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When Bexley first installed
LED street lamps in Welling I drove around after
midnight and couldn’t believe how dim they were. True the roads were unfamiliar
to me but I found driving there really difficult.
The sodium lamps in my own road were removed soon afterwards and it was immediately apparent that my front door was in comparative darkness and my back garden was getting no light at all and until then it was illuminated quite well. I suppose that is a good thing, why should I expect Bexley Council to be illuminating my flower beds at night?
I have grown to quite like the things but let no one tell you they are brighter than before. I know that is what Bexley Council has been saying but like most things they say it simply isn’t true.
I have an email from Bexley Council confirming that the output of the LEDs is less than half of the sodium lamps. My camera exposure meter agrees.
Council Leader Teresa O’Neill is on the record as saying that people come up to her and thank her for the new lights, do people really go up to her for anything let along lamp posts? One of my correspondents doesn’t think so and conducted a quick poll of residents in his street.
I read recently that one of our council members had received good comments from a number of people about the new LED lights. I have spoken to many of my neighbours and cannot find anyone who is remotely interested in them, let alone impressed by the things.
I went out during the evening rush and found it difficult to see the kerb as I was driving against the oncoming car head lights on the other side of the road.
I understand that another local borough is finding that their new LED lights are failing already. My own experience in my own home is that LED lights fail in less than a year, not the 15 - 20 years they are supposed to last.
Is that true? I bought some LED lamps in 2008 to go in what was then a new kitchen but never got around to installing them. Not bought any since. I have a lifetime’s supply of tungsten lamps stashed away in the loft.
When the police officer who arrested Hayley Warnes and kept her in suspense
for eleven months heard that she had won her claim for damages against her
former employer Councillor Maxine Fothergill he sent a brief email
congratulating both her and surveyor Ray Robson on “a pretty good result” and
said that except that it was frowned upon by Kent Police he would have “used a smiley face”.
But it wasn’t always like that, the police officer had fallen under Maxine Fothergill’s spell. No Councillor could ever do anything wrong, if she said Hayley was a fraudster then a fraudster she must be.
He wrote to the CPS to say she had committed a series of frauds, not alleged frauds, he was convinced that frauds had taken place. His case would eventually collapse but meanwhile he was pursuing it vigorously with a closed mind. Like the police in Sidcup who jumped because Councillor Massey said that a mess of random pixels revealed the personal details of his daughter.
The Kent officer went further and told the CPS that a third party was disseminating false information to discredit his witnesses. That third party was Ray Robson who is now £30,000 richer thanks to Councillor Fothergill’s acknowledged libel.
Click to read all of the police’s note to the CPS.
Ray provided Kent police with reasons to discontinue their investigation into
Hayley’s ‘fraud’ and was rewarded with a threat of prosecution for attempting to
Pervert the Course of Justice.
Their minds were made up.
Smiley faces may be unprofessional but apparently ridiculing members of the public is not.
Click to read all of the police letter to Ray Robson.
It is only because the police officer came to regret his error that his name has been suppressed.
In recent days I have been asked not to make any further reference to Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s libel case and
to withdraw what has been said so far. Reasons given range from the case has
nothing to do with Bexley Council through to it damaging AMAX Estates, Councillor Fothergill’s business.
Having spent eight years exposing Bexley Council lies and picking fault with all three parties at one time or another, suppressing any relevant issue, especially such a big one, must surely be wrong. My personal view is that if one shows favouritism, integrity flies out of the window. Publicity may well damage AMAX Estates but being economical with the truth is what Bexley Council does, not this blog, so there is no real alternative to publication so long as everything can be backed up by documentary evidence.
Getting hold of those documents proved to be a torturous process but they are here now in both paper and electronic format. I expected the latter to be a huge bonus but PDF files produce their own problems.
After leaving readers dangling without the ultimate proof of what has been reported it is essential that something is made available as soon as possible but the Court’s Consent Order is a large document including the names and addresses of 274 residents in AMAX managed properties and they must be redacted.
The majority of those tenants are Bexley residents.
