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Bexley is Bonkers - Bonkers Blog May 2013

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31 May - Fine when it’s raining

Parking Parking ParkingMy recollections of working in the city include getting half drowned on the way to the railway station and having to sit in a pool of water all day wondering how long it would take for my trousers to dry out or whether anyone would object if I dumped my shoes on the heating grill. More sensible people may have taken their car to somewhere near the station, paid a small parking fee and avoided an old age plagued by rheumatism.

That option used to be cheaply available to commuters from Welling station and a reader who welcomed yesterday’s report on Welling Corner suggested I keep the spotlight on the town and Bexley council’s fixation with making things ever more difficult for their residents. It is now a lot more expensive to leave a car near Welling station while away at work, in fact, using Bexley’s facilities it cannot be done at all unless the prospect of a parking ticket every day appeals.


Parking Parking ParkingBexley’s new time restrictions are expressly designed to inconvenience commuters even though the parking bays are are not a lot of use to shoppers, especially with the supermarkets providing free parking.

To make sure everyone experiences maximum inconvenience, not only are commuters effectively banned, shoppers are given every disincentive. The new ticket machine is sited at the station end and as far from the shops as possible. Whichever way you look at it it, Bexley council is simply Bonkers.

I’ve seen restrictions to four hours in a few places, outside leisure facilities for example, but a limit of eight and a half hours is a very odd choice and to pile on the misery, restrictions have been extended from 9 until 8 a.m. I cannot think of any valid reason for it, leaving an attack on commuters the most likely explanation. My informant fears an underhand deal with Southeastern.

Whatever Bexley council’s plan was it appears to have hit taxpayers in the pocket. Soon after midday yesterday the spaces were close to empty and if the technological complexity, and presumably cost, of the ticket machine is any guide, the money spent will take a long time to recoup. It’ll be another of Mike Frizoni’s ill conceived little follies. Probably he will get another 10% bonus for it. Remember who voted for these idiocies, overwhelmingly it was you.

Note: Click any image to enlarge. The greenery is the railway embankment to the east of the station.

 

30 May - Welling, Bedonwell, neither’s well

Welling Welling WellingBexley council may well be able to keep many of its activities hidden from sight but constantly shovelling huge sums in the direction of their favoured contractor F.M. Conway is hard to keep secret.

Rearranging Bexley’s road system for reasons which are hard to fathom during a period of budgetary restraint puzzles a lot of people and one who lives close to the centre of Welling drew my attention to the disruption Bexley council has created on his doorstep.

Getting me to go out in the rain for more pictures was not his primary motive, he asked how it is that Bexley council can always find money to spend on their vanity projects but when it comes to protecting very young children journeying to school along a pavement barely wide enough for mothers to walk hand in hand with their offspring they can only dither and delay.

He can ask but even the father who complained still has no answer. When I last spoke to him he was still fuming after being slapped down by mayor Alan Downing for attempting to ask the appropriate question at a council meeting. Downing’s period as mayor turned out to be an object lesson in how not to win friends and influence people.

 

29 May - Old Bonkers story gets into Evening Standard

You may remember the story of the assaulted schoolboy serialized here over several months. Bexley police had written all sorts of untruths in their file, mainly to protect one of their mates and a Judge had labelled them thoroughly dishonest. Their misdeeds found their way into the Evening Standard yesterday.
Police reportMedical report
The Standard doesn’t admit to being a year behind the times nor does it say it was Bexley’s police that was up to no good. It all took place on Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer’s watch. Regular readers will have no need of any reminders over what sort injustices and cover-ups were sanctioned while he was in charge.

LBC broadcast an interview with the boy’s father.

 

28 May - Information blackout

BonkersBecause I keep an eye on who is linking to this site I have been aware for a month or so that the local UKIP branch has been linking to Bonkers fairly regularly from its Twitter account. Plugging it some might say. In fact I did get one query asking if Bonkers was a UKIP site now. As it came from Mick Barnbrook I didn’t take it too seriously but maybe I should confirm it is not. UKIP have said the same and in my opinion are absolutely free to link to whoever they wish. It is their decision and I have no complaints at all although maybe they won’t want to hear that their endorsement has made no detectable difference to the number of Bonkers’ site visitors.

I noticed today that someone at @ukipbexley has said she does not like the site name including the word Bonkers; neither do I very much, but it’s too late to change now. It seemed appropriate at the outset because the main subject matter then was road design disasters and my councillor (John Davey, Lesnes ward) had told me himself he thought Bexley road planning was “bonkers” though as that was back in 2009 I’d guess he would claim it was a reference to what Labour had done before - not that I have noticed any improvement since.

A correspondent kindly sent me a statement of something that has become only too obvious…


The 'powers that be' at Bexley have finally realised that the best way to bring your blogging career to an end is to starve you of information.


I’ve been saying that for quite a long time. How many other councils would extend a meeting interval to six months and how many leaders would fix the Constitution to inhibit questioning and deem councillors who pass the time of day with certain residents to have committed some sort of civic offence? Shunning contact with the residents is a Teresa O’Neill priority. It’s not a good idea to let the truth be known.

But even if the blog stops tomorrow it will have achieved something. Councillor Teresa O’Neill has been exposed as totally unfit for office. She is either nuts or she considers herself totally above the law. A councillor who goes to the police with a made up or wrongly attributed story about burning down the Civic Centre in an attempt to stifle criticism may well justify this website’s name after all.

Definitely on the plus side the site is saving local taxpayers £13,197 a year. If it hadn’t got up a few noses a certain councillor would not have resorted to offensive libels and resigned his cabinet post for “personal reasons” three days after his collar was felt. He hasn’t been replaced so bashing my own keyboard daily has not been a complete waste of time.

London councilsI aim to keep the blog going until at least the local elections in May 2014, maybe not daily, but whenever necessary. I am still hoping that the new mayor will run council meetings fairly and with more respect for all those present than her predecessors. Watching the likes of Alan Downing ranting and bashing councillor Malik at every opportunity may be good fun but I was beginning to run out of printable words to describe that pen-jabbing old fool.

There is no good reason for placing this image alongside except that I found it amusing. It is taken from The London Councils website. See if you can spot their idiotic mistake. Whichever figure is correct, it’s a mind boggling number don’t you think, especially at around £100 a go?

 

26 May (Part 2) - Clock this if you can

Clocktower Civic paradeA year ago the mayor Alan Downing announced in association with the Bexley Historical Society that it was felt appropriate to fill one of the empty plinths on the town centre clocktower with a bust of the Queen to commemorate her Jubilee. As a result the tower has been under wraps for the past month ready for the great day. Last year the Civic Parade was blessed with a couple of hours of sunshine within an otherwise wet week. Fingers crossed the sun will return on 9th June.

At great personal inconvenience I have rearranged my schedule so that I can lurk in the background attempting to replenish my stock of photographs of gurning councillors and the new mayor smiling under her tricorn hat.

 

26 May (Part 1) - Boris browses Bonkers

Googling my own name is not something I do, at least not very often; it seems a bit vain to me and last time I did it I came across something that Bexley council must wish I hadn’t. But Googling for the two words Bexley and Bonkers can be excused by labelling it ‘required research’.

GLA web browsing I did it again yesterday and came across some pretty odd stuff. I don’t know where they get their figures from but the sites that claim to rate the worth of other sites and assess the traffic carried can only be considered a bit of a joke. I learned that Bonkers is worth 872 dollars and that it attracted 45 visitors a day. Obviously it is worth nothing in monetary terms and if it attracted only 45 readers a day I doubt I would bother. I know exactly how many visitors it gets and expressed in the most favourable way that bloggers tend to use it has passed the 30,000 a month barrier.

Recently it has been less than that and I get the impression that without a daily ration of Craske scandal readers drop by less often. However if anything, the number of individual readers is slightly up month on month but except in a few cases it is impossible to tell who they are, so I was intrigued by the website, thecommentator.com.

They had submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Greater London Authority asking for the top 500 browsing destinations registered on GLA servers. Bonkers was 319th on the list for the most recent three months. The number of hits isn't stated but according to the accompanying notes, those at the bottom end of the list were getting around 1,000 visits a quarter.

What pleased me most was not just that Bonkers was on the list but that as far as I can tell only one other blog is listed. the provocatively named arseblog which I discovered related to Arsenal football club. But the six or seven noisy bloggers of the pariah borough of Barnet didn’t get a look in, ditto those in Greenwich, notably 853.blog which rather pleased me because the author generally pretends Bonkers does not exist and refuses to provide a link.

The only other local website listed is the News Shopper at position number 289.

Click the image above for all the details.

 

25 May - Regina v Peter Craske

CPS letterElwyn Bryant who was a victim of the obscene blog which the police traced to councillor Peter Craske’s telephone line has been pursuing various will-o’-the-wisp Crown Prosecution Service personnel who initially listened to him sympathetically but then mysteriously disappeared or who have subsequently been permanently locked up in meeting rooms.

Elwyn asked the CPS a number of questions following Bexley police’s decision to abandon their investigation last January. Among them, and with reference to an earlier email from the CPS, were…


• The name of the person with Bexleyheath Police who sent the file to the Crown Prosecution Service too late.
• The date on which Police were advised that the case could not be charged as it was too late.
• Why further consideration was given to the case as recorded [by the CPS] on 26 April 2012?
• The date or dates on which further consideration was given to the case.
• What the offence was that the CPS considered to be “not subject to a six month limitation”?
• What was the “certain advice to the police” with regard to “an offence not subject to a six month limitation”?
• The name of the person with Bexleyheath police to whom the advice was given.


