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Bonkers Blog February 2013

Index to blogs. 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014

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28 February (Part 2) - Wheeling, dealing and stealing

How about some slightly lighter fare to end the month?

If you take a look at Bexley council’s ‘over £500’ expenditure list for January and tot up the amount paid to Lex Autolease you’ll find it comes to around £58,000. Money flows in that direction every month, not always the same amount, but Bexley must be leasing quite a lot of vehicles.

A poke around their website reveals that Lex provides a “top performing fleet of 140 cars” to Bexley council and offers the service provided to Bexley as a prime example of their expertise and flexibility in the hope of enticing more clients. Whether putting Lex in the best possible light is compatible with doing the same for Bexley may be open to debate.

Lex retells a couple of interesting stories…


Example of former employeeIn 2009 Bexley experienced a car taken by a former employee who did not make arrangements to return it. Effectively, the vehicle was missing and Lex Autolease worked closely with Bexley to search for the vehicle's location. When Bexley were unable to find the car or claim for it on their third-party insurance, Lex Autolease sold the vehicle to the Council thereby ending their lease and enabling them to write off the car's value on the Council's accounts.

After this process was fulfilled and Lex Autolease received Bexley's payment the vehicle was found and returned to the Council. Bexley no longer required the car and Lex Autolease accommodated a request to refund their payment and issue them with an Early Termination instead.


Hmm. Unbelievable. A thief in Bexley council. Who, senior enough to have use of a car, left in 2009? Several if I remember correctly.

Not content with having a swankey limo to swan around in, a pen-jabbing mayor needs two…


Mayor Alan DowningUnder increasing budget pressure the Council wanted to retain use of a second vehicle for the Mayor but not at the expense of replacing the agreement with a new car.

Although the existing car was five years old the mileage was below what was expected at this stage. Lex Autolease agreed to informally extend the present contract, on the agreement that the Council might be asked to contribute towards future maintenance costs.


It wouldn’t look right for a borough paying the sixth highest salaries in the country to suffer the indignity of having only one limousine.

 

28 February (Part 1) - Bexley council. Uniquely secretive and dishonest

“Councils. They are all the same.” I hear that quite often but is it really true? I suspect wanton waste and incompetence is quite widespread. Persecuting motorists may be universal but you have to go a long way to find another council as secretive and criminally inclined as Teresa O’Neill’s Bexley.

Council contact listBexley and Carmarthen councils appear to be alone in having residents touting cameras arrested but the Welsh authority has recently relented and announced it intends to webcast meetings. None, other than Bexley, is on record as making false statements to the police hoping to give residents criminal records for “criticising councillors” or to prevent shop keepers from reminding customers about parking restrictions outside their premises.

Perhaps Bexley council would welcome some guidance on how democracy is supposed to work and if it does it could learn from a near neighbour. Bexley has more councillors hiding their contact details from the public than the rest of London put together but in Medway their magazine lists every councillor’s home address and in most cases their email and telephone details too. Maybe there are no crooks on Medway council who need protection.

In Bexley they don’t even let you see what rules the council claims to operate under let alone members’ home phone numbers. Just look what you get instead of the Constitution if you search their website. Why is the old one withdrawn before a revision is available to the public?

Bexley council constitution

Note: Click blue image to view all Medway councillors’ addresses. Medway announces its public meetings in their residents’ magazine too.
With thanks to more than one reader for contribution to today’s blog; especially the one who posted a large document to my home address.

 

27 February (Part 2) - Parking fines. Exposing Bexley’s dishonesty. (Episode 14)

The end of the file provided by the ex-policeman has been reached. He had been illegally ticketed for parking outside KFC in Bexleyheath Broadway where the No loading stripes had disappeared from the kerb and the road side signs were totally obscured by flower baskets. A ticket issued on 5th August 2009 was still being debated in 2012, by which time the complainant was dipping a tentative toe into the world of computers.

After complaining to Chief Executive Will Tuckley on 14th February 2012 he received an email from parking supremo Mike Frizoni. Unfortunately that email no longer exists but the reply does. It reminds Frizoni that a Director had already accepted that the ticket should not have been issued so the writer was in no mood to accept the council had acted honourably.
Letter to Mike Frizoni
The writer further reminds Mr. Frizoni of the various lame excuses encountered in the previous two years. Mr. Greg Tippett blaming his failure to resolve the situation at the very earliest stage because he viewed a black and white photograph in preference to the colour original was particularly ridiculous. Tina Brooks and councillor Peter Craske came under fire too for claiming to be fully aware of the relevant statutes but refusing to comment on their relevance. Well that could be incriminating - no chance!
Letter to Mike Frizoni
Having pinned Frizoni into a corner the inevitable happened. Frizoni ignored the comments totally and carried on with his policy of abusing the law whenever he gets the opportunity.

How about that Valentine’s Day letter to Tuckley? Well the best one can say is that it wasn’t ignored. The response was dated 8th March 2012.
Reply from Tuckley
A Freedom of Information request had already exposed Mr. Loynes’ report as consisting of two short emails and a scribbled note which together said almost nothing; but it satisfied Tuckley and he slammed his door firmly shut lest any admission of failure leaked out.

After two years and seven months no one, except perhaps Mr. Paul Moore, would admit that this disabled pensioner who appealed his unjustified parking ticket was met by a conspiracy of lies. He made his views very clear in one final message.

Note: Vincipark was Bexley council’s parking contractor when the penalty notice was issued.
This story has been reported in 14 episodes. A cumulative version is provided for convenience.

 

27 February (Part 1) - Missed meeting

It has been suggested that the council’s refusal to accept questions at its next meeting on 6th March may have something to do with the Civic Recognition Awards which have traditionally been held before the early Spring council meeting, but right now no such ceremony is listed on the Calendar of Meetings.

Council meetingI have been examining both my own and the council’s records for 2012 to try to gain an insight into what is going on in 2013. A year ago there were two council meetings only a week apart, the first and standard format meeting allowed questions but the second was an extra one which didn’t. Comparing the Agenda for next week’s meeting with last year’s reveals that the standard meeting has gone and only the ‘special’ remains. It must all be part of Teresa O’Neill’s determination to extinguish scrutiny.

You have to go back two years to find any semblance of democracy at Bexley council’s first meeting of the year. In March 2011 the meeting started half an hour later than normal and those who turned up to ask questions at the usual time had little option but to sit quietly through an event of no special interest to them. I even have a photograph of it as photography wasn’t banned until the following month.

Some days after that meeting those whose names were known to the mayor of the time, councillor Val Clarke, were rather surprised to receive a letter at their home address to criticise their lack of interest in the Civic Recognition Awards.

Parismonious appreciation
All they did was sit there with a slightly bored look on their face as did I. I thought they had overlooked my failure to clap loudly but unknown to me on the same day that Val Clark dipped her pen into her bottle of vitriol, her boss, Teresa O’Neill was lying to the police claiming that I was organising an assault on the Civic Centre armed with pitchforks and flaming torches - and the police fell for her lies. The rest, as they say, is history.

But you have to admit it; reducing the number of public meetings and disallowing questions is probably a much cleverer way of subverting democracy.

 

26 February (Part 2) - Little white lies

Not much paint Faded line New lineIs white line painting so expensive in Bexley that it makes a major contribution to the Strategy 2014 cuts?

How much does a line cost? Councillor Peter Craske concocted a figure to support his plan to triple the cost of Residents’ Parking Permits. He wrote that it cost £36,000 every year to replace worn lines around bays within CPZs. Not parking bays generally, just the CPZs.

Craske was probably lying; he usually does. A very rough calculation based on the number of CPZ bays, permits issued and a paint life of ten years suggested that at the Craske rate, lines cost around £6 a foot. On the other hand Bexley council admitted under FOI it had not kept any records. So no one can be sure.

What is indisputable is that lines are often neglected to the point they become invisible. The road close to my home where I covered all the visible white lining around a bay with a lens cap is much the same two years later. The failure to mark the kerb adequately outside KFC in Broadway in 2009 cost Bexley council a fortune in administrative costs but they didn’t rush to repaint the markings. Line renewal is the last resort and not to be overdone. In Welling a major contribution has been made towards Strategy 2014 by only partially renewing the lines. Every little helps.

Note: Photo two taken in May 2012, photo three at the same site yesterday. Blog content courtesy of reader’s observations in Welling.

 

26 February (Part 1) - Gagged again

After several weeks of silence Bexley council has advised at least two people that it has decided not to accept questions put forward for the council meeting scheduled for 6th March. The next meeting at which questions might be accepted will be held on 24th April where up to 15 minutes will be allocated to residents who wish to ask a question.

That will make it just a shade under six months since Bexley council last allocated any time to public questions. On that occasion two questioners were allowed to stand and spout their piece. Mr. John Ault, a Conservative who stood against councillor Chris Ball in Erith in 2010, was chosen to encourage councillor Colin Campbell to tell us how expertly he had withdrawn Council Tax Benefits from the disadvantaged and Mrs. Christine Bishop, wife of councillor Brian Bishop was selected to invite councillor Linda Bailey to repeat her plea for Waitrose to open a store in downtown Sidcup. Not the finest example of democracy but we are to be made to wait six months to see it again.

There was no word relating to the request by one questioner not to have his address published in line with the advice from the Information Commissioner.

 

25 February - Then and now

Farnborough Council Some days there just isn’t anything to report but I don’t like to totally disappoint site visitors so here is a little something.

Over the weekend an old friend and neighbour from when I lived in Farnborough, Hampshire in the 1950s sent me this extract from the tenants’ handbook she discovered among her mother’s effects. I liked the bit that emphasises how councillors worked “entirely without pay or remuneration of any kind, on your behalf” and “full Council meets once a month to decide on policies”. Now they get up to £35,000 and meet only four or five times a year.

Whilst Farnborough Urban District Council encouraged tenants to attend its meetings, Bexley is less than welcoming. The question for the next council meeting which was submitted on 14th February with a comment about the Data Protection Act is still languishing without any form of acknowledgement or answer nearly two weeks later.

Maybe the Information Commissioner has had words with them.

 

24 February (Part 2) - B&Q Belvedere endorses illegal sanctions

B&Q car park. Click to enlarge B&Q car park notice. Click to enlargeLast Sunday I walked to the site of Belvedere’s new ASDA to see how it looked on a nice sunny morning. If I had gone by car I may have noticed the changes made to the B&Q car park, or more particularly the notices they have put up. On the other hand I might not have done because I don’t usually drive down that particular access road and the signs are only to be seen where sensible motorists will have their eyes on pedestrians rather than small print.

I went off B&Q last Summer when I needed a couple of nuts and bolts for a job in the garage. Nothing massive, about 30mm by 6 or 8 would do and they wanted £1.69 each for them and not so long ago ASDA took my money for a Blu-ray disc thereby entering into a contract and then refused to supply it to me even though it was freely available elsewhere and still advertised on their own website. So on a personal note I don’t much care if they set about annoying other customers too - and it looks as though that is their intention.

To put it bluntly, that car park notice is illegal. Click on it for a readable image.