As you will be aware, PDF documents cannot be edited, so a great deal of processing is required to extract the important bits from many extensive documents and get it into a format that is not too large for use on the web.
Because it is a time intensive process the documents will become available on BiB only slowly and with little time to digest the whole file and decide how best to present it, this blog will cover no more than the bare essentials.
The initial read through produced more than one gasp of disbelief, some parts immediately strike the reader as having to be false. Some documents appear to condone dishonesty and the first defence exhibit is a document which gives the impression of being a forgery. Who would put such a thing before a judge?
This is not like the everyday event of Bexley Conservatives lying on Twitter and hoping to fool a gullible population, it is a Bexley Councillor apparently attempting to bamboozle a High Court Judge and expecting to get away with it.
The big libel was that an AMAX employee had misappropriated a large sum of money when it would seem that she did no more than refuse an invitation to be involved in what she judged to be malpractice. That employee, Hayley Warnes, was made the scapegoat for an unaccounted £26,000 and reported to the police. Additionally a Private Investigator was hired to track her movements and a Court Order obtained to forensically examine Ms. Warnes financial affairs. Nothing untoward was found.
Ms. Warnes was under arrest from 9th April 2015 until 7th March 2016 and was pregnant for most of that time. Councillor Fothergill knew her allegations to be unfounded but let Hayley suffer the stress anyway.
She was not the only person involved in this business who Councillor Fothergill had arrested but the other lady did not take any action for libel.
The critically libellous statement is unfortunately omitted from the papers so far obtained but bearing in mind the addresses of the recipients it represents a close link to Bexley. A copy has been requested.
Meanwhile an extract from a letter which says much the same thing
It is important to recognise that these accusations were judged in Court to
be entirely unfounded and
constructed to cover sums of money that had gone missing; where, no one is absolutely sure.
Obviously there is more to this story to come including less than honourable behaviour by Kent Police but for the moment there has been time to put only four documents on line.
The High Court’s Consent Order.
The settlement order agreed in Court.
Councillor Fothergill’s letter of apology.
Councillor Fothergill’s statement in Court.
As already stated, the agreed damages totalled £70,000 and the Court and similar costs - I have the estimated legal bill itemised by the claimant’s barrister - comes to more than £280,000.
Note: Since writing the above the presentation of documents has been revised. PDFs have been abandoned in favour of JPG images displayed in a simple PHP page. The file download size is thereby reduced by a factor of five or more and PHP files can be automatically assembled into an Index page for quick and easy access.
When I was a kid living in Aldershot in the 1950s it was the proud “Home of the British
Army” and in those idyllic pre-terrorist days we could ride our bikes
around the barracks free of all restrictions.
The barrack rooms consisted mainly of rusty and neglected corrugated iron huts. One day while the gang of young cyclists was passing through we noticed that all the huts were being given a quick lick of whitewash by dozens of young squaddies. We asked what was going on.
The nearest soldier said we wouldn’t be allowed in the next day because the Queen was due to make an inspection. We observed that only the fronts of the huts were being painted, the Royal party would never see the back half and if the Queen did not return the fronts would never see a paint brush again.
Something like that is going on in Bexley at the moment. After four years of cutting services, Bexley’s Tory controlled Council has saved some money and decided to spend some of it on undoing the damage done to the borough in previous years.
Tree planting, street cleaning, weed spraying, road and footpath repairs and of course fence painting are all having money spent on them. Not as much as was spent at the time of the last election but more than last year and the year before.
The Queen might not be visiting but there is an election just around the corner and just like the Queen was not due back to Aldershot there won’t be another election until 2022.
Bexley Council is in effect spending taxpayers’ money to fund their election campaign.
A detailed examination of the figures shows that the money is being spent in Council wards the Conservatives must retain next May in the face of a possible Corbyn tide.
Too often I have felt that Bexley Labour has simply sat back and accepted this abuse of power but today I am pleased to note that they are kicking back.
Why do Bexley Conservatives employ dishonest tactics in practically everything they do?
Labour Press Release: Click to read it all.
