be in jeopardy. At the last meeting of the Standards Committee, the decision to exclude the public was challenged. The so-called independent Chairman looked to the council for guidance.

Over the last two years, 24 complaints have been brought against councillors. One councillor was subjected to ‘sanctions’ and another case is currently in progress. Of the remainder two councillors were given “words of advice”. So what of the remaining 20? Complaints that is, not councillors, because the arithmetic is complicated by multiple offenders. They were all found to be entirely innocent of all wrong-doing.

The top complaint scorers were councillors Peter Craske and Val Clark with seven complaints each. Ian Clement the former council leader had two. All the others, Cheryl Bacon, Peter Catterall, John Davey, Alan Downing, Geraldine Lucia-Hennis, Munir Malik, Mike Slaughter and Harbans Singh Buttar scored one each in the last two years; the latter councillor did not seek re-election in 2010.

Appeals against the lack of sanctions resulted in the Review Committee meeting four times in the last two years. No appeals were upheld, it’s easy money for the chairman, nearly all meetings consist of two Conservative councillors judging one of their own. A casting vote is never likely to be needed.

 

22 June - Planning for office - but it all came to nought

Wyncham HouseEver since I attended a planning committee meeting nearly two months ago I felt that planning was deserving of a closer look, but where to start? There are so many applications and most will be deadly dull but one involving councillor Davey eventually caught my eye so I called in at Wyncham House to see if I could look at the file. The staff there could not have been more helpful.

The case involved an empty shop in Nuxley Road, Belvedere which Bexley Conservatives wanted to turn into an office and HQ for the May 2010 election. Councillor Davey put his name to the planning application in late January 2010 (date stamped 21st) requesting permission for the temporary change of use. Isn’t that rather late in the day to get through the lengthy planning procedures and install phones, broadband etc? The plan involved repainting the place too

The council officers did their job and as a result 40 people put their signatures to a petition objecting to Davey’s plan and half a dozen wrote long letters expressing disquiet at Bexley Tories trying to get planning permission for a change of use very similar to several which had been turned down. Suitable examples were given including action by enforcement officers to ensure compliance where applicants had previously strayed. All this was rather odd because councillor Davey had claimed to have already consulted his would-be neighbours. They must have changed their minds

It was notable that all the objectors were asking why planning permission was being requested after the changes had been implemented and everyone claimed to have seen the evidence. Election literature being ferried in etc. If that had been proved it would be a clear breach of planning regulations but there was no evidence that any council officer followed things up with the landlord or those objectors; too hot a potato I suppose.

The Belvedere Community Forum took a lead role in objecting to the apparent ‘one rule for them, another for us’ and produced more evidence that the premises were indeed already in use as the Tories’ office when their planning application said something different. Messages from the Erith & Thamesmead parliamentary candidate Colin Bloom spoke of meeting there. Who was telling the truth; the Community Forum and the various letter writers or councillor Davey? I have no idea.

Within the papers was a letter dated 1st December 2009 from councillor Davey to the landlord seeking his permission to change usage from shop to political office. That would be rather better timing than late January for a May election but in other respects I found it rather odd. It was in pristine condition and didn’t look as though it had been sent anywhere. It appeared to have been tacked on to the planning application after its initial submission. Without a reply from the landlord I fail to see how it helped the planning application. It merely served to reinforce the various claims by witnesses to have seen the shop in use as an office long before the application was submitted.

If this was an attempt at a retrospective application in the expectation that a councillor would be able to get permission for a change of use which would ordinarily be rejected, then it failed. The wheels of officialdom moved too slowly and eventually councillor Davey realised that he had run out of time and exactly six weeks before the election he accepted he was never going to get an office ready in time and abandoned the idea.

I think I shall look at some more planning applications to see what else might not quite stack up.

 

21 June - Armed Forces Day - The big guns went AWOL

Paratroop Regiment InspectionYesterday morning Bexley council staged its small celebration of Armed Forces Day outside the Civic Centre. A couple of the Bonkers team went to show support dressed in veterans’ military attire; blazers, badges, regimental ties; that sort of thing. I couldn’t attend myself because I was at that very moment in a hospital operating theatre (†) and I don’t think my uniform would fit me any more. (Photo left, no prizes for guessing which is me.)

Council leader Teresa O’Neill and Chief Executive William J. Tuckley were there to make sure their faces appeared in any news coverage that might follow. I’m told they were looking remarkably glum, one can only guess why; it wasn’t a Remembrance Day Parade. New mayor Ray Sams was also present.

After the outdoor events the veterans and others retired inside the Civic Centre for a natter and a cup of tea; nothing elaborate, just tea and a biscuit. Mayor Sams went around socialising as you might expect but of O’Neill and Tuckley there was no sign at all. It was all very reminiscent of their failure to show at the meet the people stunts last year. Meeting the public is dangerous, someone might ask a question.

† Nothing serious, they won’t silence Bonkers that easily!

 

19 June - Bexley council - Not happy unless they are wrecking something - click image for photo gallery (5 images)

Blackfen RoadBlackfen RoadBlackfen RoadIf a report comes in of poor road design and total failure to consider its consequences you can be pretty sure that you will see the name Vinny Rey at the foot of any correspondence. It was his name that I saw on the Ruxley Roundabout correspondence and I saw it again when looking at another case of inconsiderate idiocy at the western end of Blackfen Road.

Back in February some residents there were advised that another traffic island was to be installed in their road. Following objections from those affected Mr. Rey visited and assured everyone it would be just a little island with a keep-left sign on it.

When the contractors turned up to do the work it didn’t look like a little island and it wasn’t in the middle of the road either. The men doing the work queried the fact it was two-thirds the way across the road (Photo 1) and barely passable by a bus. But the council insisted they were right. Now that it is installed it is impossible for affected residents to back their cars into their front gardens. If they pull up ready to reverse the island, being too close to the pavement, (Photo 2) prevents them putting their wheel on full lock; so they have to drive in forwards. Reversing out is not only contrary to recommendations to be found in the Highway Code but the road is on a bend (Photo 3) and visibility when reversing is dangerously poor.

Bexley council is no longer listening to complaints but earlier correspondence reveals that the island was installed with the aim of reducing traffic speed by 2 m.p.h. In practice the islands have made parking on the road nearby (by the hedge in Photo 1) too risky so the unimpeded traffic is able to go faster. Bexley council has given a reason for offsetting the island from the middle of the road; it is to protect cyclists. Apparently cyclists ride from West to East but they don’t come back again so provision for keeping them safe is only necessary on one side of the road.

When the A2 is closed because of an accident, by no means an uncommon occurrence, Blackfen Road jams up even more than usual because local traffic cannot take advantage of the turn right or left slip lanes until the very last moment. If an island was necessary, and Bexley council haven’t been able to provide any justification for it, why wasn’t a regular sized one put in the middle of the road a little further along where it wouldn’t have to block someone’s drive? I suppose it is the same mind set that builds bus stops across private access roads.

Other commitments will make a blog for 20th June unlikely.

 

18 June - Gorging themselves at your expense - click image for photo gallery (2 images)

William Morris fountain - wrecked by Bexley councilYesterday’s Daily Express carried the headline “Councils owe you a 450 pound rebate”. Further down the page it said, “Town halls are failing to shop around to get the best price for basic goods and services”. The headline is based on a report by the research company Opera Solutions and you can read their report by clicking here. The weakness of it is that it based on only three councils and confined itself to provision of mobile phone, energy and legal services. But waste and profligacy is what councils are famed for as perusal of Bexley’s ‘Expenditure over £500 list’ or a stroll down any but the most minor of roads in the borough will remind you. Few new road layouts are not a disaster. No one seems capable of designing a roundabout and why can’t they leave well alone anyway? Ah, I remember, it’s to keep themselves in lucrative employment.

