In the news a year ago was the case of a young woman, Cait Reilly forced to work without pay in Poundland under the government’s Workfare Scheme. Whilst it can be argued that Jobseeker’s Allowance should be earned the courts thought otherwise and in October 2013 the Supreme Court found in favour of Ms. Reilly. She had earlier won her case in the Appeal Court but The Department of Work and Pensions appealed the decision.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of being paid allowances for not working, the scheme exposed the grasping cheapskate nature of the employers involved, so it is not too surprising to see Bexley council topping the list of those unscrupulous employers.
The Daily Mirror reported on Saturday that Bexley had taken on 71 people on no pay, mainly to keep the library services going after that the council made 35 workers redundant. A more comprehensive report on a dedicated anti-workfare website explains that Bexley has moved on to an alternative scheme.
As it says, Bexley council exploited a lot of local young people who probably had their benefits stopped; and for what? So that the chief executive can pocket two and a half times the salary recommended by the Secretary of State and councillor families can take home £45,000 a year for no hard work at all.
Exploitation by Bexley council is nothing new of course. Their contracted care workers are paid the minimum wage and only for the time actually spent with their clients. Over Christmas few are prepared to wreck their family celebrations for so little money and staff shortages become inevitable.
One disabled lady known to me who gets four care worker visits through the day plus through the night attendance was astounded to see the same face turn up repeatedly over a full 30 hours! The scheduler phoned her during the last of those visits to ask if the care worker could do another session but fortunately accepted the refusal without complaint.
Freezing council tax while continuing to line councillor and executive pockets comes at a high price.
The cabinet member responsible for driving down care workers’ pay and putting the needy at risk is Chris Taylor. Electors of Sidcup and Lamorbey ward take note.
Well that's it, another year effectively over, one step forward (recording of
council meetings) and one step back (yet another Conservative councillor exposed as a liar).
Many thanks to those who sent Christmas greetings, something I rather neglected this year. I rather liked the comment from the secretary of the Sidcup Community Group who said “Just imagine what Bexley council would be like if nobody was watching”.
Another Paul L. sent me a long ‘poem’ set to the well known Gilbert & Sullivan tune from The Pirates of Penzance and entitled Bandits of Bexley, which put the boot pretty firmly into Bexley council’s backside which I am still in two minds about publishing, and someone who has made something of a study of Bexley’s child care services sent me a ‘Christmas Card’ bearing the associated picture. No it’s not the Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945, it’s Bexley’s Special Needs School, Woodside.
Lastly something I forgot to do when I first noticed it a week ago. I haven’t seen as much in recent months of the Bexley care workers who visit a disabled friend four times a day. These, frequently very young, women are paid a penny above minimum wage on zero hours contracts and no travel expenses to maintain councillor Chris Taylor’s proud boast that he pays the contractors less than any other nearby borough. The thing I forgot to mention is that Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead is collecting information about the practice. You may see what she has to say on her website and there is a survey form for care workers to leave comments.
And that really is it. Happy Christmas everyone!
Another one bites the dust! From Bexley MP James Brokenshire’s predecessor to Labour MP
Ian MacShane, Mick Barnbrook has brought down half a dozen MPs with his many
complaints about them. Five have finished up in prison for malpractices for
which Mick was the principal complainant. Ian MacShane was
sentenced to six months today.
MP’s can now breathe more easily, Mick has assured me he has no intention of reporting any more MPs, he says he is fully occupied as a member of the Bexley Action Group following up wrong doing by Bexley councillors and officers and the police officers who protect them.
The text below is taken from the report on MacShane’s false accounting by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. As you can see, those pursuing political wrong-doing have to be very patient people.
Mick Barnbrook complained about the following politicians…
• Janet Anderson, former Labour MP for Rossendale and Darwen. Allowed to secretly repay £5,750 in over claimed petty cash.
• Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South. Wrongly claimed £57,000 for accommodation. Not repaid.
• David Chaytor, Labour MP for Bury North. 18 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Ian Clement, deputy to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Suspended 12 week prison sentence for abuse of his GLA credit card.
• Ian Clement, leader of Bexley council. No action taken over his use of a Bexley council purchasing card and unjustified expense claims.
• Harry Cohen, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead. Resigned, forfeiting £65,000 from his resettlement grant for “serious breaches” of parliamentary rules.
• Jim Devine, Labour MP for Livingston. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Eric Illsley, Labour MP for Barnsley Central. 12 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Dennis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham. Asked to repay £1,573.03 of wrongly claimed expenses. Six months’ imprisonment.
• Elliott Morley, Labour MP for Scunthorpe. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting (mortgage fraud).
• David Tredinnick, former Conservative MP for Bosworth. Resigned over various expense irregularities.
• Nicholas Winterton, Conservative MP for Macclesfield. Claimed rent on a flat he owned outright. Retired from politics.
• Anne Winterton, Conservative MP for Congleton. As above.
