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Bonkers Blog January 2016

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31 January (Part 2) - Mountains out of Molehills

Bexley Council is absolutely useless at crisis management isn’t it?

When the Arthur Pewty blog fired a critical metaphor across the bows of the council leadership and I gave the Maggot Sandwich my support, Bexley Council had no idea how to get on top of the situation.

Their brilliant idea was to grossly exaggerate what had been said and ask the police to get all criticism stopped under the threat of arresting two bloggers, me and Olly Cromwell (retired blogger). Olly had no connection to the criticism whatsoever.

To cut a long story short, the Independent Police Complaints Commission had to tell Bexleyheath police not to be so damned stupid but the Local Government Ombudsman refused to do anything about a council inventing obviously false allegations against residents.

Elwyn Bryant and I took a look at the Register of Members’ Interests in 2011 - before they were put on line - and next day someone with intimate knowledge of who had been in the Cinema Car Park and looked at the Register used the phone line registered to the Cabinet Member for Car Parks to post obscenities on line. It was a graphic and depraved description of what I was supposed to have done in the car park and while inspecting the Register.

As a result, Cabinet Member Peter Crake was arrested and two former Borough Police Commanders in Bexleyheath are supposedly still under investigation nearly five years later. Another brief act of stupidity that blew up in Bexley Council’s ugly face.

When the aforesaid blogger Olly Cromwell used the C word on Twitter, Bexley councillors lied about it and supplied false evidence that I, who knew nothing of Twitter at the time, was somehow linked to Olly Cromwell. Two prosecutions and two acts of perjury resulted in a £10,000 legal bill before Olly was found not guilty.

One silly little mistake by Councillor Cheryl Bacon resulted in false statements to the press and a tissue of lies designed to cover her embarrassment. A police investigation stretched from July 2014 until the present day and it is still possible that Councilor Bacon could end up in the dock, political interference permitting.

Bexley Council has no idea how to handle their mistakes and criminal enterprises in an age when they will be exposed to public examination.

It’s the same with this Maxine Fothergill business. Because Bexley Council was determined to keep it all secret, everyone suspects the worst and wants to know what it is all about.

As reported previously, it could be that Councillor Fothergill was found guilty of Misconduct by Bexley Council but in reality did very little wrong. Maybe she is being fitted up.

This is what I think is known as of now to Bexley‘s Sherlocks.

Councillor Fothergill met an old lady during the 2014 election campaign who wanted to sell her bungalow in Edendale Road to enable her to pay for sheltered accommodation.

A couple of days before Christmas 2014 the bungalow was for sale at £230,000, sold according to Rightmove . Six months later it was sold to a Bexley Council employee for £250,000. There is nothing obviously wrong with that.

While searching for the information that Bexley council refuses to give - thereby rousing everyone’s suspicions - it was discovered that Maxine Fothergill has done massive amounts of business in Erith and as part of that appears to shift a cool quarter of million from the Erith account to hers. It may perhaps be morally wrong that Councillor Fothergill was in a position to be able to shift such sums to herself but it must have been the Erith management company that appointed her to that position.

Those managers have made certain claims as to the honesty of the financial transactions and reported it to the police. Since first reporting that I have discovered another man who has, if I didn’t lose count, made seven similar complaints to the police. All of them ignored. But that is not the basis of the complaint to Bexley Council and interesting though it is, arguably none of my business. From the local and recent perspective, Councillor Fothergill has done nothing wrong. Maybe it is the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Committee who should be in the spotlight for a perverse decision.

The Bexley Council staff who were pressing for the name of the June 2015 bungalow purchaser to be released were a bit slow on the uptake, I thought I had left them more than enough clues but it wasn’t until I left a pair of initials on this website overnight that they finally cottoned on. The initials have since been removed.

The inquisitive staff got in a tizzy over the Mayor’s chauffeur driving an old lady around town. “It’s a misuse of his position” they said. Not if Councillor Fothergill or Mayor Howard Marriner (2014/15) instructed him to do it it’s not.

Apart from what you now know, I know only the elderly lady’s new address. Nothing else and I still can’t “perceive”, to use the council’s favoured word, that anything much has been done wrong.

A property manager seems to have made a fast buck and I do not know what a realistic sale price might be, but probably a 94 year old’s home would not be in pristine decorative condition. I know mine isn’t and she is 20 years older than me.

This latest Bexley mystery has become a scandal not because Councillor Fothergill has brought it into disrepute as the official verdict maintains, but because the council mismanaged their enquiry, didn’t follow their own rules and used an Independent Person who’s official and properly constituted term of office had expired six months previously.

Nothing is known that can be pinned on Councillor Fothergill at present that is damning except perhaps being a sharp and ruthless operator. But that is a lot less shameful than having ten witnesses convinced there is a liar in charge of the Code of Conduct Committee.

I reserve the right to be hopelessly wrong if the complainant comes forward and explains his gripe but meanwhile I can’t see much else that can be worthy of reporting here.

Incidentally, the copy of the large cheque was emailed to me by the Director of the Erith Management Company for use on the blog. I didn’t steal it from the box of goodies.


31 January (Part 1) - The two weekly Crossrail photo album

Today’s the day when the Crossrail progress pictures get signed off. They have been accumulating for the past two weeks  and from tomorrow the next lot will start appearing here.

Crossrail CrossrailI had hoped to accompany this short report with an up to date account of the problems with the fire escapes at St. Benet’s Catholic Church. I wrote to the man who heads up their campaign a week ago but with no response. I can only assume they are now happy with the morsels thrown to them by Crossrail.

During the past two weeks in Abbey Wood, Network Rail has laid more track, shoved more piles into the ground, not quite finished building the first station wall and seen their contractors fined by Bexley Council while backing their lorries into their site. At the same time Bexley’s idiotic council attempts to curry favour for Crossrail trains to call at Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green. David Evennett MP has been very busy on that front too.

The official word is that the first Southeastern train will call at the new Abbey Wood platform on 22nd February although on Friday I heard the first hint of pessimism creeping into the voice of one of their top site men, but he has a track record for pulling off small miracles so don’t give up hope yet.

The pictures above illustrate how Network Rail tackles problems. One of Bexley’s drains was working in reverse yesterday, water issuing from it and flooding the road. Network Rail was soon out with its suckers and brooms. Contrast that with what Bexley Council does nearby.


30 January - Forget Old Farm, Bexley Council has closed Lesnes Abbey park

TweetLesnes Abbey Park is a mess. Bexley Council has been working on it, churned it up and left mud everywhere, park paths and adjacent roads. Now they have closed the area around the ruins.

How they justify the words ‘on time’ I do not know. Their own publicity brochure clearly states that the Visitor Centre will open no later than December 2015 with ‘site wide’ improvements by that time.

There has of course been some rain but nothing exceptional, I haven’t used an umbrella this year although I have carried one.

The paths have become treacherous but there was no attempt to clear the mud until last Thursday when a man with a shovel had a go at it. It was an impossible task and he gave up. The path cleaning machine he had with him was useful only as a mobile bucket.

If Crossrail had failed to clear their mud off the roads, Abbey Wood station would have become inaccessible long ago. The difference in project management skills is obvious for all to see.

By the way, there is news about Old Farm Park. Click the image currently at the top right of all blog pages. (Not in Mobile viewing mode.)
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes


29 January (Part 2) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 5

A small part of the Transport Users’ meeting was devoted to cycling but there was no invited speaker. Mr. Smith from Bexley Council opened the proceedings by saying there was not a lot to report.

Val ClarkCouncillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) put our minds back to 2014 and the not quite successful Mini-Holland bid. Bexley had been awarded a share of the runners up prize of £10 million. Where was it was his question? Mr. Smith said Bexley expected to get “the lion’s share” of that money but none had been forthcoming.

Money had been spent on planning a cycle route from Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood.

The TfL man (Mr. Healey?) said that “there was a £913 million pot for ten years for mini-Holland and Cycle Superhighways and borough cycling. It is oversubscribed. Superhighways and the Mini-Hollands are costing a lot of money”. As a result the budget was reassessed “about a year ago”. The promise of a share of the £10 million for Bexley was made by the Cycling Commissioner and “we have been unable to meet those cycling commitments the Cycling Commissioner made to the borough”.

Council Leader Alex Sawyer thanked Mr. TfL for his “exceptionally good and diplomatic answer” and then proceeded to voice his extreme displeasure. He criticised “the colossal waste of money which is the Cycling Superhighway on the Embankment which has done absolutely nothing to improve traffic flow and is nothing but a pain in the backside”.

When money is promised it should be “honoured and not spent on pet schemes of the Mayor when there are more pressing issues in the outer boroughs such as Bexley”.

If all Bexley Councillors were as honest as Alex Sawyer tries to be the need for BiB might disappear.

When Alex eventually makes it to the Leader’s position he will not, like the present subservient incumbent, be appointed the Mayor’s Ambassador to Outer London. But Boris will be gone by then and replaced by someone even worse.


29 January (Part 1) - Elsewhere it’s business as usual

Bin boxes Bin boxesWhile the boys play cops and robbers life elsewhere in Bexley goes on as normal, which for some people means clearing up after the louts, as they were described to me, who take delight in redistributing household rubbish and the recycling bins themselves. They mean the Serco bin men, not youths misbehaving in an attempt to attract Council funding.

Good or bad bin men is a matter of luck, the littering isn’t a regular occurrence in my road but it happens occasionally.

Here there may be a different problem. You will not be surprised to know that I have done nothing in the garden for the past six weeks so the lack of a Christmas collection wasn’t a problem. I had nothing in the garden waste bin on 15th January either but I thought I should make some attempt to get some value from my (discounted) £33 by trimming a few shrubs yesterday.

Bin boxesWhen I grabbed the bin I found it to be heavy and not empty as it should have been. Worse is that it was nearly half full of lumps of wood and earth contaminated with a great deal of plastic and polystyrene take-away food trays which I had to remove.

There are no passers-by, it being a cul-de-sac, and most properties are flats with no gardens. There are only five houses with gardens and four have paid for garden waste bins. The exception never does any gardening except that I cut his lawn occasionally.

So there’s no easy answer. I will have to consider keeping my bin in the back garden which will be a nuisance.


28 January (Part 2) - Crime and misbehaviour pays

So which of Bexley Council’s many plonkers thought it necessary to send for police protection because their main subject at Wednesday evening’s Cabinet meeting was cutting Youth Services? Does it not sum up perfectly what Bexley Council thinks of its younger residents and indeed the population at large?

The original of the photo below shows a helmet in the gloom on the right hand side…

Demo Youth…and the first of these shows a police jacket and badge underneath the street lamp.

Just what were Bexley Council thinking of? Themselves presumably.

The subject before Cabinet was the cut to youth services currently costing a total of £701k. and in the ever desperate quest to avoid the C word Bexley Council has designated it a Redesign.

At the outset Leader O’Neill said there had been a misunderstanding, a Review that had been commissioned said that the way the Youth Services are delivered should be changed and the only decisions reached so far “are to take away the small grants administered by the Scouts (£49,000) and Danson Youth Centre (£89,000) and to put the staff on notice”.