An example of excessive and unnecessary expenditure came to light when the new mayor was enthroned on 18th May. What would you do if you had just been appointed to a new job? Have a quiet celebration with your family? Buy your friends a beer? Possibly. But I suggest you would not expect your employer to throw a party on your behalf. But that is what Bexley council did for the new mayor. While the formalities were proceeding in the council chamber, family and friends were able to celebrate the event in a back room. The cost of sandwiches, tea and cakes was £1,350 taken straight out of public funds. (The alcohol was not free.) At least the money went to a local company, Broadway Catering and not to some luxury hotel on the south coast.

On the Conservative Home website, Bexley council leader Teresa O’Neill has returned to her theme of Bexley council being so much better than Labour councils. Having no public toilets is good apparently and we are keeping all our libraries open. You’d think nothing was changing. No mention of the Bexley Times and News Shopper reports of every Bexley library employee being made redundant and only half being re-employed nor of the mobile service being considered for the chop. She also claims that £10,000 has been saved by vandalising the William Morris fountain and filling it with dirt. Councillors pluck these numbers from the air. Councillor Craske is on record as saying the closure will save £20,000 and the Expenditure over £500 list shows that more than £200 has been spent on the ‘fountain’ already this year.

I don’t take issue with sensible expenditure cuts across the board and libraries cannot be exempt but when will councillors bear some of the pain themselves? If we are so hard up that it is vital to save one hundredth of the cost of councillors’ allowances by wrecking the fountain how can we possibly justify spending £1,350 on a party for the mayor’s friends and family? £1,350! that’s one hell of a lot of sandwiches, what was in them? Caviar?

I have had several reports of Bexley’s expenditure on cake. Can it really be true that employees are given a free doughnut on their birthdays?

 

17 June - Crime and Disorder

Right wing fruit cakeAs there may be a criminal among Bexley’s councillors it seemed appropriate to observe their Crime and Disorder Committee at work last night. A surprisingly high proportion of the councillors I regard with the most suspicion are on that Committee. Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police and Chief Inspector Mark Stockford, the Safer Neighbourhoods Manager, were also present and the Committee was chaired in a relaxed but effective manner by councillor Alan Downing.

Among the facts that came to light were that the council’s 250 CCTV cameras had resulted in 500 arrests last year and that about 2,500 reports of anti-social behaviour had resulted in 13 Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). Doesn’t seem very many to me and in fact the overall tenor of the meeting was that crime is low in Bexley. Commander Stringer said that unlike other London boroughs there was little or no “spike” in crime rates at school closing time and things were pretty good in the evenings when alcohol related crime might be expected to produce another statistical spike. There was an air of self-congratulatory praise about Bexley being a low crime borough with suggestions it was due to initiatives such as under-age test purchase for booze and knives etc. Had no one thought that Bexley residents may be a law-abiding lot who know how to behave themselves without much encouragement and shouldn’t be directly compared with Lambeth or Hackney or Newham?

£10,000 a year was said to be allocated to the test purchase programme. I’d like to know who drinks all that illicitly purchased alcohol.

Councillor James Hunt (East Wickham) made a plea to Commander Stringer that ‘on the spot fines’ be issued to parents delivering children to schools if they failed to immediately follow any request by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO); I think his concern was parking. The Commander evidently thought that fining people left right and centre might be Bexley council’s preferred option but it may not be the best way, for he deftly side-stepped the question. Councillor Tarrant (East Wickham) amply demonstrated his small mind by asking that CCTV cameras should track fly posters - I thought he was going to say fly tippers but it was definitely Bill Posters he was after. So if you are intent on finding your lost cat, watch out. On the other hand if you are a knife carrying thug…

Councillor Sawyer (Northumberland Heath) showed himself to be above such trivia and was concerned that there were always likely to be ‘Youth Offenders’ who refused to respond to or cooperate with the plethora of help programmes available to them. What was being done to tackle them? Councillor Sawyer seemed to be slightly apologetic about his question, hoping he wouldn’t be labelled “a right-wing fruit cake” for asking it. I’m not sure he got a straight answer to his question but I imagine that any Bexley resident who suffers from yobbery will be reassured there is a right-wing fruit cake on hand who might be prepared get beyond the platitudes when the going gets tough.

Future crime prevention plans are said to be based on Bexley’s latest crime survey which was conducted on surveymonkey.com. If you’ve never heard of it you are not alone because only 367 people responded and who’s to say they were Bexley residents? Councillor Ball (Erith) was rightly worried that pressure groups could distort such a limited survey but Councillor Windle (Barnehurst) pointed out that it didn’t really matter. He was sufficiently astute to notice that the survey asked whether Violent Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour, Vehicle Crime, Criminal Damage or Residential Burglary should be the top priorities and the published conclusion was that Violent Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour and Property Crime should be the top priorities for attention - which covers everything anyway. What was the point of the survey?

As always when I leave one of these council meetings I ask myself what would be the effect on the borough if the meeting hadn’t taken place and as is too often the case the answer is “probably nothing”. Councillors quite obviously contact Sergeants in charge of Ward PCSO teams as and when required and the Committee Meeting appears to add little or nothing to that.

 

16 June - Bexley council is listening - to Bonkers!

It didn’t take long for someone at Bexley council to read here that their website advertised parking times had been wrong for more than a week and amend it. Not very clearly, they just removed all reference to the times. Why don’t they clearly state that their greed is now 24/7?

Parking regulations
I received an unsigned letter from the police this morning. “We are sorry to learn you have been the victim of an alleged crime. [etc.] Some parts of any investigation are protracted and are often not always achievable in days or sometimes weeks.” I appreciate it’s a standard letter churned out by the ‘Crime Management Unit’ but asking Mr. Tuckley, the council leader and Chris Loynes, Head of Democratic Services “who dunnit” shouldn’t take long - unless of course the police and council are together hatching up some ingenious excuse.

 

15 June (Part 2) - Seems I was a bit hasty…

I received a letter from Mr. Tuckley this afternoon; why he chose to use Royal Mail, UKMail to be pedantic, rather than drop me a brief email I do not know but he has confirmed that he regards recent events as being a police matter. I suspect I shall be slaughtered by some of my close colleagues for saying this, but I am happy with his response for the time being. He was not exactly quick on the draw but he got there in the end and his situation is not one I envy. Some will say I am being naive and his response will be part of a stitch up with the police but we will have to cross that bridge when we get to it.

Meanwhile The Linda Piper Show The News Shopper covers developments on Page 7 of today’ issue. Not strong on detail but then an obscene blog is not something that could be adequately described in a ‘family’ newspaper.

 

15 June (Part 1) - Don’t let the buggers get you down Mr. Brokenshire

I picked up from Arthur Pewty’s Erith based blog the fact that the Neighbourhood Watch’s AGM had to finish in a hurry because of Bexley’s newly imposed all hours car parking charges. What I didn’t know until one of the attendees told me is that their principal speaker, Mr. Brokenshire MP for Bexley and government minister, didn’t get out of the meeting quite quickly enough and found his Merc freshly ticketed by Craske’s mean crew. I can only imagine how poor James felt; councillors park for free but not MPs. May I suggest to Mr. Brokenshire that he tells Tippett that he checked Bexley council’s website for the parking regulations and assumed that Craske would be telling the truth. He won’t make that mistake again. The following was extracted from www.bexley.gov.uk today.

Parking regulations

From information kindly provided by ‘Arthur’ and Andrew.