After many reminders over nearly three months, the CPS telephoned Elwyn to tell him that they did not intend to reply to his letter because his questions were “irrelevant”. That's not the sort of response that Elwyn takes lying down and he insisted that at the very least the CPS put its refusal to be questioned in writing. After about a week they did so. The letter is longer than one might imagine, padded as it is with an explanation of the role of the CPS, but clearly they are anxious to say as little as possible. As such there is nothing in the letter that was totally new though it did perhaps bring some things into sharper focus.

It confirms that the police had identified a suspect before Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa came to the borough. The police put a case forward “for charges under Section 2 of the Harassment Act and Section 1 of the Communications Act”. This was rejected on 15th February 2012 because charges of that nature were out of time.

CS Dave StringerWas Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer ignorant of the law or was reference to the CPS just a sham to try to prove he hadn’t totally given up the case - as he had done without good reason six months earlier? Either way the fact remains the police had a name and a case advanced enough to be submitted to the CPS.

The CPS did not leave it there. They advised the police to consider “an offence of abuse of public office” and “advice was given to the officer in the case”. The unstated fact is that this would avoid the problem relating to a six month time expiry.

At that point, Bexley police believed they knew who had committed the crime and knew what the charge was that the CPS would accept. So the next step was obvious and the net was about to be closed? Not a bit of it I’m afraid. CPS advice was again sought in April 2012, just after CS Victor Olisa arrived in town, but after that they never heard another word from Bexley police. Until Elwyn told the CPS, they had no idea the case had been dropped and were surprised. In their own words, “the police should provide a response to our action plan once a case has been referred to us for charging advice”.

It was another nine months before the police made a formal decision to drop the case and they made it very clear in writing, on the telephone and at a meeting that they had no evidence with which to charge their suspect. Yet something like 16 months earlier they had identified the source of the blog and a year earlier felt confident enough with their evidence to put forward a case against councillor Peter Craske. Somehow they had gone backwards.


Will TuckleyMost people will guess that something very fishy has been going on but there really isn’t any need for guessing, for in an unguarded moment the police admitted that their case had been forced off the rails by “political interference”.

My theory has always been that Chief Superintendent Olisa came in with the best of intentions but found himself caught up in the web of corruption woven by Bexley council over the years.

Given all the evidence, the fact no one thought to check up on Craske’s computers until more than a year after the offence was committed, that Olisa got rid of all the officers who had been meddling in the case for the previous year, that Bexley council was busy with behind the scenes lobbying of the CPS and that its leader is best mates with mayor Boris Johnson who is ultimately in charge of the police; no other explanation makes sense. Unless you believe that all the senior officers at Bexleyheath are incompetent beyond belief and spend their days sitting on their hands.


Victor OlisaSo where next? Elwyn has probably gone as far as he can in pushing the CPS, they appear to have correctly advised the police and the police chose to ignore them. I have a complaint outstanding with the Independent Police Complaints Commission which has its origins in a letter to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe dated 7th June 2012. Such is the number of complaints against the police, the IPCC does not expect to allocate it to an investigator until July. That complaint only covers the period until 23rd August 2011 when Bexley police believed they would get away with telling Elwyn and me that nothing could be done and we’d meekly shut up. It seemed at the time to be a lie and subsequent events proved it so.

The next step will be to make a formal complaint about the subsequent investigation and name four or five officers who I believe conspired to ‘lose’ the case, at least in the period up until February 2012, plus those who may have accepted the “political interference”. CS Victor Olisa got extremely angry when I reminded him of the previously admitted political interference. I don’t suppose for one moment that he enjoyed not being free to pursue a strictly lawful investigation but if that is what happened it must be put under the IPCC spotlight, him included.

 

24 May - Slow progress

There has been no change to Bexley council’s announcement that Broadway’s traffic flow will revert back to normal by the end of this month; I can only assume that they know what they are talking about but it was all something of a mess this afternoon.

Albion Road Broadway BroadwayA correspondent had emailed this morning to say that his bus to Bluewater took 25 minutes to get from the Bowling Alley to the Clocktower but by the time I got there that section was relatively clear. I can only assume that there must have been a critical construction manoeuvre to be accomplished in Albion Road.

However the problems had not gone away, the queue to Albion Road extended back to Crook Log.


BroadwayAnother email correspondent was concerned about my close shave with a bus last weekend when I stood too close to the red demarcation line which passes for a kerb and the bus driver drifted too close to the pedestrian area, presumably interpreting the ‘shared space’ idea very liberally. The emailer’s young daughter had done much the same, so I thought I'd see if it was likely to be a common event.

It was not the sort of weather to encourage standing around to capture a good example and the best I could get before being washed away was the photograph you see alongside.

If your viewing screen is well adjusted you may just be able to distinguish the red tactile strip from the road, the larger view (click image) will improve matters. Goodness knows what will happen during a snowfall.


Broadway BroadwayThe contractors were no doubt hindered by the appalling weather but there is a lot of clearing up to be done in the next six days if the council is going to achieve its goal.

The road outside ASDA was being resurfaced with ordinary tarmacadam. I thought the original plan was for blocks throughout Broadway. It would be a shame if it is to become a black and white patchwork - but it may be safer.


Tree TreeThe trees have been planted and were being well watered in. Is it a good idea to site a tree less than two feet from a road carrying a near constant procession of double deck buses?

 

23 May - Clear the way, VIP coming through

In view of the sickening events that had taken place four miles to the east it was not an ideal evening for any council to stage a party, but Bexley (and Greenwich) did exactly that. Yesterday was mayor making day in Bexley (and Greenwich) and on any other day I might have legitimately described Bexley’s ritual sycophantic pantomime in the same terms, for rarely have I heard such a succession of creepily insincere plaudits - and a few tasteless jokes.

CardiganThe public gallery was full with the friends and relatives of 62 councillors dressed as if they were attending a Royal garden party and an interloper in a track suit and cardigan. The unthinking retiring mayor Alan Downing commenced proceedings by regurgitating his favourite lie, that no one was allowed to take a photograph, not even for their family albums, because of the risk a camera poses to ordinary members of the general public - which last night might not have been more than me and a handful of the usual suspects. An idiot mayor is an idiot mayor to his very last breath.

A black suited and smartly coiffured councillor Seán Newman was first to his feet with a surprise announcement; he nominated fellow Labour councillor Gill MacDonald for mayor. He was seconded by councillor Alan Deadman and we learned from their oratory that Gill had at various times been a member of the Conservative, Social Democratic (SDP) and Labour parties - and not a lot else. There may have been more but as has become the norm, the public address system was a disaster zone and Chris spoke directly at the front bench rather than the mic. All but the clearest of speakers (I’m thinking of councillor John Fuller here) tested the limits of audibility against the inevitable background murmuring of a large audience.

As forecast, Sharon Massey was then proposed for mayor by councillor John Waters with a very personal if occasionally ungallant speech extolling her supposed virtues. We were told the names of Sharon’s two daughters, that her brother Gareth Johnson is MP for Dartford and that the pair was at one time Bexley’s only sibling councillors. Sharon’s hobbies, we were informed, are giving up smoking and gorging on bacon butties.

It fell to councillor Biffa Bailey to second John Waters’ proposal but the only notable aspect of her speech was that it assumed Mrs. Massey to have been already elected which she was not. Given the inevitable result of the vote that followed her assumption did not prove to be inaccurate, but it offered more proof of the thinking prevalent in a one party state.

So on the back of a unanimous Conservative vote, Mrs. Massey nipped out to the Ladies to change into something less comfortable and returned to re-enact a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean with the Keira Knightley figure looking quite dishy flanked as she was by half a dozen evil zombies. Keira lost no time in appointing councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis as her deputy and to complete the all female team, the Reverend Ann Uphill as her chaplain. It was all downhill from then on.

Councillor Alex Sawyer provided some sort of eulogy to the outgoing mayor. The microphone probably lost the best of his jokes for all I clearly picked up was that he likened councillor Alan Downing’s management style to that of Mr. Mackay in the 1970’s sit-com Porridge which may enhance Alex’s reputation with blog readers but help to explain why he is not yet a cabinet member. There was also a reference to retiring mayors declining into their dotage and a state of permanent incontinence. Maybe I have the context wrong, but among Sawyer’s catalogue of jokes was a rather good one, Downing is “a good man and an outstanding mayor”. It raised a snigger from those whose tongues were not stuck firmly in cheeks - or even up them.

Chris BallCouncillor Chris Ball wisely made no attempt to follow that. His address consisted almost entirely of references back to his own time as mayor and advice on how Downing might best handle the deflation of his ego over the coming days and weeks. I enjoyed the image of a large balloon being pricked that he conjured up.

Councillor John Fuller is one of the few voices that needs no electronic assistance so I can be quite sure he implied that Downing is as dim as his mayoral performance has suggested. He came last in the councillor’s charity quiz evening.

Finally, councillor Alan Downing himself rose to his feet to thank all and sundry. With a sheaf of papers in his hand he apologized in advance that reading scripts was not his forté and that he preferred to speak off the cuff. So why didn’t he? His stumbling performance was embarrassing to watch as his tongue tripped over the words and occasionally lost the place. He thanked “Paul” several times and I could only guess that Paul is his chauffeur. He also made a reference to “the dog lady of Crayford” which I learned was a reference to councillor Eileen Pallen who apparently has some sort of affinity with the greyhound track. It was very much an exclusive family affair and non-members were left to feel like intruders.