It says that if you stay there for more than three hours they will clamp your wheels. Clamping on private property has been illegal since 1st October 2012. Who will volunteer for a test case and will Bexley police get off their backsides to enforce the law? Maybe if we get Teresa O’Neill or Melvin Seymour to overstay their welcome they will spring into action.

Another thing the idiot management of B&Q have authorised is the need to display a valid permit or ticket. You will look in vain for a ticket machine in B&Q’s car park - because there isn’t one. I imagine the permit nonsense refers to B&Q renting out space to local businesses, the school teachers across the road for example - but will the average motoring customer know that?

I’m not even absolutely sure what ‘Maximum stay three hours’ means. Unlike notices such as those in use by most councils it says nothing about return visits. Can someone leave their car for an hour every day of the week? I would hope so but why should one have to guess? Is this a legally enforceable notice or not? Probably not since it is approved by the British Parking Association. That is pretty damn close to being an admission that B&Q has got into bed with a bunch of crooks.

I find the use of the term PCN to imply some sort of lawful authority particularly obnoxious, almost as bad as charging nearly two quid for a small bolt.

Note: Blog from a submission (including photographs) by a reader.

 

24 February (Part 1) - Setting the record straight

It’s strange what persuades readers to let their keyboards loose on the Contact page. When I reported Bexley council’s failure to provide the public with a report that should have accompanied an Agenda on Monday and which I considered to be a breach of the Local Government Act 1985, no one took any notice. But when the public was deprived of the Agenda for the next Public Cabinet meeting several people got quite agitated about it. Peculiar when you consider that at best only half a dozen would have turned out in the cold to attend it.

In the former case democracy itself took a knock, albeit a very small one by Bexley standards, and in the latter, because of Mr. Barnbrook’s timely intervention, a dozen councillors were inconvenienced. I have my views on which is the most significant but the Inbox does not agree. A regular and valued contributor goes further and suggests I have been far too forgiving of Paul Moore, the Director of Customer and Corporate Services.

Whilst I do not fully understand the amount of interest shown in this particular Bexley council failure I shall attempt, if the phrase has not been totally discredited by a dishonest leader of the council, to set the record straight with a list of events shorn of comment. Readers can then draw their own conclusions as to whether or not I have been hoodwinked by Mr. Moore.


Tuesday 19th February
• 07:00 approx. I first noticed that the Public Cabinet Agenda was not on line. I told no one but monitored the appropriate page regularly thereafter.
Friday 22nd February
• 08:26. Posted blog drawing attention to the Agenda’s absence and made reference to Mr. Barnbrook. I made no attempt to contact him.
• 13:45. Posted blog announcing that Bexley council had placed the missing Agenda to its website “around mid-day”.
• 15:10. Mr. Barnbrook telephoned to request that I clarify exactly what I had guessed he might do.
• 15:30. Mr. Barnbrook failed to contact Mr. Fox by telephone. †
• 15:45. Mr. Barnbrook emailed a Ms. Lingham at the council offices referring to his “telephone conversation fifteen minutes ago” and went on to reiterate his case that “the Public Cabinet Meeting scheduled for Monday 25th February, 2013, cannot legally take place”.
• 16:12. Mr. Barnbrook called me again to say he had phoned Mr. Fox but that he was not in the office so had sent an email instead.
• 17:10. Mr. Barnbrook attempted to speak to Ms. Lingham again but was told by John Adams that she was away at an important meeting. He asked that she should call him upon her return but she never did. †
• 18:07. Mr. Barnbrook informed me by email that he had resent his email timed at 15:45 because he was concerned the first one had not reached his Sent box.
• 18:27. Mr. Barnbrook phoned me having got cold feet about the legal situation. I emailed him a link to the relevant legislation.
• 20:44. I telephoned Mr. Bryant on another matter but during that call he informed me that he believed the Public Cabinet meeting had been postponed to March 4th and that the Agenda posted at mid-day had been removed.
• 21:24. Posted blog to the effect that the meeting had been deferred and the Agenda posted around mid-day had been removed.
• 21:44. Mr. Moore emailed Mr. Barnbrook, copied to Mr. Alabi Head of Legal. “The meeting will now take place on Monday 4th March at 7.30pm. The agenda has been published on the Council’s website this evening.” ††
• 23:57. Mr. Moore emailed me, copied to Mr. Alabi Head of Legal and also from his bexley.gov address to advise me “the agenda for Public Cabinet on 4th March was published earlier this evening”. †††
Saturday 23rd February
• 10:14. I emailed my thanks to Mr. Moore for his advice of the previous evening.

† The timing of this call is approximate. My telephone records the details of all incoming and outgoing calls. Mr. Barnbrook’s does not
†† Mr. Barnbrook did not make me aware of this email until today. Sunday morning. It does not thank him for guiding Bexley council away from another brush with the law.
††† This email was not seen until Saturday morning.


I am uncertain whether my search for the Agenda circa 9 p.m. on Friday was inadequate or whether it didn’t go on line until later. Mr. Moore told Mr. Barnbrook that it had been posted by quarter to ten and I assume that if it had gone on line much earlier Ms. Lingham would have told Mick Barnbrook about it before she went home but she left Mick in the dark..

I try not to go beyond the known facts when writing blogs and as such I have no knowledge of how Bexley council came to make this mistake or if it was not a mistake but had some ulterior motive. The facts are only that Bexley council did not publish an Agenda in the timescale required by law. There is no doubt about that and they deferred their meeting and provided an Agenda at the very last possible moment without apology or explanation.

The most obvious explanation is that the council moved its meeting because Mr. Barnbrook made it clear he expected the law to be upheld. It has been suggested that the decision to move the meeting to 4th March was taken a while ago and the real failure was not updating the Calendar of Meetings. Publishing an Agenda for 25th February on the 22nd rather puts paid to that theory. “If they have made a cock-up, why don't they acknowledge it and thank Mr. Barnbrook for bringing it to their attention?” says another inquisitor. What? I would have thought any council officer who goes on the record for thanking Mick Barnbrook for anything will risk kissing his pension goodbye! “Please don’t be seduced by Mr. Moore” says another. Probably good advice. John Watson of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group has been in pursuit of Bexley council for far longer than I have and constantly reminds me that they are “all cheats and liars”. My meetings with Bexley police should have taught me that.

Apologies to those who think this is all rather dry and academic stuff, but the number of comments, some anonymous, persuaded me that all the known facts should be made available to those who require them.

 

23 February (Part 2) - Railing at blocks, blockages and balls

I used to take a certain amount of pride in being able to say that I only visited Bexleyheath once a year; to pick up last minute Christmas bits. I’ve never seen the attraction of shopping, but now I find myself in or near Bexleyheath Broadway at least once a week.
Mayplace Road
This morning, apart from the queue in Mayplace Road West, traffic was flowing pretty well around the road works. The queue was disproportionately buses presumably because they cannot avoid the problem areas while car drivers can shop elsewhere. Certainly the pedestrian areas were remarkably empty at 11 a.m. and Albion Road was empty too so there would be no danger of getting stuck in a car park for three hours.

Last week someone took me to task for saying the realigned bend outside ASDA looks like leaving a massive paved area outside that shop. I’m not sure how that makes me an advocate of narrow pavements but anyone currently steering well clear of the area may wish to take a look for themselves.
Broadway
Broadway
The camera has exaggerated the width of the new road in the second photograph but it would appear that the footpath adjacent to ASDA will be increased by at least half the width of the old carriageway.

Just a short distance west of ASDA is Christ Church where not all is tranquility, sweetness and light among its parishioners since the council was allowed to extend its path to its main door. Initially the state of the iron railings after realignment was the subject of adverse comment. As I understand it the crudely welded alterations were not the work of Bexley council’s contractor and further work has improved matters somewhat.
Railings
There is still a problem with the baseline either side of the gate which is itself too high relative to the fence abutting its left side; and please do not look too carefully at the vertical spaces adjacent to the finials. All over the place might be an apt description. It might have been simpler to get the council to replace the lot, the changes were their idea after all.

I’m no metallurgist but I would guess that sitting the bottom of the railings directly on to the low wall will cause water retention and rust. The old way still visible to the right of the gate must be preferable.
Balls
Those balls strewn across the pavement don’t look too clever to me either. OK, they are unusual and prettier than most bollards but when someone trips over one and breaks a leg because they fail to meet the guidance notes for street furniture who should be sued? The clergy or the council? Just wait until the Friday night revellers discover that the balls stay in place only because they sit on a small metal spigot. An improvised lever will soon have them up and rolling down the street.

My inexpert eye cannot fault the council’s road construction. The blocks are not insubstantial and should look good - for a while at least.
Blocks
Blocks
It’s a sign of the times of course but these men were conversing loudly with each other and not a single one was speaking a language I could understand. They must have been frozen stiff.

 

23 February (Part 1) - All’s well that ends well. Director of Customer and Corporate Services proves his worth

It is extremely rare for me to be on the receiving end of a communication from anyone at Bexley council which is perhaps a shame. I suspect if Tuckley and O’Neill had not waved my name around Bexleyheath police station two years ago because of the infamous Pitchforks and Flaming Torches metaphor first published by Arthur Pewty (choose The Shrine on the left because his bookmark/anchor doesn’t seem to work) but instead spoke to me about it, things may have been rather different around here. Unfortunately neither have ever shown any sign of possessing any common sense. But not everyone at the top of the tree at the Civic Centre is cast in the same mould.

When Kevin Fox was ranting about me sitting in the wrong seat it was Mr. Paul Moore, Director of Customer and Corporate Services, who remembered what the law said. He was the only council officer who understood the complainant and made a serious attempt to bring the two year KFC parking story to an end and just three weeks ago I described him rather ungraciously as the least bent of Bexley’s top brass.

Overnight Mr. Moore has updated me with the latest news about the Great Agenda Saga. He confirms that the minutes were posted to the council’s website yesterday and Mr. Moore kindly provided the link (PDF). Whether they went up after I looked or I failed to spot them is not clear but on the balance of probabilities I think I may have been guilty of not checking some third party information and looking in the wrong place.

Mr. Moore says “I shall expect any report that you give to be accurate in this regard” and he is absolutely right to expect that. I hate inaccuracy and have consequently modified the final two sentences of the penultimate paragraph of yesterday’s Part 4 blog to ensure that it doesn’t imply something it shouldn’t. Accuracy is paramount though it might not be 100% all the while Bexley council remains the most secretive in London. No recording of meetings, frequent non-compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, secret underhand meetings with the police to ensure their criminals get special treatment.

 

22 February (Part 4) - Stepping back from the brink

It's offI didn’t even have to call him, Mick was on the phone immediately, but Foxy wasn’t there. He spoke to a lady in his office and followed up with an email. Shortened version…


It is my understanding that the agenda for any public meeting must be published five clear working days before that meeting takes place. This means a full week plus a working day.

The agenda for the above meeting only went online this afternoon, when it should have been published on Friday 15th February, 2013. This means that the Public Cabinet meeting scheduled for Monday 25th February, 2013, cannot legally take place. If it does, it will render the person responsible liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £200.