 

14 June - It’s one rule for them and…

Olly Cromwell who had a Harassment Warning at the same time as me had the situation spelled out for him by Bexleyheath police in some detail at the weekend. Anyone is at liberty to have the police issue a warning so they say. I guess it would help if you are from a council that has entertained police top brass at taxpayers’ expense but in principle anyone can do it. Bexley council appears to have taken advantage of some sort of licence to blacken people’s names on any pretext whatever without any possibility of any come-back. Whether it’s bloggers in their sights or citizens bearing placards no evidence of wrong doing is required. The police indicated they will always protect the identity of the accusers. I’m not sure I believe that is the law but it is how it is operated in Bexleyheath.

I can say the police will act on no evidence because Olly was accused of doing things that he had definitely not done, even the most cursory examination of the evidence would have shown that, yet DI Keith Marshall went ahead and threatened him with arrest on the say-so of an ill-informed councillor or another of Bexley council’s cretins. The police claim that anyone can wander up to their reception desk, say someone is harassing them and they will issue Form 9993. The case is then immediately closed and they can tick off a crime satisfactorily solved. The victim has no power to challenge it. Do you believe that? Maybe someone unfairly ticketed for stopping their car for six seconds or unfairly accused of a dust bin offence could test the procedure; see if it works for anyone and not just for councillors.

It’s a full month since The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards told me that they were taking my complaint about Bexleyheath police’s procedures seriously; I seriously doubt that but I sent off a follow up enquiry this morning.


You wrote to me exactly a month ago saying you "take serious account of any complaint" and said "an officer from the borough (Bexleyheath) would contact you (ie. me) shortly". Nothing whatsoever has happened since.

It would appear that anyone can walk into Bexleyheath police station and on hearsay evidence have me threatened with arrest and then walk away and retain full anonymity. This is in marked contrast to my reception at Bexleyheath police station when I reported a crime by, possibly, the same anonymous person or his associates, and was told there might be too many suspects to warrant an investigation. My evidence was eventually accepted as indicating criminal activity but in the week since then I am not aware that any action has been taken.

It would appear that if someone from Bexley council brings false allegations against me Bexleyheath police immediately springs into action, but when I show clear evidence of criminal behaviour associated with Bexley council the police are reluctant to take any action.

Probably I shall soon have to elevate my complaint to the IPPC.


While I was in a letter writing mood I composed an email to Bexley council’s overpaid Chief Executive Officer. I can’t understand why someone taking home £800 of public money every day can’t be bothered to answer a letter pointing out that he appears to be harbouring a criminal. I have deliberately kept this blog back past office hours to give Tuckley every opportunity to reply but he still chooses not to.


I expect you will have received on Monday of last week a letter from me expressing concerns about a weblog that appeared to have its origins within Bexley council. I find it surprising that you have not seen fit to reply and not just because it further degrades the council’s statistics on enquiry response times.

The letter indicated criminal activity within Bexley council and I am pleased that you appear to have dealt with the immediate problem by having the weblog removed but surely it warranted some response beyond that? I doubt anyone would suspect you of personal involvement in the criminal activity so I fail to understand why you seem to be content to imply by the lack of response, sympathy for the perpetrator and his message.

What did you do about my letter beyond having the weblog taken down?


I would like to put forward my theory as to why Tuckley cannot move. An honest man would be co-operating with the police and the victim. A man on £200k. plus per annum dependent for that income on people who may be harbouring a criminal in their midst, or may even be one, will probably not feel able to do the decent thing. A boss with political ambitions to pursue and a criminal stench in danger of wafting in the direction of Boris Johnson will be looking for protection from her CEO. Boris has had his fingers burned by a criminal from Bexley council once already.

 

13 June (Part 2) - The art of question dodging

Bursted Woods carvingDishonesty, shameful behaviour and being unwilling to answer questions are all activities that go hand in hand with each other and Bexley council has developed question dodging to an art form. Changing the Constitution was part of the grand plan and in practice questions to the council can now only be ones of policy. However such questions do have one notable advantage over Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, you can ask a cabinet member how something was justified, FOIs aren’t a lot of good for that. With that in mind a question was submitted to councillor Philip Read’s wife, for it is she whose job it is to log the questions and respond, on 5th May at 16:01. The question was about the wood carvings in Bursted Woods which cost £31,710 and councillor and cabinet member for the environment Gareth Bacon was to be asked what exactly that amount of money purchased and “why this was deemed appropriate expenditure by the council in the current economic climate". It doesn’t seem unreasonable at a time when the loss of all Bexley’s toilets was the piss poor idea of the very same Gareth Bacon.

Mrs. Read acknowledged the question within half an hour adding a reminder that no questions could be accepted until the council meeting due on 13th July. OK, we can wait but it would be nice to know why councillor Gareth Bacon thinks that wooden posts in the woods are more useful than public toilets; for dogs maybe…

On 10th June, that’s a little over five weeks, Kevin Fox, Bexley’s head of committee services and architect of the new rules on questions designed to ban as many as possible realised that a possibly embarrassing question was in danger of getting past his barriers, so he ruled it out of order. “The questions are for Council officers to answer” and he went on to suggest an FOI. Clever stuff Kevin, you get a question which only councillor Bacon can answer but you pass it off as an FOI to a council officer who is in no position to look inside councillor Bacon’s head. And if it is an FOI, the statutory date for an answer was 3rd June. Just how many variants of “I don’t want to accept this question because the answer would prove highly embarrassing / the answer would incriminate me” can Bexley council come up with?

 

13 June (Part 1) - Bexley council - Not listening, not working and now not watching

I meant to go to the Annual General Meeting of The Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch last Friday, partly because of natural curiosity about how Bexley council’s grants were being spent but hoping too to find out if my local Watch set up about three years ago was defunct as I have never heard of it doing anything. But I forgot all about the meeting.

James Brokenshire MP was there and “spoke eloquently” according to reports but not a single councillor or other representative of Bexley council could be bothered to attend, it’s not something they would be paid for. The meeting broke up rather prematurely because people were leaving to rescue their cars from the clutches of Bexley council’s recently imposed 24/7 car parking regime.

 

12 June (Part 2) - Freedom of Information (FOI)

“Bexley is aware of the importance of responding to FOI requests within the statutory timescale of 20 working days.” Good, then why is it that the tricky ones are kicked into the long grass?

Two FOIs about the Harassment Warning Bexley council asked the police to issue to me are two months old today. My complaint to the Police Professional Standards Directorate has been ignored, DI Keith Marshall of Bexleyheath CID has made no attempt to follow up his letter. Everyone appears to be desperate to cover their tracks.

Another FOI that stands out like a sore thumb on the FOI list is about pay increases for former Chief Executive Nick Johnson. If answered honestly this might reveal an enormous pension fiddle that has been rumoured by people who should know. So Bexley council doesn’t answer for fear of incriminating itself. I think these FOIs, which aren’t mine, should be reported to the Information Commissioner (ICO). Maybe I should start asking questions myself, I wouldn’t be so tolerant of deliberate delays.

One that has gone to the ICO concerns the destruction of evidence requested under FOI. “If staff conceal, alter or deliberately destroy information, they themselves may be liable to be prosecuted, for which the penalty can be a fine in the Magistrates Court of up to £5,000.” Staff knew absolutely that there was an FOI request for a copy of councillor Alex Sawyer’s Consent to Nomination form and they destroyed it and the details cannot now be used in an ongoing investigation into his affairs. So that looks like two criminal acts by councillors or staff in the space of a week.