After the festivities concluded the meeting was due to go into rubber stamping mode. Approving the committee appointments and allowances, signing off the Scrutiny Committee reports etc. all of which is documented in the Agenda and Appendices so not really worth the sacrifice of another hour.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that councillor Peter Craske was not restored to his £22,615 cabinet position but gets a place on the Top Management Review Panel. Another good reason for Will Tuckley to speak to the CPS on his behalf if the need should ever occur again. Incidentally, the CPS has shed some more light on how Craske came to escape the clutches of the police. Their letter further discredits the police’s excuses to not bring charges.

Not expecting an invitation to the after meeting drinks party and with another appointment in mind I tiptoed away as the borough’s 50th mayor began her term. Reasonably well as far as I could judge in just a couple of minutes. If she can control her zombies as well as she can model a pirate’s costume, council meeting reports may be rather shorter in future. By contrast with the last female incumbent Sharon hasn’t got big boots to fill and I look forward to her opening remarks at the next meeting. The tone for the year is usually set within those first two or three minutes.

Title note: Presumably Paul will be doing a grand job of yelling “VIP coming through” to save the new mayor from trampling the plebs as she goes about her business.

 

22 May - Bexley. Off their noodles?

5-stars Double Dragon Which reportYou may consider that someone who serves up a maggot sandwich once a week has no right to lament the shocking hygiene record of Bexley’s take-aways, but the day after I read Hugh Neal’s 12th May blog I spotted one a mile or so from chez-Hugh with a 5-star notice in its window.

So convinced was I that someone was ’avin’ a larf, that I rushed home to check the on line database, but I had to metaphorically eat humble pie, because it is true, there is a 5-star rated Chinese take-away in Lower Belvedere.

It’s a good job too because otherwise the Which? report on Food Hygiene issued today would have given Bexley an even lower rating - if Teresa Town was not already bottom of their list. (Click the table to enlarge it.)

Without inside knowledge it is hard to say whether Bexley council sets unreasonably high standards during its inspections but one thing looks likely. They need to do more to improve matters. Bexley achieved the worst scores in the country when the Food Standards Agency launched their scheme and nothing has changed since. Perhaps it’s a factor that Bexley levies the highest charges for eradicating rats. The worst area, DA7, is centred on Long Lane running from close to the top of Knee Hill to the Civic Centre itself.

Its exterior may be unimposing and a pre-1990 style phone number indicates when the sign writers may have last visited but if you don’t fancy a dose of dysentery with your Chop Suey then it would seem you could do a lot worse than try the Double Dragon at No. 5 Gilbert Road, Belvedere, a few yards east of the Tesco Express. Telephone 020 8311 5121, 5 p.m. till late.

Which report on food hygiene. Six of the country’s ten worst postcodes are in Bexley.

 

21 May (Part 2) - Pray it doesn’t rain on Sunday 2nd June

Erith FestivalIt was a total washout last year; the Erith Riverside Festival that is.

Such a shame because it is organised by a small band of volunteers, not much more than one man and boundless enthusiasm as far as I can tell, and no council support. The organisers are too polite to say but it looks to me like it’s more a question of piling on red tape than help and the expenses are considerable.

If council leader Teresa O’Neill had had her way it wouldn’t be happening at all, for she had plans to build all over the last remaining public space in the whole borough which overlooks the Thames.

Hugh Neal covered her ambitions in his own inimitable style over at the Maggot Sandwich two years ago. I hope he won’t mind me reproducing a reduced version of it here but I have yet to work out how one can make a direct link to a Blogspot entry. (See Note below.)

Arthur Pewty
The plans to build over Erith Gardens ultimately failed when the developer pulled out of the negotiations.

Readers with long memories will recall the final comment (above) from Hugh about “descending on councillor Teresa O’Neill with flaming torches and pitchforks”. It sent O’Neill scurrying off to the police to report a metaphor as a real threat of violence but in her confusion she named John Kerlen and me as those responsible. I wonder why that was? Maybe she is simply congenitally dishonest. Yes that could be it.

Anyway, despite her best intentions, the Erith Festival is on again this year, no entrance fees, from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sunday 2nd June. Maybe O’Neill will honour it with her presence, I’ll take my pitchfork just in case.

Notes: Hugh Neal’s blog entitled ‘The Shrine’ and dated 6th March 2011.
The News Shopper report to which he refers is here.
The ‘Propaganda Leaflet’ is available here.

 

21 May (Part 1) - Bexley’s uniquely splendid isolation

You wait ages for a new proposal for crossing the river and then two come along at once. You could follow the south bank of the Thames by car from Gloucestershire to Dartford and be free to cross to the north bank in any local authority area you fancied, bar one of course. And now that list of boroughs could be extended to Gravesham, for this morning the Department of Transport (DfT) announced its consultation on a bridge downstream of Dartford. For residents of Kent and for cross channel freight a crossing as far east as possible would be an enormous step forward.

As Roads Minister Stephen Hammond says, “There are some tough decisions to be made, but this is the first step in making sure that the residents, businesses and motorists who rely on the crossing receive the service they expect and deserve in the years to come”. Surely Bexley deserves the same, not the Medieval solution of resiting the Woolwich ferry? Where are the far sighted Bexley politicians prepared to make ‘tough decisions’? At the risk of appearing partisan, locally, they are all in the Labour party.

The consultation ends on 16th July and may be accessed via the Dft’s Press Release.

The London borough of Bexley. It’s unique. No Accident & Emergency service, no Underground, no Overground, no DLR, no river crossings. Not Listening!
Map

 

20 May - Bexley Tories. Incapable of being truthful

The piles of paper in my ‘office’ are getting out of hand and a clear out is underway. One of the things I rediscovered is the local Conservative’s election leaflet for Lesnes Abbey ward issued in 2010. This was its main message…
Election leaflet
Teresa O'NeillNothing out of the ordinary there, (click image above for complete document). There was even more detail, much of it written by councillor Teresa O’Neill, in another leaflet issued around the same time. In addition to the subjects listed above she talks about saving Queen Mary’s Hospital, recycling, freezing councillors’ allowances, repairing roads and spending more on child protection - that didn’t go too well did it?

It was a good enough pitch to persuade me to place two crosses against Conservative candidates, probably my last ever, but that is another story.

What Lesnes Abbey ward residents weren’t warned of is the perils of a new Thames crossing. I can walk from home to the much maligned Knee Hill in six minutes, you’d think if the crossing was seen as an important subject I should express a view on, it would merit a mention in the electioneering material. But the Tories didn’t say a word about it in 2010; now they would have you believe otherwise. Apparently I “overwhelmingly rejected” a Thames bridge by voting for Tories John Fuller and Eleanor Hurt. Look at what Teresa is saying now…


Tory announcementIt is just not true that a bridge was “rejected at the ballot box by Bexley residents twice”. It wasn’t on the agenda in 2010, maybe not even in 2006 - but my office hoard does not go back that far.

Neither did Labour councillors “want to see the old plans for the bridge relaunched”. That was never put back on the the table by Transport for London (TfL). The suggestion was for a very much smaller bridge.

Once again we see a Conservative administration under their leader Teresa O’Neill that simply cannot stop lying. They are not even consistent with the lies. How may times was the bridge rejected? Twice or on several occasions? Or was it none at all?

Conservatives were “overwhelmingly” elected in 2006 on a tide of discontent over the 17% annual increase in council tax. In Brampton ward where ‘Say No to the Bridge’ posters were prevalent in 2006, Teresa O’Neill’s  share of the vote went up by 2·1% over the 2002 result which does not appear to be a particularly overwhelming endorsement of her campaign. Not as good as in the borough as a whole, that’s for sure, but why let the facts get in the way of a good anti-Labour lie?

Now that the TfL consultation has delivered the inevitable result will we see its Tory detractors begin a back-peddling operation? What will UKIP, also on record as being against a Gallions Reach crossing, have to say? Maybe they could take a leaf out of the tried and tested Lib-Dem electioneering handbook. Change the message depending on which ward they are campaigning in.

 

19 May (Part 2 - Bexley goes for gold

Highest Olympic spendAnd top of the podium was… The London Borough of Bexley.

A series of Freedom of Information requests has revealed that Bexley council (£279,979) was just ahead of the silver medal winner Waltham Forest (£279,008) in the pouring most money into staging Olympic events contest. What; more than Newham? Apparently so.

Bonkers’ readers will not be surprised. The only councillor to ask the appropriate question at a council meeting was June Slaughter. Don Massey told her that he was coughing up £271,000 and it was going to be “Overwhelming and amazing”, and in a way it was. His munificence ensured that Bexley council ran off with the Gold… for nation beating gross extravagance.

Click image for Evening Standard report. The extract shown is from The Southern Daily Echo.

 

19 May (Part 1) - Bourne free

Closed taxi office Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop Closed taxi office Closed shop Closed shop Closed shop

A reader suggested that Bexley village is no better than Bexleyheath and Welling for closed shops so I wandered down to take a look.

Apart from the taxi office (†) which went somewhere else a couple of weeks ago I found only seven premises that appeared to be permanently closed. Seems to me that is not very many but it is six more than a tour around the village via the year old photos on Google Street View would suggest.

On the other hand there are only about 60 business premises facing the High Street and Bourne Road and that includes, banks, take-aways, restaurants, several estate agents and a handful of charity shops, so perhaps percentagewise Bexley is on a par with Bexleyheath after all.

Maybe UKIP’s free parking ideas would help to keep the village alive.


JVT Management

Vinny Rey

It’s not all downhill though, the business centre in Bourne Road is occupied thanks to an initiative by Bexley council, well someone who works there anyway.