TiottoMiss Tiotto who is not very keen on publicity was forced to say a few words, most of them platitudes. “The redesign was to develop a much more closely aligned Youth Service. The decision results in a saving of £358,000.”

The Review had revealed that the services were appreciated “but the delivery is not underpinned by a clear vision”. It is not “best value for money.” She hoped that the Redesign will better help young people at risk and those about to embark on a life of crime. The cuts will commence at the end of March 2016. It would impact on 27 members of staff.

ReadCabinet Member Philip Read was asked to speak and he reiterated the tales of financial woe I have heard so many times before, but he had a new audience and he made a good job of it without any blame being attributed to the members opposite.

He said that resources would be focused on those most in need. The Redesign would be the most effective possible “within the funding available’. The target would be “anti-social behaviour and crime”. Perhaps it was Read who called the cops.

Ogundayo DeadmanLabour Councillor Mabel Ogundayo had concerns that the message going out, I am paraphrasing massively here, was that you had to be anti-social or you wouldn’t be supported. She spoke up for those to be made redundant and criticised conducting the Review over just one summer month when potential contributors might be away.

Labour Leader Alan Deadman was concerned, paraphrasing again, that no one was sure what was going on and Leader O’Neill said that was because the Review merely said what they had been doing was not good value and now “we want to involve the young people in what the future is and we are starting to redesign the process. There are no preconceived ideas”.

It was all made to sound very reasonable but history has taught everyone that Bexley Council should not be trusted.

Jackie Tiotto was “convinced” that all was well and would be engaging with young people and parents.

Cabinet Member Linda Bailey asked if staff had already been told about the redundancies and the answer was that “all staff at risk had been told about a month ago”. Councillor Bailey wanted to know how the numbers could be known before the decisions were taken. I think the answer to that is obvious enough.

Councillor David Leaf stood to say he would close his ears to the “puerile comments” by members opposite causing everyone to look around them in puzzlement for anyone who may have opened their mouth. The only puerile comments recorded are Leaf’s own. Apart from that he just wanted to praise the Youth Services workers involved and he was “reassured” by Ms. Tiotto’s comments.

Cabinet Member for Education, John Fuller, commented that after school activities provided some alternative to the youth activities

Cabinet Member Philip Read closed the discussion by returning to the financial problems and put his points across in sombre tones befitting the dire situation, the contrast with Councillor Leaf making him appear almost statesmanlike. So Councillor Leaf does have a purpose after all; it’s to make everyone else look good.

The cuts were approved by the Cabinet’s unanimous vote.

There is a fairly comprehensive report in the News Shopper. Goodness! Don’t tell me that they are going to get back into the business of reporting council meetings, I’ll have to work even faster.


28 January (Part 1) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 4

Buses replaced trains as the next item on the Transport Users’ Committee meeting and again I have no idea who represented TfL because of Bexley Council’s abomination of a chamber.

Bus manChairman Val Clark opened the discussion with a personal complaint that when she was on a bus heading along Broadway in an easterly direction and planned to alight at Lion Road the bus carried on to Asda because of the regeneration work and it is a long walk back. There was no on board warning. The same thing had happened to me the day before and during an earlier phase of the work in November.

The TfL man said it shouldn’t have happened because a central system should have been updated and circulated the bus stop closure to all buses.

Councillor Clark also commented that the westbound stop in Broadway which was moved from being opposite Asda a couple of years ago is now being called Trinity Place. The Chairman asked if stores have to pay for having their name on a bus stop - Bexley Conservatives will tax everything given half a chance.

The answer was no, although the TfL man jokily said it was an interesting idea which he would take away. Perhaps he was not joking after all, it’s hard to judge when Bexley Council only allows the public to see the back of a bus man.

Bus performance had remained fairly static from 2008 through to two years ago but since then it had worsened with a 4% decrease in average speeds and a 30% increase in delays. TfL’s work in Bexley will have been a major contributor to that.

Injuries involving buses were up rising from eight serious on Bexley routes a year ago to 22 by the third quarter of 2015.

From 30th January additional buses would be running on route 96 to Bluewater which is a rather different story to what was heard at the previous meeting when the whole future of route 96 appeared to be in danger because of a lack of cooperation by Kent authorities. It is a temporary solution for six months while discussions with Kent County Council about using their FastTrack are in progress.

A big announcement slipped in quietly at the end was that TfL’s £629 million grant to bus services this year would “be reduced to zero by 2018/19”. “The bus network must fund itself through the fare box.”

And at that point the discussion on buses was prematurely terminated but there will be another Transport report along in a moment.


27 January (Part 4) - Redesigning youth services

As my prediction that the News Shopper should easily beat me to the draw on last night’s Cabinet meeting may prove wide of the mark - there is nothing on their website so far - here’s Bexley Council’s spin on the matter.

For once I am not going to pull it to shreds although I reserve the right to do so after I have listened to the recording.

It’s boring when you have heard a similar message a dozen or more times but my initial impression last night was that Cabinet Member Philip Read did a fine job of explaining the financial situation to a new audience.

Not a single jibe at the members sitting opposite as far as I can remember. If he could only keep it up certain opinions might have to be revised. Nah! Never going to happen is it?


27 January (Part 2) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 3

I can’t tell you who was at the Transport Committee to represent Network Rail because Bexley Council’s brilliant seating plan doesn’t allow members of the public to see, but he is seated back to camera and central in the photograph below. He was a substitute so I can’t even guess his name.
Before directing attention fully to Network Rail issues, Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said he favoured public ownership of the Metro operators which provoked laughter and implied ridicule. Councillor Davey (Conservative, Crayford) could not resist taking the mickey out of British Rail so it was perhaps a little ironic that the very next day the Mayor’s office said it was planning a take over by TfL. Both Stefano and Chairman Val Clark expressed a preference for a TfL takeover, I’m not sure why, perhaps I have just been unlucky when travelling on the Overground.

TrainA school governor said that since Network Rail removed the trees from the line east of Abbey Wood station past my own house, teachers at Northwood Primary School had to stop teaching when trains went past because no one could hear at that time. I can only agree, since the vegetation was cut back I now have a perfect view of the trains down to wheel level and it was for several years not possible to see them at all. There has definitely been a noticeable increase in noise levels though behind the double glazing I would not claim it was a nuisance.

Mike Gibson (Southeastern) believed, as I did, that a noise screen was to be provided but the NR man didn’t think so. The Chairman only knew of sound barriers to the west of the station. She may be right. I went to the same Liaison Panel meeting as she did.

The Chairman brought up the question of the Barnehurst landslip again, reminding us that it had happened in 2014 too.

The NR man said that the site had been assessed as “an extreme weather site subject to a much more rigorous assessment process”. It was assessed in 2015 as being “structurally sound’ and therefore given “less assessment than a site in poor condition”.

“The amount of weather over the Christmas destabilized that and it was not something we could have foreseen”. The site is to be given “even more rigorous assessment”.

It’s a pity that a rail broke nearby last Monday. Maybe public ownership is not so clever after all. The meeting moved on to the subject of buses.

Transport User’s Committee: Police report.
Transport User’s Committee: Southeastern report.


25 January (Part 3) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 2

Important things first, there was an error in the first Transport report, someone was wrongly identified. Corrected now.

Following Sergeant Osborne’s reference to speed guns and catholic boys it was Mike Gibson’s turn. He is Southeastern’s PR man which has to be one of the most difficult jobs known to man.

Any reasonable person must accept that half his problems are caused by Network Rail and as their man was to be next to speak, Mike, I assume, would be choosing his words carefully.

EyesI took seven pictures of Mike Gibson and as he had his eyes shut in all of them I gave up. Maybe some will think it is a perfect image for Southeastern but it would be irresponsible in the present climate to identify Mr. Gibson precisely.

The Chairman circulated an email from Mr. Gibson but to Committee members only, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was a public meeting and the public has a legal right to see late input to the Agenda. Fortunately Councillor Borella was better educated and passed me a copy after the meeting.

Mr. Gibson said that “the predicted meltdown” was avoided over Christmas and New Year when engineering work dictated that trains must go to Victoria or stop short of London Bridge at New Cross. The plan for New Year’s Eve worked well.

Additional late night trains have been timetabled since mid-December in response to passenger demand.

Performance since the start of the year has however been “bad”. There was a series of calamities culminating in the Barnehurst landslip.

There had been a renewed emphasis on the engineering depot to improve train reliability and it is currently “the best it has ever been”. Some spare drivers have been stationed at Cannon Street “to help with service recovery” and staff have been reminded of “right time start”.

Customers rushing over bridges at the last moment tend to delay trains when seen by sympathetic drivers. This is going to have to stop because dwell times are being adversely affected.

Train drivers are to be retrained on line speeds as some like to go slow. With luck I will no longer see a green light at the end of the Abbey Wood platform and a train leaving Belvedere a mile and a quarter down the straight and still have to wait five or six minutes for it to arrive. Crossrail aims to bring an end to it as well by introducing a kink in the track.

Train times will be “tweaked” to minimise “pinch points at Lewisham and London Bridge”.

“Passenger behaviour” will be modified by moving seats and shelters. In plain language, trying to get passengers to spread themselves along the platform to reduce loading times.

The trespass problem is being given serious consideration too, if the police are involved it means power off and long delays.

The Chairman thought the number of replacement buses brought into use during the Barnehurst incident was inadequate. Mr. Gibson said that rail tickets could be used in TfL buses too.

BorellaCouncillor Stefano Borella had no difficulty in keeping his eyes open and queried the number of rail scrubbers in use for leaf removal and why during the Barnehurst incident trains were not taken as far as Welling and reversed because the line there is equipped for it.

The Network Rail man was not aware of any reduction in leaf clearing and was unable to satisfactorily answer the Welling turn back question. He said that it would disrupt the timetable and have an impact at London Bridge - as if the timetable was not disrupted by wholesale cancellations.

Stefano turned back to Mr. Gibson and asked why station lights were turned off before the time of the last train. Mr. Gibson said they were on a timer so he would check things out.

Howard Marriner who is a ward councillor for Barnehurst said he only knew of the landslip when he heard about it on the television news and it took longer than he would like to get the details and pass them out via his ward email newsletter. “If Southeastern could get the information out faster it would be very much appreciated.”

From that point the questions impinged more and more on Network Rail and they will be reported in ‘Journey 3’.


25 January (Part 2) - The fence is too uncomfortable to be sat upon

I suppose you have all had one of these by now, mine’s been hanging around for a week. I read the front page, saw it was the same old discredited scare stories and threw it down.

UKIPNow that I have read most of it I am even more sure that it a mixture of lies, carefully selected misinformation and not a single mention of any of the major problems. The sun shines out of Brussels apparently; the European Arrest Warrant is good and British football fans in Portugal and plane spotters in Greece have nothing to fear. There are no negatives to be found anywhere in the unwanted propaganda sheet.

Where’s the debate? Is this the best we are going to get from those in favour of subjugating Westminster, taking over our armed forces and making us pay billions in additional membership fees because our economy has proved to be more successful than the European Union’s?