… but was not the sole complainant in every case.
Everyone who follows
Bexley’s mayor on her Twitter account
will know that her lead up to Christmas has been one long round of fun events and Carol
Services and no one begrudges her that, but it is a far cry apparently from the Christmas
Bexley council metes out to the children in its care.
A message came from a reader who I could identify but probably shouldn’t. She is not a new correspondent having provided information in the past and I am hoping she is just as accurate this time, for there is no easy way to verify what she says. On the other hand it fits in well with what OFSTED said about the way Bexley council treats children in care.
The lady writes about Woodside Special Needs School which is quite hard to track down. It’s given a page or two on Bexley council’s website but is hard to find because the address given leads to Bexley Sports College. It takes a bit of Googling around to discover and confirm that they are one and the same. As the original email says, the following is a shortened extract, it really does look like a prison.
For the first time I went there and as I got nearer to it it reminded me of concentrations camps. I was totally mortified. How can the council spend so many millions of taxpayers’ money on the town centre when those poor children and staff are being sent to such a terrible place?
I am still shaking inside at the knowledge that my poor grandchild has been made to go there. When my daughter told me it was like a prison I honestly thought she was exaggerating. I have never been to an area where such a place existed, where children are hidden out of view in the most inhumane conditions.
Please go and take photos and show the council up and let the people see just how Dickensian things are when it comes to caring for those in this borough whose children cannot find a place in a clean, bright and cheerful school.
Woodside Special Needs School had no decorations up for Christmas, no Christmas tree no children’s work on display. It was the most pitiful Nativity I had ever seen. The children and teachers did their best but the surroundings both inside and outside the building is beyond anything I ever expected to seen in the year 2013. SHAME on Bexley council.
I am crying now as I still cannot believe what I saw.
The writer went on to discuss her conversation with the staff at the school and absolves them of all responsibility. She believes they are doing everything they can afford under the conditions imposed by Bexley council. Maybe mayor Massey could have appealed for a Christmas tree for the school instead of her parlour. Ironically the benefactor is a near neighbour of the school.
A reader suggested I cross the railway line at Abbey Wood to another
derelict site. It’s the same sort of distance from the station as
the mess that
Bexley council has tolerated for the past four years but this one is in Greenwich.
Greenwich obviously do some things more professionally than Bexley. Whether one should envy them their leader who tells councillors what they can effin’ do is more debatable, but Lesnes’ Conservatives only respond to upcoming elections.
Dumping the borough’s history on an unwilling Bromley wasn’t the only thing
on the Agenda at last Wednesday’s cabinet,
the Health and Wellbeing Strategy was due for discussion too. I’d like to be able to report what was said
by the principal speaker and what her message was but unfortunately she spoke too
quietly for the public address system to carry it as far as the public gallery.
I gave up the struggle to hear and hoped that my recorder might be picking up more than I was.
From a combination of the little intelligence recorded and a search of the council website I think the speaker must have been Dr. Nada Lemic who is the Director of Public Health appointed last April. I heard the words obesity, diabetes, dementia and smoking several times so one might guess they are her priorities. When she stopped speaking Teresa O’Neill said that Bexley was doing a good job. Not good enough I would have thought; several times recently I have been in the vicinity of the Clock Tower and struck by the huge proportion of people who are smoking. More than half by my estimate and a good number gorging on something bought from the numerous burger vans licensed by Bexley council. The passage leading from that area towards Sainsburys often stinks.
Councillor Chris Taylor said he was particularly pleased to see dementia taken seriously because Bexley’s demographic made it vulnerable to the costs involved.
Councillor Katie Perrior was concerned for the disadvantaged children born in the north of the borough. Councillor Colin Campbell was the realist who referred to previous council reports into public health, one inch thick and glossy he said, but they came to nothing and no one was held to account. The council had “lost its way and we mustn't let it happen again”.
Councillor Don Massey said he was keen to increase activity levels to improve health. More exercise will save money on diabetes care etc. Perhaps he had that in mind when advocating hiking to Bromley to study history.
The meeting then moved on to the subject of Children’s Services which have been abysmally poor. Fortunately there has been only one Rhys Lawrie but with the same senior staff in place, confidence in the future may be misplaced.
Councillor Perrior said that things are massively improved now even compared with last August because of the new computer system and recruitment but councillor Chris Ball said that alarm bells will be ringing if the proportion of monitored cases not being progressed quickly enough doesn’t soon improve. Currently an unacceptable 20%.
The meeting ended exactly an hour after it started by which time the public presence was reduced to little more than those Mr. Tuckley advised me to dissociate myself from. Difficult when I am made to sit next to Elwyn because he likes to take photos.
As you can see, he sent me his pictures, all 30 of them. However only five different councillors are included because Bexley council insists that photography must be from a specified position. One which provides a poor view to only half the chamber. I think I’ll ask Elwyn to contact Eric Pickles’ office so that they know about Bexley’s half hearted compliance. He’s much better at badgering his way through to his office than I am.