Do you remember the name of Bexley’s traffic engineer who master minded the almost unnegotiable roundabout and the man who plonked a keep left sign outside someone’s drive so that they couldn’t drive all the way home? Well it seems he has a second string to his bow and has established himself in Bourne Road. If it keeps him busy, maybe we can look forward to fewer poor road designs. Click the right hand image for more details.

† There is a full page advertisement for Bexley Cabs in this week’s News Shopper. No address is given.

 

18 May - Today on Broadway

According to Bexley council the traffic disruption in and around Bexleyheath will be much reduced within the next ten days as traffic circulation is allowed to revert to normal but anyone who passed along Broadway this morning will have noticed that there is a great deal of work left to do.

Broadway Broadway Broadway BroadwayAbout half the road surface is now replaced with patterned cobbles but some sections are still untouched apart from the removal of the kerb stones. I suppose that given enough labour, and there was no shortage of it this morning, anything is possible but if it isn’t done by the end of the month how could it be completed without disrupting the traffic flow again?


BroadwayThe roads were not as empty as the photographs imply, two sets of temporary traffic lights and the new pedestrian crossing close to ASDA were causing long gaps in the traffic flow.

In my opinion, the finished article doesn’t look anything like as good as the artist’s impression. To me the white cobblestones look grubby covered as they are already with a layer of ingrained rubber but with luck that will tone down the glare that might be experienced if we ever get another sunny day.

Pedestrian safety will be interesting to watch. As I stood on the roadside taking photographs a bus moving from the left to the right hand carriageway encroached on the red road margin and caught me unawares. A moment’s inattention will spell disaster. I heard one young mum and her son, and separately an elderly couple, both use the word ‘stupid’ to describe the new arrangements. Fingers crossed the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages but I am beginning to wonder what the advantages are beyond aesthetics.


UKIP UKIPThe number of people working hard in hi-vis jackets were almost outnumbered by those wearing yellow and purple rosettes. UKIP was in town. I stopped to have a word with them as did quite a lot of other passers by. My interest being to try to extract a bit more info on what their policies for Bexley might be, apart from what was in their leaflet.

One would-be candidate said he was keen to relax the parking restrictions as it was counter-productive for the local economy. I think we can assume that a short free parking period is favoured for shopping centres because UKIP recognise the hardship imposed by Peter Craske during his reign of terror. Maybe councillor Gareth Bacon’s parking review will have something to say about that.

It’s not a new idea, council leader Teresa O’Neill said it was worth looking at when she fielded questions at the Boris Johnson road-show in July 2011. The difference is that O’Neill had no intention of taking the question away for consideration and the UKIP guy seemed dead keen on implementing it.

The facsimile of the UKP leaflet featured here has been Photoshopped to fit the available space. Click it to read the real thing.

 

17 May - It’s so easy to be open and transparent, but Bexley council cannot manage it

AllowancesNext week will see the annual shuffling of the deckchairs at Bexley council. Councillors who have done nothing to upset Teresa O’Neill might find themselves in the cabinet or be given one of the consolation prizes of chairman of a scrutiny committee. Any cabinet members with a mind of their own are shown the door but with councillors Windle, Catterall and June Slaughter already ejected there may be none left to go this year. (What are the odds on Craske being readmitted to the fold?)

On top of the figures shown in the table, every councillor, even those who have gone all year without opening their mouths, is given £9,418.

If previous years are anything to go by the occupants of the new positions will not be immediately apparent. My annual chore is the revision of the councillor list and whilst the monetary allowances are not hard to find, who the lucky recipients are is not so obvious. Last year I had to keep an eye on Agendas of meetings to see whose name appeared as chairman in order to belatedly make amendments to the previous year’s councillor list.

A council that is naturally transparent would add all the relevant information to its own councillor list published on the web, not leave it to a local blog to be the only place where all the information is available in one place.

Dartford council has the data on its website and publishes it in local newspapers too. Being honest and open is not rocket science but maybe Bexley is concerned that residents might notice that their councillors’ basic allowance is almost exactly twice as high as in Dartford. Dartford has only 45 councillors compared to Bexley’s 63 but given the generally lower special responsibility allowances the total expenditure on councillors is only a third of that in Bexley.

In approximate terms a councillor’s minimum earnings for an hour or two a week is the same as one of Bexley’s agency care workers doing 70 hours a week; and if you are tempted to get your calculator out, remember some are under 18 years old and none are paid for travelling time between jobs or reimbursed their expenses.

Allowances

Scroll (or click) image above for Dartford’s list of Special Responsibility Allowances and who benefits from them. Some councils are happy to let residents know what goes on behind the scenes. Not Bexley obviously.

 

16 May (Part 2) - Total secrecy at all costs

DiaryAt the end of May last year, a time when Bexley council was systematically ignoring Freedom of Information requests, someone hit upon the bright idea of seeking possible justification of Will Tuckley’s quarter of a million pound salary by requesting a copy of the chief executive’s business diary.

The request didn’t get a mention here because I doubted its contents would prove interesting but when Bexley council failed to respond to that simple request it began to look like another case of something to hide and FOI law breaking.

Why are they so keen to make themselves look devious when honest people would take the cheapest option? All council officers keep electronic diaries so it should have been, one click, job done and Brownie points for Bexley council.

A complaint went to the Information Commissioner and Bexley council was told to do what they should have done five months earlier. However the council sent only a typed list purporting to have been extracted from the real diary. Wide open to falsification I think you will agree. Another complaint went to the Commissioner.

Under pressure, Bexley council responded in the same inadequate way; another typed list and as if to prove the first was a lie, the second attempt was very different from the first. Why didn’t they just send the genuine article?

Following a further intervention by the Information Commissioner, Bexley council appears to have come to its senses. After 49 weeks of expensive bureaucratic ducking and diving. Paul Moore, the Director of Customer and Corporate Services has sent the requested screen shots.

As expected, the documents are not very interesting but even if that were not the case, it seems to me that publishing a run of the mill diary is an intrusion too far. The big question must be why Bexley council decided to waste so much time and money resisting such a simple request. Ironically one of Tuckley’s diary entries was a meeting about the cost of handling FOIs.

As ever, Bexley council’s default position is to tell residents as little as possible and demonstrate what an untrustworthy bunch they are. Honesty would have been so cheap and easy but instead we get a total absence of common sense from people paid some of the highest public sector salaries in the land. Maybe I do them an injustice by taking insufficient account of the pressure coming from the council leader to bury all skeletons and potential criticisms as deeply as possible.

The file relating to this simple Freedom of Information request runs to 64 mainly single sided A4 pages.

 

16 May (Part 1) - Purposeful neglect

“Bugger Bexley” was a phrase I stumbled across while idly Googling around yesterday afternoon. If I had found it earlier it could have been included in yesterday’s comment on Bexley council’s ambition to, well, bugger Bexley.

Francis Sedgemore's blogThe subject of my delight was a blog written by someone associated with the London Cycling Campaign which one might expect to be another organisation keen to hobble transport links, but no, it was a well written piece with some choice phrases reserved for Bexley council.

“Opposition to the creation and sustenance of community and business.” About Bexley’s performance at City Hall, “Their contribution from the floor was so incoherent that I had to stifle an urge to laugh out loud”.

You may read it all by clicking the extract above.

 

15 May - Poor losers

They say that small minds are easily amused but one of the things I enjoy about watching Bexley council is to see what new excuse or lie they will come up with when caught out by something or other. My favourite so far is that a Policy is not a Policy it is a Protocol, followed by a Protocol is not a Protocol it is a Rule Book Issue and as only Policy matters can be questioned at council meetings you cannot actually ask Policy questions because they have been redefined as Rule Book Issues - which are not allowed.

Correspondents tell me how disappointed they are at Bexley council providing damn fool and evasive answers to their questions but invariably such answers provide grist to the Bonkers’ mill. I was therefore looking forward to Bexley council’s response to finding themselves on the wrong side of the Thames crossing argument.

Newspaper reportThey claimed in letters to newspapers to have read residents’ minds and told them they didn’t want a fixed crossing and spent £3,366 on a leaflet to convince the dissenters. Now that Bexley council has failed to persuade residents that remaining in the dark ages for the foreseeable future is their preferred option, the council is griping that the TfL consultation produced an inadequate sample. (1,053 respondents from Bexley.)

I find that a bit rich. When there was a consultation about Bexley adopting a mayor to replace the cabinet system only 99 people responded and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 63 of them were councillors. They seized the opportunity to stick with a cabinet despite a bigger poll in the Bexley Chronicle going heavily in the other direction.

Strategy 2014 which has been the cornerstone of the present administration’s decision making was approved on the back of a massive consultation exercise with the town festooned with encouraging posters. It failed to reach a four figure response (829) but Bexley council seized on it as vindication of its plans. Bexley council will only accept democracy in action if it suits their preconceived notions.

CommentIt will argue no doubt that the people keenest on a bridge will have been those that rushed to complete the consultation and thereby unfairly biased it, but a closer examination reveals that the number using Blackwall four or more times a week was almost exactly balanced by those using it less than once a month.

Where are all these people clamouring for splendid isolation? Do they exist outside Teresa O’Neill’s cabinet? The newspaper commentators are almost entirely in favour of solving the transport problem sooner rather than later.

Maybe the council leader should give some thought to the fact that despite putting a magazine denigrating the bridge through every letter box in the borough and following it with a tax payer funded leaflet imploring residents to ‘Don’t let the bridge back in’, she aroused the interest of fewer than half the number or people who flocked to sign Elwyn Bryant’s petition asking Bexley council to renegotiate the obscenely high senior salaries O’Neill has to pay to ensure the loyalty of her henchmen.