Although they deny it, Bexley Council has form for favouring Conservative
wards. In the Summer of 2011 when there was a bit of spare money sloshing around
it was decided to spend some on extending the CCTV system. Given the choice
between putting cameras in leafy and genteel Bexley Village and the relatively
crime ridden Thamesmead, guess where the money was spent.
Now that money is tight the system is no longer monitored and is of a lot less use than it used to be.
The Tories will point to the new Belvedere Beach and the improvement at Lesnes Abbey but they didn’t have much choice did they? They were spending Cory Environmental money in Belvedere and it was only available if spent close to the Cory incinerator.
Some Tories would probably be happier if Richard de Luci had built his Abbey further south but the fact is he didn’t and it is where it is. In any case nearly 90% of the refurbishment money came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
I am feeling a little like the Grand Old Duke of York who marched his men to
the top of the hill and marched them down again but until I have a copy of a
certain document in my hands I am unwilling to go into too much detail about the
Councillor Fothergill libel case except to say it definitely happened and she definitely lost.
The bundle of papers sent to the press failed to reach me and it apparently failed to reach the newspapers too. It was a huge attachment sent from Dehli.
The principal plaintiff had a busy day yesterday and did not find the time to assemble a new pack. Today he has some other business to attend to so the probability is that a copy of the agreement reached in Court will not be available until tomorrow.
I am in receipt of documentation from both sides of the argument and they are to some extent contradictory so it is important to get things absolutely right before putting anything more in the public domain. Meanwhile the following is a slightly edited version of what I had planned to say yesterday.
After the long slow build up this blog may seem something of an anti-climax but BiB will be cautious about what can be revealed until it is known how - and if - the press will handle the Maxine Fothergill libel case.
It will be deeply troubling to Councillor Fothergill and BiB must tread the tightrope between not making that situation worse and providing solid facts.
Firstly it is important to say that recent events have nothing to do with Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s appearance before Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee in December 2015 and them judging that “Councillor Fothergill’s actions could be perceived by an ordinary member of the public, as conferring an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for herself, her family, friends or close associates”.
In practice a member of the public could conceive nothing because they were excluded from the hearing and Bexley Council stonewalled every enquiry as to what Councillor Fothergill was supposed to have done but the gossip machine and a few documentary leaks made it clear that she had purchased a bungalow from an elderly lady she came across while out canvassing. If a fair price was paid, and subsequent enquiries revealed that it was not seriously out of line with the market, what could be wrong with that?
It was left to three residents - the usual BiB team at the time - to make their own enquiries as to how that transaction could become a serious complaint and in doing so they met two of Maxine Fothergill’s business associates and made contact with a third. We were shown some extremely fat files of documents relating to AMAX Estates (Councillor Fothergill’s business) which were said to reveal various business practices of which her associates very strongly disapproved.
Neither I nor Mick Barnbrook who was with me are property professionals and we found the papers difficult to follow. They shed no light on why Maxine Fothergill had been disciplined by Bexley Council so we drifted away from her business associates with only very occasional contact thereafter.
A combination of Bexley Council’s silence and the evidence that was discovered later pointed to Councillor Fothergill having been the victim of a revenge attack by more senior Conservatives.
Just one part of those fat files were easily understood by Mick and me; an AMAX employee, Hayley Warnes, had been reported to the police for fraud. We could see no justification for it and after around 15 months under arrest and investigation by CID officers, the police came to the same conclusion.
Although there is rather more to the libel case than that it was part of what led to it. Hayley Warnes has already been paid £40,000 damages and her new employer £30,000. The legal fees will be in excess of £280,000.
Conflicting advice has been received over whether or not Councillor Fothergill was insured against such losses.
Along with other news outlets, BiB has been included in the plaintiffs’ publicity material but alongside them this blog is just a minnow. The story has links to the borough of Bexley in addition to the obvious one and to let the subject go unreported might appear to be a dereliction of duty. I have a natural sympathy with people who are arrested on the basis of false evidence at the request of any Councillor.
There will be further reports once certain documents are received and digested.
Like you I was expecting
today’s business in the High Court to have leaked into the public domain
by now, but it hasn’t so far as I know.