The attack on UKIP is perhaps to be expected. Don’t old school politicians understand that if they keep making unjustified accusations some of us are likely to rise up against it and support the underdog?

These six myths appear to have been made up by the Out campaign. Perhaps one or two are quotations from kippers no one has ever heard of but more likely they are simple lies. Note the lack of attributions.

With people like John Mayor, David Cameron, Kenneth Clark, Michael Heseltine, the Kinnocks and Tony Blair all pushing for an EU Yes, can there be any doubt that the right answer must be No?

Veteran actor Michael Caine put up a much better argument for leaving on Radio 4 last week than the boss of a failing knicker seller did this morning. Apart from trotting out the usual scare stories he failed to mount any sensible argument at all.

I am intrigued by the claim that exporters will have all the trouble of meeting the safety and other requirements of the EU if we leave and that might be difficult. Exporters already meet the individual requirements of the other 180 countries world wide so it is not exactly a killer point. It doesn’t trouble James Dyson and I’d back an entrepreneurial engineer against a string of has-been politicians who steered us towards the present mess any day.

The most important question is “Do we wish to control our own destiny and live or die by our own efforts?” If a country is not controlled by its own citizens it is not a country.

I have asked nearly everyone I know which way they are likely to vote and the answer - apart from politicians - has been a 100% Out so far. I know birds of a feather are likely to flock together but they all say that their own friends are 100% for Out too.

So where are the 50:50 opinion polls coming from?

And surely the following silly question demonstrates precisely the dubious tactics of the In campaign perfectly?

Do the Inners really believe that an Out vote will change geography?

Well that's blown the political fence sitting wide open. Roll on delivery of the Mayoral election leaflets.


25 January (Part 1) - Dragging Bexley through the mud

SweeperWith two big projects taking place within sight of home it can be interesting to compare how each is managed.

Crossrail inevitably transfers mud to the road surface and there is a sweeper constantly in attendance ready to rush into action.

Bexley council is creating a mess in Lesnes Abbey park and transferring a good deal of it to Abbey Road and the footpaths. It is just left there for everyone to go base over apex.

That shown has been there through Friday and the weekend and it’s probably still there.

But the views are being improved and it should all come right in the end.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes


24 January (Part 4) - Child theft. Bexley Council doesn’t like the publicity

Bexley Council insiders reported that my New Year’s Eve gift to Bexley Council was not well received. They didn’t like the child snatching video that a reader spotted within hours of it being posted by Christian Voice being made more easily available to Bexley residents.

The fact that the Council has since confirmed that it is extremely annoyed about it presents a very good reason to feature it again.

I know they are annoyed because Bexley Council has complained to the publisher about it. This is very encouraging because it used to be the case that if I republished something I had seen on another website they reported me to the police and the real author heard absolutely nothing about it.

Christian Voice however has been on the receiving end of threats from Bexley Council and I am feeling left out.

Jackie Tiotto the Director of Children’s Services recruited from OFSTED for her inside knowledge that might improve Bexley’s ratings has told Christian Voice to take their video down.

The arrogance of it. Two Bexley parents are not allowed to give their account of the situation but Bexley Council can!

According to Christian Voice’s Facebook page the Bexley video is their third most popular - but not with Jackie Tiotto.

Stephen Green had this to say…
Stephen is absolutely right. Families right across Bexley are being wrecked by Bexley Council under Jackie Tiotto. Maybe I should offer to host the video on Bonkers. Unjustified child stealing by councils has gone well beyond what is reasonable.

Have you noticed that Bexley Council is pretty much run by women these days?
From left to right they are:

• Jane Richardson who appears to be incapable of getting F.M. Conway to keep to their schedules but speaks well.
• Toni Ainge who has a problem with Google searches and statistics - maybe because her annual appraisals were done by her husband until last year.
• Moira Pickering who turns a blind eye to the incompetence and favourtism displayed by certain head teachers I had better not name.
• Jackie Tiotto who is not just a Teresa O’Neill OBE (Only Biddies Employed) look alike but shows every sign of having the same, ‘I’m above the law’ attitude as the Fat Controller.
• Finance Director Alison Griffin who, if you can forgive the fact that she has the job of head slasher, has never put a foot wrong. And she smiles sweetly. Maybe that is how she keeps out of trouble.

Click text image above for source document.


24 January (Part 3) - The ups and downs of supermarket shopping. Stannnarghh!

Lift Sainsbury'sDifferent people attribute blame for breakdowns of the Abbey Wood station lifts to different organisations. Network Rail will tell you the lifts were the biggest that would fit in the available space, others will tell you that they were not built for such intensive use. Take your pick but I’ve not noticed them out of order so far this year. (†)

No one could say that the travelators in the new Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s were not built for intensive use but they keep breaking down too.

I wouldn’t use Sainsbury’s if I didn’t have to do the shopping for the elderly aunt in East Ham, she has been a Sainsbury’s shopper most of her life and demands quite a lot of their own brand stuff.

I went in there sans Pentax last Thursday and the up travelator was not working but not blocked off. On the previous occasion it was as shown in the photograph. For some reason my knees were creaking - they don’t usually - so when I got to the top I asked the assistant lolling around waiting for their self service tills to break to find out why the working down travelator could not be reversed, and let me know when I had finished shopping.

Fifteen minutes later I asked her what the manager had said about the travelator. She hadn’t asked which is the sort of service I have come to expect from the staff in Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s.

So I waited for the so called manager to come and a woman wearing a Hannah badge showed up. She said it was nothing to do with Sainsbury’s and the decision to run the travelator in an unhelpful direction was entirely Stannah’s who had looked at the problem but gone away. She was clearly not manager material so I left with my opinion of Sainsbury’s amply confirmed.

I am asked to believe that Sainsbury's had not specified reversible travelators, Stannah had not bothered to fit a switch and Sainsbury’s management was content to leave management of their facilities to another company. The lesson to me continues to be, don’t shop in Sainsbury’s and when my creaking knees finally give up don’t buy a Stannah chair lift.

Brand MatchThe self-service till - which for once did not let me down - provided a ticket that said I had saved £1.28 compared to using my preferred Asda; so two days later I took my Sainsbury’s receipt down to Belvedere and priced up the branded items in Asda.

The Sainsbury’ ticket was sort of right. Prices varied from between three pence and 50 pence both up and down but I was shocked to see that Sainsbury’s was indeed cheaper. But only by eight pence. If my aunt had not asked for a box of chocolates the savings made by shopping in Sainsbury’s would have been a whole pound more than they were.

I doubt I’ll be changing my allegiance any time soon though.

† Within a few minutes of the above being published the usual suspects told me that I am wrong. The Abbey Wood station lifts have been out of order this year.


24 January (Part 2) - The no transport users’ weekend

StationThe North Kent line is closed for the third consecutive weekend from Slade Green to Plumstead. The uncompromising message from Network Rail is ‘You had better get used to it’. Certainly there will be little respite between now and the end of February and you’d be well advised to be careful with any plans for Easter.

The big day is, confirmed by Network Rail’s Civil Engineer this morning, 22nd February when the first Abbey Wood commuter will leave on the 05:13 from the new platform.

If that is to happen an awful lot of work still needs to be done. The platform extension has to be completed, its top surface is far from finished, a bit more track has to be laid and the new line connected with the old.

It’s probably not critical to that operation but the concrete pour for the first station wall is deferred to the first week of February.

There is no sign that the existing track behind Fendyke Road will be nudged southwards any time soon and the old signals which are in the way will make it a big job. Pure speculation here but my guess if that trains are to use the new platform by 22nd February there will be a sharp bend on to the new line and a speed restriction before it can be realigned during the long Easter closure when the best part of a mile of track is due to be repositioned. The alternative will require a superhuman effort. (†)
New track
That’s all based on Network Rail statements but they have a habit of going out of date. I must ask the appropriate questions when I next see one of the bosses peering over the flyover parapet. That is the place to meet people. My last three outings to that spot have brought forth people who either asked if I was “that Bexley is Bonkers guy” or knew already.

One asked where he could see the most recent photos. I explained that instead of putting them on line at the end of every fortnight the procedure has been reversed. So the next lot due on 31st January has been there for a week already and is augmented daily until being more formally announced next Sunday.

There are 65 at present with the usual excuses of into the sun, in the pouring rain (camera is weatherproof), through mesh fences and dirty windows, sometimes through double dirty windows (the station lift). One isn’t mine and I haven’t yet got around to seeking permission to use it. Must do soon.

If you’d like to take mine, just get on with it. I don’t care.

Index to all Crossrail related blogs and photos.

† Crossrail were not slow to tell me that they will be taking the “superhuman path”. They plan to realign the track in three weeks time.


24 January (Part 1) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 1

Speed gunAfter Chairman Val Clark had gone through the preliminaries: “Who is going to film the meeting” etc. (no one strictly speaking) she introduced Sergeant Osborne from the Safer Transport Team based in Bexleyheath (but commanded centrally) who had been asked to demonstrate his handheld speed gun. Unless Paul Holloway was to drive the Mayor’s limousine around the chamber it was hard to see how he could do that. Sergeant Osborne was only able to switch it on and show us some green lights.

Police officers being in short supply he was looking for volunteers to use the instrument. Offenders caught by volunteers would be sent a letter warning them not to do it again. It’s a system familiar to any councillor who might be caught breaking the law. Please don’t do it again.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) asked where the volunteers were coming from to which the answer was via Twitter. “A leaflet drop was too expensive.” Councillor Davey suggested the Bexley Magazine. Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) suggested that Neighbourhood Watch would be another avenue worth exploring.

Sergeant Osborne said there was “a problem with anti-social behaviour on the Broadway between three and five”. School pupils were congregating and becoming a nuisance. TfL was cooperating with the police but schools were not. St. Columba’s Catholic Boys’ School was given a special mention. Schools had been asked for help but “we have not had much of a response”. The Catholic boys especially were running serious road safety risks.

Both the police officer and the chairman remarked on the reduction in shopper numbers between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Councillor Esther Amaning (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked if speeding offences were on the up or not. Unfortunately the reporting system was too complex for Sergeant Osborne to be able to provide a figure. One wonders how resources can be sensibly allocated without such basic data. The earlier discussions strongly suggested that speed traps were set up according to the loudness of public complaints.


23 January (Part 4) - Sleaze busted

Channel 4Yesterday I received a message via the BiB Contact Form from the Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick.

He was desperately trying to contact Michael Barnbrook who I knew would at that time be on the A2 half way between his new abode and Thamesmead to pick up his grandson, so I gave Mr. Crick, a mobile number.

The result is this article on the Channel 4 website.

Councillor Maxine Fothergill should be worried, I’m taking Mick Barnbrook to next week’s Fothergill summit.


23 January (Part 2) - Take the scenic route

The new high level path around the Lesnes Abbey ruin should provide even better views across the smoggy London skyline. On a clear day you will see Hampstead Heath and perhaps the reason for removing the ancient yew hedges is becoming clear.