Because the different web browsers do not react to every situation in the
same way the code that runs Bonkers is sometimes compromised to permit all browsers to
work adequately well. The differences between browsers is not constant and
hopefully diminishing. As a result some of the compromises made in the past are
no longer appropriate.
This has recently affected the menus and associated icons and extensive changes have been made over the past 24 hours to improve matters. During that time the menus etc. may have been misplaced or even unavailable. The situation is now relatively stable but may undergo further changes over the weekend. If a problem is apparent it may help to refresh the browser to get rid of any old instructions that may have been cached.
This may be an appropriate time to say that Internet Explorer 11 is extremely fussy about saving cookies which will prevent the style configuration (save text size choices) facilities from working. It can be managed but requires various settings to be changed. Easier to use a different browser but not Safari, that won’t display the menus at all!
P.S. Updated Safari and all is well.
Last night’s cabinet meeting was unusual for two reasons, firstly the
chairman Teresa O’Neill conducted it in a reasonable enough fashion and
secondly she had permitted a deputation. I have not seen that before at a cabinet meeting.
I sat at the provided table with my notebook while Elwyn Bryant sat alongside with his camera. The positioning is far from ideal and both of us could see only half the councillors. I placed my recorder in front of Elwyn hoping its microphones would have a better ‘view’ of proceedings.
The deputation was against the crazy idea of transferring Bexley’s archives to Bromley and it was presented by Ms. Penny Duggan. I say crazy because while there may be merit in transferring or merging back office functions to another borough, moving customer/public facing facilities is a different kettle of fish. How will those without cars or the wherewithal to pay the bus fare get a fair crack of the whip and the projected £41,000 saving doesn’t even match what the responsible cabinet member and his wife plunder from council funds? But what did the experts from the historical societies have to say about it?
Ms. Penny Duggan was their representative and she said she was backed by 3,251 signatories of a petition and the transfer would be “a catastrophic and irreversible mistake”. Councillor Don Massey had said that the archive is not a statutory requirement but Ms. Duggan countered that that was not entirely true. The 1972 Local Government Act requires the council to make proper arrangements for items in its custody which includes public access and educational needs. The Historical Manuscripts Commission is monitoring the situation.
Bexley council has not been able to say how the £41,000 saving is to be achieved, she said, but Bromley council has stated in an FOI response it has done no work on the proposal so it has no knowledge of possible costs and saving and was not expecting the proposal to be taken forward.
Bexley’s archives are currently rated the best in London and shouldn’t be destroyed. Projects undertaken because of the present facilities on offer have attracted £200,000 of grants in 2013. That was unlikely to be repeated following a transfer to Bromley. Local history is one of the few ways a council can engage with its residents, it encourages the community to have respect for its surroundings and that is something to be proud of.
Councillor Massey was the first to ask Ms. Duggan questions. He began by saying he did not wish to pick holes in Ms. Duggan’s argument but he needed to balance the budget. He wanted to know what the exact issue was. Was it accessibility? Ms. Duggan said it wasn’t, it went further than that. She mentioned the borough’s reputation and abandoning its heritage speaks volumes for those to whom it has been entrusted. Massey dismissed the statutory argument but offered to meet Ms. Duggan to discuss a possible compromise. She agreed of course but sounded less than enthusiastic about Massey’s ideas. Those that revolved around volunteers received short shrift. Volunteers are important but some things require a qualified archivist if valuable items are not to be mistreated or destroyed.
The volunteers do the cataloguing of artefacts and if their numbers fall because they can’t quickly and easily access the material it becomes useless. No catalogue equals no access. At present those volunteers give talks which encourage more interest by residents. A lack of volunteers would see that come to an end.
Councillor Melvin Seymour asked how much the volunteers could be asked to do but Ms. Duggan reiterated the need for some qualified help. She cited Erith Museum which failed because it could only call on volunteers.
Councillor Philip Read said a transfer to Bromley might only save £41,000 but lots of only forty one thousand pounds soon add up and there is a budget reduction to be met. The regular cabinet attendees are only too well aware of that. Six councillor couples can each take that sort of sum away annually and several have and do. Had Ms. Duggan thought how else savings could be made? That was difficult, she said, because no one would tell her what made up the £41,000.
From that point onwards Ms. Duggan was not allowed to speak but councillors continued to ask each other questions.
Councillor John Davey thought everything would eventually get digitised which would improve accessibility and lower costs. It is the way forward he said.
Councillor Chris Ball (Labour leader) asked the first probing questions not specifically designed to pander to Don Massey’s plan. He asked where the £41,000 came from and if an Equalities Impact Assessment had been made.
Teresa O’Neill said they had not asked for all the answers, she did not want all the answers, because that is why they were genuinely consulting people. And in repeat mode said “alI the answers are not there at the moment because we are genuinely consulting people”. I found that to be unusual logic but I’ve checked the tape a few times so I must have missed her point.