Sometimes FOIs reveal interesting facts. An enquiry about the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant which central government gave to Bexley council for distribution to schools showed that a large chunk of it was not distributed. It is supposed to be for “minority ethnic groups who are at risk of underachieving and to help meet the particular needs of bilingual pupils” but of the £674,000 the government handed out only £524,000 found its way to schools. Distributing authorities are allowed to keep a maximum (from grants not exceeding £1m.) of £150,00 for themselves. Bexley chose to retain the maximum. Does that make them the greediest, the least efficient, or the least trusting of boroughs? For every £3.50 handed out to schools, Bexley council sat on one pound.

The Subject Access Request to Bexley council seeking information about my Harassment Warning is still unanswered. I have sought assurances that it will include the period that the obscene blog existed and that all correspondence by senior staff, the IT department and councillors on that matter will be revealed. One way or another we will find out who it is at Bexley council that thinks they are above the law and who may have shielded them. If answers aren’t forthcoming soon I won’t hesitate to contact the Information Commissioner’s office.

 

12 June (Part 1) - Secrecy comes as standard

Sawyer search boxThere was a meeting of Bexley council’s Standards Committee last Thursday evening; I was unable to go but a couple of my colleagues did. It started late because councillor Alex Sawyer was said to be stuck in traffic, well the journey from Witham can be difficult, and when it did eventually start, the public, consisting of just two people, were thrown out. So much for it being a public meeting!

From what could be seen a kangaroo court had been set up to ‘try’ councillor Munir Malik for ‘crimes’ unknown. He was represented by a Labour Party official solicitor, at least that is what things looked like. Before the ceremonial eviction of the public took place one of our number asked councillor Malik if he would be happy for the public to stay. He said he had no objections but this cut no ice with the Committee, councillor Malik’s alleged misdemeanour will have to remain secret. What did the Committee need to hide that Munir didn’t? It’s yet another example of Bexley council’s enthusiasm for keeping the public well away from its questionable policies and operations.

 

11 June (Part 2) - Can’t answer; won’t answer

Tippett and CraskeLose, refuse, delay, dodge - that is the normal response when Bexley council is asked difficult questions, then recently we had the defence of questions being labelled rhetorical. On that occasion it was the ruthless Greg Tippett who dreamed up the new question avoidance scheme. Now he has found another. He has claimed that if anyone asks how he or his department justified reporting Martin Peaple to the police for carrying a placard on the pavement then only the police can answer the question. The man seems to be the epitome of deviousness.

A week or so ago one of the council whisperers referred to Mr. Tippett in a long email. Interesting though leaks can be they don’t usually satisfy my criteria of authenticity; I like to be able to put things within “quotation marks” because I absolutely know them to be true. I cannot therefore reveal much of the Parking Department leak and will probably do no more than confirm what you imagine to go on. In reviewing a less than clear case captured on camera someone in a senior position is alleged to have said “Put it through anyway, we’ll find a way around it; it won’t be the first time”. Another favoured phrase is said to be “There’s nothing like a ticket to sober you up at breakfast on a Monday morning”. Craske and Tippett, they look a nice pair don’t they?

 

11 June (Part 1) - Any excuse will do - (to block transparency and accountability)

Bexley council chamberAs I expect you will remember, Bexley council’s response under the previous joke of a mayor, Val Clark to the government’s recommendation that “bloggers and citizen journalists” should be welcomed to council meetings and allowed to record procedures if they so wished, was to convene a cabal to institutionalise their need to keep democracy at bay as far as they possibly could. Filming of council proceedings is now expressly forbidden under threat of police action in this rotten borough. There was a little get out clause included to make Bexley council look a little less like the bunch of self-serving parasites they are and that was that residents could ask for permission to record events with the implication that this would be looked upon favourably. It is of course just a meaningless bit of PR nonsense. No one has yet been given permission.

The excuse is always the same, that members of the public may object to being filmed; it’s always looked like a lie to me but that is their lame excuse.

I have now seen a variant of that excuse. Someone asked if he could mount his camera on a tripod in front of the public gallery pointing only in the direction of the councillors. Back came the reply with the same old message, “The council’s policy seeks to prevent people from being filmed without their consent”. Yes we know that, get on with it; plus, “there are no physical barriers preventing members of the public from walking in front of the gallery”. Ah, there we go again. It’s not our wonderful councillors standing in the way of democracy, it’s those awful people called the public who may object. I attended a council meeting at which only one person attending wasn’t known to me by name. Any excuse will do when it comes to stamping on democracy and sticking two fingers up at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Bexley council is not however entirely alone in being run by people who don’t understand what modern democracy means. In Carmarthen a blogger was arrested, phone confiscated, handcuffed and thrown into a police cell for filming a meeting. And the health authorities are no better; North Cumbria NHS Trust has hired lawyers to combat a retired publican who blogged his treatment for prostate cancer. Oh dear; when this site was new and news flowed in only sporadically I indulged myself by including a report of my experience at the hands of Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s A&E department. Thrown out five minutes before their target treatment time, high on morphine, left unattended half conscious on their waiting room floor with no means of getting home. Their excuses would be worthy of a council official dreaming up new reasons why the council is right and the government minister is wrong.

Photograph taken before the ban on cameras was imposed.

 

10 June (Part 2) - Apparently it’s a crime

It was Elwyn Bryant and I who were most heavily featured in that notorious blog and as you now know, we went to the police about it last Wednesday. However Nicholas Dowling who has pursued the council on several points, notably their failure to justify the near tripling of the cost of residents’ parking permits, also had his good name besmirched. Whilst Elwyn and I were still debating our options right up until last Friday afternoon, Nicholas decided to make a relatively low key enquiry to the council’s IT department via their Contact Centre on Thursday afternoon, the 2nd of June. Having done that he didn’t think it was fair not to await their reply and therefore didn’t complain at a higher level as did Elwyn and myself on 3rd June.

The council‘s published target is to reply to emails within five days but nothing had been heard from IT by this morning. I am not certain if a chaser was sent or not, but Nicholas received a response from the Chief Executive at lunch time. “Given the gravity of the allegations contained in your email, and in view of the apparent criminal nature of this matter, I am of the view that this should more appropriately be considered by the police.”

Well done Nicholas, I have had no response to my letter but it does seem that Mr. Tuckley has accepted that the situation is “grave” and that he is sympathetic to the police’s statement to me that “there was evidence of a crime”. It would be amazing if Mr. Tuckley and Teresa O’Neill do not know exactly who the author of the website is, it was after all removed within hours of them being formally notified of it. I find Mr. Tuckley’s response to Nicholas Dowling reasonable in the circumstances but Nicholas is not pleased that it fails to answer several questions not directly connected to any police enquiry.

The next logical step is that the Chief Executive and council leader O’Neill should answer the obvious question the police must surely pose and maybe come out of this episode with a tiny shred of integrity preserved. However their track record has always been to play a devious game. What will they do now the stakes are raised and the law is involved?

 

10 June (Part 1) - Petition to council

The people planning to run a petition to Bexley council asking for a debate on the very high salaries paid to senior council staff with a view to changing their contracts have told me they are close to finalizing their proposals. As I see it their plan could run into an enormous obstacle, the fact that Bexley council is undemocratic and will most likely do all in its power to block any views residents might express.

Bexley council’s stated position on petitions is recorded in the very first sentence of their documentation. “The council welcomes petitions and recognises they are one way in which people can highlight any concerns they may have.” This is the standard gloss put over their true attitude to democracy. Buried in the same document is "The council will not take action on any petition which we consider to be vexatious, abusive or otherwise inappropriate”. In other words any petition the council does not like the look of may be ruled out of order as “inappropriate”.