Nearer at hand is the Mittal Tower at Stratford, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Canary Wharf but the BT Tower disappeared behind the Gherkin years ago. I wonder what the Hub proposal at Abbey Wood will take out.
It will be good to have better placed solid paths in Lesnes Abbey park to replace some of the mud tracks and I am sure the motorcyclists will appreciate it.

I’m less sure about wheel chair users. A steep down hill section followed by a sharp bend with an adverse camber should ensure a few high speed tumbles. Perhaps it’s all academic, the entrance gates makes wheel chair entry near impossible.

Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes Lesnes
Pictures taken 20th January, some in the early morning light and frost.


23 January (Part 1) - A crackpot hole

HoleThis photograph totally fails to reveal how deep the depression at the end of Florence Road has become. Something like a very large soup bowl. It's been sinking over several months but has now developed a crack through which rain water gurgles down as if it were a drain.

Maybe it will one day swallow up one of Bexley’s traffic wardens and there will be no trace of him apart from two fingers jabbing at the underside of passing Crossrail lorries.

P.S. Readers have said that this has been reported several times over recent months.


22 January (Part 3) - Commit fraud and few care but a power crazed Traffic Warden is a sensation

HitsIt's disappointing in a way that at a time when Bexley Council is struggling to contain an enormous corruption scandal within its midst, that interest in a power crazed moron at the other end of the pay scale dwarfs it. Yesterday’s web hits were up about 30% on the previous high of the week. Saturday to Thursday is shown. Facebook reach was up something like ten fold, not that I am entirely sure what that means. But presumably it is good.

It was the blog about the smiling CEO handing out V signs while trying to stop Crossrail in its tracks that did it. I promised a Photo Feature, It’s been on line most of the afternoon but lacked an introduction.

This introduction is very late due to too many phone calls, emails to answer and the need to take more Crossrail pictures. Those featured were all taken between ten past eleven and mid-day yesterday. They are in chronological order and the date will be extracted from the file EXIF data if you hover your pointer over an image - on proper computers at least, not sure about mobiles.

SawyerAfter yesterday’s blog went on line my own councillor, Danny Hackett, (Lesnes Abbey, Labour) offered to help and shortly afterwards so did Teresa Pearce MP who described the CEO with a word the Speaker might frown upon. (†)

As Danny was first I took up his offer but reminded him that it was not me who needed help, I was simply the passer-by who poked his nose into someone else’s business. A passer-by who called the CEO a moron and a cretin though nothing worse. In a way I had harassed the moron in the execution of his stupidity and Alex Sawyer said in the News Shopper only last week that he would not tolerate such behaviour.

If you read the full report (click image) may I ask how how you head butt a man encased in an all embracing helmet?

Danny asked me what happened and did I want to make a formal complaint about the V sign, so to save blogging time here is a slightly reduced version of what I sent him.

“I try to avoid making complaints. I like to be reporter rather than activist, it is a policy that has paid dividends in the past.

To be honest I have no idea what I actually said except that I did not swear at the CEO called him both a cretin and a moron. I would expect that his recording will reveal that I said his photo would be on the web within 40 minutes and I’m pretty sure I made reference to both Deputy Leader Alex Sawyer and Parking Manager Ben Stevens. The names clearly meant nothing to him.

CEO CEO The CEO was remarkably calm, some might say arrogant as if he believed a Bexley badge made him immune from all criticism.

I first spotted the CEO from the Harrow Manorway flyover and took up position behind the CEO unnoticed. I have been threatened by CEOs before so I treat them with caution. However this guy seemed to relish the idea of being photographed.

He gave me the V sign twice at intervals, but I only have a picture of the first incident.

The lorries had been told to be on site by 8 am but National Rail were running late so they had to park up somewhere. There is nowhere ideal to go.

I was first on scene at 11:11 and spotted the CEO at 11:27. Parking restrictions are 11:00 to 13:00.

One driver asked the CEO if he would prefer if they drove around the Wilton/Gayton/Florence Road circle continuously and cause gridlock to buses etc. The CEO did not answer. I think the only words he ever uttered were “I’m only doing my job” but his tape may prove I have a bad memory.

The last lorry left at 11:57 after all four had dropped their load of track ballast.

It would be hard to justify a complaint. The CEO has no common sense but he was not rude beyond the V signs and I did not get a ticket; what have I got to complain about?”

Thirteen incident pictures.

† Idiot.


22 January (Part 2) - The power of one councillor

Some of the Abbey Wood traders are troubled by fly tipping outside their premises, the Abbey Arms public house having suffered a recent spate of it. They said they had examined it and it could be traced to a Bexley address, the pub is a road width away in Greenwich.

The licensee had been given the run around by Greenwich Council who said Bexley should collect Bexley residents’ rubbish. Bexley refused to do so because the dump was across the boundary.

RubbishWhilst still in the pub at the traders’ meeting I texted Councillor Danny Hackett who did not give up on his street cleaning mission after the 2015 election had come and gone - unlike some who could be named.

As luck would have it Danny’s homebound train was just pulling into Abbey Wood station and he leapt out as the doors closed having misinterpreted my cryptic message about problems outside the Abbey Arms. I suspect Danny would be as useful in a pub brawl as I would be but full credit for fearlessly dashing to my rescue.

Rubbish noticeOnce the misunderstanding was cleared up Councillor Hackett guaranteed that the rubbish would be collected next day - and it was. I think it was Greenwich that blinked first and came to their senses.

The publican continued to maintain that it was Bexley rubbish and that Bexley had not provided the flats opposite with green bins. Possible; there would be no storage space for them.

I think the pub people must have gone on the offensive about it, next morning I found a notice on one of the alleged offender’s front door. It didn’t remain there long.

Note: Pubs on two consecutive evenings. It won’t happen again - promise.


21 January (Part 4) - This man is a complete and utter moron

Moron Moron
This idiot thought it was sensible to ticket four Crossrail delivery trucks that were waiting to back into the construction site. The lorry drivers had the choice of blocking Florence Road totally or waiting for a few minutes on Fendyke Road tucked out of the way. They chose the latter.

The Civil Enforcement Cretin had the choice of being a sensible human being and a credit to Bexley Council or a waste of oxygen that should have been put down at birth. He chose the latter.

Naturally he was himself parked on the same yellow line.

I took the opportunity to address Ben Stevens (Parking Services Manager) and Deputy Council Leader Alex Sawyer directly on the moron’s body worn camera.

There will be a full photo feature on this tomorrow, but right now I have run out of time.


21 January (Part 3) - All change please

The mayor’s plans for our trains.


21 January (Part 2) - Wilton Road. Caters for allcomers

The meeting I had to attend last night is not directly connected to Bexley Council, it was of the Wilton Road Traders’ Association as I have been asked to take a small role in the organisation. Obviously not all discussions are for public consumption. However I think it is safe to mention a few things.

Parking is always on the Agenda. Two out of three car parks were closed and Bexley Council decided to exacerbate the situation by taking a dozen or so bays away from Wilton Road and others nearby. Then they compounded the problem by installing meters (minimum charge £3·80) where formerly there were none.

Bexley Council professes to care but clearly it does not. If it did so it would have arranged temporary parking on the Harrow Inn site as proposed at least two years ago.

The Christmas market was deemed to be a success and something similar will be arranged for the summer too. June 4th was suggested but that is very much a provisional date at the moment.

I suggested that banners similar to those Bexley Council has put around Bexley Village (Business Open As Usual) because of the bridge closure were displayed in Abbey Wood. Bexley Village disrupted for seven months: Bexley Council takes immediate action. Abbey Wood in turmoil for five years: Bexley Council does nothing except make parking more difficult.

Customers believe Abbey Wood Village is closed and with contractors’ toilets parked in front of shops footfall is obviously down. Fortunately Deputy Leader Sawyer said that Bexley village style banners could be placed in North End Road when that is disrupted next month so he will have no excuses when asked for one in Abbey Wood.

The flytipping problem is getting out of hand and it is becoming a cross borough border dispute.

Red lightThe brothel that opened in mid-December was not widely welcomed but there was no formal move to have it closed down. My subsequent enquiries revealed that the police know all about it. Is it illegal? I don’t know.

Tonight I have a very different sort of meeting, a pub quiz. Not done very well recently, 5th last time.

Maybe you are better at quizzes than I am.

What is the connection between Mariners Walk in Erith and former Mayor Howard Marriner?

Answers on a postcard to Amax Estates, Gravesend.


21 January (Part 1) - Not a red light in sight

No lightsThe News Shopper’s letter page is frequently a rich source of ignorance and misinformation and yesterday’s edition did not disappoint. I suspect letters are chosen for their ability to stir things up a bit, something that would never happen on BiB obviously.

Doris Dean’s email does not actually blame Bexley Council for there being no Christmas lights in Northumberland Heath last month but its reference to “Bexleyheath again” implies it.

As is often the case, Ms. Dean would not have been ignorant of the facts if she had been a Bonkers reader. There were no lights in Northumberland Heath because community leaders did not bother to claim the money on offer from Bexley Council.

It was all reported here six weeks ago.

Neither the Town Forum nor the three ward councillors responded to the offer made a total of three times.

If their website is any guide the Northumberland Heath Forum is dead, its next event is the AGM in March 2015 - not a BiB typo.

I understand the three Conservative ward councillors are not dead but there is no compulsion to vote for them next time around.

The ward councillors are Philip Read, Peter Reader and Melvin Seymour all of whom had large majorities at the last election.


20 January (Part 2) - A transport of delight

I rather like going to the Transport Users’ Sub Committee meetings. I suppose that they appeal to the Grumpy Old Man in me and the Little Boy all at the same time. You get the police lamenting the behaviour of children on buses and how shoppers engage in a mass exodus before school’s out and the invasion of Bexleyheath Broadway begins.

Then you get the Public Relations boss for Southeastern railway explaining away his company’s failings followed by a Network Rail guvnor telling us why he has not managed to organise his train set as effectively as he should have done. All good fun.

After that the Transport for London man explains why buses run late and miss stops and last night, even better, makes excuses for his cycling mad political masters which manage to sound both genuine and unconvincing all at the same time. Deputy Council Leader Alex Sawyer saw straight through it and responded with excruciatingly politeness while tearing the message into small strips. Sawyer at his best but like so many of them, shame about the company he keeps.

Then the icing on the cake. Bexley council excusing their latest set of road related cock ups. Even the accident rate is on the up. Not such good fun.

An added bonus is that it is the occasion for all three progenitors of Bexley is Bonkers to be gathered together in the same place. It happens nowhere else. The hapless Councillor ‘chicken run’ Davey (Conservative, Crayford - ex-Lesnes Abbey) who came up with the domain name by telling me that Bexley Council was bloody Bonkers - although he blamed it on his Labour forebears - and me of course.

BashfordThe third reprobate is Andrew ‘bullshit’ Bashford who attempted to shut me up but instead created the incentive for Bonkers by claiming that his Abbey Road redesign was entirely in accordance with the Transport Research Laboratory reports Nos. 641 and 661.