Don Massey said the £41,000 is mainly staff savings and an Equalities Impact Assessment had been done. Chris Ball asked the killer question. “Is the Impact Assessment publicly available?” Teresa O’Neill had to admit it hadn’t been done.
Councillor Ball said there wasn’t going to be much time to study the public’s comments, do the Assessment and “get Bromley on board”. Was he being pessimistic, he asked.
A council officer not visible from my position said that all these things were being worked on with a January target date. Then they may approach Bromley.
Teresa O’Neill then closed that section of the meeting by saying a decision would be made by March and twenty-odd people trooped out of the chamber. None of them with any cause for optimism I would have thought.
after I mentioned that the ‘town centre’ of Lesnes ward is a rat
infested tip and that the local Conservatives had done nothing for the area
in the past four years, the party Tweeted that the old Harrow Inn site is to be
boarded up. Click image for clearer picture. Coincidence or shame? Who knows.
Maybe the Harrow Inn would still be standing if business rates weren’t levied on empty properties - and you can’t blame the Tories for introducing that rule, relief was abolished in the 2007 budget. But maybe an empty pub would have attracted squatters.
Nobody came up with anything the local Conservatives may have done for Lesnes ward and except that they refer to Crossrail on their website, it’s no good looking for a list of achievements there. Presumably they weren’t very interested in that dangerously narrow footpath outside Bedonwell school either, they left that to a parent who has since decided to stand for UKIP. What Labour may have planned is unknown to me, they don’t seem to have a local web presence.
The IPCC and the obscene blog investigation
Just because there is nothing much going on here doesn’t mean I have been slacking. Yet more correspondence with the Independent Police Complaints Commission this week prompted a long trawl through the files checking out a few things. After 30 odd months there is a danger I’ll forget the details.
I noticed that when the IPCC upheld my complaint (18th September 2013) that the Met’s Department of Professional Standards found no fault with those officers who were determined to find no evidence in what became known as the Craske affair, I should have been contacted by them. One letter suggests 15 days might be a reasonable time but I have let it go three months. It’s the same with the Subject Access Request, six months have passed with barely a word, just a two month old broken promise to reply within two weeks.
Complaints against councillors
Bexley council’s FOI response about complaints made against councillors in the past three years showed that only one in 49 had been upheld. I suggested this might be the deputy mayor who had a run in with an elector in 2010 and was ‘convicted’ rather late in the day, but I was wrong.
It turns out that 100% of complaints made by members of the public in since the end of 2010 have been rejected by Bexley council. The only complaint upheld was by one councillor against another. This was the “tosser” comment let forth in the heat of argument at a council meeting in 2011. I don’t propose to regurgitate the names of the protagonists as it seems to be all rather petty in retrospect, especially as neither of those concerned are “tossers’.
It seems odd that a councillor can get his knuckles rapped for calling another one a tosser but deputy leader Colin Campbell can say “crap” at a council meeting with no fear of retribution. Not that I care about that, it merely illustrates how precious councillors can be while residents count for nothing.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon’s Closed Session
Answering questions that might reveal a lie must be difficult; which reminds me, Will Tuckley replied to my last email. No answers of course, and nobody has done anything wrong - except me. I’d like to read between the lines that Tuckley is not entirely comfortable with having to brazen out Cheryl Bacon’s lies but I’ll refrain from further comment.
Councillor Gareth Bacon’s closed mind
Another subject which seems to be eluding straight comment is that ridiculously narrow footpath outside Bedonwell school. The issue was pursued with some initial success by a concerned parent, Chris Attard, and Bexley council’s attitude towards child safety and what was said about it a a council meeting played a big part in interesting him in becoming a councillor. I always suspected that decision would not help his parent/campaigner role at Bedonwell school and once discussed my fears with him.
Chris’s latest blog entry gives some details about Gareth Bacon reneging on his promise to make children safer, he seems to have found reasons to put the scheme on ice. It would be best to read the story on Chris’s own website as a brief summary may not do it justice.
Incidentally, Chris’s reference to 30,000 visitors to Bexley is Bonkers each month may give the wrong impression. The blog gets looked at around 30,000 times a month but an awful lot of views will be by repeat visitors. My best guess for unique visitors would be more like 5,000 a month, and some of those are from outside the borough. If you don’t like how Bexley council operates, please spread the word. www.bexley-is-bonkers.com is the best link to hand out.
one has come up with
that the Conservative administration might have done for Lesnes
but I did receive an email regretting councillor Allon’s move to the ward
from neighbouring Belvedere. The message said he has been very helpful, it is
implied that it was more than once, and that he was the only source of help. I
am pleased to pass that on and add that other than his, in my view, backing the
wrong horse over the new ASDA, you will not find anything remotely negative about
Kerry Allon on Bonkers. The fact that the council leader hasn’t offered him a safer seat than
Lesnes suggests he is not one of her favourite people. Maybe he is the lone good
guy, all the other northern sitting Conservatives have been transferred to safer
seats according to
the latest info published by Bexley Conservatives. There is
still plenty of time for them to change their plans though.