He received neither an acknowledgement nor a call back as requested but by early evening the council’s web announcement for 25th February had reverted to that on display earlier in the week and as reproduced below. The Agenda is no longer available as a link from that page and the Calendar of Meetings has been amended to that shown above. I expect the revised Agenda will be on line before next Monday or strictly speaking there won’t be a clear five days before the next meeting.

Presumably Mick Barnbrook can look forward to the leader of the council’s grateful thanks for guiding her away from conducting an illegal meeting. Now what am I going to do for a blog next Tuesday?

 

22 February (Part 3) - Gowen, gowen, gone

You know how dog owners are said to grow to look like their pooches, old married couples can sometimes get to be like peas in a pod completing each others sentences etc? Well I have a theory the same is true of policemen. They spend so much time in the company of crooks that it becomes hard to tell one from the other.

There was always a certain irony in Chief inspector Tony Gowen being in charge of Bexley’s Professional Standards Unit for it was him who told me that if Will Tuckley and his cohorts said I was harassing them that was good enough for him, there was no need to investigate whether or not the allegation was true. It was Gowen who repeatedly told me I could trust him to investigate Bexley council’s obscene blog properly when we now know that at that time he must have known the case he had put to the CPS was time expired and would go nowhere. Then it was Gowen who was at first given the job of investigating his boss Dave Stringer after I made a complaint about him to the Directorate of Professional Standards. They are all as bad as each other and the whole system is geared up to them protecting each other.

Anti-corruptionI very recently discovered from the father of the beaten up schoolboy that the minutes of some police meetings are available on line and there I discovered that CI Tony Gowen was asked to set up an anti-corruption strategy in April 2011, him being the acknowledged expert in that field.

Three months later there was still no strategy and the issue was not discussed on the record again. The aforesaid father, the period in question spanned the incompetent and corrupt investigation into his son’s injuries, failed in his mission to find out what was decided. Gowen and Stringer sorted it out between them.


Compulsory transfersHowever, seven months later the bad boys and girls were, subject to the approval of the Senior Management Team (SMT)  severely punished by being transferred to other stations. Chief Superintendent Stringer and Chief Inspector Tony Gowen left not very long afterwards and DCI Funnell retired; prematurely according to some.

During the remainder of 2012 at least two police officers who had failed to satisfactorily conclude the obscene blog investigation also went to other London boroughs. One might surmise that those incomers involved in the exchange programme were similarly tainted.

Bexley police minutes are indexed at http://www.met.police.uk/foi/boroughs/bexley.htm.

 

22 February (Part 2) - Caught in the Local Government Act

AgendaAround mid-day today Bexley council posted its Public Cabinet Agenda on its website. In response I don’t think I can do better than rely on the comment from this morning’s ‘postbag’.


Email 1
The three day requirement was increased to five days in 2002 [SI 2002/715], and in case law this has been established to mean five CLEAR working days, which means a full week plus a working day (more if any bank holidays intervene). So for a meeting scheduled to take place on Monday 25th, the papers should have been published by the end of Friday 15th. I suspect they’ve cancelled this meeting but not bothered to tell anyone.

Email 2
The papers for Public Cabinet on 25 February have just been published on the Council's website, only ONE working day before the day of the meeting, in direct contravention of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985. It is now doubtful whether the meeting can legally proceed. If it does, this would appear to constitute a breach of Section 50H(4) of the Act, rendering the person responsible liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200.


I’d guess that Mr. Barnbrook will be drafting his next letter right now. The opportunity to put Kevin Fox on the wrong side of the law will surely be a temptation too far.

 

22 February (Part 1) - Another day; another law broken

No AgendaAnother thing the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985, mentioned a couple of days ago, specifies is that Agendas for public meetings must be made available to the public three working days before the meeting. A Public Cabinet is scheduled for next Monday, a meeting chaired by the Controller and so perfectly rehearsed in advance that it lasts no more than half an hour.

Normally the notice (see panel to the left) would include a link to the PDF download. This morning it is still blank, as it has been all week.

 

21 February (Part 2) - Bad day for Craske

News Shopper letterYesterday’s News Shopper carried two letters from Bexley residents debunking councillor Peter Craske’s nonsense about the Thames crossing situation which the newspaper published two weeks earlier.

A third letter from Bexley Labour leader councillor Chris Ball countered Craske’s political lies. The letter writers reminded us that ferries are affected by poor visibility but no one mentioned that they haven’t ever operated through the night. I wasn’t back from Newham yesterday particularly late but the Woolwich ferry was already shut. Does it ever run after 8 p.m?

It wasn’t a good day for Craske on the obscene blogging front either because the fact it was traced to councillor Peter Craske’s phone line is refusing to go away. Contrary to expectations the Crown Prosecution Service doesn’t as yet seem to be too keen on covering up police - polite version - incompetence. Ten days ago it was reported here that the CPS had told Elwyn Bryant that in their view Peter Craske should have been charged and had offered to confirm the statement in writing.

By the time that fact was posted here it was two weeks old because I would have preferred to see the letter of confirmation first, but it never arrived. What wasn’t clear was at what stage of the police’s on-off investigation the CPS had offered their charging advice or opinion.

In the absence of the promised letter Elwyn wrote to complain at a higher level within the CPS and two days ago he was rewarded with a reply. Two actually.

First he received the letter he should have had at the beginning of the month - it had spent 16 days in the first class post from Croydon - and an email from the more senior manager.

Some aspects of that email may be reasonably described as staggering and maybe I should await further developments before going live with them. The contents of the long delayed letter were low key by comparison but nevertheless provide new insights into police mischief.

A short history lesson is in order. My MP, Teresa Pearce, Elwyn Bryant and I met Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer and his Acting Deputy Tony Gowen on 10th February 2012. They told us their investigation was progressing well and they expected to soon send a case file to the CPS. A month later (15th March) Stringer announced to Ms. Pearce that the file was with the CPS. On the evening of 21st March 2012 Acting Superintendent Gowen confirmed the same to me when I briefly spoke to him outside the Civic Centre. He expected it to be returned within a week or ten days.

The CPS letter gives no confirmation of that. It says that they considered the case on the 15th of February - five days after the meeting with Dave Stringer - and they rejected it straight away. The opportunity to prosecute for the low grade offence proposed had expired six months after the crime was committed. You would think a policeman of Stringer’s rank would have known that his case papers were worthless after November 2011. One would have hoped that he would tell the MP the whole story rather than choose to mislead her.

Apparently the CPS advised that Craske should be charged with another crime. Whether that was for an entirely different criminal offence or just a new label for the original crime is left vague.

On 12th January this year Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes of Bexley police decided that he had insufficient evidence to send the Craske file to the CPS again. I was advised of that by telephone the very same day and DCI Holmes confirmed it during a brief encounter at the Civic Centre. The CPS however doesn’t agree. They have said “the investigation of the police is incomplete and [we] have set out an action plan for them to follow”. That, the CPS confirms, was done since Elwyn raised the issue with them. i.e. in the past two or three weeks. The police however claim their investigation is at an end - and they wonder why I decided to eventually make a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice allegation against the lot of them. But events keep overtaking me.

There is more but that will do for today. A bad day for Craske? You bet. But not good for Olisa and co. either.

Timeline updated.

 

21 February (Part 1) - Taxes up but no discussion

My need to spend yesterday in Newham caused the Public Realm meeting report to be shorter than it might have been. Another thing that helped is that not a single councillor wanted to comment on Agenda items 10 or 12. Ten was about yet another new stealth tax.

It is easily possible to argue that the primary cause of inflation is government. Whether it be the cost of motor fuel, the ever increasing price of domestic fuels, rail fares or postage stamps, the primary motivator for price hikes is government. Boris Johnson is in on the act. The GLA imposed an Infrastructure Levy on all London boroughs to supposedly pay for Crossrail. Now Bexley is to do the same. You’ll pay it if you buy a new house or extend or build business premises. From April next year, according to the meeting Agenda, it is proposed to charge up to £60 a square metre (†) for new housing and £100 for retail premises.

The council doesn’t say what this ’Infrastructure Levy’ is to be spent on but they do claim to have consulted on the issue. It ends next week.

No comment from any Bexley councillor is perhaps interesting. If what Nick Dowling picked up while reporting on the scrutiny of Scrutiny Committees is the normal process, this one will have been carefully rigged in advance by council leader O’Neill. Public Realm issues are more comprehensively stitched up than most, the responsible Cabinet member being scrutinised by his wife. Where other than Bexley would such skullduggery be tolerated? When asked to justify the possibility that Bexley’s Public Realm could be jeopardised by a marital tiff the council could only reply that the situation is not actually illegal.
Tuckley's comment
Whilst on the marital theme; I was slightly amused by references to Mrs. Ellershaw at the Public Realm discussions being “Miss Ainge”.

† £40 north of the Welling, Bexleyheath, Barnehurst railway line, £60 south of it.

 

20 February - Gridlock in Bexley. Parking in Bromley

The parlous state of Bexleyheath’s public realm did its best to make me late for last night’s Public Realm meeting at the Civic Centre. The queue for the temporary lights at the western end of Broadway was back past the police station in Arnsberg Way and my bus was unable to get out of Mayplace Road. It was stuck for long enough for the following 229 to pass it at the Clocktower bus ‘terminal’.

Cheryl BaconAs a result I was the last member of the public into the council chamber (fourth!) and all the Agenda copies had gone and I had to beg a copy from the Bexley Council Monitoring Group guys.

The problems didn’t end there, a jobsworth told me I couldn’t sit at a desk and I must sit on a chair from which no good view of the proceedings was available. I reminded him of the council’s legal obligations but he was unimpressed and said he was going to report me to the chairman of the meeting. I heard no more and the chairman, councillor Cheryl Bacon, even went so far as to welcome members of the public. A first I think.

Councillor Caroline Newton was asked to start by reporting on her sub-group’s study of the borough’s demographics, or as it was in practice, a study of the demographics of Thamesmead. At the conclusion, councillor John Waters praised it as an “admirable summary” while I had considered it to be a waffling statement of the obvious. Have some examples…


• The population of Thamesmead is a mix of families who have lived in the area for some time and those who are comparatively new.
• Due to the ethnic diversity a number of languages are spoken.
• A range of languages are spoken in schools and some children do not speak English.
• Deprivation in Thamesmead is higher than the Bexley average.
• We cannot keep an eye on every single member of the public.


Profound eh? It reminded me of that Pippa Middleton party book in which she told us that a turkey makes a good meal on Christmas Day. However I learned a lot more from Caroline Newton than I did from the next Agenda item which proved totally impossible to follow.

LegislationThis was because Item 6 was to discuss a document called ‘Performance Management Framework, Quarter 2, 2012/13’ and the Agenda made it clear that it was available only to councillors - which is an offence against the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985. See panel on the left for the relevant extract.

Agendas are no doubt expensive to produce and correctly guessing the requirement must be fraught with difficulty but providing no more than four copies of the Agenda and none of the reports is I would suggest falling a long way short of fulfilling the legal obligations.

The next item was a discussion on the Public Realm budget where self congratulation is the name of the game. For example we are going to save £20,000 next year by not putting water in the William Morris fountain which has been dry for the past two years. I looked in vain for the savings accumulated following the closing of Bexley Council Tramways one hundred years ago. I wonder how long the present crew will keep the old fountain on the books?