The jack boot approach to democracy is to be expected of a council which has changed its Constitution to try to put a stop to probing questions. I see little future for any plan to organise a petition on salaries when leader Teresa O’Neill says they represent “good value for money”. Unless an agreement can be reached on the wording of the petition before 2,000 residents add their signature to it, she will likely declare it “inappropriate” and bin it. The last thing O’Neill will want is someone questioning her judgement on salaries. 2,000 people could be reported to the police for harassing our dear leader!

 

9 June - “You have provided evidence that a crime has been committed” - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Crime numberAs many of you were keen to tell me at the beginning of the week, the obscene blog which I believe could only be Bexley council inspired has disappeared from view. It is still on line bearing my name but the content has been removed. I didn’t know because I last looked at it on 1st June so thank you for the many tip-offs.

The fact that the blog had been been augmented with more nonsense on 1st June changed my attitude to it because clearly it wasn’t some one-off demented idiocy by a close associate of Bexley council, it was likely to carry on. A few minutes before it shut last Friday afternoon, I delivered a letter by hand to Bexley council’s Contact Centre in the expectation it would be on the Chief Executive’s desk on Monday morning. It said…


It has come to my attention that my visit to the Civic Centre with Mr. Elwyn Bryant on 20th May 2011 which was known only to Mr. Loynes and one of his junior colleagues was put on the web in the form of a Google ‘blogspot’ in my name within hours of my departure.

In a similar vein my entry to the Cinema car park with Mr. Nicholas Dowling where we would be totally unknown except to councillors or council officers was also placed on the web.

The blog could only have been posted by someone with intimate knowledge of Bexley council who has tracked my movements.

The blog is lewd in the extreme and is presumably an attempt to harass me at a personal level. I demand an immediate investigation and response.


As you will know from reading this blog, Bexley’s Chief Executive is one of the country’s top managers rewarded with a salary package approaching a quarter of a million pounds a year and council leader Teresa O’Neill has said that he represents “good value for money”. Naturally he flew into action on hearing of such a serious crime apparently conducted under his nose. He phoned me immediately, apologised profusely, assured me he would do everything in his power to identify the culprit and have the offensive material posted in my name removed just as soon as he possibly could. He then emailed every one of Bexley council’s 63 councillors and told them in no uncertain terms that if they knew anything at all about the offensive blog they were to close it down immediately. You would expect nothing else of such a superb exponent of the professionalism of local authority management.

Unfortunately none of that is true; well maybe the emailing of 63 councillors bears some resemblance to the truth for as we all now know, the blog was removed within hours of Mr. Tuckley receiving my letter. There has been absolutely zero personal response to my suggestion that a very serious offence had been committed by a council member or member of staff. I therefore decided the time had come to take the advice of literally everyone who I had spoken to about the incident and go to the police.

Yesterday the formal complaint was drawn up by my legal advisor and I took the package to Bexleyheath police station, accompanied by Mr. Elwyn Bryant. Elwyn you will remember was also accused by the blogger of disgusting acts on council premises. A police officer soon agreed that I had provided evidence of a crime however he seemed rather reluctant to take action against Bexley council. He said anyone at all might have accessed Mr. Loynes’s diary and therefore there were too many suspects for an investigation to be practical. It seemed like an excuse that might be used against almost any crime report and I responded in a suitable manner to that and other similar theoretical obstacles to progress. At one time I had to ask if the officer could think of any scenario, however far fetched, that someone at Bexley council was not responsible for the offensive blog and he accepted that he could not. Eventually Elwyn and I were left alone for a very long time while senior officers were consulted. After that everything was plain sailing. My file was taken as evidence that a crime had been committed and bundled up for the attention of the Chief Inspector.

At the end of our time in the police interview room Elwyn and I were asked for our address. “You live together?” “No”, said I. “Elwyn lives with his wife”. It shows how the blogger was successfully propagating his views and needs to be identified and prosecuted.

Although I have in the interests of comparative brevity detailed mainly my own actions over this crime, Mr. Bryant took very similar actions himself and on Monday morning this week emailed his formal complaint to council leader Teresa O’Neill. He included an extract from the council inspired blog to illustrate his complaint. The council leader replied with a brief acknowledgement that she could not respond to his “offensive” email. So the council agrees with everyone else. Their blog was highly offensive.

It remains to be seen what the police will do next. Since the news broke late last night I have already received worrying information about the effectiveness of the named Chief Inspector. We may yet see an interesting contrast with the council being able to put me under threat of arrest, seemingly on a whim, for blogging facts the council finds embarrassing. Nothing I have ever posted is anywhere near being comparable to what has been blogged about Elwyn and me. Perhaps we are about to see if council credit card spending on lunch for police commanders is money well spent or whether the police are willing to apply the law equally to all.

Apologies for a rushed blog, I have to assist in the blowing out of 91 candles. Tomorrow things should begin to revert to normal.

 

8 June - Short and sweet

Some days so much time is spent on ‘background’ activities that little is left for writing a blog, today has been such a day. The handful of enquiries about the blog’s absence is appreciated but at this late hour (11 p.m.) there is not going to be one, not a long one anyway. Too tired and hungry and too much time spent in Bexleyheath police station. I plan to provide a few details tomorrow, but I have a big family event on so if I manage anything that’s going to be short too. Short and to the point I hope.

 

7 June - Forget all thoughts of straight dealing; this is Bexley!

Since adding the Freedom of Information request list to Bonkers, response times seem to have improved. The list is no longer a catalogue of unlawfully delayed answers it is moving towards a page of answers at the last possible moment. By design almost certainly.

It has become very noticeable that the longest outstanding questions relate to the decision to restrict access to this website from council computers and what harm it was doing that would justify the Harassment Warning. Clearly Bexley council continues to be happy to break the law to protect their own. One might speculate that their failure to respond is related to the police as they too are refusing to respond to my complaint on the same matter despite instructions to do so from their Directorate of Professional Standards. Perhaps Bexleyheath’s police do not recognise ‘Professional Standards’.

Another FOI which may have fallen foul of the law is one about a Consent to Nomination Form which came back with the answer that it had been destroyed. There is therefore no way of checking if the form was completed correctly and there is some doubt about that. The question was the subject of a telephone discussion with a senior council officer the day after it was submitted in which he asked that the question be withdrawn but ultimately he agreed the form could be copied and sent out; what is that, ten minutes work? However he now admits he did nothing and the form was destroyed two and a bit weeks later, at the earliest legal opportunity one year after the election. Do you think they would have done that if there was nothing that needed to be covered up? Destroying material to subvert the FOI legislation is a specific offence and as you might expect, a suitable enquiry as to whether the law has been broken has gone to the Information Commissioner. Maybe Bexley council has some undated unsigned letters ready to produce in their defence.

 

6 June (Part 2) - A dirty trick is worth repeating

Just a few hours after the updated report on the Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) and the forthcoming unfair dismissal hearing went on line I received an unexpected email alleging the supplying of undated and unsigned copies of documents was not a new trick and that someone else had suffered the same treatment. Supplying undated documents as part of the disclosure of evidence procedure and filling in the missing detail only when it can be seen how the overall case is panning out looks like a despicable trick to me and unlikely to be correct procedure. But could it be an attempt to lay a false trail for me; recent events show that Bexley council is capable of anything? The allegation needed to be checked out. Over the weekend I liaised with the informer, got a name, address, phone number etc. and went to take a closer look at who was at the end of the phone line - and a file of papers. It all looks as reported so once again I shall hand over today’s blog to someone else…


“They did exactly the same to me when I was sacked. The statements used against me were all unsigned and undated to start off with. I think they do this in order to keep their options open and to have flexibility. If they are undated, they can choose an appropriate date to suit them if and when they even decide to use them. And presumably they are unsigned so that the person whose statement it is, does not have to commit to the contents of the statement until Bexley decide that their made-up account of events is safely plausible enough.