For the past two weeks my Contact form has been the subject of spam attacks which are threatening to drown the genuine messages. For reasons I don’t understand, the anonymous facility only works if I bounce the mail through a third party webmail provider but when I closed my Hotmail account and opened a new one the first spam item came through no more than two minutes later. I’ve changed things so that the Hotmail address is only accessible from the Contact page, ordinary email direct to it is junked and I put a tell take mark on messages sent via the Contact form. I have concluded that someone has found a way of filling in the form in some sort of automated way. As a result the Contact form may be closed down over the holiday while I make more drastic changes.
A message that did get noticed among the spam was one which suggested that Bexley council doesn’t understand its responsibilities under the equalities legislation and that it has put this notice at the end of its current crime survey.
The message says that the first four are all what I believe should be called ‘sexual orientation’ but transgender isn’t. It is no more relevant to sexual orientation than whether or not you have had your appendix removed and whilst it is not something I have thought much about previously there is a certain amount of logic to it. A transgendered person is going to be male or female and can be associated with any one of the first four conditions.
I thought I should look to see what the law said but failed to come up with anything definitive. However the Civil Service instructions to its departments say the questions should be as shown. Why Bexley council chooses to exceed its requirements and ask irrelevant and possibly illogical questions beats me. Incompetence I suppose.
you probably know, I live in the ‘poor’ end of the borough, Lesnes Abbey ward to
be precise. There’s not a lot wrong with it, my neighbours are all good,
Bexley’s only Zone 4 station is close at hand and Lesnes Abbey park is kept
looking beautiful all year round. What’s not to like about the Lesnes area? I’d say
it is the fact it has no heart; no centre and no shops to speak of. If it does
have a centre, it’s a rat infested bomb site, the erstwhile Harrow Inn. Demolished
about four years ago and Bexley council has
refused every offer to redevelop it.
There is now a branch of ASDA a mile away which has helped bring a bit of life to the downtrodden north despite the best efforts of councillor Kerry Allon to have the plans rejected. He succeeded first time around! Now he plans to stand for election in Lesnes ward (previously Belvedere). It’s a brave move, all the local Tories have done a runner for 2014. Unsurprising, their majorities were as low as six in 2010 and they are going to struggle next time around.
Nothing very obvious has improved within the Lesnes ward since the Conservatives came to power. Parking has become more difficult and much more expensive and we now have a main road on which two buses have difficulty passing. That’s about it if you don’t count the silly eight inch high fence around the park which is supposed to keep motorcyclists out. At least it works against wheel chairs. If anyone can think of a single improvement in Lesnes ward since 2010 (or even 2006) for which Bexley council is directly responsible please tell me about it.
You don’t usually see politicians around these parts, not even on polling day outside the polling station but if Twitter comments are to be believed both Conservative and Labour have been out in force canvassing. I suspect a degree of optimism has been employed, both claim support. Neither party has knocked on my door and I would have been happy to give the Tories a warm welcome too.
Probably the Labour candidate knows he doesn’t have to call, we‘ve spoken at council meetings so he will know my views already. His Tory counterparts Elizabeth Anderson and Keima Allen showed up once at the Civic Centre but only to crawl up cabinet members’ backsides with planted questions.
The only politician I have seen on my doorstep in the past eight years, it could be longer, is Chris Attard of UKIP.
Lesnes Conservatives. Lesnes Labour don’t seem to have a website.
this is why Teresa O’Neill is so keen on closing Bonkers down.
Around 30,000 page views a month can’t be doing Bexley Conservatives any favours.
I shall have to break the habit of a lifetime too come next May.
six months since a member of the Tory party in Sidcup tipped me off that
councillor Jackie Evans was seriously ill and was sadly unfit to do her job. Her
attendances at council meetings had been reduced to the statutory minimum of
once in six months and she last put in an appearance on 17th July.
Throughout this year Sidcup has been deprived of representation and the whole borough has had to pay for a councillor who because of her tragic illness has been unable to contribute anything.
If democracy was to be served an election should have been called months ago. Mick Barnbrook twice wrote to Teresa O’Neill about it and was twice refused an answer. As with too many things in Bexley, the root of the dishonesty, corruption, criminality or whatever can be laid at her door.
Untruthful reports to the police, protecting criminals in her midst, dodging the full declaration of members’ interests (Bexley has more dodgers than the rest of London combined), you name a political trick, Teresa will be at it. The Jackie Evans situation is just one more example.
The moment the clock ticked within six months of the next election Teresa O’Neill has given her approval for councillor Evans’ resignation. There can be no possibility of a by-election now. Poor Jackie should have been permitted to relinquish her position a long time ago. It would have been the humane thing to do but nothing can be allowed to get in the way of the great dictator.