Gareth BaconCouncillor Howard Marriner was keen to bring to the fore the dog fouling problem in his ward and cabinet member Gareth Bacon said yet again that the dog warden contract was abandoned because the fines didn't get anywhere near meeting operational costs. Maybe there was something wrong with the contract but it’s an interesting concept that absolutely everything must be measured by cost. Logically would that spell the eventual end of civilisation?

Baconesque logic will also ensure a £25,000 a year saving on “Public Protection” otherwise known as Food Sampling and Air Quality Monitoring. If the horse meat doesn’t get you the diesel particulates will. Another Baconism was that the closure of town centre toilets had “no ill effect”. Councillor Malik was not impressed and will probably not be alone.

Parking chargesCouncillor Munir Malik went on to refer to the dishonest parking charge comparison with the centre of Greenwich and said it might more usefully have been made with Eltham right on the Bexley border where free parking is available. He not only didn’t like Bexley’s high parking costs but also objected to penalty charges being increased by stealth due to a rebanding exercise. Cabinet member Gareth Bacon said that happened a year ago as if that was somehow an excuse. Munir said it all contrived to make life more difficulty for Bexley businesses.

Without a hint of irony council officer Jacqueline Beckett moved into Agenda Item 8 and her pet subject which is encouraging new businesses to come to the borough. In full self-congratulatory mode she said Bexley compares well with local averages when it comes to ensuring residents are qualified to compete for available jobs. (20th in London for ‘Talent’ according to the recent Santander survey.) Councillor June Slaughter drew attention to recreational adult education classes that had largely gone by the board.

During the entire meeting only councillors Marriner, Slaughter, Waters, Langstead and Malik opened their mouths and the other five committee members present stared into space. Councillor Ray Sams looked close to being asleep and I wouldn’t criticise him for that. He didn’t appear to have a copy of the Framework either so perhaps like me he was finding it hard to keep up.

Whilst chairman Cheryl Bacon did not appear to be in a particularly antagonistic mood she did not forget that councillor Malik must be humiliated whenever possible. Councillors will often set the scene for a question by prefacing it with a long drawn out statement and that can be beneficial to any member of the public who may not be fully up to speed with the subject. Councillor June Slaughter was the prime exponent of that technique last night and I personally see nothing wrong with it. Neither did Mrs. Bacon even when Mrs. Slaughter announced she was going to do exactly that again. However when councillor Malik didn’t come out with a question with his first breath he was stopped in his tracks by a belligerent Cheryl. We were treated to a debate on whether Standing Orders permitted statements to be made at Scrutiny Committee meetings. Mr.  Malik was certainly the moral victor while Cheryl acted tough and sounded pathetic.

Jane Richardson, Deputy Director for Regeneration raced through her list of achievements which she admitted failed to meet expectations for affordable new housing. This disappointed councillor Malik who considered a disproportionate number of more expensive dwellings was a form of gerrymandering. Bexley’s very own Dame Shirley Porter, councillor Linda ‘Biffa’ Bailey said this was “a load of rubbish” and perhaps for once in her life she was right.

The Agenda item of most interest to the average resident might be that from April 1st this year Bexley is to lose control of its parking services team. One less thing for quarter million pound man Will Tuckley to worry about. Bromley council will run the show and the total staff complement will drop from 39 to 27. Bexley staff who retain their job will continue to work for Bexley council but do their work in Bromley - or possibly at home.

Councillor Malik asked if there was any sort of get out clause if things didn’t work out. The answer was that a break had been engineered in for three and a half years time when Bexley’s existing NSL contract comes up for renewal.

At 21:13 chairman Cheryl Bacon took advantage of her own personal get out clause and we all filed out. Not a lot the wiser.

 

19 February - Conspiring to get Peter Craske off the hook

Do you remember this?
CI Tony Gowen to Will Tuckley
It’s part of the email that the then Acting Deputy Borough Police Commander, Tony Gowen, sent to council leader Will Tuckley last August seeking to “resolve” the Craske situation. The police investigation was nothing to do with Bexley council it having pleaded innocence at the outset and subsequently found to be so. There is only one reason for the police to be in discussion with Bexley council about suspect Peter Craske and I think we all know what that is.

I now know when that meeting took place. 13th September 2012, just a couple of days after the police officer who met Tuckley was trying to convince me (by email and telephone) that he was an honorable man doing his level best to bring councillor Peter Craske to justice.

I didn’t believe him then and I do not believe him now. Both he and his boss have since been transferred from that hot bed of corruption which is Bexleyheath police station. The Timeline has been updated.

Victor Olisa has still not acknowledged my acceptance of his invitation to meet him and the Crown Prosecution Service is now reluctant to further discuss their decision that councillor Peter Craske should be charged with a criminal offence.

 

17 February (Part 2) - One month on

ASDA January 2013
ASDA February 2013
Belvedere ASDA progress, January 2013 and today. B&Q is half the store it was, in more ways than one.

 

17 February (Part 1) - Impressive imagination

A load of ballsI suppose I shouldn’t rise to the bait, but anonymous emails are extraordinarily frustrating. If readers dissent with what is written here why, metaphorically speaking, lob a brick and run for it? Even more annoying are those who entirely miss the point or misunderstand it.

“Why” - referring to ‘Broadway - very literally’ - “am I so against widening pavements” asked someone yesterday evening. It was news to me. I have expressed the hope that the workmanship is of a higher standard than that imposed on Orpington. I have surmised that the more acute bend outside ASDA is designed to slow traffic, and I fail to see why diverted traffic is sent around an anti-clockwise circle during the construction period, but I see absolutely nothing to criticise in the scheme itself. It was described as “impressive” when first announced.

When correspondents wrote predicting an increase in the rate of pedestrian accidents I replied that a friend who once worked for the Transport Research Laboratory studying the effects of such shared space schemes, told me that if well designed the new Broadway should not be a problem.

In any case, if nothing is ever changed the whole place will get to look tatty - and surely the western end of Broadway already was.

 

16 February - Road blocked

Albion Road junction Block paving Christ Church Block path ASDA Crossing Block paving

Presumably people too scared of getting stuck in the car park to go and see for themselves were the source of comment on the Broadway regeneration works and for them here are a few more photos taken around 13:30 on Wednesday 13th February. There is nothing more scandalous to report today.

Click any of them and use the left/right arrows for enlarged views.

 

15 February - More readers’ input

Bexley near the bottom
Santander UK plc has published a survey on the best boroughs in which to do business, measuring Enterprise (business start ups, survival etc), Talent (staff qualifications), Connectivity, Costs and Wellbeing. Of the 32 London boroughs, Bexley comes in at a lowly number 27 languishing among those well known bastions of Conservative good management practice such as Waltham Forest (29th), Lewisham (30th), Newham (31st and Barking & Dagenham (32nd).

The Santander corporate website is absolutely horrible to navigate and doesn’t allow a link directly to the most appropriate pages but if you fancy a look I would suggest starting here then navigating via Local News/News/More and scrolling down to ‘Westminster tops London’ to find a bit more background information.

Secondhand tent
ActReaders with intimate knowledge of the law are always welcome so thanks to whoever drew my attention to the council’s legal responsibility for publishing agendas and minutes of meetings.

It was suggested that Mr. Kevin Fox is in breach of the Local Government Act 1985 by failing to post the Supplementary Report (about an unwanted Olympic pavilion, price £1·8m.) along with the Agenda to the Public cabinet meeting held on 28th January 2013. I suspect it is more than likely he simply forgot.

Another eagle eyed reader refers to the unwanted Olympic tent being destined for the grounds of Sidcup & Chislehurst Grammar School and has checked that it last applied for planning permission for a Sports Pavilion in 2003. (Application No. 03/00572/FUL.) Permission expired in 2008. However the second paragraph of that Supplementary Report says that Planning Permission exists. Probably academic, with Teresa O’Neill and Boris Johnson behind it, it will go through.


Data Protection Act
Following the Information Commissioner’s advice that Bexley council’s policy - no, sorry, ‘rule book issue’ - that they will publish the address of anyone who asks it a question, some I hear, are being submitted with a prefix.


I would prefer you did not publish my address as my residency can be easily verified in other ways. I am confident that publishing sensitive personal data serves no useful or fair purpose and placing my personal details on the Internet where they will remain for ever puts me at risk of fraud and identity theft.

If you insist that this detail must be published before my question can be put forward then I request that both you and your Data Controller confirm, in writing, and state unequivocally that Bexley council is fully adhering to all of the principles of the 1998 Data Protection Act.

On receipt of this correspondence I will then consider my options regarding a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.


As always, I eagerly look forward to the weasel words that will be concocted by Bexley’s dishonest managers to counter that.

 

14 February (Part 3) - Broadway - very literally

Broadway Broadway BroadwayThe author of the previous blog contrasted the massive pavement width being provided outside Bexleyheath ASDA with the niggardly strip afforded to children making their way to Bedonwell Infant School.

Two of the adjacent photographs show the realigned bend in the road which now passes ASDA at a smaller radius placed further from the store. This photograph may better illustrate how far the new road will be from the old. The path outside ASDA will be massive.


Aldershot & DistrictWhy the road has been realigned so drastically is unknown to me. Perhaps they think it will slow the traffic, in any event I hope it is being well engineered.

When I was a lad growing up in and around Aldershot which was a hub for many long distance coach journeys at a time when car ownership wasn’t common, I used to nerdishly watch the road leading to the bus station migrate bodily on to the pavement under the constant pounding of turning bus wheels.

Similar pressures destroyed the blocked road surface in Orpington after it was installed a few years ago. All very predictable and now scarred by ugly black tarmac. Maybe Bexley has learned the lessons. Time will tell.

 

14 February (Part 2) - Broadway style before Bedonwell safety

Bedonwell School Bedonwell School Bedonwell School CouncillorsToday’s blog is again a third party submission. It comes from a parent concerned about the forced close proximity of cars and toddlers outside Bedonwell Infant School. I saw the chaos for myself on a daily basis back in 2011 when escorting a disabled lady and her son to school when some B11 bus drivers were being less than helpful to the mother’s condition. Bedonwell school was shockingly chaotic to someone who had not been near a school for a very long time.


Bexley council must be more interested in shoppers than the safety of children, some as young as four years-old. They are compelled to use a dangerously narrow footpath outside Bedonwell Infant & Nursery School in Belvedere.

Cars that mount the pavement are an almost daily occurrence to be faced by parents and children who must be prepared to jerk their children away from harm.

A woman carrying a baby (see photo 3 - click for enlarged views) is forced so close to the edge of the pavement that the wheels of her pushchair are literally centimetres from the cars which constantly manoeuvre alongside.

Transport for London gave Bexley council £3·5m for the redevelopment of Bexleyheath Town Centre, yet no one will cough up a penny to widen a pavement outside a nursery school. Creating an enormously wide pavement outside ASDA in the Broadway may be desirable but to then say that widening a pavement for child safety reasons isn’t really a priority is baffling! I can’t help but think that ASDA may have some input into how Bexley’s money is spent. Outside ASDA the paved area is 20 feet wide already, outside Bedonwell Infant School it is barely three.