 

14 May - There must be an election due

As I was returning home last Friday carrying a helium filled balloon intended for my grand daughter I passed councillor John Davey (no gas bag jokes please) poking a Conservative leaflet through letterboxes. It’s not unique to Lesnes ward, I know the other end of the borough was getting the same treatment two or three weeks ago. The leaflet repeats the fib that “2013 is the fourth consecutive year that Bexley’s Conservative councillors have not increased your council tax bill” and as you might expect has not mentioned the numerous stealth taxes Bexley Conservatives have introduced, a complete list of which runs to 30 A4 pages.

I particularly liked this bit…
Conservative Party leaflet
Presumably council leader Teresa O’Neill hopes to fool some people into thinking that was the view of a local Labour councillor. In truth the rioting comment came from Liverpool council which has a long history of nuttiness.

Maybe it is because I get too many emails from people interested in politics but I’m beginning to feel the 2014 election is only just around the corner. I have had more than one request for permission to use some of the material that has appeared on Bonkers in election leaflets. I imagine some of it is hard to find so in an attempt to be helpful I will produce a few of my own.

For the first of what may become an occasional series, here’s something to illustrate what sort of disgusting human being Bexley Tories are prepared to elect as their leader. For your delectation, the arrogant, the dishonest, the power crazed; the Great Dictator: Teresa Jude O’Neill, the inside story.
Teresa O'NeillThe warning went on to inform me that if I continued the criticism I would be arrested by Teresa’s military wing.

First Teresa the Terrible instructs her uniformed branch to protect her from public scrutiny, next they do as their paymaster commands. (Just short of £16 million last year.)

It is what might have been expected in Stalinist Russia but “criticising the way Bexleyheath (sic) council is run by councillors“ is not yet an offence in SE London even if Teresa O’Neill would like it to be.

For the record, the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner ruled that Bexley police exceeded their authority in issuing the above warning. The Local Government Ombudsman refused to censure Bexley council.

 

13 May - Craske investigation. “Incomplete” says CPS

I’d almost forgotten, but Elwyn Bryant has continued to seek information from the Crown Prosecution Service about how and when they were actually involved in the failed obscene blog investigation.

CPSProgress has been slow but the CPS did eventually get around to confirming in writing that they do not consider the police completed their investigation properly and provided them with an action plan.

There is a complaint outstanding with the IPCC against Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, Chief Inspector Tony Gowen and half a dozen or so more who contrived to totally screw up the simplest of investigations - or deliberately chose to “resolve the [Peter Craske’s] ongoing situation” - depending on your point of view.

The intention is to submit a similar complaint against Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa and Co. for also falling down on the job. Some of his excuses for failure were less than believable. e.g.


Q. How come you identified a suspect before Christmas 2011 and you didn’t apply for a search warrant until the end of May 2012?
A. We had to eliminate you and Elwyn from the inquiry, you may have set him up by committing the crime yourself.


ResolveIt seemed sensible to await the CPS’s response to their offer to answer additional questions before submitting the second complaint.

Initially there was co-operation; presumably the CPS was confident they had done nothing wrong and there was nothing to hide. They were happy to reveal their opinion. “The investigation of the police is incomplete”.

However with Bexley police hell bent on keeping the buried safely interred, what does the CPS do if the police refuse to talk to them?

Currently the CPS is giving the impression of being seriously embarrassed at being caught up with an unresponsive police force. They are far less willing to talk than a few weeks ago.

Maybe the CPS is beginning to understand the degree of “political interference” revealed in the police files and the lengths to which the police will go to protect their friends.

The impasse is delaying the planned complaint about Olisa and Co. but procrastination is not a strategy that will work for ever. Presumably Elwyn will also go above the Level E Manager if he draws a blank for more than a few more days. It may be some time before any new developments can be reported.

Something we will get to know much sooner is whether a councillor suspected of Misconduct in Public Office will be back in the cabinet in a few days time.

 

11 May - Pay and policies

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has updated its Town Hall Rich List. I’m not sure how accurate it is, not very I suspect. It doesn’t help comparisons that the format is different from last year.

In 2011 the TPA reported that 16 Bexley council officers were on more than £100,000 a year. Last year only eight were listed and yesterday they reported the number has decreased from nine to seven.
TPA
I suspect the discrepancy may have arisen over Deborah Absalom and Angela Hogan who left council employment two years ago but with, in one case, a golden goodbye in the following financial year.
TPA
The TPA didn’t give Angela Hogan a mention by name in either 2012 or 2011 but the precise numbers don’t really matter, the fact is they are all far too high.

UKIP TweetThe local branch of UKIP has announced that its policy is to cap council pay at £100,000. They are in good company, so is Eric Pickles’, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. 2,219 Bexley residents signed a petition to that effect in 2011, most of them in council leader Teresa O’Neill’s ward, but she doesn’t agree. She had the petition thrown out claiming that the salaries quoted were exaggerated. In fact the reverse was true.

Labour are no better, they refused to back the petition and their leader said that Will Tuckley should be paid even more, the same as the Head of the Civil Service. What? The man who doesn't even administer our dustbin collections (it’s contracted out, like most Bexley services are) should be paid the same as the man who stands over everyone in the Ministry of Defence, the Departments of Transport, Health and Environment etc. Total madness from all Bexley’s politicians. (†)

UKIP TweetUKIP, and any Independent candidates, will have an uphill struggle to overcome the apathy of Bexley’s electorate and they are going to have to up their game somewhat too. Maybe it is just me but I expect to learn what UKIP is thinking when following their Twittering. Appearing to bait the other two parties could be mistaken for student politics.

All I know about Bexley UKIP so far is that they are against the Gallions Reach bridge and against silly pay levels. What about their take on revenue driven parking enforcement, a short free parking period on our dying high streets, employing care agencies that flout the minimum wage regulations or transparency and honesty on the council chamber? During the next 12 months I’d like to know the answers.

Town Hall Rich List 2011.
Town Hall Rich List 2012.
Town Hall Rich List 2013.

† The Labour member for Belvedere, Seán Newman, spoke in favour of considering the petition.

 

10 May - No blog today

J4DAs some of you will know, had he not been murdered in 1987, the private investigator Daniel Morgan would have been related to me.

The Home Secretary has today announced a Hillsborough style inquiry into the failure of the police to solve the murder and the Metropolitan Police corruption which is likely to have been instrumental in no one being brought to justice.

It seems very likely, indeed the police have admitted it, that their decision to go for a cover up rather than an investigation into one of their own was corrupt.


“We recognise that we have to take responsibility for the consequences of the repeated failure of the MPS over the years to confront the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice.”


Nothing much has changed, the police’s first inclination is always to protect themselves and their friends from the consequences of their own crimes. We have seen it on a small scale in Bexley, now we will see it on the grand scale under the watchful eye of a judge.

As you may imagine, there have been other things to do today including modifying the family website which has been neglected of late.

News Shopper report.

 

9 May (Part 2) - Now that they are exposed as out of touch, will Bexley’s Tories live up to their slogan?
9 May (Part 2) - “Listening to you. Working for you.”

SloganCraske's letterI know I am biased because of my own roots in East London and continuing need to get there but I have always felt that London could not forever choose to remain with cross river transport links little changed since 1896. The nettle must be grasped sooner or later so why wait?

Although, or perhaps because, I live close to the proposed Gallions Reach crossing I have never come across anyone who doesn’t support the idea and only one email has come in to oppose it. Even then it was apparent that it was the original bridge plan that was feared and something as big as that has long been dead in the water. Bexley council is anxious to perpetuate that misunderstanding but I was not at all surprised when it became clear that most people had seen straight through Teresa O’Neill’s misinformation.


PropagandaBBC reportCouncillor Peter Craske wrote to the papers to tell residents that they didn’t want a bridge using the dishonest logic that throwing out a high taxing Labour administration meant we’d all become Luddites. If Craske is involved it’s odds on that dishonesty will not be far away.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill pumped out propaganda at tax payers’ expense which claimed that 63% of people were in favour of a ferry but now that the official results have been published it is clear that that was wishful thinking on the part of Bexley’s Conservatives.

All six of the boroughs consulted have come out in favour of a bridge as soon as possible over a ferry by 2017. And that includes Bexley. Will Teresa O’Neill, Peter Craske, Gareth Bacon et al now stop lying to their electorate for their own selfish ends?

According to the BBC (see image above, click it for their report) TfL are going to have a serious rethink about the crossing now that they know that Teresa O’Neill has been whispering fibs into Boris Johnson’s shell like. Surprisingly little comment on this in the local media. One can only guess why.

 

9 May (Part 1) - Gone but not forgotten

Bexley Cabs Bexley Cabs goneIt has been suggested that that a photographic expedition to Bexley would enable another feature on shop closures such as those for Bexleyheath and Welling. It’s not a place I know well but it seems hard to believe that such a small shopping area could muster a dozen or more closed premises, but whatever the number might be it has recently grown by one. Bexley Cabs which opened without planning permission has packed up and gone.

It’s not very surprising, its owner has made a habit of opening business and closing them again soon afterwards. 16 companies opened and only four still operating if web reports can be believed.

Not being a businessman myself I have little idea how businesses like these can be so unsuccessful that they have to close prematurely but are so successful that that they make enough money to start another one. It seems counterintuitive to me, there must be some factor I am not accounting for.