He really is the unluckiest of men and I should perhaps buy lottery tickets because my son was at the time head of the TRL Department that issued those reports. It was not particularly difficult for me to get expert opinion that Andrew Bashford does not know his backside from his elbow - as anyone who looks at the progress the borough has made in the field of carriageway design in the past ten years could tell you.

The Transport Users’ meeting is a gripping affair, even Chairman Val Clark is keen to add to the sense of occasion.

Last night there were four members of the public present and the chairman welcomed three of them to the meeting. I hope they realised how honoured they are, but I am grateful; where would BiB be if it were not for a constant stream of silliness, pettiness and occasional criminality from Bexley council?

The end of the meeting was good too, more of a social club than for example the end of a Cabinet meeting. Two Labour councillors and one Tory discussing the state of their health and that of mutual friends. A few words exchanged with former Mayor Howard Marriner suggested, and not for the first time, that he might be a nice bloke if taken out of a political environment, but not so nice that he had not passed his nasty cold to his wife, the dirty rotten scoundrel.

More formal stuff on Friday with any luck but there is another meeting to attend this evening and another tomorrow and then I have to go to meet a man who knows a woman who knows an old lady who lived in a shoe, one that Maxine Fothergill was allegedly happy to buy at a knock down price. Should be even more fun than a Transport User’s meeting. If there is no blog by the weekend; send out a search party.


19 January (Part 4) - Not many hands to the pump as yet

FireNearly three years ago Mayor Johnson was softening us up for the closure of fire stations.

There were fewer fires because of improved furniture safety standards and a reduction in smoking so it was argued that fewer fire stations were needed. The plan conceded that response times would be increased and unlike most of Boris Johnson’s plans this one was a rip-roaring success; response times have been successfully increased.

AbenaNow he is back for a second bite of the cherry, he wants to reduce the number of appliances in order to worsen the response times further in the event of anything more than a minor conflagration.

My interpretation of the fine print and the links within the Labour Party Press Release (PDF) is that Sidcup is the most likely of Bexley’s fire stations to lose an appliance. However it has been left to Labour councillors from Thamesmead and Erith to argue the case for Bexley residents.

With the number of houses in Bexley due to soar by a near incredible 21,500, reducing the fire cover still further seems to be one of Johnson’s sillier ideas. Maybe we should vote for a change of direction come May. At least there may be less political interference to resolve Bexley’s criminal inclinations.

Councillors leading the fire fight. Abena Oppong-Asare, Edward Boateng and Joe Ferreira

LFB Consultation. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority chaired by Bexley Councillor - he gets everywhere - Gareth Bacon. Who puts such people in responsible positions? You really shouldn’t vote for them.


19 January (Part 3) - Does this headline hold water?

News Shopper
The above News Shopper headline has caused a minor Twitter storm but I’d put money on it erring on the side of scaremongering. Scaremongering to wake up the witless.

The fact is that every time I go on a photo reconnaissance during ‘line possessions’ I find myself explaining that the station is closed. Occasionally I have to explain that a new station is being built and tracks have to be moved.

It seems to me that people go around with their eyes closed. I’ve even had to stop a couple planning their journey to Paddington with the aid of the Crossrail track map unaware that the next train will be in three years time and not three minutes.

Last week I was told by a helpful bystander that the new Crossrail track was installed to which the correct response was “why has it got a third rail then?”. Instead a full explanation was called for.

My understanding of Crossrail during 2016 is as follows…

There will be intensive weekend line closures until the end of February. During this time the new half width platform will be completed along with the adjacent new track which will be connected to the existing London bound line. The latter will be nudged southwards behind Fendyke Road, Coptefield Drive and Halifield Drive to provide a smooth transition.

If you stand on the Lesnes Abbey footbridge and eye up the fence posts you can see how they gradually move southwards the nearer to the station they get.

Once London bound trains are stopping at the new platform the existing London bound track will be redundant and both it and the old platform can be ripped out and replaced with little impact on either the east or west bound North Kent lines.

Given Crossrail’s enthusiasm for fencing I would expect them to protect their workers from Dartford bound trains but in essence they will be clear to build the other half of the island platform unhindered and eventually lay new track alongside it.

At that stage the switchover will no doubt be more complex than a casual observer might expect so another period of travel disruptions should be expected. Some estimates have suggested there may be a month of no trains around next August.

However once the North Kent Down line is in its new place the need for further ‘line possessions' should be minimal. The Crossrail developments will not impinge on existing services except perhaps when something has to be built over the line. The second station footbridge maybe.

My guess is that Crossrail is trying to shake the travelling public out of its complacency - or maybe ignorance - and the News Shopper headline, doubtless based on a Network Rail Press Release, will prove to be unduly pessimistic.
Abbey Terrace Abbey Terrace Abbey Terrace Abbey TerraceMeanwhile, down in Abbey Terrace their nightly torture may be reduced.

Thames Water fixed the leak this morning and the pump that ran for four days and three nights fell silent. No let up from the deliveries though.

Note: It’s not inaccurate reporting in the News Shopper, it's just that the PR does not line up with what has been said to Liaison Panel members. I suspect that the powers that be are becoming tired of the complaints of no trains and are playing down expectations.


19 January (Part 2) - Cracking on with Broadway Phase II

The Broadway regeneration Phase II restarted last week, just as Phase I begins to fall apart.
Broadway Broadway Broadway Broadway
The traffic delays were entirely due to white vans parked almost opposite to each other. Abbey Road is still being used as a dump for materials and a rest room thereby prolonging the residents’ inconvenience.


19 January (Part 1) - Trinity Square. Not what it was cracked up to be

Trinity SquareWell that didn’t take long did it?

Predictable and inevitable.


17 January - Abbey Wood station rises from the mud

It was a noisy evening in Coptefield Drive with Crossrail dumping and moving ballast on the adjacent North Kent line but it didn’t go on all night as far as I am aware, however for those living in Abbey Terrace at the western end of the station platform there would have been little sleep.

Crossrail CrossrailAbbey Terrace residents faced the choice of a flood or a pump running all night after a Thames Water supply pipe was fractured at the end of their road, presumably by the constant passage of heavy vehicles.

It’s two weeks since the last photo feature on Crossrail and despite the rain, progress has once again been rapid.

Since the piling rigs reappeared on the northern side of the track on 29th December 44 piles have been driven into the ground. The southern side which is currently about a month ahead has seen the first station support wall rise from the concrete base laid on 30th December.

At present it is no more than the reinforcing steel shrouded by German made shuttering. The concrete pour is due in the week beginning 25th January.

The platform edge stones have been laid and the number of spirit levels in use suggest that the water filled saucer that Southeastern and Connex were happy to use as a platform for the past 30 years will not make a reappearance.

If you compare the pictures taken of the platform area on 12th January with those from the 13th you will see that the third rail is now in place there as well as to the west.

The new practice of uploading photographs as they are taken instead of weekly or fortnightly in arrears has paid dividends. One of Balfour Beattie’s senior men was able to take a Christmas and New Year holiday and monitor the timely arrival of materials and equipment from his overseas hotel room and avoided possibly annoying telephone enquiries.

Abbey Wood progress 4th to 17th January. (97 images. 8MB)
Recent trackside work east of Abbey Wood station. (13 images. 1MB)

The next Crossrail photo feature will make an appearance on 31st January.


16 January (Part 4) - Four councillors rolled out of a pub. Tipsy Tories

Face BookThe Bexley is Bonkers Facebook page which disappeared over night is restored after a fashion, at least the link on the menu bar above now works and no longer creates an error.

It’s hard to be sure exactly what happened but the speculation is that the Maxine Fothergill reports were just too much for some people and they made sufficient complaints to Facebook to get the automated features to kick in and remove all traces of BiB on Facebook.

Because I set up the original account which was taken over by someone more expert in these things than I am the account was never quite as it should be so an entirely new one has been created.

It will take a while before things are back to something like normal but like every other bit of nonsense from Bexley Council it will blow back in their face. All the old stuff can be regurgitated and put before a new set of readers.


16 January (Part 3) - Well above average

IndependentThere was a report in the Independent newspaper two weeks ago which said the average complaint to the Metropolitan Police took about a year to go through the procedure.

Should I feel privileged?

As the image currently at the top right of this page announces, my complaint made jointly with Mr. Bryant is now 1,319 days old.

On 12th June 2015 Commissioner Hogan-Howe told me that his deputy, Fiona Taylor would write to me. She did 11 days later and said she had directed Inspector Julian Walters to phone me to explain the situation. No such phone call was ever received.

Perhaps I should have phoned him.

And the police wonder why people like me believe they are both incompetent and corrupt.


16 January (Part 2) - Pricing themselves out of the market

The good people of Sidcup, or at least those living near to the station, were not slow to tell me that they too suffered during the Barnehurst landslip.

Reports are that the station car park was full and has been busier than usual for several months past. The reason for that is not very hard to deduce.

Sidcup car parkSoutheastern charges £85 a month or £889 a year for parking and Bexley charges £87 and £1,026. It was £64 and £684 until too many people put their X in the wrong place.

Five years ago BiB was complaining that Bexley Council claimed to have the cheapest parking in South East London. It was a lie. Only the car park next to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich was more expensive.

Bexley council continues to delude itself and attempt to bamboozle the population.

It now claims that its charges are competitive and they should not have harmful consequences.
So far at least the main harm seems to be to Bexley Council’s parking revenue. It’s been falling.

Given a choice of £889 a year to park next to the railway station or £1,084 for a place two hundred yards away the other side of a busy road, which would you choose?


15 January (Part 3) - Abandoning the poor to their fate

When I met up with @ErithLink yesterday we agreed on a surprising number of things. One was that it would be silly to trust any Cabinet Member except perhaps John Fuller who looks after Education.

Both of us were under the impression that he was running a decent enough show in a professional manner and had noticed he never resorts to insults, political or otherwise. I have come to believe that Bexley’s schools may not be perfect but standards are a damned sight better than in Children’s Services and Public Realm. Maybe I have fallen for Bexley council propaganda.

The chart below is not easy to interpret because it shows the percentage of pupils NOT achieving the target GCSE results and so the bars extending furthest right are the worst and not best as you might assume.

The bars are further divided into pupils in receipt of free school meals (FSM in light blue) and those who pay (dark blue).

For FSM pupils Bexley is worst in London although to be fair it is no worse than England’s average. For those pupils who pay for meals only seven boroughs score worse than Bexley.

Maybe I should revise my opinion of education standards in Bexley.

Free School Meals

The graphs, the explanation and the original data may be downloaded from London Poverty Profile. That’s another thing @ErithLink and I agreed upon. There is a sickening amount of poverty north of the Bexleyheath railway line and it’s hard to know what to do about it other than make donations to food banks.


15 January (Part 2) - A new dual carriageway?

LesnesIf you have won £3·5 million on the Lottery I suppose you can afford to carelessly spray the champagne into the air.

Does Lesnes Abbey really need two paths?

Almost needless to say, mud has been left all over the road.

(£3·5 million was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.)