The twelve car parking space is indented and does not infringe on road space, (See photo 2) but open a car door and nine tenths of the pavement is blocked. Heads get banged and some parents divert into the road to avoid it.

Perhaps they shouldn’t but waiting risks a pile up of pedestrians and there is no satisfactory solution other than widening the pavement. Railings between road and footpath might deter cars that ‘stop and drop’ while blocking following traffic. The bays appear not to be used by local residents.

Mrs. Brooks, the Headmistress of Bedonwell Infant & Nursery School has asked Bexley council for a number of years to take child safety seriously, yet the only answer so far is, “We don’t have the money”. How much is a child’s welfare worth? The school conducted a poll of 400 parents asking if they felt safe outside the school; 396 said they did NOT feel safe!

Why is parking for twelve cars outside a school seen as more important than child safety? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.


Err… maybe the governors and councillors seen observing the chaos on 10th March 2011 should be asked for an answer. (See photo 4.) To illustrate just how much extra space is being given to ASDA more photos will be added later today.

 

14 February (Part 1) - Welcome to Bexleyheath

Bexleyheath regeneration Bexleyheath regeneration Bexleyheath regenerationA month into the Bexleyheath Broadway regeneration and on a gloomy February day fewer than a dozen men are to be seen tinkering with paving blocks and wet cement.

Meanwhile traffic heading West is badly snarled up and pedestrians squeeze along what is left of the foot path. At least there is no room for any unwary motorist to park where there are no longer any yellow lines.

Yesterday’s News Shopper carried two readers’ letters relating to the Broadway regeneration and the parking problems it has caused. One from Gareth Bacon, cabinet member for Public Realm, was apologetic and sensible, quite unlike councillor Peter Craske’s message the week before; the other was labelled STAR LETTER. I think the editor really means STIR LETTER because he has a habit of choosing submissions easily ridiculed. It’s probably a sensible tactic designed to keep things lively.

This time we have a David Heap criticising a mother for driving to the shops. “Go by public transport, this is what it is for”, this petty dictator says. I always use my Freedom Card when I can but it takes three to four times as long to cross the borough as it does using a car and if I drove the mile or so from the mother’s home off Pickford Lane to Broadway and back it would cost, including an hour’s parking fee, less than half the return bus fare. Nobody has the right to dictate how others choose to travel and how does this Heap fellow know what the mother wanted to buy? When I bought a curtain rod I was denied bus travel because the driver deemed me to be a health hazard.

 

13 February - A postscript

Using third party input is potentially risky and I worry a bit about them provoking responses that are hard to answer - if something is totally wrong for example - so when the inevitable happened I was relieved to learn that the problem was relatively minor. I was not the only one unable to find the report about the Olympic tent on the council’s website.

To remedy that I have arranged that if you click on the ‘tent extract’ at the foot of this morning’s blog, it will provide a local copy of the whole thing. If you aren’t using a really ancient web browser that is.

 

13 February - A point of view

Third party contributions come in all shapes and sizes but the stated facts in this one which came in last weekend seem to check out OK and it will give me a day off.


Budget Strategy 2014I was reading the introduction by our glorious leader Teresa O’Neill to the Budget Strategy 2014 - Update February 2013, click image to read it, and I was struck by what a tissue of fabrications and general misdirection it really was.

Without a shred of evidence she promises us that residents of Bexley will in some way be pleased that councillors and senior council officers have magnanimously decided to spend £42 million pounds on giving themselves a new Headquarters. Is she truly deluded? I fear for her sanity; or perhaps she just has to reassure herself.

OpinionThis is quickly qualified with a fatuous claim that the building will deliver ‘significant savings to council taxpayers’, which frankly is fundamentally untrue. Strategy 2014 is supposedly all about saving £35 million, so go do the maths Teresa. If you and your cronies have just blown that and a further cool £7 million I am afraid you have an awfully long way to go to start making any overall savings at all!

The leader then goes on to highlight what she feels are Bexley’s – I assume she means the council’s – strengths. Shall we see how they stack up under closer scrutiny?

Firstly, ‘Keeping Within our Budget’. Well seeing as they set it - and then alter it at will - should we be surprised that this is considered some sort of excellence here in Bexley? Even more of a shame though is the admission by the Director of Finance Mike Ellsmore that they will spend £157,000 more than was predicted in their own budget plan.

http://democracy.bexley.gov.uk/documents/s49174/Item%204%20-2%20Cabinet%20Monitoring%20Appendix%20A.pdf (See page 3 of 5.)


Overspend
Now, I recall that Ellsmore did not feel that this was material given an overall budget of just over £180 million but I am sure any normal person would feel that if they mismanaged their own finances by this sort of amount they would be in deep trouble. Perhaps as he only costs residents a mere £166,824 in salary (see blog for 28 January) why should we really expect any better?

Next on Teresa’s list, “Delivering our Planned Savings”. Not according to Table 1 on page 5 of the February 2013 update, and only four pages on from the leader’s introductory drivel, as it quite clearly highlights that nearly a million pounds of savings (£963,000) have not been achieved as per their own business plans.
£963 million not saved
Still they confidently predict that some extra £705,000 is already in the pipeline for 2013/14 - and given an extra £148,000 has already been found somewhere else via a mystical ‘full year effect’ we can all breathe easy – and, phew, it all magically balances out again. Ain’t it just marvellous how they do that!

Surely Teresa could not be disingenuous about continuously searching for efficiencies as this must be fixed in the DNA of all true blue Tories. Well dear reader I will leave you to judge her record. Strategy 2014 published in February 2011 meticulously tabulated and numbered all the planned savings…
http://www.bexley.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=8613&p=0
and the highest numbered plan was 359. The update two years later tells us on page 33 that precisely two more business plans have been added. Impressive? Not really. That sort of dedication to the cause is hardly the clarion call of success on which to storm into the next round of cuts and redundancies; sorry savings and efficiencies in Bexley council speak. (†)
Two more plans
Finally we come to ‘Planning Ahead’. Well there is little point in me crystal ball gazing, after all that is Bexley council’s blue sky thinking department’s jurisdiction. And despite councillor Campbell’s upbeat portrayal of a £40 million funding gap by March 2018 and apparent positive relish at the thought of tackling such an enormous deficit I think we can be certain of just one thing and that is our council tax is on the way up, up and up!

Interestingly the supplementary report to the financial plans 2013/14 produced for the Public Cabinet meeting of 28th January 2013 pretty much summed up all that was inherently wrong in Teresa’s budget strategy introduction.

It appears that Boris Johnson must be calling in a favour from his Outer Boroughs ambassador as there is a tent going begging from some Olympic site and we can have it shipped to Marlborough Park Avenue in Sidcup and erected - I assume so future generations can laugh and marvel at the folly - for just £1·8 million. Clearly there had not been time to include this rash – and expensive – vanity project in the Agenda pack. Not a very good demonstration of planning ahead now was it?
Olympic tent
Given the substantial price tag I am not sure it will help much in the search for efficiencies, nor, I’m afraid, for the same reason is it likely to contribute at all to the planned savings. In a time of austerity and belt tightening it is nice to know that Teresa has her priorities sorted. Better luck next time you want to successfully peddle propaganda. Armchair auditors are watching you and you will be held to account!


† I recall that at least one of the original savings plans was abandoned so the quoted numbers, if they have been rejigged, may be one or two adrift. Councillor Craske had proposed putting children’s lives at risk by doing away with school crossing patrols. I suspect the idea was a sacrificial lamb dreamed up to enable the publicity stunt of climbing down later and Craske claiming the credit for not being an evil bastard.

If I had decided to unpick Teresa O’Neill’s budget update my feeble attempt at humour may have drawn attention to the scheme to bring into use a part of Erith cemetery untouched for the past 70 odd years. The council’s stated reason for doing so is the potential for it earning £194,000 in burial fees. Do your bit for Teresa and die.

 

12 February (Part 2) - Charge and countercharge

Peter CraskeIt’s exactly a month since a Detective Sergeant phoned me to say that Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes - that’s a new name for you - had decided that there was not enough evidence to charge Bexley councillor Peter Craske with creating an obscene blog in my name. The police accepted that he had the motive, they accepted that some factual parts of the blog would most likely be known only to Craske and they admitted the blog was created on a device traced to Craske’s phone line (IP address). But they insisted there was insufficient evidence to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A few days later I wrote to the Detective Sergeant to let her know that I would send my file of evidence of police malpractice to Scotland Yard and allege a conspiratorial attempt to pervert the course of justice. Within a matter of hours the Borough Commander emailed me suggesting we meet. Quite a change from not even bothering to reply to my own request for a meeting made two months earlier.

After a few days of fence sitting I accepted Chief Superintendent’s invitation in a letter dated 24th January 2013. It listed 17 issues on which I felt Bexley police had been incompetent, dishonest, corrupt or all three. Three weeks later I am still awaiting an acknowledgement. I would guess Victor Olisa finds rebutting my suggestions impossible.

I never did see much point in a meeting and I am in no mood to be sweet talked out of my intentions, As far as I am concerned that avenue is now closed.

CPS guidanceUnder CPS rules relating to “offences with a homophobic element”, failure to proceed to prosecution entitles the victim to a meeting with the CPS. However that might only be the case if it was the CPS who had turned down a police application. If the story emanating from DCI Holmes is correct the Craske case never got that far. But it did. The CPS was able to turn up all the details on their computer system just from being provided with the name Peter Craske.

The CPS operates extremely slowly and apparently shrouded in some secrecy but I now have the names and office addresses of three of their staff up to senior management level. The information coming from the Crown Prosecution Service is very disturbing. They say that they advised Bexley police to charge councillor Peter Craske but they failed to do so. During a telephone call yet to be confirmed in writing the CPS officer said - not his precise words - Bexley police fouled things up on a technicality to ensure they couldn’t charge councillor Peter Craske.

Chief Superintendent Victor OlisaI met DCI Gary Holmes at a recent police meeting and I do not believe his decision was inaccurately relayed to me. Yet the CPS are saying something very different. There may be a rational explanation but I cannot think what it might be.

Had I known, when writing to Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa, what I know now there would have been more than 17 accusations of malpractice listed. Until the CPS enquiries are completed my file will not go to Scotland Yard but as more information comes to light I become more convinced that a massively corrupt machine encompassing the Mayor’s Office, Bexley council and Bexley police swung into action to save Peter Craske’s political career - although given the Google results when searching for his name any thoughts of total success might be misplaced.

Note: Councillor Peter Craske was first revealed to be the suspect at a meeting with police on 3rd December 2012. His name was freely used in subsequent emails until one from Bexley police dated 18th January denied his name had ever been mentioned. When the CPS were first contacted they needed only the name Craske to find the case on their computer system. Why the police would want to deny it I have no idea.