So one Campbell has done a runner, another one is hinting he won’t run again in Bexley and the rumour mill is suggesting councillor Alan Downing political career has run its course. Who leaks this stuff? A mischief maker or someone who knows?

Bexley Cabs history.

 

8 May (Part 2) - Conspiring to deceive

This is going to be a long one. If you are familiar with how councillor Alan Downing refused to ask councillor Peter Craske to switch on his microphone while chairing a scrutiny committee meeting more than a year ago then you may wish to jump to the final word by the Local Government Ombudsman. If you are new to all this, here’s a quick reminder of what happened between March and August last year.

PropagandaCast your mind back to the evening of 21st March 2012. It was the night of, ironically some might say, the Crime and Disorder committee meeting and it was chaired by soon to be mayor, councillor Alan Downing. Councillor Peter Craske was in full flow but he had forgotten to switch his microphone on and hence neither the public address system or the Hearing Loop for the hard of hearing could operate. I do not subscribe to the theory that councillor Craske deliberately left his microphone switched off, I may be mistaken but there is no evidence it was not just a simple mistake of the type anyone might make.

A hand went up from the audience and the words “Excuse me Mr. Chairman, could you ask councillor Craske to turn on his microphone please“ were heard to which the response was, “oh, sorry, turn your microphone on Peter old chap” and by the end of the meeting everyone had forgotten it had ever happened.

Except of course Downing didn’t respond like a normal civilized human being. Councillor Alan Downing said “If councillor Craske doesn’t want to put his microphone on, it’s up to him. I can hear what he is saying. If you can’t, you must have personal problems. Now sit down and be quiet”. Most of the Conservative councillors present cheered Downing’s performance like the unruly mob they are.

After the meeting, when informed of the possibility of a formal complaint, Downing faced up to the complainant while jabbing a pen at him to emphasise that he didn’t care about that. He said as much too.

Refusing to require the use of a microphone does not satisfy the council’s equalities obligations and it’s not the sort of response to be expected from the chairman of any meeting, let alone a senior councillor. The words reported above were not the subject of dispute at a subsequent Standards Board hearing or the following Standards Board review.

ApologyBexley council as a corporate body recognised it was on shaky ground with the Equalities Act and promptly apologised and took steps to ensure that councillors understood their responsibilities which was an acceptable response and the Standards Board could not quite bring itself to apply the usual total whitewash to a misdemeanour of this magnitude. It injected a note of negativity into its verdict on Downing.


• Councillor Downing’s response to the request for the microphone to be turned on could be considered as disrespectful.
• Pointing a pen at a member of the public would be disrespectful if proved.


The pen pointing might be more accurately described, by me at least, as furious pen jabbing and it was witnessed by around 20 people so an appeal against a verdict that fell rather short of “guilty” was submitted. The review panel decided that the criticism embodied in the original decision was unwarranted and councillor Alan Downing was found to have acted entirely reasonably. Should one have expected anything else given that Downing was by then mayor?

The second Standards Board hearing concluded that to ask for a microphone to be switched on is “disrespectful and hostile”. That at all times, Downing’s response was “measured” and even after the problem was drawn to his attention “it was unnecessary to make adjustments of a potential issue of which he was unaware”. Jabbing a pen into someone’s face was a mere ‘gesticulation’.

In summary councillor Alan Downing can be as unhelpful as he likes and tell councillor Craske he was free to break the equalities laws if he felt like it. Basically it is rude for any member of the public to stick his hand up at a council meeting and say “Please”.

So the case went to the Local Government Ombudsman where it has been for a very long time.

The LGO is reputed to be staffed by ex-local government officers and far from impartial. When I complained to the LGO that council leader Teresa O’Neill and Chief Executive Will Tuckley went to the police with a cock and bull story about me planning to burn down the Civic Offices they decided that that was entirely fair. Anyone can go to the police to report anything they like about anyone and it is up to the police to sort out the hoaxes and the malevolent from the genuine article. No one at Bexley council owed me any duty of care and no one could be expected to conduct a modicum of research to ascertain I had made no such threat. A man on a quarter of a million pounds a year shouldn’t be expected to engage his brain even for a second. Thank you Helen Bingham of the Local Government Ombudsman’s office for finding a neat formula to get friends off the hook.

Following in her footsteps is LGO investigator Kay Chesterman. When asked to look into Bexley’s perverse verdict she ensured her idea of a level playing field by allowing councillor Alan Downing to produce his jeering and cheering witnesses while denying the complainant the same facility despite several being willing and able.

Having decided on such a set up Ms. Chesterman was wide open to misinformation from Bexley councillors. Her report suppresses the names of everyone concerned but here is a selection of the points made by Bexley council in their defence.
LGO report
Mr. C. was the secondary complainant to the Standards Board and my recollection is that he is wrong. The primary complainant merely indicated he couldn’t hear when the microphones were off, neither could I.

The discrepancy is entirely irrelevant. There is a Hearing Loop sign in the council chamber and visitors whether hearing impaired or not have a reasonable expectation that all those speaking will be audible through the induction loop or the sound system. Downing was less than helpful when he deliberately permitted a councillor to opt out of the loop and sound system by not having his microphone switched on. No councillor denied he did that and the council itself thought his action sufficiently misguided that it issued a ‘briefing note’ to ensure compliance in future.
LGO report
This is simply a lie by councillor Q. No one jumped up, shouted or rushed anywhere.
LGO report
What prior behaviour? The comment acknowledged by councillor P. was the first response to the complainant’s initial request.
LGO report
So councillor P. agrees that the complainant’s words were very polite but then claims he was shouting and rushing forward. He wasn’t even fully standing, just raised himself slightly from his seat. I recall no shouting.
LGO report
Councillor P. again. The complainant chose to inform councillor Downing of his intention to make a formal complaint. Maybe he could have merely gone away and written his complaint but that does not make his chosen action wrong. If Downing had handled this in a different way the outcome would certainly have been very different and some councillors acknowledged that they would not have reacted as he did. Immediately below is councillor Q’s admission.
LGO report
LGO report
He certainly didn’t have a large trumpet attached to his ear but the comment is nonsense. The chamber is a large room with councillors at widely different distances speaking at variable volumes, some facing one way and others 180° opposed. Of course some can be heard better than others. For the record there was only one “remark” that could not be heard and which prompted the request to the chairman, not several as Mr. R. states. Presumably Mr. R. is a council officer.
LGO report
The image of Downing jabbing his pen towards the complainant’s face is indelibly etched in my mind. The distance was between six and ten inches. It’s a matter of opinion whether that is reasonable or aggressive. Coupled with the raised voice and the words uttered, it looked aggressive to me.
LGO report
Alan Downing is innocent, OK?
LGO report
This is an LGO comment. Ms. Chesterman has taken the view that hearing impaired people must make their presence known before a meeting starts. She neatly avoids comment on Downing’s rudeness while refusing to issue an instruction that the microphones be switched on. Where else do you see an instruction that hearing impaired people must announce their deafness before the Hearing Loop is activated? Just like in cinemas, banks and taxis? No, I don’t think so.

The investigator considered the Standards Board’s original statement that “Pointing a pen at a member of the public would be disrespectful if proved”, a councillor’s confirmation that the pen was so used and the review panel’s decision to overturned the original finding and stated, “I find no grounds to conclude the decision was perverse”. Maybe not but it doesn’t shriek honesty either, more a formula to get mayor Alan Downing out of an embarrassing hole.
LGO report
And that’s the final comment from the LGO. At least we know that mayor Alan Downing behaves inappropriately to residents and his Conservatives friends admit to being very ready to cover for him. It is a result of sorts.


8 May (Part 1) - More dirty tricks?

Calendar of MeetingsI suppose I should be flattered by the lengths Bexley council is prepared to go to to starve this blog of information. My contributors get silly answers or none at all and meetings get fewer and fewer to avoid too many being reported here, but this latest scheme, taken at face value at least, could be a real beauty.

I would normally attend the General Services, Public Realm, Community Safety, Health, Crime and Disorder and Adults’ Services Scrutiny Committee meetings. But will I be able to this month? if the council’s calendar is to be believed, all of them are to be held at the same time.

I've known meetings last under half an hour but this lot, all in the same place as well as time, is going to create some sort of record.

Is there more to it than meets the eye or is it an act of sheer genius by a bunch of ne’er do wells and charlatans?

 

7 May - Slogans, lies and expensive propaganda cannot mask the truth

PropagandaThe result of Transport for London’s River Crossing Consultation is out. It is a huge document and I suspect everyone will find something in it to support their position. The Silvertown tunnel proposal gets a majority support just as Bexley council hoped it would but I suspect that Bexley residents will be even more interested in what the borough as a whole felt about the proposals for their own neck of the woods.

Councillor Peter Craske you will recall has been writing to the papers to claim that residents do not want a proper crossing in Thamesmead. A ferry perhaps, but probably just a tolled replacement for the Woolwich free ferry. It didn’t sound much like progress to anyone with interests across the water. And why was Craske so interested anyway? It’s not as though it will adversely affect his Blackfen & Lamorbey ward except that it would present an extra level of choice to their transport needs. Probably he is just seeking favours that will ease him back into the Cabinet following his arrest on suspicion of Misconduct in Public Office.

Councillors for wards most likely to see traffic levels rise and who presumably knew better than Craske what their electors wanted took a different line.

Notwithstanding that, council leader Teresa O’Neill thought it worth spending tax payers’ money on telling residents that they didn’t want a bridge but she was just guessing and intent on protecting her own ward to the detriment of everyone else. A form of gerrymandering surely.

But now we know the answer, the people of Bexley and other boroughs have spoken.