I was criticised in some quarters for first alluding to this subject last June. Unkind, some thought. But surely not nearly as unkind as making councillor Evans jump through hoops to suit the leader’s political ends. No doubt everyone will wish Jackie Evans well.
Bexley council announcement.
Bexley council was ordered to pay Welling resident Josephine Robbins a great deal
of money. The arrogance towards Mrs. Robbins shown by Bexley council was reported in the
Evening Standard and
the News Shopper. What the press don’t seem to have picked up is that Bexley council’s
arrogance extended to appealing against Justice Edwards-Stuart’s ruling.
There is not much about it on the web because legal matters are too often restricted to the legal profession but you may wish to Google for ‘Josephine Robbins Bexley’ to see if you can do any better than I have. However I can tell you that a month ago Bexley council had their appeal thrown out by three judges sitting in the High Court. Bexley council are not very good at this sort of thing are they? I am reminded of how Rita Groootendorst made monkeys of Bexley council when she had their case against her kicked out in a Bromley courtroom.
I do not know how much this bad decision by Bexley council has cost us all but in the absence of a useful web link I offer the complete judgment for your perusal. I can’t tell you how I got hold of it and please accept my apologies for it being a less than web-friendly Microsoft Word document. (110KB.)
Note: Thanks to a reader from Welling, a PDF version is now available (201KB.)
It was remiss of me to not bother looking up how big the Mayor’s allowance is yesterday but now I have, and it is even more than I would have guessed.
Last year Alan Downing was paid £14,754 on top of his £10,529 councillor allowance and his wife got another £18,220. Not a bad little bonus for a couple living on a generous police pension.
The residents of Bexley are the worst paid in London but they were expected to contribute the average borough income to a man whose job involved little but being ferried around in a limousine to where the wine flowed freely. And then insulting local dignitaries but maybe I shouldn’t say any more about that.
The current Mayor Sharon Massey has not so far jabbed any resident in the eye or written to them to complain their clapping wasn’t loud enough but is the subject of a serious complaint which I’ve not yet reported here because of its complexity. Nevertheless it is not hard to admit that the present mayor has shown a very different and welcome public face from her predecessors.
Sharon sought publicity in the Bexley Times last week referring to the £15,000 she had raised for charity this year. “The money raised will be used to provide respite care for carers in Bexley and to support children with type one diabetes.” All good stuff I am sure and probably very necessary. A couple of weeks ago I heard from a carer being given respite care in Bexley who was concerned to have had a phone call to say it had been withdrawn - in a case which could hardly be more traumatic, time consuming and life threatening. Perhaps Sharon’s charity will go a little way to reverse the cuts being imposed by her own council.
The £15,000 mayor Sharon Massey has raised for charity is neatly matched by almost exactly the same sum she pockets from public funds. The charitable activities look good but when will she write to the newspapers extolling the virtues respite being withdrawn from someone 100% tied down by caring responsibilities. The mayoral allowance would, at the rate Bexley pays care workers, see about 40 borough carers retain their monthly respite allowance.
Note: The mayor’s own family sadly suffers from diabetes, hence it being one of her chosen charities. Both Masseys take round £45,000 from public funds. Quite modest compared to the chief troughers. Cheryl and Gareth Bacon. N.B. In spite of appearances, it is not actually an electoral requirement for councillors to come in pairs, but in Bexley it is almost the norm.
Carers respite care: Bexley council has been providing five hours a month of cover to allow the carer to get out of the house. Now under threat.
fail to understand this, not that it matters a great deal, but why does the
Mayor of Bexley have to go begging via Twitter for a Christmas tree?
She and her petition bashing husband Donald are trousering more than £30,000 a year with a Mayor’s allowance on top. You’d think a decent tree would be well within their budget.
I would happily have bought Sharon a tree and I know a lady who would make a darn sight better job of decorating it. Maybe the photo does not do it justice.
I’m still working through old emails and a week old comment says that Bonkers
is hard to get into. The complaint is not one of site navigation but that only long
term readers will understand how an individual blog fits into the bigger
picture. That is probably true and if I think of a solution I’ll implement it.
New readers might do worse than look at some of the old Home pages all of which have been salted away. (Go to Site map and scroll down to the very end.) Together they shed light on some of Bexley council’s worst excesses.
Two emails say I should recruit a team to run the blog. I can’t see that working either, I get spammers daily pleading to be allowed to write articles for BiB but no locals are silly enough to get involved in the nuts and bolts. Even if they did, how could the editorial consistency and integrity be maintained? I think I am trapped.
A subject that frequently crops up, known to old timers as ‘the obscene blog’, might be a mystery to newcomers. It is, despite the odds, not yet dead after 31 months. Some people are hoping it can be kept alive until next Spring because there is a plan afoot to drop a summary of the case through every letter box in the Sidcup and Lamorbey ward before the election. The subject is in need of a small update but first, for new readers…
• In May 2011 someone posted obscenities on the web under my name. The content made it obvious it was the work of someone at Bexley council.