15 January (Part 1) - Heading for the buffers

I’m not very enthusiastic about allowing Bonkers to stray well beyond its usual remit even when it is by reader request. Neither is it easy to summon up the same degree of commitment to any old subject on demand but my arm has been gently twisted and today BiB lends a little support to the campaign to rid Southeastern trains of its franchise for their alleged shortcomings.

CancelledI have been a long term fence sitter on matters Southeastern and it is only recently that I have become disenchanted with their service.

With eight trains an hour in each direction from Abbey Wood station only seven minutes walk from home I have long regarded it as my own personal taxi service. Much quicker than a bus when heading south to Bexley or Sidcup. Unfortunately there is a very high probability that the chosen train will be cancelled or late.

Southeastern’s own statistics show late running is at 16% but that is a lie. It measures the timing at the destination station and doesn’t count five minutes adrift as being late at all.

LateCurrently the fastest rush hour service out of Cannon Street is the 17:06 which should arrive at Abbey Wood at 17:33. When I used that route daily many years ago the 17:08 arrived at 17:31 using underpowered slam door stock.

The off peak trains from London Bridge take 28 minutes, they used to take 23 so there really is no excuse for running late.

The constant stream of Tannoyed announcements suggests it is pretty much the norm, I heard one apologising for a 21 minute delay to the 13:33 today. The image above explains why. So that will have meant a 31 minute gap in service.

If a train is running ten minutes late at the beginning of the journey it could conceivably adopt a 30 year old schedule, arrive only five minutes late and be marked as being on time. It’s dishonest.

Southeastern’s official statistics do not show the true extent of the misery inflicted on passengers but it would be unfair to lay every problem at their door.

Barnehurst’s land slip, if it was anyone’s fault, was Network Rail’s. So are the daily signalling problems and the long term disruption at London Bridge, something that was being proposed when I worked right next door to the station in the 1960s.

The lack of trains is the government’s fault, the lack of sidings in which to store them is Southeastern’s predecessor’s fault (they sold them for housing development) and the recent unquestioned extension of Southeastern’s franchise is due to the idiots in government. Not everything is Southeastern’s fault but their attitude to customers is.

I hear their senior management speak at Bexley Council’s Transport User’s Sub-Committee meeting and Crossrail’s Liaison Panel meetings and their anti-passenger, company first sentiments are all too obvious.

The Crossrail staff generally try to be helpful and considerate to local needs but Southeastern point blank refuses to allow Abbey Wood station to be used as a short cut (†) even though the alternative can be a half mile walk. I’ve heard Southeastern’s top man say that their revenue protection scheme is draconian and they will fine a season ticket holder for leaving his ticket at home. It is simply not a customer focused company.

CancelledThere appears to be a move towards local services becoming TfL Overground but the lines I use (Euston - Watford and Liverpool Street - Chingford) are infrequent compared to the North Kent Line and in the case of the Chingford route, just as likely to be cancelled or run late.

So I might have remained sceptical about the benefits of a new franchisee if it were not for a recently introduced Southeastern wheeze which is an outrageous piece of cheating and well beyond the pale.

It is the practice of ejecting passengers from a stopping service in order to run it fast to its final destination. It is a straight forward case of falsifying statistics. It inconveniences many passengers and the object of it is to protect Southeastern’s revenue. Their company’s philosophy of ‘stuff the paying customer’ could not be more prominently displayed.

For that reason if no other I am happy to bring the petition to your attention.

Notes: 1988 timetable - Petition.
† Abbey Wood station staff are more accommodating than their bosses but within the next two months the short cut will close anyway.


14 January (Part 2) - An Englishman and an Irishman walked into a pub…

If you follow Bonkers and like minded souls on Twitter you must have come across @ErithLink, in which case you will know that he is another Bexley resident born with a wooden spoon in his mouth. We both decided it was about time we made each other’s acquaintance outside the virtual world. Stirrers of the borough unite!

So we did and very interesting it was too. I don’t think I have ever spent six hours and forty five minutes in a pub before and as a result the planned Part 2 is not going to happen tonight. In fact I’m not sure I can remember what it was supposed to be.


14 January (Part 1) - The future may not be bright

One of Bexley Council’s money saving plans is to push as many services as possible on line. I am not hopeful that it will be a success although I confess my doubts are based on what I have seen in Newham. Residents there must rent a broadband connection, own a computer and know how to use it or they are totally cut off from council services.

My 95 year old aunt can no longer meet the third requirement and so in theory is unable to have visitors who need to come by car. Visitor permits are only available via the web, no exceptions whatsoever. Fortunately she does not need any form of domiciliary care but that would be impossible too because the support staff are not exempted from the Controlled Parking Zone regulations. Maybe Bexley council will not be so stupid but I wouldn’t count on it.

Bexley’s Digital Future Sub-Committee met last night (first meeting reported here) and I had planned to be there. Unfortunately the local Traders’ Association called one of their occasional meetings and its chairman has persuaded me to take on the job of secretary. I am therefore reduced to reporting yesterday’s Digital Future meeting based on the Agenda.

It is encouraging to see that system tests will involve focus groups. Maybe they will recruit a 95 year old?

Councillors are not unanimously in favour of all their own papers going electronic only. Like me, some find that when reading from the paper page the comprehension factor rises higher than when staring at a screen.

It is proposed that residents should open a single account providing access to council tax, library, leisure, garden waste parking and adult social care services and the log on will be via one’s Twitter and Facebook account if preferred. I managed to register a service via Twitter last month on my third attempt. I paid my money but have not managed to log back in again. I find it impossible to navigate the web on a smart phone too. As a Digital Dinosaur I may be in a minority but I doubt I am alone.

Probably the law of unintended consequences will be much in evidence once the changes begin to bite but a website redesign should be beneficial. It’s difficult to imagine anything could be worse than Bexley Council’s present one.

The Traders’ meeting was in some ways more attractive than Councillor Rob Leitch’s Digital Future. It is held in a pub and is fewer than ten minutes walk away. Last night it would have been twice as long by car.

Thanks to the Barnehurst landslip (now in its third day) and commuters taking alternative routes, the roads around Abbey Wood station were gridlocked.

Traffic in Abbey Road was queued back to Lesnes Abbey because those wishing to turn right into one way Wilton Road were blocked by people parked and awaiting the arrival of the next train. No one could exit into Gayton Road or Florence Road because Florence Road was going nowhere due to the aforesaid queue in Abbey Road which blocked right turns.

Those with local knowledge who took the alternative route via Fendyke and Fossington Roads met the same problem at its exit.

The perfect log jam and I shudder to think what it will be like when Crossrail attracts the forecast 20,000 passengers an hour.

Unusually I was not carrying my camera last night and this morning’s chaos was not nearly as bad.
Abbey Road Florence Road
Wilton Road/Knee Hill Harrow Manorway
Frustratingly, the chairman of the Traders’ Association was unavoidably called away, so the meeting was cancelled and deferred until next Wednesday. I could have gone to Digital Futures after all.


13 January (Part 1) - The wrong sort of advice

LandslipThe landslip at Barnehurst has provided an interesting insight into what Abbey Wood might be like post-Crossrail.

Outside the peak hour a third of Abbey Wood’s Cannon Street train service passes through Barnehurst and yesterday all of that third was lost. So not only did the Bexleyheath line have no service at all but the North Kent line was at reduced capacity too.

I’m no railway expert but I could think of ways of mitigating the problems and today Southeastern must have done something similar because only one train an hour has been lost instead of two.

There is probably a line capacity problem too because additional longer distance services have been going non-stop through Abbey Wood which doesn’t usually happen.

Around eight o’clock this morning the roads to and from Abbey Wood station were very obviously more congested than usual, there presumably being an influx of commuters from the south.

NoticeAnother obvious new feature was people driving aimlessly in circles looking for somewhere to park. The station staff also remarked on the unusually high number of passengers.

When Crossrail offers an air-conditioned service to central London in half the time and at lower price than any other Bexley station (Zone 4 instead of Zone 5) the problems will become an everyday occurrence.

What was bad news for rail passengers proved to be a bonanza for Bexley council. Many a windscreen is adorned with yellow today.

In Abbey Road where Bexley council has very deliberately given no indication of where one may pay-and-display and where one may not a kindly resident had placed a warning notice.

Letter PenaltyPenaltyA letter in today’s News Shopper says that Greenwich does not enforce parking restrictions around Abbey Wood station.

Unfortunately it is not true, they are not as desperate to penalize offenders as Bexley Council is but once in a while Greenwich shows an interest in its eastern outpost.

The final picture was taken this afternoon in Wilton Road. Someone on the Greenwich side is in for an expensive shock when they return from work. Maybe he can sue Mr. Loftus.

Another big train story has been the ‘wrong sort of sunshine’ at Lewisham where the sun shining into the platform dispatch monitor prevented drivers from seeing whether it was safe to depart.

I’ve read a lot of comment on Twitter and in the press, even that supposedly up market rag, the Daily Telegraph, about if it is a genuine problem why doesn’t it happen every day as the sun reaches the critical elevation above the horizon.

Whoever said that obviously has no idea about astronomy. Neither do I but surely everyone has noticed that sun rise shifts around a bit every day which is why you get strange effects like the sun shining straight down 42nd Street in Manhattan only twice a year.

If you want to criticise Southeastern trains criticise them for choosing a silly dispatch system that compels five coach trains to stop at the end of the platform and as far from the entrance as possible. Charlton up. Woolwich down, Abbey Wood up, Belvedere down, to name but a few.

Crossrail plans a radio link from platform cameras to cab. So when the sun is shining, yet another reason to use Abbey Wood and not the Sidcup or Bexleyheath lines once Crossrail comes along.


12 January (Part 2) - No priority for priors and monks

There's not much new to be seen at Lesnes Abbey. Compared to 23rd December the roof has been extended a little bit. The fencing restricts the view but I’ve never seen more than two people working on the Visitors’ Centre.
Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey
It’s a year since the old Visitor Centre was demolished and fewer than nine months since Abbey Wood station was reduced to rubble. Which new facility will open first?


9 January - Biggest fly tip ever!

CrossrailSo the Christmas recycling collections may not have been perfect and the brown bins were not emptied at all but overall there wasn’t a lot to complain about, but if you are feeling hard done by, spare a thought for the orange army that worked through some appalling weather on Crossrail.

Their landfill contractor shut up shop for an extended holiday which threatened to bring the work around Abbey Wood station to a halt. To allow them to keep going their trackside land from the station to the eastern end of Alsike Road, it must be nearly half a mile, was filled with rubbish.

The past week has been spent scraping it all up and carting it away. Maybe it’s a small reason for UK rail fares being the highest in Europe. Ultimately it will be passengers who pay for the contractor’s close down.

Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail Crossrail

Crossrail Index.


8 January (Part 1) - Bexley council’s greatest skill. Cover ups and censorship

As a general rule I am against censorship. Obviously some is required for state security but beyond that I am not so sure. Certainly I see no need for it at Bexley Council. While negotiating a contract, well OK, but beyond that no way!

Bexley Council doesn’t agree and secrecy has become its base position. It has to be, there are so many shameful things going on that the only safe course is to say nothing when possible and lie when you have to.