57% of Bexley residents support a bridge at the earliest possible opportunity while 32% oppose it. 9% or 10% couldn’t care less either way. Less than a third agree with O’Neill and her scheming cohorts. ( Hugh Neal : Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich)

Opposition to tolling was higher in Bexley than any other borough. 63%.

Bexley council. Listening to you. Working for you. Do they really believe that bilge?

I read in the Bexley Times that the Bexley branch of UKIP is against the bridge too, it rather put me off them. I wonder how long it will be before they change their minds.


Tfl consultation result
Click image to access the full report.

 

6 May (Part 2) - Mark & Spencer

La Casa De Sueños, The Black Horse, Bexley Barbers, Cafe Blanco, Bexley Cabs. The list goes on; and the stories have a common theme. A link to the Campbell family late of Bexley. Not always to council deputy leader Colin Campbell it is true but a steady stream of allegations that some poor soul has lost her (it’s always been a her) money, sometimes a huge sum of money, is rather worrying. There was another similar tale of woe only last month.

Long term readers will recall that Bexley Cabs was refused planning permission to operate out of Bexley village and the police’s submission to the planning department highlighted the fact the application was not truthful.
Police statement
The local publicans’ objections were in similar vein. You would think any sensible councillor would distance themselves from such an outfit.

TweetMaybe they have, but Mrs. Craske was happy to encourage a company that had raised two fingers to planning law. Now an eagle eyed reader has suggested it may be happening all over again.

Yet another new cab company has been founded by Mr. Campbell junior.

Area Cars
So Mark Campbell has founded yet another business and found himself another female business partner, so what? you may ask. Where’s the Bexley council connection? Well the aforesaid eagle eyed reader remembered that Area Cars’ registered address is one once listed by Conservative councillor James Spencer in his Register of Members’ Interests. It isn’t any more because he is one of those councillors who puts secrecy above transparency and has invoked Section 32 of the Localism Act to suppress knowledge of his circumstances.

My guess is that James Spencer’s may share an address with Area Cars Limited but nothing more. However until Colin Campbell stands down as a Bexley councillor the expansion of the family’s business empire may still be of interest to readers.

If you look up Future Insight Accounting on the web you will discover where the name Michele Yianni comes from. Future Insight Accounting was previously known as Yianni Consultancy Ltd.

The Bexley councillors invoking Section 32 of the Localism Act are Cheryl Bacon, Gareth Bacon, Colin Campbell, Sybil Camsey, Val Clark, Peter Craske, Maxine Fothergill, Teresa O’Neill, Katie Perror, James Spencer and Chris Taylor. Oddly enough, James Spencer is the only one on that list I do not regard with some, at least, suspicion. What have I missed?

 

6 May (Part 1) - Entering the closet

In my 26 years as a Bexley resident I have only twice been inside a pub in Bexleyheath, until last night that is when I made it three. The reason was that I became aware a month or two ago that UKIP met in the King’s Arms once a month and following on from last Thursday’s election results I felt I should take a look on the basis that any party or individual that stands a chance of unseating those Bexley councillors who believe themselves to be above the law, is potentially a friend of mine.

David Cameron has said that UKIP is a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists but from what I saw and heard yesterday evening that is yet another subject on which he knows nothing. I found a friendly group, mainly male but with a good spread of ages. Political meetings I’ve previously attended in Bexley have been dominated by people of pensionable age. Despite the informal setting it came across as serious and professional which hasn’t always been the case elsewhere.

I arrived just as a group of around 20 was winding up their official business and preparing for an open session. Much to my surprise I found that I was the open session. I had been recognised and their chairman David Coburn asked me to tell the meeting about the blog and my experience of Bexley council. So totally unprepared I meandered over quite a lot of ground. The names Teresa O’Neill and Peter Craske cropped up quite a lot and whilst the presentation could have been better the ‘catalogue of crime’ must have sounded rather shocking to fresh ears.

I took home with me a copy of UKIP’s newspaper and was reminded by it that David Coburn doesn’t just chair the Bexley branch of UKIP, he is UKIP’s London Regional Chairman. Despite him dumping me into the meeting hotspot unprepared I found him to be instantly likeable. I could identify totally with his column in the UKIP newspaper an extract of which follows…


David CoburnUKIP wants to end the cosy ‘old boy’ relationship you find on most councils, where ALL the parties seem to conspire together against the council tax payer.

It doesn’t seem to matter which party is in charge. They all maintain the same overpaid senior council officers and top civil servants, on the same obscene salaries and eye watering index linked pensions, that the rest of us, in the real world, scrimping to pay our ever increasing council tax, can only dream about.

The establishment parties cut all the wrong things. They cut front line services but they never tackle the outrageous salaries, waste and bureaucratic fat experienced by ordinary Londoners when they have any dealings with council.


For a fruitcake who has yet to attend a Bexley council meeting, that is a remarkably accurate summary of Teresa O’Neill’s gravy train administration.

Note: I understand future UKIP meetings may not be held at the King’s Arms. Keep an eye on UKIP’s twitter feed for details.

 

5 May - Going to the top

The presentation of correspondence with Bexley council is generally made in the expectation it will portray them in a poor light, no apology is made for that, but with both question and answer available to the reader they are free to reach their own conclusions.

Yesterday’s exchange between Nicholas Dowling and the Deputy Director of Human Resources could have gone either way. Was Nick concerned to see a copy of the Constitution or was his priority to expose Bexley council as a law breaker? I suspect the latter but do not condemn it. Bexley council has a proven track record of law breaking and we either all roll over and let them get on with it or someone has to make a stand. I do not believe Nick’s first priority was to cause distress to council staff as the Deputy Director has concluded but one can never be sure what others might think, so I was relieved to read yesterday’s feedback.


Utterly disgraceful, Mr. Hollier should be ashamed of himself. Your persistence is admirable!


Someone suggested that a complaint to Paul Moore, Hollier’s Director, is called for as in the past I have indicated he is inclined to adopt a more sensible position. Alas that isn’t always the case. Nick Dowling has also been on the warpath regarding Bexley council’s offences against the Data Protection Act. viz. the publication of residents’ address being the quid pro quo for asking questions at council meetings. The correspondence began in February but didn’t really get anywhere, the real question was always dodged and by the 17th April the questions were repeated to Mr. Moore as follows…


If you found the following points in my complaint dated 20th March 2013 ambiguous in some way I apologise unreservedly for not making it clearer to you:


1. Mr. Fox has made no attempt whatsoever to answer my question that he initially received on 14th February 2013. This was about Bexley Council ensuring that it is adhering to the Data Protection Act 1998 Data Principles when it insists on publishing residents sensitive personal details on the Internet in order for them to be permitted to ask questions at Full Council meetings as per the Council’s Constitution.
2. I would also like you to consider the behaviour of Mr. Hollier in this matter as well. Despite mentioning the concerns that I had expressed around the Data Protection Principles he too failed to take the opportunity to address this matter at all and reassure me that the Council was indeed adhering to the law.
3. I would like the investigation to provide me with the reasons Mr. Hollier failed to deal appropriately with the Data Protection Principles aspect of my correspondence.


Now for the removal of all doubt please let me reassure you that all I really want you to do is establish why Mr. Fox and Mr. Hollier could not confirm that Bexley Council’s Constitution has always adhered to the 1998 Data Protection Principles – and you might be kind enough to indicate why you also chose not to as well – then perhaps you might generously consider if any of these decisions by senior staff at the Council not to reassure me, despite repeated requests to do so were discourteous, unprofessional and could bring the Council’s good name into disrepute?


Its an awkward one for Mr. Moore. It is self evident that it was an abuse of the law for residents to be coerced into having their addresses put on the web just because they wished to hold Bexley council to account and he probably knew in advance that council leader Teresa O’Neill was going to perpetuate the lies and deceit at the next council meeting. Additionally, job security concerns may have impinged on his ability to make a clear statement on Bexley council’s law breaking over the past two years - so he didn’t.
Moore's Law
Mr. Moore only refers to the recent decision to adhere to the Data Protection Act and the permission granted to Mr. Dowling to ask a question unimpeded at last month’s council meeting. References to the past are studiously avoided.

I can confirm that Mr. Hollier made no reference to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 when replying to Nick’s complaint dated 21 February - if you don’t believe me, click here - and Mr. Moore has not disputed the question was asked. Maybe my correspondent’s expectation that Paul Moore would be less evasive is massively over optimistic.

 

4 May - Constitutional improprieties

There cannot be much doubt that for a month or two earlier this year Bexley council operated without a Constitution. It was first reported here in February. On 21st March Nick Dowling took a trip down to the Civic Offices to see if it was merely a web problem or if they had no paper copy either. He asked Sandra Baxter, a Committee Officer, whatever that might be, if she could let him see a copy. She told him that unfortunately the council didn't have an up to date copy and she saw no point in showing him an outmoded one.

LegislationThe council officer didn’t seem to appreciate that not having a current Constitution available was illegal so Nick asked to speak to the Monitoring Officer, Mr. Akin Alabi, and when told he was away without a substitute being appointed, it was agreed that Mr. Kevin Fox from Committee Services would give him a call. So Nick went away unable to see the Constitution which is a clear breach of the Local Government Act 2000 and waited for Fox to call him with an explanation.