I had been outspoken in the past - probably whistle-blowing, come to think of it - so they took the opportunity to turn a minor disciplinary issue into a case of gross misconduct. What they are doing in the TIC case looks exactly like what they did to me - underhand and dishonest tactics.

The pattern is surprisingly similar. When I asked for disclosure of crucial documents that I knew existed, they denied them. Almost all of my requests for disclosure were refused.

There was a lot of dishonesty, deception and cover-up throughout my case. It was a real eye-opener for me, I tell you!”


The words above are taken directly from my informer’s email, slightly shortened to exclude anything for which evidence might be less than conclusive.

 

6 June (Part 1) - They’ve mastered all devices entertaining and rhetorical,
6 June (Part 1) - From strict, anaphoristic speech to highly metaphorical. (But you will need Patience)
6 June (Part 1) - (With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan *)

How does Bexley council respond to questions? I think we know by now. I have seen them lost and delayed well beyond target and lawful response times. I’ve seen them dodged and I’ve seen them unacknowledged. I’ve seen repeats of what has previously been discredited and I’ve seen non-answers and I have seen untruthful answers aplenty. I’ve many times seen answers to entirely different questions. I thought I had seen the lot but I hadn’t.

After Nigel Wise forced Richmond council’s CCTV cars off the road with his persistent and incisive questions he turned his sights on Bexley. I warned him that their standard practice was no answers and evasive answers but undaunted he asked the difficult questions that brought Richmond council to nationwide attention.

Craske immediately dodged the issue and did a disappearing trick, the parking management team followed him and the Chief Executive at first pretended he wasn’t at home; then decided he had better twist the Parking Manager’s arm for she has a track record of muddying the waters sufficiently to silence an MP. In the event she passed the buck to her assistant, Greg Tippett. The questions were pretty much unanswerable unless he incriminated the council, so he came up with an entirely new evasion technique I hadn’t come across before. Maybe it will earn him a bonus. He said that the questions were “rhetorical” and he saw “no benefit in entering into protracted correspondence”. So a full month goes by and we get get three lines to say that Bexley council won’t answer the questions because it regards them as “rhetorical” and not needing an answer. Is that better or worse than the “vexatious” label which has always been Bexley council’s favoured ‘Get out of jail free card’ until now?

It was the same with the actual licensing of the CCTV equipped vehicles. If everything was in perfect order Mr. Tippett and Co. should have been only too pleased to provide the proof and send Nigel Wise away with his tail between his legs. We now have much the same response over the matter of Mr. Peaple, his warning notice and the unjustified visit by the police.

Mr. Wise has written again. In five working days he should have his answer but don’t hold your breath…


Mr. Tippett,

Further to your accusation of “Rhetorical Questions” Please answer the direct questions below:

1. Do you agree that Mr. Peaple acted completely within the law?
2. Do you maintain that Mr. Peaple deserved the attention of the Police?
3. Do you agree that Mr. Peaple and any other member of the public has the right to assist the council, in a lawful manner, with its stated parking enforcement aim of 100% compliance with zero penalties?
4.Would you prefer that members of the public desist from volunteering their assistance, free of charge and in the spirit of David Cameron’s "Big Society" to the council?

A simple yes or no answer to these questions will suffice, but if you wish to qualify your answers I would welcome a fuller explanation.

Yours sincerely,


There is already an FOI answer available which confirms that Mr. Peaple didn’t break any bye-laws.

* From ‘Pirates’ appropriately enough.

 

5 June (Part 2) - Parking permit application Bang head on wall

I briefly worked for a company which specialised in usability tests on websites. They had all the big banks and telephone companies among their clients and many household product names. It opened my eyes to how people interact with web pages and how they so easily get lost and abandon the effort. But it’s impossible to please all the people all the time. Several times I’ve watched in amazement at the convoluted path taken to reach this blog. There is a prominent link on the front page but the combination of a small screen and a browser set to 200% zoom for so long the setting has been forgotten will send it off the screen and no one seems to like scroll bars. So I have a little sympathy for whoever it is who designs the council’s web site, but even so I don’t think I was quite prepared for the unhelpful procedures adopted for purchasing a Resident Parking Permit on-line described by a reader. Over to you John…


“Skipping by the fact that two different reminders arrived by post the same day… Oh no, I can’t do that because one contradicts the other, so on to the web to see which might be right. OK, I see, apply on-line and pay at the library; not too difficult, but still not sure whether to follow the instructions on my ‘Permit Renewal Reminder’ or the ‘Permit Renewal for May 2011’.

The instructions I decide to follow say type in http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=7237 but it doesn’t say where I should type it and I’m not too hot on computers, I’d be bound to type something like that wrong, but Google I do know. That does the trick and I start my application. A few minutes down the line I realise the system is making assumptions about me and my car that I can’t edit, like the car maker and its colour. But I don’t think that detail is on the permit so I carry on. Then I get a payment request that has left my name off. The car registration number is correct, the grossly inflated fee is there to frighten me, but my name is missing! What now? It is also demanding payment by card immediately and I was planning on paying with some cash due to me tomorrow and hand it over at the library as the letter says. Dash upstairs for wallet and cards. Phew, the page doesn’t time out.

I’m then forced to read the Terms & Conditions, fair enough but the linked page doesn’t have any Terms & Conditions on it so have to tick the box anyway or I shall waste my entire day. I press the buy button and get an email by way of a receipt. Now where is my Permit? Why doesn’t the email set my mind at rest by telling me what will happen next?

Back to the council’s website but no joy. Take a look at the second letter received in this morning’s post. Ah, I see, if I had followed the instructions in the ‘Permit Renewal for May 2011’ instead of those in the ‘Permit Renewal Reminder’ and the council’s webpage I might be less confused than I am. It will be off to the library for me next time I am off work, if they’ve not closed it by then. Meanwhile the council has my money but I have no Permit and Craske and his gestapo team are ready to pounce."


Hmm, that’s bad John. I’m glad my neighbours told Craske where he could shove the suggestion to extend the local CPZ to my road. Sorry that was before Craske’s time but you will get my drift. Maybe you will be happy to know that your unfortunate experience with Bexley’s ‘Parking Permit Self-service Portal’ could be on its way out. The bad news is that it looks like costing several million quid!

Tomorrow I shall bring you another reader‘s experience of Bexley council but far darker and worrying than John’s. Is crookedness the norm?

 

5 June (Part 1) - Blog off Bexley

Two blogs have been removed from the Blog index. James Brokenshire, MP’s because he has abandoned his blog and didn’t even bother to put up some sort of redirection to a working page. It was rarely updated anyway so no great loss there. The other is the Bexley council approved bit of obscenity. In recent days it has become even more pathetic and doesn’t deserve any sort of encouragement.

 

4 June (Part 2) - Taking lessons from Joseph

Graham Holland, Freeman of the City of London, the voice of experienceIt is unfortunate that the Bexleyheath Chronicle’s website has been down all week and not only because it cost me 40 pence to buy a copy instead, but it will have prevented some people reading more revelations about Bexley council. The Sidcup edition tells how they spent £25 on sending out a one penny bill, but that’s a long way from being the best bit for all connoisseurs of Bexley’s idiocy. No that’s the wrong word, it’s beyond idiocy, it is premeditated dishonesty.