Every news channel except perhaps this blog is manipulated. Both local newspapers have published council lies without question but now that news distribution is moving to social media further action is required. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook or Streetlife - Bexley Council is there, which is in principle a good thing but don’t be too complacent. They are there to push their own agenda and suppress criticism.

Mrs. BridgeBexley’s Facebook page appears to have several variants which easily confuses a Facebook duffer like me, but the currently active account is

Residents can post to it but as you might expect of a less than transparent organisation, only if they are not too critical.

Mrs. Bridges who led the Save Old Farm Park delegation at July’s council meeting added a few words to Bexley’s Facebook page three days ago. They had gone by next morning.

The first screenshot below shows Tracey Bridges’ comments along with some from Malcolm Wright, another leading figure in the Old Farm campaign group.

Suggestions that the park sale consultation should have been given the same prominence as the health consultation were not welcome. (Second screenshot.)

Today, Malcolm Wright’s comment has been censored too. I imagine Sally Arnold’s recent cheeky comment will soon go the same way.

Deputy Director Toni Ainge announced on behalf of Bexley council at the last cabinet meeting that they would not do more than the legal minimum to publicise the sale of the first batch of four parks. That is a small advertisement in the back pages of the News Shopper which very few people will see.

Facebook Facebook

Facebook Twitter

It’s a long time since Bexley Council acknowledged the existence of Bexley is Bonkers. I think it may have been when drama queen Teresa O’Neill persuaded the police that a blog had threatened to burn her palace down so I was a little taken aback to see the Tweet above that appears to acknowledge that a day when Bexley Council is not embroiled in a big fat scandal is a very special day indeed.


7 January - A slow news day

The wait goes on
December was spent waiting for the Crown Prosecution Service’s promise to deliver their decision on Will Tuckley and Councillor Cheryl Bacon on the 18th. Would they or would they not be charged with Misconduct in a Public Office?

Whenever I looked back at the evidence I became a little more confident that the case could not be casually cast aside. The evidence that Cheryl Bacon is a liar intent on dishonestly discrediting members of the public is very strong. Ten witnesses against her story. None for her, and then there were the early council press releases that failed to support her fantasies followed by later ones that did.

A classic Bexley Council cover up.

One might assume that the police and CPS were inclined to agree because either could have dropped the case (first submitted in July 2014) early on but didn’t.

The CPS has now said it will be another month before they reach a decision. I suspect that the case will take a similar course to the one against Councillor Peter Craske. Once it gets really serious everything is ‘bumped upstairs’ for a political decision.

The new promised date is 5th February.

More Misconduct
The minutes of the Code of Conduct Committee meeting that dealt with the complaint against Councillor Maxine Fothergill refer to her “Misconduct”. It found her guilty of conferring a disadvantage on someone to gain a financial advantage for herself. So that’s another Misconduct in a Public Office is it not? Case law has already shown councillors to be subject to it. The Cheryl Bacon case had to jump through that hoop before it went forward to the CPS.

Better legal minds than mine are working on it.

Old Farm Park
An announcement by the Old Farm Park campaigners makes for depressing reading. Residents are suffering Consultation Fatigue and few have completed the statutory consultation.

The Summer holiday consultation (1,361 objections) is now worthless, sent the same way as the 3,000 signature petition and discarded by the Listening Council. Those people’s wishes count for nothing. The slate was wiped clean and replaced with a Christmas holiday consultation.

Bexley Council is going to sell up to 26 parks and open spaces. If you’d like to see Bexley become a concrete jungle (21,500 new houses planned) then sit back and do nothing between now and 14th January. The ‘Advert’ at the top left of this page links to the instructions on how to make your views known.

Cabinet Member Don Massey who first put the park closure proposals before cabinet doesn’t even live in the borough. Just because he no longer cares what happens to Bexley does not mean residents should give up too.

Your Good Health
It may not be widely known but Bexley Council is responsible for part of your health service. Smoking cessation, obesity clinics, sexual health, substance abuse, all that sort of thing is a council responsibility. Their Health & Wellbeing Committee is chaired by that well known health freak, Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obvious Banqueting Excesses) and whilst not everything about it is bad some services are rated as the worst performing in the country. Notably HIV rates.

Another consultation is out for your perusal.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske wants to know how you think health services can best operate with a reduced budget.

The People Scrutiny Committee always includes a report from the health professionals and nearly everything is always wonderful. The total lack of A&E and maternity services within Bexley is long since forgotten. I’ve not found any problem with medical care but the management always lets it down.

My GP sent me for a fast track cancer referral last September and I was seen by a consultant within days. On 27th October I was given a CT scan in QEH but the follow up appointment to discuss the result is not due until March. They won’t tell my GP what the result was and he says I should assume they would have let me know if anything untoward had been found.

I assumed this money wasting lack of coordination was a one off, but in December a neighbour was fast tracked for a suspected skin cancer. He underwent an immediate biopsy and was told to come back in June to get the results. After kicking up a fuss the appointment has been brought forward to February. In my own case I’m pretty sure the symptoms were a false alarm but it would be nice to know for sure.

The two week target for cancer consultations has become a nonsense, just another abused statistic like A&E waiting times.

When those 21,500 new homes are built, where’s the new hospital going to be built?

Erith Tragedy
The sad events in Pembroke Road do nothing to enhance the reputation of Bexley police. Three weeks before they thought to look around the back garden. It’s only three months since Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe had to apologise to the family of Alistair Calvert, an 18 year old who collapsed in Wolvercote Road, Thamesmead and died in hospital.

The Met Police, not just in Bexley but at Commissioner level too, linked the death to laughing gas canisters. Alistair was a clean living young lad with a defective heart, not a lager swilling drug addict.

Without a Bexley Council connection neither case is of direct interest to BiB but Sian Blake who is now feared murdered was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. I have some experience of the devastating effects of MND and cannot imagine any mother coping with both the disease and two young children. Was there a Bexley Council sponsored domiciliary care package in place and how were the children cared for?

Another Rhys Lawrie case (murdered under Bexley council’s nose in 2011) is the last thing anyone wants but is Bexley’s child care system which relies so heavily on inexperienced trainees any better than it was five years ago? Probably the cover up system is.


5 January - Bexley’s debtors were robbed. Everyone agrees on that but no general refund

If Councillor Maxine Fothergill has done what her colleagues reported it certainly suggests a lack of any sense of what is right or wrong and an absence of any conscience or common decency but I strangely feel no sense of shock. I must be becoming inured to such behaviour after six years of observing Bexley’s Conservatives closely.

If an estate agent has valued a property such that it becomes an absolute bargain that simply must be sold to a colleague or snapped up by the agent; well it wouldn’t be the first time I have heard such a story. Maybe Maxine Fothergill is just your average Tory and just your average estate agent.

On the other hand if a rogue trader charged £10,000 for replacing three cracked tiles on an old lady’s roof the police and Trading Services would undoubtedly take an interest, and the losses might be small by comparison with a shady property deal.

I still tend to think that Bexley council’s cover up is worse than what one councillor may have done. It makes everyone look bent. That is probably why I regard Bexley’s Parking Services use of bailiffs as being far more serious than anything Maxine Fothergill may have done although it is unlikely the subject will ever raise as much interest.

These people deliberately set out to extract money from the public over and above what was due.

The Local Government Ombudsman caught them out in 2012 but Bexley Council did nothing to ensure that the practice stopped. The senior management all get in the region of £100,000 a year for being ineffective.

JBWWhen JBW Group (the bailiffs) sold a car to cover a debt, the standard fees were doubled. The bailiff reduced the bid price by the amount of the auctioneer’s fee and when the debtor’s account was prepared it put that reduced amount in the ‘Plus’ column. The auctioneer’s fee was additionally put in the ‘Minus’ column. The fee was thereby levied twice, not just occasionally but every single time.

If a debtor settles his bill when the bailiff first calls an early closure fee becomes due, but not in any other circumstances. However the fee was added to every debtor’s account - every single time.

The taking away fees were incorrectly applied and very often the storage fees were exaggerated. Bexley Council knew about it but chose to do nothing to stop it.

The Finance and Legal Departments only began to take it seriously after my objection to the 2013/14 accounts. There is no excuse for Bexley Council ignoring the LGO’s report, in fact they did a deal with the LGO which was basically “you keep the lid on this and not go public and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

But Bexley Council did nothing.

Following my complaint things changed. An internal report was highly critical of Bexley’s Parking Services Department, so critical that I am under legal restraint from telling you what was in it. Suffice to say they found much the same malpractice as had been suspected.

Ideally Bexley Council should have made the JBW Group refund all the overpayments but despite Bexley’s Finance and Legal Departments both concluding that the double charging was absolutely wrong the bailiff insisted they had interpreted the law correctly. Few would agree.

Grant ThorntonBexley Council was understandably reluctant to arrange refunds because the overpayments had gone into the bailiffs’ pockets not theirs.

The official excuse was that there would be no repayments because only a court could decide whether Bexley's Legal Department, Finance Department, their authorised auditor and pure common sense was right, or whether it was JBW. Having reached that conclusion it was perhaps right not to spend money on testing the theory before a judge. There are far too many stupid judges around.

In the circumstances the correct course may have been to part company with JBW Group bailiffs because that company argued that it should operate under different standards to those required by Bexley Council. It has certainly brought Bexley Council into further disrepute. Perhaps Bexley Council is far too attached to Capita. JBW is Capita by another name.

Grant Thornton, the Council’s auditor, was about as useful as the proverbial chocolate fireguard.

Their final letter agrees that the bailiffs had no great regard for honest practice and they identified the following problems…

• Different types of fees (attendance to levy, attendance to remove, levying distress and removal charges) were all charged or applied on the same day.
• There was evidence of [incorrect application of] multiple levies. i.e. where more than one PCN was actioned at the same time.
• Incorrect application of closing fees.
• Auction costs applied as a percentage of the sale fee in addition to the fee charged by the auctioneer.
• The fees for removal and storage and changing locks were not supported by the receipts.
• Debtors were not provided with a statement of costs when vehicles were sold contrary to the contract between the Council and the bailiff.

Just like Bexley Council they were unwilling to see the bailiff in court to ensure that Bexley’s debtors received recompense for being robbed; instead they have suggested that I should take JBW to court.

My view is that BiB’s role is to expose Bexley council’s wrong doing and heap as much embarrassment on them as possible and a court victory would probably increase the embarrassment factor only marginally. The local press which should take that role is usually unwilling to tackle Bexley’s malpractices and a court victory is far from being a certainty. Bexley Council has its ways of subverting the law and is not afraid to use them. So once again Bexley Council gets away with abusing not just its residents but potentially almost anyone who has parked a car in the borough.

Bexley Council has supposedly been sampling its bailiff’s accounts for at least the past six months, however if you had a bailiff problem before that and still have the paperwork it’s probably worth checking through it. Every case I have seen where a car was sold was overcharged by a minimum of £120.

I keep asking myself why Bexley Council let this happen for so long when on the face of it there was no benefit to anyone but the bailiff. I can think of three things.