 

12 February (Part 1) - Teresa O’Neill refused to slim down. Bromley council follows suit

News Shopper reportUnder a picture of the Controller herself the front page of the News Shopper dated 27th October 2010 carried news of the soon to be imposed council budget cuts. Among them was the suggestion that the number of Bexley councillors be reduced which would save around a third of a million pounds a year. Would anyone miss them? I shall spare their blushes but there are a couple who have never uttered a word at any meeting I have attended. But it is all academic anyway, after floating the idea for the benefit of a newspaper, council leader Teresa O’Neill never mentioned cutting councillor numbers again, not even at the ‘cuts meeting’ in early November 2010.

Cuts are for the little people and the wriggle room O’Neill referred to was sufficient to ensure that none fell on herself or her grateful cronies.

In neighbouring Bromley they were not so quick to wriggle away from cutting their own numbers. They pretended to be getting on with the job but last week announced they had left the idea too long for it to be implemented in time for next year’s elections. Oh, how very convenient.

 

11 February (Part 3) - More law breaking by Bexley council

Temporary parking restrictions Temporary parking restrictionsOne of my earliest attempts to expose Bexley council’s dishonest parking regime was way back in September 2009 when I kept my eye on developments in Abbey Road, Belvedere. The regular morning commuters arrived and didn’t see the temporary restriction that had been placed nearby the previous evening. Not surprising really because the notice had been erected beyond the end of the free parking bays. Shhh. Don’t tell them they are still free.

The second photo shows the bays that end where the CPZ zone starts but the notice and the road works were some distance ahead - within the CPZ - of the bays that Bexley council claimed had been restricted. Click the second photo for a better view.

I advised the totally useless ward councillor John Davey of what had happened but he didn’t think my message was worthy of a reply.


No authorisationVery recently my colleague John Watson of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group suffered a similar fate. He parked right under the sign which said he could park for an hour and when he returned he found a yellow notice draped over that same sign and a ticket on his windscreen.

But perhaps he need not worry. According to a BBC report and a programme due for broadcast at 19:30 this evening, Bexley council has no authority to put up their flimsy cardboard notices.

I once saw Bexley council paint yellow lines around an already parked car and ticket it immediately. The Traffic Order had not yet come into effect. I wrote to Bexley council about it and they said that as they couldn’t synchronise everything for the very same day and painting lines after the date of the Order would lose revenue, they had no reasonable alternative but to introduce and enforce the lines earlier. Oh yes you have Bexley council. But the alternative involves not breaking the law. Not your forté is it?

This incident is about ten years old now, but Bexley’s letter is still tucked away in my files somewhere. (Old report on the issue.)

 

11 February (Part 2) - More blatant lies by Bexley council

Oakhouse Road Oakhouse Road Free evening parking in Oakhouse Road, Bexleyheath was withdrawn at the end of last year and it wasn’t at all obvious why a length of road completely open on one side and with no houses on the other should be so restricted except as a money making exercise.

Mick Barnbrook did the necessary and sent in a Freedom of Information request seeking a copy of the official justification for such a move.

It transpires there isn’t any real justification, no request from local residents, no accident report, no, nothing like that. All Mick got was a made up lie.


Statement of Reasons
Honestly, that’s all there was. Just a covering note referring to a piece of paper headed ‘Statement of Reason’ and a repeat of what had been taped to the lamp post.

Drivers might park inconsiderately anywhere; I couldn’t get my own car out on to the road last Friday evening and again last night because of inconsiderate parking. If that in itself is a valid reason for parking restrictions then welcome to a borough with 100% yellow line coverage. It is coming by stealth anyway under a council that doesn’t need a reason. The photos shows how honest the visibility excuse is.

The name of the council liar in this case is Mike Frizoni, Deputy Director of Environment aided and abetted by Mr. Vinny Rey, telephone 020 3045 5935, the architect of so many of Bexley council’s traffic fiascos. Ruxley roundabout, badly sited traffic islands, etc.

 

11 February (Part 1) - Craske double cross

Bridge proposalI managed to attract the attention of a bridge objector at the weekend. I’ve not been able to do that before and maybe that is because contrary to councillor Peter Craske’s News Shopper lie, Bexley residents have not “overwhelmingly rejected” a bridge. There have been two surveys conducted on the matter, ten years old it is true, but one found 79% in favour of a bridge with 2% against (19% don’t know) and the other gave it even greater support. (84%.)

What was a little disappointing is not that someone should be against a bridge but that they believed the scheme put forward recently is the same as that rejected five years ago. That one provided for a dual carriageway road, bus lanes, cycle and foot paths, with the possibility of the Docklands Light Railway too.

The latest proposal was summarised by Transport for London and as you can see, only a bare-bones structure is up for consideration.

However as many readers will have supposed, the main point of Saturday’s blog was to demonstrate that even after his 18 month tussle to persuade the police to overlook what gets sent over his internet connection he has not changed one jot. Councillor Peter Craske still cannot stop himself lying.

It is not Bexley’s Labour councillors proposing a bridge as he wrote in the New Shopper, it is a Tory Mayor who allowed it to be an option in the recent consultation. Supporting is not proposing.

“All HGVs and vans” will not “descend on Knee Hill” as the liar would have you believe. TfL has not quantified the extra traffic a bridge might generate. “Ten times the volume” was a lie manufactured by Bexley council for their tax payer funded propaganda sheet recently poked through letter boxes across the borough. Neither did the residents most affected by a bridge “overwhelmingly reject” it. They voted Labour just as they always do, just as surely as the more affluent end of the borough voted Tory. The only surveys on the subject overwhelmingly rejected Craske’s argument.

Craske isn’t even consistent as these extracts from a Bexley council propaganda sheet shows…
Craske propagandaCraske propaganda
Has anyone thought about straightening out the kinks and bends on Knee Hill? It would make a massive improvement to safety and traffic flow. A couple of extra feet on each side wouldn’t go amiss either.

Far cheaper and more beneficial than the disruption being caused in Broadway.


Perhaps I should declare a personal interest in a Thames crossing. My father’s 93 year old sister lives nearer to me than does Elwyn Bryant in Bexley Village and I can get to him in twelve minutes given a clear run. There is no one else able to do the old lady’s odd jobs and shopping and I am lucky if I can get to her in fewer than 45 minutes. She has lived in the same house in East Ham since she was 20 years old; you try getting her to move!

No one would countenance Thamesmead residents not being able to get to Bexleyheath in much under an hour as the norm. Getting to neighbouring Newham shouldn’t be such a problem in the 21st century. Blackwall was built in the 19th and the fact it is still the best on offer is utterly disgraceful. At least the visitor’s parking permit is free in Newham. (Up to 30 visits a year, 30 pence thereafter.)

 

10 February (Part 2) - Gareth Bacon’s grand plan. Bridges and phones both go down the tube

Gareth BaconHow many forms of publicly supported transport do we have in this neck of the woods? Buses, trains, Underground, Overground, ferries, river boats, bridges, tunnels, Light Railway, Crossrail, trams, cable cars? London has them all. Bexley has just two and a council that does it best to deprive us of more. But don’t run away with the idea that Bexley councillors are stuck in the Dark Ages and none looks to the future. We have one, at least, with a foot in both camps, a finger in every pie, a snout in every trough.

Fewer than two weeks ago councillor Gareth Bacon was seen telling mayor Boris Johnson how Bexley residents must not be given access to something that might improve their job prospects and now he is proclaiming that the rest of London must be allowed to join the technology rat race or suffer the consequences. He wants mobile telephone coverage to be extended (PDF download) to the London Underground and he is dead right. London cannot afford to be left behind in the field of communications any more than Bexley can afford to be the only borough with no Underground, no DLR, no Crossrail, no bridges etc.


Mobile phoneI gave up on mobile phones after carrying one like this up until about 1988 and have been a bit of a Luddite about them ever since; regarding them as a mixed blessing. However I was glad of the entertainment during a recent train journey from Greenwich to Abbey Wood provided by a loud and foul mouthed young woman carrying a two year old child. Mother was screaming down the line at its father. How he seduced her, impregnated her, beat her, deserted her and now wanted to make amends for his sins. No way! She hoped his wotsit would rot and drop off. She had changed her address and he wasn’t to try to contact her again - ever! All liberally peppered with expletives. Let’s hope she never has reason to ask Bexley council a question.

 

10 February (Part 1) - Town Halls are fleecing you - Daily Mail

Daily MailYesterday’s Daily Mail carried an article that will appeal to all those who think that councils are mainly composed of cheats and crooks. Bexley gets a mention of course.

 

9 February - The Bexley Liar returns to the scene

The News Shopper is not a grubby little rag but it felt like that when I opened this week’s issue to Page 16 because there at his shameless best, Bexley’s premier liar was doing what he does naturally. Lying.

There were unsubstantiated ‘facts’ like a Thames Bridge generating ten times the traffic of a ferry. Is a ferry worth having if the capacity is so low that you may as well drive to Blackwall to avoid its queue? And a new lie which tells us Bexley voted to “overwhelmingly reject” a bridge when the facts are that all the wards adjacent to the proposed site voted the other way and even in the next nearest ward the Conservative was elected with a majority of only six votes. One was mine - never again.

News Shopper letterPeter Craske’s major lie was about Knee Hill taking “all” the traffic from a Thames bridge which the North of the borough so sadly lacks. Granted that Knee Hill is steep and narrow and for some unfathomable reason is classed as an A road, but there is no way that “all the traffic will be descending on Knee Hill”. It cannot happen. Craske is lying again.

Knee Hill will not take all the traffic for the rather obvious reason that most bridge traffic will head East or West along the dual carriageway of the A2016 but also because Knee Hill will jam solid if an ascending lorry meets another descending. But if it did, as Craske points out, no one lives there, it’s in the middle of a wood, so HGV drivers would soon learn.

Why would any driver of “huge HGVs and vans” choose to go through Lesnes Abbey Woods when the map shows so many more attractive options? But the lying councillor Peter Craske rushes into print to tell us that ALL traffic will go that way. He seems to be the sort of hot headed lunatic who would allege that elderly gents go to the Civic Offices to, in the words of Bexley council’s obscene blogger “w*** all over the councillors (sic) photos”.

A sat nav equipped driver heading south is more likely to be directed via Plumstead and Wickham Lane or Erith and Northumberland Heath (both routes A roads all the way) than any of the minor roads shown in the centre of the map.
Map
Knee Hill is not Bexley’s narrowest road. Rectory Lane in Sidcup provides a nice short cut from Foot’s Cray but few use it because it is more trouble than it is worth. It wasn’t always that way, Bexley council modified it to make it an unattractive proposition.

As everyone knows, the real reason for Bexley being denied a river crossing is because it might disadvantage council leader Teresa O’Neill. Knee Hill is just a convenient excuse. If Knee Hill is going to be a more popular route than a dual carriageway that leads to the M25 then take away its A classification and install a width restrictor. No one lives there, no one will ever be prevented from getting a removal van to his door. There are dozens of alternatives to Knee Hill but they do not suit Bexley council’s dishonest agenda. Even Boris Johnson uses Knee Hill as an excuse. See video.

Note: Peter Craske’s lie also appeared in the Bexley Times. Probably that has degenerated into a grubby little rag. Click letter extract above for full text.