A letter from Graham Holland totally demolishes the well heeled Katie Perrior for implying she was a poor single mum who was eaking out a meagre existence on her paltry councillor’s allowance of more than £22,000. Graham knows a thing or two about being a councillor, what it entails and the benefits that the position provides, for Graham was one until 2003.

Graham however fell into disfavour among his fellow Bexley Tories because he did what used to be commonplace, he didn’t claim his allowances. That is anathema among the new breed and they looked for a way of getting him out. They found one when he slipped two months behind with his council tax payment, and so it was bye-bye Graham. Out he went with the words “the attitude you’ve taken towards your finances in no way fits your position as a caring and responsible councillor” ringing in his ears and 24 years of unstinting cost free service to the community counting for nothing.

It was hardly the crime of the century, doesn’t really compare with “the attitude towards finances” displayed by two current councillors who do claim every last penny of their allowances but managed to sink their own non-ABTA registered travel business, but there you are, if Bexley council doesn’t like being shown up they will stoop as low as it takes.

Councillor Chris Taylor, Assistant at the Greater London Assembly, the mouthpiece of his benefactorAfter Katie came a cropper in last month’s Chronicle and was demolished in this, you’d think councillors might be more careful in what they write, but casting caution to the wind councillor Chris Taylor writes two letters! I’ve made no secret that after seeing Taylor perform at council meetings I regard him as a snivelling little twerp but I accept I may be alone in that view because leader Teresa O’Neill who controls these matters awarded him a fat consolation prize of £8,802 last month which may explain why he is praising her every word on Page 9.

He repeats her announcement that “Bexley now has one of the lowest council tax rates per household in outer London. This is not an accident but the result of hard work by the Conservatives.” All good stuff if it were true, Bexley comes 25th out of the 32 boroughs and occupies a middling position in the bottom half of the outer boroughs. O’Neill and Taylor seem to subscribe to the Joseph Goebbels school of propaganda. Tell a lie often enough and some mug will believe it.

Elsewhere in the Chronicle Taylor is allowed to peddle more nonsense. “Labour commits to increase council tax by 3·5%, every year!” I was at that meeting and Labour didn’t commit to anything of the sort. They were clearly disappointed that the Erith option was strangled at birth - no debate, little comment - but they didn’t commit tax payers to anything. One could argue that it is the Conservatives who have committed us to higher taxes by choosing to go to the Woolwich, the option to stay put and rebuild on the present site was cheaper but that got scant mention too. Only the Woolwich got a look-in, the option that allows Tesco to wave their cheque book.

The council admits to having to spend £36 million on refurbishing the Woolwich building and a civil engineer who has nosed around the site reported that it is in a pretty awful state, and despite the Tory claim that the net cost is nothing, they say they don’t know what Tesco might pay for the present council site. So that could just be a guess.

Another thing that the Tories won’t want to admit to is that £36 million spent on the Woolwich building will make it fit for the next 40 years. What they won’t want to be reminded of is that the council officer presenting the facts of the choices available said the £43 million needed for a bespoke building in Erith would see us through the next 55 to 60 years. Who is it committing us to most future expenditure, Tories or Labour? It would take only five years worth of councillors allowances and a little bit trimmed off the top brass’s pay and our grandchildren will be spared a big bill in 40 years time. But that wouldn’t pay for Katie Perrior’s child minder would it?

Chris Taylor finishes his simpering eulogy to his dear leader with the words “It reminds us clearly why council tax increased by 40% when they ran our council”. What I want to know is this…

Labour put up our taxes by 40% in a very short space of time, no arguments there, but this council has continued to collect that extra money for the last five years and still contrived higher than London average rises until 2010. If Labour are such senseless wastrels and the Tories such brilliant financial wizards why haven’t they been able to give some of that money back? If Labour was wasting the money, the present useless crew must be wasting it too.

I think newspaper editors choose to publish letters from numbskulls because they provide so much scope for filling future column inches. Come on Graham, take the little twerp down a peg or two.

 

4 June (Part 1) - While corruption and dishonesty reign, simple incompetence continues

A lady who walks down Townley Road every day has been keeping me informed of changes King Craske has been quietly making down there. At the end of March she reported that contractors installed new poles bearing signs reading ‘No Parking Mon-Sat 0800-1830’. The old signs on lamp posts bearing the times ‘0830-1730’ remained in place as did the 0830-1730 signs at the boundary of the Controlled Parking Zone. I was asked if I knew what was going on but I perused the list of new parking regulations for surreptitious mission creep in Townley Road in vain.

Ten days later a further report said the new signs had all disappeared leaving just the poles. Two months on and the lady is back… She says that last Thursday the contractors returned and the new and unused poles were removed.

I can’t help wondering if the pole removal is in some way connected to the big fee reduction for lap dancing clubs. If the council decided that the only way the Thames Innovation Centre was ever likely to make a profit was to encourage legal sexual entertainment rather than the sort it tolerated before, they could shower it with more free gifts recently reclaimed from Townley Road.

 

3 June (Part 2) - The Contact Centre

I looked in the council’s Contact Centre this afternoon; a bit of a queue, not intolerably bad, but long enough to study their target response times again. 20 seconds to answer a phone call, two days to respond to a web-based enquiry and five days for emails and letters. Quite ambitious but do they get close? I must confess I have found they sometimes do but I also hear of failures on the grand scale.

One that came my way not long ago was from someone who followed up a case of no acknowledgement, no reply, on the sixth working day. The enquiry that had fallen on deaf ears was itself a comment on another enquiry about an FOI which had gone off the radar. (This report is already in danger of going around in an incestuous circle.)

On the seventh working day the Contact Centre responded to the effect that it had now decided to send the enquiry about the neglected FOI to the Freedom of Information Officer as a new FOI for their attention. So now we have an FOI about an FOI because the first one was delayed and the Contact Centre didn’t acknowledge the chaser.

The council seems to think they now have 20 days to answer the follow up. They haven’t, the Information Commissioner (IC) is very clear on that matter, the clock starts ticking from the time the enquiry first lands in a council Inbox. The time can’t be far off when someone’s patience with FOI delays snaps and a complaint goes to the IC’s Office. I have a load of green ticks ready to sprinkle in the FOI list to replace some of those red crosses.

 

3 June (Part 1) - Thames Innovation Centre. More trickery by Bexley council

As reported before, the former Bexley council employee who reported problems at the Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) and was sacked days later has an Industrial Tribunal hearing due at the end of this month. Bexley council has already tried to have it thrown out but failed so now they are making it difficult to get all the necessary evidence. At any trial there has to be ‘full disclosure’ of evidence by both sides. Some of the information supplied by Bexley council has been undated and unsigned. Some of it has been supplied twice and is not the same on both copies. Would they have amended it to suit themselves do you think?

The lack of signature and especially the date on documents could be crucial but when asked to supply them, Bexley’s legal department has claimed that it would require a computer expert and a great deal of expense to discover the date the documents were created and/or amended. I would point out two things. The council and indeed the TIC itself is stuffed full of IT experts and most people can find out all they need to know about a document by right clicking on the file icon, choosing Properties and looking at Details. I’ve just tried that on a document received from Bexley council and it tells me who the author was, who saved it and when it was amended.

Even the legal department believes it can do whatever it likes.

 

2 June - Newsreel

It’s been one of those days when the phone keeps ringing and the email comes pouring in. There have been three journalists in touch within the last 24 hours and one day Bexley council will work its way up to the top of their story list. So today I belatedly present one of my occasional Newsreels and lack of time prohibits anything more comprehensive.