• The matter was reported to Teresa O’Neill and Will Tuckley and a couple of hours later the filth disappeared. They subsequently said that was pure coincidence.
• The police were reluctant to accept a crime report but did so on 8th June only to say ten weeks later that they were unable to investigate due to lack of evidence.
• When questioned the police refused to discuss the matter claiming it was not in the public interest.
• A formal complaint went to the Met. Commissioner covering the period June to August 2011 and at the end of 2012 (yes 2012 not 2011) Sergeant Michelle Gower from the Directorate of Professional Standards said Bexley police had done a pretty much perfect job.
• That verdict was challenged and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) agreed that Sergeant Gower’s report was what most people would call a whitewash. The original complaint is now being reinvestigated and the outcome is not yet known.
So here we are almost in 2014 and the police are still investigating their own August 2011 decision to bury Bexley council’s crime as soon as they decently could.
After that date, pressure from two local MPs ensured the case was reopened. The police say that the MPs had little to do with it and the real reason was new evidence which came to light. Before the end of 2011 the depraved blog had been traced to an IP address used by Bexley Conservative councillor Peter Craske. However that renewed investigation hit the buffers too. According to the police it failed because of political interference and ultimately lack of evidence.
One reason for the latter might be the police’s decision to wait from the Autumn of 2011 to 21st June 2012 before conducting any search of councillor Craske’s premises. The police’s excuse was that they spent all that time making sure I had not somehow set up councillor Craske by some ingenious high-tech method well beyond my skillset. Why it took about eight months and did not involve interviewing me is one of life’s mysteries.
So that’s the background, here’s the new stuff.
A letter received from the IPCC yesterday said that a complaint covering the period September 2011 to January 2013 centred on the political interference and the search warrant delay is now with the Metropolitan Police. It would appear that under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 the police are allowed to make the decision whether they or the IPCC is the appropriate body for new complaints. Presumably whoever drafted that Act must have been under the illusion that the police are as pure as the driven snow.
The second complaint stars Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa and several officers who misled me through most of 2012, the earlier complaint featured his predecessor Dave Stringer et al.
Three years spent seeking an honest response from the police might seem a lot but my daughter and her partner have been at it for 26 years. On the other hand I suppose ensuring a critic placed his head in the path of a swinging axe is in a different league from protecting a councillor. As far as I know, even Teresa O’Neill has not hired an axeman yet. #justice4daniel for the relevant Twitter feed.
Obviously a stage in the Cheryl Bacon affair will be sending a file of papers
to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) to see what excuses they can come up with in
defence of Bexley council. Meanwhile I’m not yet sure how I will respond directly to Will Tuckley’s
suggestion that it doesn’t matter how well you behave while attending council
meetings, if your name is associated with someone who has embarrassed them, both
can expect the same treatment. Ditto his suggestion that someone who confines his
complaints to the council’s criminal acts is trivialising the complaints procedure.
I appreciate that Tuckley is desperately looking for new excuses for the lying Conservative councillor but he doesn’t do himself any favours with such nonsense and I am concerned that despite my best efforts he is still ignorant of what I complained about.
The Chief Executive makes no comment on my suggestion that he should interview the councillor with the best view of what happened or the one who has indicated a willingness to speak on my behalf. The lack of comment may indicate the depth of Bexley’s corruption or perhaps simply the incompetence of those who draft Tuckley’s letters. When I write to the LGO I would like to be sure which it is.
While mulling over the whole subject I took myself for a stroll in the late Autumn sunshine. There are no trains through Abbey Wood this weekend due to Crossrail works but apart from the white vans belonging to signalling contractors there was nothing interesting to see.
The best photo I could came up was this one adorning what was the Felixstowe Road car park. A product of the English education system or the Polish?
A walk through the picturesque Lesnes Abbey park and woods might convince a stranger that access is restricted to dog walkers but I went anyway. Whilst the abbey ruins and the arborilogical colours can be a delight to the eye the view to the north is less so. The remnants of nineteen sixties Thamesmead are being demolished or improved but the skyline gets ever more ugly.
Tower blocks still dominate the view and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower is too far away to be a serious blot on the landscape but the River Roding flood defences, poisonous plumes from the Normandy Road incinerator and the occasionally malodorous Crossness sewage disposal works are ‘interesting’ rather than things of beauty.
In the same category are the electricity bill inflating wind turbines which have recently risen to five in number. That pictured is less than a week old and at Crossness. The Erith turbine is out of sight around the bend of the Thames.
Unfortunately I saw nothing while walking to inspire my next letter to Will Tuckley but the irony of Bexley council’s flag flying at half mast when they have just told me that their segregation policy at meetings is based on which ‘tribe’ I might be associated with rather than who I am or how I behave, did not go unnoticed.