 

8 February - Crime & Disorder at the Civic Centre

Report crimeI wouldn’t recommend anyone new to attending council meetings dips their toe in by going to one chaired by councillor Alex Sawyer. He plays a straight bat, tinged occasionally with gentle humour and is blessed with a committee almost free of Bexley council’s lunatic fringe. Those who prefer political histrionics, partisanship and plain stupidity should opt for a Cheryl Bacon chaired meeting every time. So with Alex’s committee all on their best behaviour prepare yourself for a factual report, with close to zero entertainment value.

Council officer Dick Passmore kicked off by mentioning the small budget consumed by the committee’s activities. Councillor Steven Hall wanted to know where an unquantified £127,000 had gone. Steven is a man who doesn’t consider one hundred and twenty seven grand to be small change. The answer was that it had gone on the St. Giles Trust (offenders rehabilitation), the Bobby Van scheme (security advice and practical help), Neighbourhood Watch (community crime prevention) and youth diversion projects (no idea).

Next on stage was that 12 month wonder, Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa. He said that Bexley was, under the ‘cut backs’, going to see a reduction of only one in its number of front line police officers (to 344) but it would rise again by 2015 to 360. He said that was a rise of 24. Not sure where that came from, perhaps 344 will drop to 336 in 2015.

Safer Neighbourhood Teams are going to investigate their own crimes in future - maybe the Commander should have rephrased that but I’m sure he knows his staff better than I do - and CID staff numbers will take a dip as a result.

Burglary stats. are up but not by much and the principal cause is theft from motor vehicles. Too many people leave car doors unlocked.

Councillor Mike Slaughter thought that the police were pulling a fast one with the Safer Neighbourhood Teams. He said the council had been promised “no political decisions” and “no merging” of SNTs, but the reduction in the number of sergeants was “merging by a different name”. The Borough Commander said the new arrangements were justified by the added flexibility. Councillor Slaughter was not impressed. “It is disturbing it has changed this much.”

Councillor John Davey was concerned that burglary numbers might be oscillating up and down in tune with certain individuals alternating between jail and the mean streets of Bexley. The Commander didn’t agree. He targeted known criminals and has had freed offenders locked up again in as little as 19 minutes of getting out.

Councillor Val Clark related how her car was vandalised while in a Bexley car park under a CCTV camera. She reported it to the police more for the statistics than in expectation of a result but wasn’t helped by police who said it wasn’t worth checking the CCTV because the cameras were always pointing the wrong way. Maybe the crooks look up before they strike. CS Olisa said that there were no car theft hotspots in Bexley so it wasn’t easy to pay special attention anywhere. He had placed decoy vehicles across the borough over the past six months and not a single one had attracted criminal attention.

Brenda LangsteadAt the last Crime & Disorder meeting the Commander spoke of merging Bexley and Bromley police at senior management level and forming ‘Basic Command Units’. Councillor Brenda Langstead asked for an update on that but was told instead that the plan had been totally abandoned. Some back office staff may be shared, nothing else. Councillor Langstead complained that police officers are concentrated in Bexleyheath and Bexley to the detriment of areas such as hers which had no CCTV coverage. Commander Olisa was unmoved.

Safer Neighbourhood Panels caused more dissension in the ranks. Councillors had been discouraged from attending them but the police had agreed to relax their rules such that councillors who lived in a ward could attend “as residents”. A moment’s thought would show the flaws in that. Many councillors do not live in their wards and would be barred from keeping themselves informed via such forums.

Olisa shifted his position but insisted that any councillor “who made a political statement would be asked to desist or leave.” Somewhat naive to expect a politician not to be political surely? Councillor Nigel Betts probably put his finger on why the police don’t want councillors to be at their public meetings. “Officers talk out of the back of their heads on subjects which they know nothing about. Politics is not the issue”. Olisa continued to rumble on about “councillors will be asked to leave or desist”. I know I have sometimes suggested that Bexley is a police state but I didn’t expect Chief Superintendent Olisa to take me quite so literally. If elected representatives are not allowed to represent because the police chiefs say so it’s a good job we will shortly see the back of this one.

Tuckley and O'NeillOn that subject it was revealed that council leader Teresa O’Neill and chief executive Will Tuckley had written to the Met. Commissioner to express their discontent at Bexley being used as a police training ground. Councillor Val Clark said the borough has had “dozens” of police Borough Commanders in her time as a councillor and the longest lasted two years, one only three months. Perhaps bending the rules to suit a crooked council proves to be too stressful?

Olisa’s replacement, Superintendent Peter Ayling, was variously described by the outgoing commander as “fantastic” and “more than capable” - of giving a very dubious answer to a Freedom of Information request I assume - and he would appoint his deputy, a Chief Inspector, after he had settled in. When would he take over? That question was asked twice, one answer was 4th March and the other the 5th.

Council officer David Bryce-Smith was asked to speak about the Bexley Crime Survey and wisely did not go into too much detail of the data gathered. I shall take the same leaf out of his book but it is worthy of note that the number of participants (810) had fallen compared to the year before (1,141) and is now less than the number of people who will read about it here today.

The numbers are so low that one must doubt the validity of the statistics. Only 48 out of 91 people had suffered a crime and reported it but fewer than half provided postcodes. Despite that a Ward table of unreported crime had been lovingly produced with Erith in bottom position but otherwise filled with noughts, ones and twos. On such scant information strategies are formulated and money is spent. Public apathy rules once again and councillors must be glad of that, for without it many would be out on their ear. To be fair, David Bryce-Smith was obviously only too aware that “the statistical significance is quite low”.

While on the subject of apathy I should add that apart from myself there was at most only one member of the public present - and I wasn’t absolutely sure about him. Even the BCMG mob were absent, presumably realising that with Alex Sawyer in charge there was unlikely to be any chicanery worth monitoring. The meeting closed at 21:08. 98 minutes of my life I won’t get back.

 

7 February (Part 2) - Teresa O’Neill - Law breaking again? Looks like it

I did something earlier this week that I should have done months ago, but I rarely get any spare time - as those awaiting email replies might have noticed. But I phoned the Information Commissioner’s Office. I wanted to know if they would have any comment to make about Bexley council publishing the home addresses of residents in Agendas and posting them on its website.
Protocol
I explained the circumstances and the conversation continued something like this…


ico: They do that? Really?
me: Yes, if you want to ask a question at council meetings they will publish your full name and postal address in the Agenda and post it on their website. It is enshrined in their Constitution.
ico: But they cannot do that, it would be a breach of Principle One of the Data Protection Act.
me: So you can make them stop doing it?
ico: Would you hold on a moment while I have a word with the Commissioner?
me: <Grins broadly>
ico: Yes that is a very clear breach of Principle One and probably a breach of Principle Six, possibly of more. You should write to Bexley council and give them two weeks to comply with the Act.
me: But I have been arguing against it on and off for more than a year. Complaints have been rejected at every level and the Chief Executive has refused to give a reason.
ico: In that case please put it in writing to us immediately.
me: Thank you very much.


So I passed the information to Mick Barnbrook. He will have a field day.

Principle OnePrinciple One of the Data Protection Act.

Principle SixPrinciple Six of the Data Protection Act.

The compensation bit looks interesting, I’m sure Mr. Barnbrook will put in a claim if he can.

Who pushed through this contravention of the Data Protection Act? None other than the council leader Teresa O’Neill, the same disreputable Boris Johnson favourite who has on so many occasions in the past disregarded the laws of this land and relied on the compliant yes men at Arnsberg Way for protection.

News Shopper report on O’Neill’s decision.

 

7 February (Part 1) - Couldn’t’ve put it better myself

Marriage recordsThe casual every day corruption at Bexley council never ceases to amaze and bemuse. It would seem I am not alone with such thoughts…


Allowing a husband to be his wife's boss (or vice versa), supervising her, appraising her, potentially rewarding her with bonuses and pay rises (the fruits of which he then shares), being responsible for disciplining - possibly even sacking - her if she misbehaves or performs very poorly, these are things which would not be tolerated (or even contemplated) in any decent, properly-run organisation.

I wonder what Bexley's senior Human Resources professional - Mr. Nick Hollier - makes of this? I'll wager he will have strongly advised against it, but for some reason, maybe the Ellershaws have friends in high places, has been overruled.


The nub of the matter is my reader’s use of the term “decent, properly-run organisation”. You won’t get decency from any council that believes it is best served by protecting its own criminals. They are still refusing to answer the FOI that asks how many councillors have been investigated by the police within the past eighteen months.

Cosy relationship

 

6 February - Another Bexley council business venture founders. Top pay is essential to attract the best brains

The vanished council report on the financial disaster unfolding at the Bexley Heritage Trust has resurfaced and may currently be inspected on line again. (Click for PDF.) It allows yesterday’s blog based on the Trust’s accounts to be balanced by Bexley council’s view on the affair.

The Trust is essentially part of Bexley council…
Council report
…so ultimately Bexley council is responsible for it. Like the Thames Innovation Centre it makes insufficient money and requires massive loans. More than five times as much as the TIC.
Council report
There is no way the Bexley Heritage Trust can pay. Fundamentally it is broke. The Heritage Trust admitted it couldn’t fulfill its agreement with Bexley council…
Council report
…and Bexley council rolled over.
Council report
The loan repayments remain suspended. The council tax payer foots the bill.
Council report
Who is responsible for not foreseeing the pear shaped obstacle on the horizon? That well known quarter of a million pound family money sucking machine, Mr. & Mrs. Peter Ellershaw. Mrs. being better known to council staff as Antonia Ainge.
Council report
Two heads do not appear to be better than one in the decision making department of Bexley council but they don’t do so badly when it comes to pocketing the taxpayers’ cash. Do you remember what the leader of the council said to the press when justifying almost the highest local authority pay rates in Britain?
Pay statement

Don MasseyIronically the cabinet member who is overseeing this massive cockup is the same one who kyboshed the 2,219 signature petition against excessive salaries. The lamentable Don Massey.

 

5 February - ‘Bexley’ and ‘Trust’ in the same sentence. It’ll end in tears

Have you ever heard of the Bexley Heritage Trust? You should get to know it because it is going to cost you a lot of money. The Trust looks after Hall Place and Danson House and is contracted by Bexley council to do so for another twenty odd years.
Accounts extract
Everything is going down hill. The “increased significantly” claim is not supported by the figures. Trading income fell from £550,000 in 2011 to £300,000 in 2012 with only voluntary donations going in the opposite direction - up £47,000. The Trust is “aware of the major risks to which the charity is exposed”.
Income
Despite income being down by 19% and costs up 11% the Trust’s report grabs at every straw. A “trend of decreasing income” and a “decrease in self generated income” is magically summarised as “self generated income has increased significantly”.

As taxpayers, let’s hope the optimism is well founded because Bexley council has just woken up to the fact that all is not well and look where the Trust plans to go with its begging bowl?
Loan facility


Access DeniedAt this point I should be directing readers towards Bexley council’s report on the mill stone hanging around its neck, for there is one and it doesn’t make for happy reading. Or should I say it didn’t? For during the few days I spent studying it on line, Bexley council removed it from view and I’d failed to take a copy. Stupidly I didn’t consider a public body would do something as underhand as retrospectively censoring a report because it comprehensively damned their management skills.