Local Newspapers


The Chronicle series is still pursuing councillor Katie Perrior the almost penniless councillor struggling to manage on her miserable £22,000 from Bexley council and her Director’s fees from being co-founder of one of London’s top PR Agencies. My heart bleeds for her.

The News Shopper brings you the story of a parking fine for a six second stop. Bexley council bleats on about how their CCTV cars are preventing accidents outside schools but this vehicle momentarily stopped outside school hours. Notomob have been analysing the economics of CCTV surveillance and why the number of penalties issued for parking outside schools may have fallen. I’ll see if they will give permission to reproduce it here, but the basic message is that it’s all about raising revenue and there are more effective ways of reducing the possibility of accidents.


Subject Access Request


There has been a small movement with my request and I shall be sending the council some more information to make their job easier. There has been no movement at all on my complaint to the police about my harassment warning, they seem to not want to talk about their collusion with Bexley council which is not much of a surprise.


Bexley’s website and the TIC


The council has taken to attempting to counter bad publicity by putting up an article on its website every time the papers or the blogs take them to task - well you can’t blame them for trying.

One of these was for The Thames Innovation Centre (TIC) which has been swallowing tax payers’ cash at an alarming rate ever since it opened in 2006 - a year earlier than the council currently admits to. As well as providing the Centre with lots of money it has been putting business its way to help it make a profit. It may even do so if they keep it up. Quite a lot has been written about the money guzzling TIC elsewhere but I don’t think anyone has mentioned the freebies showered on it by our ever-benevolent council…


• 2 tables and 8 comfy chairs £7,339.98
• 11 Desks £14,880.00
• 130 office chairs £26,970.00
• 2 Sofas £2,788.00
• 9 Seats £2,493.00
• Storage units £17,085.00
• 6 Bespoke one off tables and 6 bespoke sideboards £24,327.00
• Board table £1,250.00
• 10 book shelves £2,524.00
For the ‘Servery’
• 6 Coffee tables and 30 chairs £6,991.50
• 4 Sofas £3,576.00
• 9 Seats £2,493.00


Nice of them eh? They bought lots of shiny new computer gear too.

News is coming in of the council’s legal department’s shenanigans over the TIC whistleblowing, paedophilia and sacking affair which I hope to report here as soon as I can get my head around the complexities.


Councillors’ Addresses


I had planned to edit the list of ‘Home’ addresses when the council supplied the Consent to Nomination Forms but it seems they decided to destroy them all, so the full list of properties in which councillors have an interest must remain as it is.


Democracy Bexley style


The last mayor tried to excuse her ban on recording council meetings by saying residents could ask for permission. She rejected the three or possibly four requests made in her time. The new mayor has done the same.

Under the new Constitution it is almost impossible to ask a question of the council. Personally I won’t be bothering any more; there are more effective ways of exposing this council, but I am hearing from others with greater persistence that the questions are being rejected as expected. This lying council encourages the view that Bexley is one of the few that allows questions when only seven don’t. In practice Bexley council might as well be number eight.


Bexley Council’s blog


Philip Read on TwitterNew material has appeared on the council approved obscene and libellous blog. I say council approved because they must know or be able to find out who is responsible and have done nothing about it. It may be worth repeating that the only person who should have known I was at the Civic Offices was the Head of Members’ Services and when I wandered into the Cinema car park no one could possibly know who I was apart from some councillors and a very few officials. Yet hours later I am all across their blog.

I have been asked who did it and the answer is I don’t know. I do know of someone who…

• Showed an interest in the net by registering the domain name bexley-is-bonkers.com.
• Was very active on Twitter until the 20th May when he suddenly stopped. The obscene blog appeared the same day.
• Twittered about two or more residents and taunt his MP Teresa Pearce more than once with inaccurate slurs.
• Someone with a wife who works very closely indeed with the Head of Member Services.

…but I don’t know who is behind the new blog because Google blogs won’t reveal the author and takes no responsibility for the content. So further speculation is pointless.

I don’t know what Read means by the alleged untruth about himself. (See image.) There is not a shadow of doubt he bought the bonkers.com domain, it has his name and address on it. He has admitted being married to Eva on Twitter. He definitely lied to the News Shopper about Teresa Pearce because it is not difficult to trace an MP’s official movements and whether or not they skipped a debate, and I confirmed everything with the House of Commons. And that’s all there is about Philip Read on this web site - I ran a search utility. If there is anything inaccurate on Bonkers it gets changed. One councillor at least knows that.

I don’t intend to return to the subject of the council’s blog very often. If you need a link there is one on the Blog Index.

 

1 June (Part 2) - Update on Freedom of Information requests

Of the 25 known FOIs to Bexley council that should have been answered by yesterday or earlier only two were answered within the legal timetable. Six have not been answered at all. Two relate to questions about this website (now more than two weeks overdue) and one to the use of CCTV licensing. Much the same sort of question that Notomob put directly to councillor Craske, the parking manager Tina Brooks and to Chief Executive Will Tuckley. According to Notomob’s website they haven’t had their questions answered either, though they did get one of Bexley’s trademark non-answers.

One bit of good news for Martin Peaple, the Notomob member who was door-stepped by the police at Bexley council’s request, is that we now have it in writing from the council that he did not break any bye-laws. Not so good is that the request for a copy of councillor Sawyer’s Consent to Nomination Form made on 19th April has failed because it had been destroyed. It is illegal to destroy election papers within a year of an election. I suspect this will not be the last we will hear of this one.

Councillor Sawyer you may remember is married to the MP for Witham, Essex and if you can believe their websites lives in both places at once.

 

1 June (Part 1) - Council’s S.W.A.T. team meets

Malcolm Knight aged sixThere was a prediction on Monday and a report yesterday that the council and top brass met on Tuesday to discuss what they can do about this website and they are going to start by trying to find out all about me. I shall point out once again that this website exists on the back of council decisions and councillors’ activities. All I do is report things that hitherto have gone unreported or at least never followed up. The time when a councillor can give a grossly inaccurate account of their lives to a newspaper and expect it to go unchallenged are gone. If they don’t like their dishonesty being made public then stop being dishonest. It’s as simple as that, I don’t invent the stuff.

Setting up a team to persecute a resident who writes what is in effect an on-line news outlet is what one might expect of Bexley council; someone there has already set up a blog to attempt a character assassination which is simply laughable but may indicate their state of mind. The next step after raiding my dustbin for evidence is said to be to find out as much personal information on me as they can gather. It’s a terrible waste of council tax payers’ money so I will attempt to save them a little.

• I was born in September 1943 in London in a house that was demolished by a V1 rocket soon afterwards.
• From age 6 to 41 I lived away from London, then Greenwich until 1987.
• I was educated at a Grammar School and left to work for Prudential Assurance but didn’t like it so left 16 months later for a job in technology.
• I worked on two major computerisation projects from 1968 until 1975 and from then in administration of such projects where I remained until retirement.
• I was married from 1965 to 1987 and have two children one a journalist for a major news outlet.
• The only time I encountered a policeman is when one beat me up in a case of mistaken identity. There are no fines or penalty notices to be traced. I have never had a driving accident or made an insurance claim for anything at all.
• There are no money problems. I have had no mortgage since 1992 but bought some furniture on the never never in 1966. I learned my lesson and never did it again.
• There are no affairs with married women to uncover.

As you can see it is all exceedingly boring and if Bexley council hopes to dig out any scandal they are going to be severely disappointed. They will have to continue to make it up as they have already. See below. I think I shall paste that image into all future months’ blogs to provide a permanent reminder of how Bexley councillors choose to operate.

Note: The image below has been blurred but the original obscene blog may be viewed by going to the blog for 15th November 2011 and following the instructions given there.

 

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