The call didn’t come and as you would expect Nick didn’t leave it there. He not only complained that the law had been broken he later complained that Mr. Alabi had not responded to his initial report that Bexley council was in breach of the law again. He has now received a reply to both of his complaints and you will be pleased to know that Nick has been hallucinating all along. According to Mr. Nick Hollier, Deputy Director of Human Resources, Bexley council never did a thing wrong. Nick Dowling had been offered a copy of the Constitution when he called.
Lie
One might have thought that if that was true, Fox would have lost no time in calling Nick Dowling to tell him just how silly he had been and put the matter to rest there and then. Fortunately for Bexley council, as the Constitution had been available all the time every other aspect of Nick’s complaint was invalid…
Lie
In particular, Mr. Akin Alabi, the man responsible for upholding the law at Bexley council and who had gone away without anyone left in his place to ensure compliance had done absolutely nothing wrong…
Lie
So in summary, Bexley council’s Constitution was missing from their website for well over a month, they couldn’t provide a copy to a visitor but absolutely no one has done anything wrong, apart from Nick Dowling of course. According to Bexley’s Deputy Director of Human Resources Manager, Nick Hollier, Mr. Dowling’s motive was to cause distress to his staff…
Lie
Some might consider that some concern at being caught breaking the law would be natural, Nick recorded at the time that he felt a little bit sorry for the lady who was faced with looking for a suitable response while all her bosses were elsewhere.

It seems to me that blaming the complainant might be Mr. Hollier’s default position. My one and only complaint that went to Hollier was dismissed because I had asked for an honest answer. Not the done thing apparently.

Having read Nick Dowling’s first email it seems to me to be entirely reasonable. He made it clear that he believed the law had been broken and said he regarded it as a serious matter. His follow up after more than two weeks of broken promises was somewhat sterner. He said the lack of information was “a dereliction of duty” and said Mr. Alabi was an “abject failure” and said he intended to report Alabi to his professional body. See for yourself in the emails of 21st March and 7th April. I’m inclined to think that an honest council should be “distressed” to discover it had broken the law but if it’s the norm the staff might not see it that way.

The first two questions posed in the first of Nick Dowling’s emails are surely very important but Nick Hollier, Deputy Director of Human Resources made no reference to them in his reply. He didn’t answer any of the other questions either. What is the correct or effective response to a council that will never acknowledge it has erred, whose senior staff think nothing of lying and which appoints a watchdog (the Monitoring Officer) who turns a blind eye to their activities? I suppose the answer can only be “May 2014”.

 

3 May - They have a common purpose

Soon after the infamous obscene blog appeared almost two years ago an anonymous tip off, which I believed to have come from a Conservative party source, suggested that at least two councillors were involved in its creation. I know of other people around the borough who were dropped similar hints and I refrain from naming them only to protect their sources.

Craske arrestedSuch rumours persisted long after a councillor was arrested on suspicion of Misconduct in Public Office and on 20th July 2012 a Freedom of Information Request to Bexley council asked how many Bexley councillors had been arrested in the previous 18 months.

Unsurprisingly Bexley council refused to comment. Last October the Information Commissioner told them they must do so within ten days. It was just a number after all.

After six months of argument Bexley council has persuaded the Information Commissioner that revealing a number would be too embarrassing. An answer of one would not reveal anything new, everyone knows that councillor Peter Craske was arrested on 21st June 2012, but maybe it is now fair to assume that the real number was two or more, just as the insiders suggested.

It is all very reminiscent of the FOI I submitted to the police after they told me that their computer checks had come to naught. I requested the dates the checks were made. The police refused to say and the Information Commissioner agreed that knowledge of those dates was not in the public interest. Much later the police owned up that they had made no such investigation. It seems reasonable to assume that the Information Commissioner is just as susceptible to political interference as Bexley police are. (†)

I have several readers who have complained that Peter Craske doesn’t reply to email to his council address. They may be interested to know that for a very small fee, 50 pence will do, you may send him a brief comment. It’s all in a good cause.

† The police confirmed that the obscene blog enquiry had become difficult, long drawn out and very expensive because of “political interference” at a meeting between Elwyn Bryant and myself on 1st December 2012. The extract from an email to Chief Executive Will Tuckley shown below merely confirms the malign influences at work. On 1st March 2013 the outgoing borough commander sought to retract the statement with an assurance that he is beyond the reach of Boris Johnson or any other politician and owes allegiance only to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

 

2 May - One year to go and it is Bexley’s turn

Whilst I believe that web stats are best taken with a large pinch of salt, they leave little doubt that the story that consistently draws the most readers is the one about councillor Peter Craske and his brush with the law and how the police successfully “resolved the ongoing situation”.
CI Tony Gowen to Will Tuckley
The Crown Prosecution Service which promised to reveal how the police failed to follow their instructions has gone all coy. Their director, Keir Starmer, will shortly get a letter about it, however it would appear that Peter Craske might not yet be free of police attention.

After an interval of several weeks I attended another meeting of the Bexley Council Monitoring Group yesterday although perhaps I shouldn’t use that term any more. John Watson who first adopted the name no longer has the time to participate fully and I gathered that the remainder of the group feel it is time to move on from ‘Monitoring’ to a more active role. Bexley Residents’ Action Group perhaps? A logo formed of pitchforks and flaming torches would be nice. But I digress.

2010 resultsAfter much thought and some negotiations with Mrs. Barnbrook, Mick B. has decided that he will stand as an Independent candidate in the Blackfen & Lamorbey ward next May. It will be good to see a policeman, or at least a retired Inspector, breathing down Craske’s neck again. Assuming the slippery road wrecker and parking permit charge tripler doesn’t jump ship to another ward of course.

My intention to be close to impartial in electoral matters is going to be severely tested but anyone prepared to oppose Bexley council’s Tory agenda of dishonesty and secrecy needs all the encouragement that can be mustered. Mick has asked if I can provide him with a potted history of Craske to help with his first leaflet. That shouldn’t be difficult and I'll dig out something on Ms. Perrior too but attacking councillor Beckwith will be more difficult. He is one of several councillors who pockets a whole £9,418 and never opens his mouth at any meeting. Same with his wife.

As Mick lives in the Blackfen ward it is understandable that he should want to fight that seat but in my opinion Teresa O’Neill’s Brampton ward is a far more attractive proposition.

2010 resultsMore than half of Elwyn Bryant’s 2,219 signatures against excessive council salaries were gathered in Brampton ward and none of the doors (†) opened there provided anything but enthusiasm for halting the gravy train.

Many asked what Elwyn’s next step would be. Following Teresa O’Neill’s refusal to consider the petition and her dismissive response to a question at last week’s council meeting, the answer seems obvious to me. Elwyn, or someone of a like mind, should pursue O’Neill into her chamber. Preferably with a promise to merge the Chief Executive’s post with another borough or get rid of it altogether, and put the clock back 40 years by not accepting the members’ allowance.

A million pounds a year is going into Bexley councillors’ pockets and Labour leader Chris Ball, when asked to sign the salaries petition, said he didn’t think Will Tuckley was paid enough. Up the workers!

By the weekend, when the county election results are in, it may be a possible to form a better idea of just how vulnerable Bexley’s seats might be. If anyone is interested in taking on the arrogance of Teresa O’Neill or her cohorts I’m sure I could arrange access to Elwyn’s database of sympathetic addresses.

† The exceptions being Teresa O’Neill’s mum and dad and a councillor’s spouse who wanted to sign but was frightened of the consequences if ’er in doors found out.

 

1 May - U kip if you want to. Witham man is not for turning

Crayford flood Broadway constructionThere has been no shortage of suggestions on which story should kick May into life but in my opinion none are very relevant to Bexley council. The top contender was the flood in Crayford. I should let people know one said. Sadly I don't think Bonkers is that influential and I always assume that its readers are news junkies who will be well aware of what is going on the borough.

The best pictures of Crayford’s new lake are on the News Shopper site, all I was sent was of one worker doing his very best (sarcasm alert!) to ensure the disruption will come to an end as soon as possible. (Click Photo 1.)

Perhaps he is the same guy seen on Broadway a couple of weeks ago. (Photo 2.) Probably on his break.

The other suggestion was the news to be found in most of this morning’s national papers that Bexley Conservative councillor Alex Sawyer’s father-in-law is a UKIP candidate in tomorrow’s elections. More mischief making than news I would have thought but as it was the Conservatives who started the dirty tricks campaign against UKIP they have only themselves to blame.


TweetI noted from Twitter that my MP was at a quiz last night. So was I and I seem to have done a little better than Teresa Pearce as I came home £5 richer. The answer to one of the questions (name a well known politician born on 9th April) was Iain Duncan Smith and when the answer was announced a huge chorus of boos and jeers went up from every quarter. I don’t think David Cameron has any idea just how toxic he and his cronies have become.

Most people knew the quiz answer but that may be explained by the fact that the pub was in one of the nicer areas of Chingford. (Duncan Smith’s constituency.) The beer is only £2.75 a pint by the way. Don’t all rush at once.

I spotted a report in the Bromley section of the News Shopper about Bromley council’s move towards having only two councillors per ward. Bexley leader Teresa O’Neill proposed the same after being elected in 2010 but rapidly dropped the idea when councillors realised it would hit them in the pocket.

In Bromley they supposedly pressed ahead but deferred its introduction until 2018 blaming the Boundary Commission for the delay. However it looks like another council ‘whopper’. Bexley‘s merging of services with Bromley may be having a greater than expected effect.

The details may be seen on the Shopper link above. I might have provided a snippet from the News Shopper’s front page quoting Teresa O’Neill’s promise to look at reducing the number of councillors but they are currently demanding £5.99 to look at their archive. I hope that is a temporary glitch, I can’t imagine anyone would be willing to pay. However Google provided this…
News Shopper report

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