Bexley’s overpaid bunch of financial numbskulls has sleep walked us into funding another money pit. It’s the Thames Innovation Centre all over again.

The Trust’s auditors aren’t over-joyed either.
Auditor's report

 

4 February (Part 2) - Salty Bacon

When I moved to this part of London I found the water quality was awful, bath water and soap would turn into a diluted form of tapioca and I lost little time in installing a water softener. I think the water may have improved a bit since but when the softener failed a couple of years ago I replaced it anyway. The new model uses very little salt and I get it from a local company in blocks costing £4.50 (including VAT) a pair. Nearer £4 if I pick up a car boot full in one go. What I wouldn’t do is buy it from Bexley council’s salt supplier where the same stuff costs £16 plus VAT a pack.

Council announcementBexley council has been selling brown rock salt to residents supposedly at cost price to help clear snow since September.

Maybe it didn’t sell very well because they were still advertising it on Twitter last month.

Maybe Bexley council should find a cheaper supplier.


Salt contract
Brown rock salt is sold in quantity by Bexley’s contracted supplier at £3.85 (plus VAT) a 25kg bag which is nearer to £4.50 than Bexley’s so called bargain fiver. But anyone can Google ’Brown rock salt’ and find prices as low as £1.50 plus VAT for 25kg. Prices around the three pound mark are not uncommon but you have to look long and hard to find anyone selling the stuff at £3.85; but Bexley council managed it.

Maybe it’s the same slackness over contracts that gave Redrow such a bargain. Gareth Bacon’s generous offer is not quite what it seems. Nothing is in Bexley.

Note: B&Q’s price for 25kg of rock salt was £3.49 including VAT last year but they seem to have stopped selling it.

 

4 February (Part 1) - Contract negotiation, Bexley style

Howbury CentreYou will need a long memory or perhaps a gentle reminder for this one. Either take a look at look back at a 15 month old blog or take my word for it that in October 2011, Bexley council accepted a 2,280 signature petition from Slade Green residents expressing their concerns about certain aspects of Bexley council’s plans for the Howbury Centre which it had sold to Redrow Homes for new housing. The petition persuaded Bexley council to change nothing. Petitioning against foregone conclusions is never likely to achieve anything and this one was no exception.

Some details of the £8·6 million Howbury scheme remain available here (PDF file) but not all of them as the financial arrangements were designated a council secret.

Last August the BBC revealed Bexley council had been selling valuable land for next to nothing - for a mere £600 an acre on average. Some went to Redrow Homes. Was there a connection with the Howbury? It seemed more than likely.

After the negotiating the usual obstacle course, Bexley council was persuaded to give this much away…


The council and Redrow entered into a sale contract which is conditional upon a number of factors including the grant of planning permission. If the conditions of the contract are not fulfilled then the contract will be null and void and the council will continue to own the site.


That’s a good one don’t you think? Bexley ‘working for us’ council sells some land to a developer for a knock down price and offers to take it back if the council fails to come up with everything the buyer desires.

Where was the risk to Redrow in such a transaction? They acquired the rights to develop a large parcel of prime residential land with the potential to make a fat profit but in the absence of planning permission they can just walk away. Bexley council however must chip in a £8·6 million sweetener (schools and a community area) to seal the deal and ensure Redrow has plenty to offer their 380 home buyers. Heads Redrow wins, tails Bexley council loses. Does Bexley have to look so desperate when seeking development partners?

Bexley council has form for secretive financial dealing, those who attended the decision to land/building swap with Tesco will remember being chucked out the moment money was to be mentioned.

In a privately run company an arrangement that gives the seller little or no return whilst the potential purchaser can walk away any time it pleases would be laughed out of the boardroom. We pay more than a million a year to Bexley’s board of directors for decisions like that.

 

3 February - Bexley council. Dishonest at every level

Teresa O’NeillThe matter of Bexley council not accepting questions on anything other than policy issues at its meetings and then reneging on that has notched up a step.

Questions to council were effectively banned from May 2011 when a whole host of restrictions were introduced by Teresa O’Neill who chaired Bexley council’s Constitutional Review Panel.

One of the new restrictions was aimed at disenfranchising any resident who was unable or unwilling to allow his or her private address to be published on the council’s website. Such people might range from those living with parents to those such as battered wives who would be put at personal risk if their address became public knowledge. Eleven (†) Bexley councillors are totally anonymous in terms of address details and claim, almost certainly falsely, to be at risk of violence if their whereabouts became known. Just how seriously do they think they have annoyed their electorate? But no Bexley resident is afforded that excuse. If anyone can think of a valid reason why Bexley council publishes residents’ addresses on its website I would be very pleased to hear of it.

The obvious procedure for ensuring questions come from Bexley residents is to check the name and address against the electoral roll. The extra step is totally unnecessary and a policy which is nothing but an exercise in sheer spite by the elected dictatorship.

Do they have a reason for their policy? No is the answer; even their finely tuned lying machine has not been able to manufacture one.

Alan Downing. Moronic jabbing mayorWhen pen jabbing disability scoffing mayor Alan Downing was asked for an answer he said he didn't have to give one because publishing residents’ addresses for no reason was not a matter of policy. So what is it you may well ask, and someone did. From lie manufacturer in chief Kevin Fox came the answer that their address publishing policy wasn’t really a policy as it had been enshrined in a Protocol - and that’s different.

Not according to a dictionary or thesaurus it isn’t so Fox’s boss was asked to explain.

Nick Hollier, Head of Human Resources (£86,088 p.a.) is not a man of independent thought and how could he be? All these over-paid bureaucrats can be sacked on the whim of councillors, so there is absolutely no chance of the pig headed mayor being over-ruled, but it can be fun watching them lie themselves into ever more difficult corners. Hollier came up with the brilliant wheeze that Protocols are not Policies because they have to be implemented, and implementing anything is an operational matter and the council doesn’t allow its meetings to be sullied by operational matters. Hollier probably isn’t a moron but his salary depends on him acting like one.

So the next step up on the quest for ever more convoluted answers to a question which has no sane or democratic answer was to go to the six figure salaried Director of Customer and Corporate Services, Paul Moore. It’s a personal view, but I believe Moore is probably the least bent of Bexley council’s overpaid gangsters but faced with defending mayoral idiocy and the leader’s policy on addresses, paying his mortgage is always going to prevail. What nonsense could the top council brains come up with to defend the indefensible?

Mr. Moore, anxious to justify his Prime Ministerial salary, takes two pages to come to the point. He steps back from Nick Hollier’s arrant nonsense that Protocols are operational matters rather than Policies and has taken a good long look at his thesaurus. A policy is not a policy it is a mere “rule book issue”.
Moore nonsense
According to Paul Moore it is not a policy because it is not “affecting many residents”. Is that pathetic or ingenious? It is clearly a policy that applies to everyone in the borough apart from councillors and Moore can have no idea of how many people it affects. (Click image for full response.)

Inevitably the complaint will go to the next stage and from there to the Local Government Ombudsman all because Teresa O’Neill, leader of Bexley council, is dishonest and spiteful and has surrounded herself with sycophantic yes men. The cost to taxpayers who pay for the lies that protect her grows ever higher.

I can’t wait to see what Will Tuckley’s excuse will be. For £258,000 a year I shall expect a real beauty.

Note: Mr. Moore’s reference to April 2012 is a mistake. The Constitutional Review panel did not meet in 2012 at all.
† Referenced blogs quoting lower numbers were correct at the time. More councillors have since pulled the Section 32 trick. Click for a London wide list.

 

2 February - Nothing much to report

Parsons BrinckerhoffAs regular readers will recognise from the use of the ‘parking filler’ yesterday there is nothing of note ready for an appearance here. For the record Bexley police responded very promptly to yesterday’s email and seemed to be slightly surprised at my reminder after nearly three months of silence. They have nothing to report, the case will be going nowhere anyway.

I didn’t expect a quick reply to my previous email to Bexley police and I haven’t been disappointed. Nothing; except the comment last Tuesday to the effect that they were still waiting to hear from me.

Presumably there is no one left who hasn’t heard who the new Borough Commander is to be?

 

1 February (Part 2) - What Victim Satisfaction?

More than three months ago I received abusive emails which were traced to the IP address of Parsons Brinckerhoff who might reasonably be described as councillor Peter Craske’s friends.

Victim CareAfter notifying the obscene blog investigators and getting nothing but empty promises I took the evidence to Bexleyheath police station on 5th November 2012. I expressed some optimism at the time that Bexleyheath police would not make a complete mess of the investigation as would appear to be their norm. How silly I was.

This morning I sent the following email. At least I hope I have, in typical Met. Police fashion the email address on the card is invalid and I had to send it to an alternative.


The above number was issued in response to a crime report made at Bexleyheath police station on 5th November 2012.

A few days later a phone call from DC Harris advised me that it might be as long as five or six weeks before you would be in a position to advise me further.

More than twelve weeks have since elapsed with no further response.

At a public police meeting I attended last Tuesday it was said that the Metropolitan Police has the worst Victim Satisfaction rate in the country and the Deputy Mayor for Policing said that victim support is very high among his priorities.

Would you please let me know the present situation regarding this complaint, why you have neglected to contact the victim for three months and why you feel that Bexleyheath police should ignore the Deputy Mayor's direction with impunity?


You may read what the Met. has to say about their ‘Commitment to victims of crime’ by clicking on the card image and revealing its reverse.

 

1 February (Part 1) - Parking fines. Exposing Bexley’s dishonesty. (Episode 13)

Two weeks ago we left the retired policeman who had won an admission from Bexley council that their parking appeals procedure is, or at least was, a worthless sham, appealing to the Information Commissioner about the council’s refusal to tell him anything about the investigation into his complaint supposedly conducted by Deputy Monitoring Officer Chris Loynes.
Not in Public Interest
After the customary six and half month’s delay during which Bexley council continued to argue that secrecy was paramount it agreed to let the complainant read the file under its supervision.

In late October 2011, ten months and eleven days after making the initial Freedom of Information request Mr. Grosvenor who was at the time the unfortunate individual fronting Bexley council’s various FOI deceptions turned up with a file at the ex-policeman’s home. It contained nothing but a couple of emails and a hand written note. Neither Mr. Grosvenor nor the complainant could decipher it. A letter of complaint went in; the main theme of which was that in any genuine investigation there would be statements by the various council employees who, it had already been acknowledged, had made false statements from the outset; and finally a report by Mr. Loynes with his signature attached. There was nothing remotely like that in the file.

Almost a year to the day from the initial FOI request Mr. Grosvenor wrote that there were simply no more documents available. Clearly Mr. Loynes’ investigation into the complaint was the sham his bosses would have asked him to produce.

A further letter was sent to Chief Executive, Will Tuckley. It set out the logical course of events when asked to conduct an investigation, the procedure presumably culled from years of experience as a police officer, and demonstrated that Mr. Loynes had done none of those things. The letter referred also to the promises made by Bexley council in their publicly available complaints leaflets. Mr. Loynes had overlooked those too.

What would 250,000 pounds’ worth of executive brain power have to say about that? Nothing sensible or helpful obviously.

This story is reported in an indeterminate number of episodes. A cumulative version is provided for convenience.

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