• Unscrupulous bailiffs motivated by excessive and unjustified fees were more likely to chase debtors bringing indirect benefits to Bexley council.
• Money was exchanged in brown envelopes.
• Bexley Council management is incompetent and has no understanding of the systems they purport to operate.

I suspect it is the third. It takes brains and skill to run a long term criminal operation.

No council official lost their job, Capita continues to provide Bexley’s bailiff services but lots of ordinary people were robbed.

Note: For simplicity I have referred above to ‘my complaint’. In law that is true but all the hard work and knowledge of the system and what to look for was provided by Notomob.


3 January - Crossrail at Abbey Wood is about half way there. In time anyway

On Christmas Eve the not very temporary traffic lights were removed from Felixstowe Road. It’s still a bit of an obstacle course but it is two way again for the first time since October 2014.

Whilst most of us have been lucky enough to do not a great deal over the past two weeks the same has not been true for contractors working on Abbey Wood station. They had Christmas Day and Boxing Day off but within the past two weeks managed to dig some massive trenches around the recenty installed piles and fill them with concrete despite the rain. This week’s update includes 82 new pictures - nearly 7MB - of the work and the loss of parking spaces caused by lorries.

Crossrail CrossrailThen a whole load of ironmongery was welded into place and 340 cubic metres of concrete was scheduled for delivery starting at 9 a.m. on 30th December. The first 7·5 cubic metre load was delivered on time to the exact minute. The time stamp on the photo confirms it. By the end of the day the track bed and associated wall had been extended from the end of the new platform to the Harrow Manorway flyover.

The succession of ready mixed concrete carriers came from Silvertown so not the sort of journey one would wish to undertake when the Blackwall Tunnel is busy.

On the same day the piling rigs returned and started work to the north of the station.

I really cannot see how the Felixstowe Road shops can survive when the northern station entrance is closed next month or thereabouts and will stay that way for three years. There is already no car parking available and soon there will be no one walking by.

Index to Crossrail blogs and photo features.

P.S. Photos 1 and 2 taken through the muddy windows of the old Harrow Manorway bus shelter and rescued in Photoshop. It affords the best view of the track bed but if someone could cut a three inch hole in one of them, it would be appreciated.


2 January (Part 2) - In for the long haul

Cutting the public out totally of what appears to be a very serious breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct will inevitably bring a load more opprobrium down on Bexley Council. Presumably they think it is preferable to the alternative; a court appearance perhaps. The protection placed around Councillor Maxine Fothergill (Conservative, Colyers, £12,418 p.a.) for whatever she has done is in marked contrast to putting the details in the newspaper when Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis got in a strop with a resident.

Presumably Councillor Fothergill was engaged in far worse than a petty disagreement. If the rumour mill is to be believed it was attempted fraud.

Past performance shows that when Bexley Council has been badly caught out they will go into lockdown mode as far as is possible and lie prolifically when forced to say something. This is what keeps BiB going. Instead of ditching the bad apples as soon as possible Bexley Council prefers people to believe they are all crooks together protecting their own.

And so the long drawn out search for the truth begins.

I thought the Freedom of Information request for evidence that the complainant requested anonymity was an excellent first shot against Bexley’s initial excuse for silence. Information was exempted because it related to an individual.

CommitteeIf the gossip is true, the Fothergill case involves four individuals. The Councillor, her accomplice, the victim and the complainant.

Within 20 working days we should learn Bexley’s reasons for keeping the complainant’s name secret.

The other important item of information that Bexley Council has not, unlike on past occasions, put in the public domain is a summary of the ‘crime’.

We know that it was designed to enrich Councillor Maxine Fothergill because the verdict passed on her says so. It was “conferring an advantage or other material benefits for herself”

We can also be pretty sure it was not a simple offence because the meeting opened at 10:30 in the morning and the verdict wasn’t reached until 17:04.

With the initially loose tongues now all gone silent the only way forward is another Freedom of Information request.

Please supply a copy of the complaint against Councillor Maxine Fothergill, that led to her appearance before the Members Code of Conduct Complaints Sub Committee on 10th December 2015.

Please provide details of the allegations made against Councillor Maxine Fothergill and/or any other council employee, that led to the appearance of Councillor Fothergill before the Members Code of Conduct Complaints Sub Committee on 10th December 2015.

Please provide details of any disciplinary proceedings, sanctions, or appearance before any authority, against any council employee who was involved in the allegations made against Councillor Fothergill, which led to her appearance before the Members Code of Conduct Complaints Sub Committee on 10th December 2015.

Please provide copies of all correspondence relating to the decision to put Councillor Fothergill before the Members Code of Conduct Complaints Sub Committee on 10th December 2015, together with details of the individuals involved in the decision making process.

Please provide copies of all correspondence relating to any discussion and/or decision, as to whether or not the allegations made against Councillor Maxine Fothergill and/or any other council employee, should or should not be forwarded to the police for investigation of possible criminal offences.

By the end of the month we should know how Bexley Council intends to wriggle out of that one, for wriggle they will. They know by now what happens if suspicions of criminality are aroused. Michael Barnbrook sends the details to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

Bexley Council never seems to understand that evasion merely increases suspicions. However if the gossip is true and they own up to it they merely ensure the case goes to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. A rock and a hard place, but it’s where deceivers most often end up.

I expect you are fed up with not knowing precisely what that gossip is and I would agree, the teasing has gone on long enough. The bare bones of it will appear on Monday.


2 January (Part 1) - What a difference a year makes. Make that half a year!

In an effort to fill the gap before the year starts in earnest I thought a look at how Crossrail has changed Abbey Wood over the past year might be instructive, but there was a snag. The old station wasn’t actually taken down until mid-May and year old comparison photos were not very useful.

June 2015 June 2015 StairsPhotos 1 and 2 (6th June 2015 and yesterday) don’t really do the situation justice. A station platform complete with canopy and half a mile of track is barely visible in the background and invisible again, 100 30 foot piles are buried in the ground ready to support the new station.

Meanwhile, in roughly half the time that Network Rail has taken to transform the old station site, Bexley Council or whoever the responsible local authority is, has failed to fix the street lights on Harrow Manorway. None are working on the eastern side and at least three are out across the road, leaving the bus stop area in darkness.

Worse than that is the stairs leading to the station are also in darkness - but rather worse. In just a few weeks that staircase will be the obvious route to Abbey Wood station for everyone living north of the railway line who travels by bus or on foot. The alterative is via the Knee Hill roundabout, nearly an extra half mile.

A history of comment on local Crossrail developments is available from the Crossrail Index page.


1 January (Part 3) - The police are plodding, if they are moving at all

I have a feeling that the police are going to figure large in blogs over the coming months. At the sharp end they generally do a good job but they are far too politicised.

A letter came from the Met’s Department of Professional Standards two days ago, post marked second class on Christmas Eve. Except for its date and the duplicate name it is absolutely identical to the one sent out on 23rd November 2015.

This month’s letter.

There appears to be a macro running on a police computer that simply bungs out a standard letter once a month. It has been going on in some shape or form since June 2012 when Commissioner Hogan-Howe was asked to look into the failure (at that time) to investigate Bexley Council’s obscene blog. It was eventually traced to Councillor Peter Craske’s home phone line - oh bugger that’s my first prediction of the year proved wrong already.

Hogan-HoweDespite the intervention of the IPCC the Met has no real intention of putting former Bexley Police Commander, CS Dave Stringer on a charge. Because the evidence is rather damning they are just making up excuses.

It will be much the same with the Will Tuckley Cheryl Bacon case.

The evidence stacked against them is even more damning and Greenwich police did a fine job of getting it as far as the Crown Prosecution Service - the Special Case Unit no less - without being told to drop it. Now we are two weeks past the day when the CPS promised to give the police advice on what is to be done next.

But nada!

Can you imagine the new Chief Executive at Tower Hamlets Council, appointed under the auspices of government installed Commissioners being charged with Misconduct in a Public Office? Just think of the embarrassment. Embarrassment which Mick Barnbrook did his best to head off but they called him a vexatious Fascist and carried on regardless.

The CPS can delay as much as they like, they may even be trying to play it straight, but they are sure to be under pressure to find an excuse to get Tuckley and Bacon off the hook. Tuckley and the CPS conspired to “resolve [Craske’s] ongoing situation”. They know how it’s done. The alternative is to keep everyone waiting three and a half years as in the Peter Craske case.

Last month’s letter.

I took up the offer to get in touch about “issues and queries” last month. There was neither acknowledgement nor reply. The Met are cynically waiting for old men to give up safe in the knowledge that the IPCC has no power over delay.


1 January (Part 2) - This website

I think the 2016 changes are all in place now. I’ve had to lose 2009 from the Index at the top of each blog - day and month view. Squeezing old years in, whatever the chosen method, would not last long. Sooner or later they would become unreadable or occupy too much space, so now you will only see the most recent seven years. For anything earlier, use the main menu bar.

When Bonkers was launched in 2009 I had no idea where it would lead. If I had thought about it I would probably have concluded ‘nowhere’.

It has changed quite a lot since then, for the better I hope. When I look back at old stuff I rarely think it is any good, perhaps I rely too much on the expectation that readers keep up with the current state of play but any more reminders and repeats than there are already would drive people away. Twitter followers for example have reached 568 five times in the past month but always fall back again. I’ve no idea what pulls people in but drives others away. Perhaps I should take my daughter’s advice. 43,300 followers.

I understand her technique is to follow everybody but install a utility that dumps all their Tweets so you don’t have to read them.

In 2009 I sketched out a Bonkers’ Style Guide - it wasn’t the first time I had published something and knew that some sort of rule book must be established if a mess was not to develop.

One silly part of it was to never give Bexley council the honour of a capital C. The convention has become a nuisance and has led to just the sort of perceived inconsistencies that the Style Guide was intended to avoid.

So from today it is Bexley Council and Councillor Craske, or whoever manages to get into the blog first this year. I have a feeling it will be Cheryl Bacon.

I only mention it here because one reader has always messaged me if I use the capital C word. He's not done it for quite a while so either I am making fewer mistakes or he has died. I suspect the latter, most active BiB readers are old. Young people appear to be willing to put up with anything. I suppose if you grow up under a corrupt system you might not notice when it is all around you.

A bit like how young people don’t know that recorded sound can be as good as the real thing, but not if you only listen to low bit rate MP2 (DAB radio) or MP3 on some matchbox hanging from your neck. But that is another subject entirely and one best left to Arthur Pewty when he runs short of material.


1 January (Part 1) - The New Year is here. Oh, no. Not another one

Those who follow local politics will know who Grant Blowers is. Stalwart of the Labour party in Sidcup. We may not always agree politically but he sums up my feelings for today perfectly.

GrantThe mood is not helped by waking up to aches and sneezes and going deaf in one ear on Boxing Day. Just wax I am sure but resistant so far to remedies sold at pharmacies.

BiB will presumably be shaken out of its lethargy eventually, it always is, but meanwhile I have to rearrange all the menus for 2016. I’ve half forgotten how to do it.

Now that the blog is into its eighth year, some things are not going to fit when viewed in large font mode. I may be some time.

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