Last week I resisted the temptation to post blogs built on very little when new
material is in short supply which produced two emotions. One was the relief of not
having to think of a subject and the other was the feeling I was letting the side down.
While I flip-flopped between the two and even told a few people that I was thinking of abandoning BiB along came Will Tuckley with his threats which tipped the balance heavily in one direction. How ironic that if Bexley council had been honest and accepted that Cheryl Bacon made the wrong call on 19th June, provoking a guidance note for future reference being sent to all councillors, there would still be nothing to write about. A little bit of honesty could have killed Bonkers, but no, Bexley council had to lie, reinforce them at the most senior level and then show they had lost the argument by issuing toothless threats. It comes naturally to them.
Yesterday’s blog was posted with some trepidation. Is anyone still interested in Bexley council’s inbuilt corruption? The fact that a senior councillor is a law breaker and liar? The fact that council officers feel compelled to back the councillors in their lying at every stage? I need not have worried. The blog brought forth a goodly number of comments from readers.
One made reference, in a supportive way, to the fact that councils cannot sue for libel. That is true as a Welsh council recently discovered to its cost, but the issue doesn’t worry me very much. There has been no need to make up or exaggerate reports beyond recognition. I accept Bonkers may dwell on all that is bad about Bexley council which is why background documentation is provided for readers to form their own opinion should they wish to. Although it hasn’t pleased Mr. Tuckley, the complete correspondence trail on the Bacon affair is on line.
I am absolutely confident that BiB reports on councillor Cheryl Bacon’s mismanagement of the Public Realm meeting and her attempts to lie herself out of trouble have been factually accurate and in that I am not completely alone. These comments are extracted from the correspondence which followed Bacon’s meeting and her lies…
• Councillor Bacon took arbitrary action.
• These issues are only the most obvious in a pattern to keep accountability at bay.
• Members of the public were treated with contempt.
• If I am asked about who said what etc. at Bacon’s scrutiny meeting I would be absolutely clear.
• [Identification clues redacted] were dignity personified.
…and all of those are by concerned councillors. I originally listed ten such comments but five should be enough to be going on with and I do not wish to offer too many clues as to who, from both parties, may have sent them.
Maybe councillors have good reason to be concerned if more recent emails give an insight into the typical reaction by voters who get to know the truth about Bexley council.
Love the site. I’ve lived in Bexley many years and always voted blue. Thanks to your site, not any more.
My question, well request, is that you stand in May. I think it would be good for Bexley.
From your blog yesterday it seems they want to restrict you/your blog. You can’t let this happen.
Hopefully we will get some Libs, Greens, UKIP, English Dem or anyone that will be able to act free from council whip. I will only be voting for smaller parties or independents in May.
As someone who has only ever voted Blue myself, I too share those sentiments. In my view the iron fisted control freakery and corruption within Bexley council comes from its leader. I shall refrain from quoting councillors who feel the same, but I could, and where else do you think the “political interference” in a police investigation would have come from?
It is time to give the smaller parties a chance (†). I understand that UKIP intend to put at least one candidate in each ward and I am aware of a small number of independents planning to throw their hats into the ring. More independents should come forward but I’ve seen no sign of it and I will not be one of them.
If Tuckley’s latest letter had not persuaded me that Bonkers must continue then emails like this might well have done…
I have followed every word and am always always grateful for your explicit and carefully worded reports of the ‘goings on’ in the council offices and the wider borough. You are indeed a very special person with great fortitude and resilience, and I for one salute you…
Well I think we have had quite enough of that for one day!
† I am not a natural Labour voter but Danny Hackett my candidate down in Lesnes ward has more than once shown himself to be very honest and straight dealing. But will he be able to resist the party machine? That is the question.
you have tried to get from Erith to Bexleyheath over the past month you will
know that the most direct route is unavailable due to one way traffic over the
railway line at Erith. It has left Northumberland Heath and the old industrial
estates of Erith without a bus service (routes 229 and 99 respectively) and things
will not improve until the end of the month.
The bridge has long been a bottleneck and in September 2011 Bexley council granted itself planning permission to replace it and more recently obtained funding for that replacement so I assumed that the current work was in preparation for that. But sadly no. The two months of work going on now is just a maintenance job.
The street level notices say that the work is going on underneath but these photographs taken around 2pm last Friday suggest that may not always be the case. Hugh Neal over at the Maggot Sandwich will cover this issue in rather more detail today.
When Belvedere’s Asda store was approved the planning officers said that the extra traffic caused would take nearby roads to the limit of the capacity. With much of the Bexley bound traffic and the 99 bus diverted past Asda and up the 1 in 10 hill of Picardy Road, grid lock has frequently been the result. Now we are due to have a year or more of such disruption when the bridge is replaced. Bexley council is seeking the support of businesses to try to get extra funding which might mitigate the inevitable chaos. Has there been any time within the past four years when Bexley’s roads have not been massively disrupted?