I have spoken to someone who was in Court this morning and everything went according to plan but the vital written confirmation has not yet arrived. My information is that the Court did not issue any such confirmation and maybe it will only come via lawyers in the coming days.
Not only did today’s promised confirmation not arrive but the press bundle supposedly attached to one of yesterday’s emails was missing (†). It should have been widely distributed to the press and the plaintiffs’ legal team but the aforesaid Court visitor has told me all of theirs was missing too. It is therefore possible that today’s news may not appear in the newspapers as quickly as expected.
Until it does arrive BiB will not reveal any more about the case.
I have been assured that the successful plaintiffs are both well but very tired and very busy working their way through a back log of work.
Presumably they will be in touch again before long.
† Apparently it was bigger that 11MB so it is not too surprising that most email systems couldn’t cope.
Councillor Teresa O’Neill’s report was rather longer than it usually is but
there is an election coming up and she was keen to reel off a list of
achievements and maybe create a few sound bites for the Council’s publicity machine to pump out.
She began by referring to “lots of ribbons cut and lots of exciting things over the summer”. Belvedere Beach, Lesnes Abbey woods was “absolutely fantastic”, Erith Lighthouse, the “enhancement” of Hall Place, street cleaning and tree planting and “all possible because of the sound financial management of this borough”.
“Bexley will be better off over the next two years by £5·6 million because of Business Rate Retention” which the Leader was claiming as a personal achievement that gave her grey hair. (Sooner or later money out of your pocket that Bexley Council will decide how to spend for you.)
The Council’s Corporate Plan shows its “aspiration for the borough taking it forward as does the Growth Agenda”.
“Everything is coming together nicely with BexleyCo and I know it will achieve something going forward.”
Bexley Council and all three MPs persuaded the Mayor to keep Bexleyheath police station open. “We fight for residents, we deliver for them and we have aspirations for them”.
Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked the Council to join her in congratulating those involved in gaining a Looked After Children award for Bexley.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) had a list of questions.
• About the overspending on children with high needs.
• The claimed increase in grass cutting and weed spraying merely restores the situation that prevailed before the 2014 election which was promptly slashed afterwards. Was the latest increase yet another example of Bexley Conservatives spending taxpayers’ money on their election campaign?
• Shelter’s report shows that Bexley has 2,929 homeless residents, what is the Council doing about it?
• While welcoming the retention of the police station for which he campaigned he had been advised by the Deputy Mayor of London that MOPAC will have to find a further £400 million. The Home Office had advised him that the additional 1% pay rise for the police is affordable and they can go “substantially further in making efficiencies” Does the Leader support that view?
On high needs children the Leader said “because we are in a good position financially we can afford it”.
On “the street scene” the Leader said Councillor Francis’s question “showed a lack of understanding of the Council budget really. If we had not taken the action we did we would not be in a position to put these things back into the budget. They are now in the baseline and will be repeated”.
Councillor Francis interjected that neither are in the baseline and provided the necessary evidence that the Leader was mistaken.
The Leader continued to claim that she was correct and said that next year the electorate would have the choice of “no street cleaning, no trees etc. or they can vote Conservative”.
On the homeless figures she believed Bexley was “24th out 32 boroughs which was pretty well up”. Just like Bexley is 24th in the Council tax league and has low Council tax.
Saving Bexleyheath police station was “fantastic but a Labour member at a People Scrutiny meeting said he had no problem with it being closed”. News to me. She refused to comment on the letter from the Home Office.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked which Labour Member was in favour of police station closures. The Mayor attempted to come to the Leader’s rescue by asking Councillor Val Clark to put her question.
Councillor Francis objected. “Who was it?” The Leader still refused to say. (Is there time to check the webcast? No.)
It transpired that Councillor Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) wanted to praise school crossing patrols.
Councillor Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) made a similar comment about social care services which have improved since Cabinet Member Read took on the responsibility. The way that Councillor Read read a prepared speech suggests that the comment and question must have been staged for the webcast.
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) was disappointed that the Council did nothing to support Black History Month “apart from a tiny little advert placed in some libraries”. She asked the Leader what she might have missed.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske said the event was marked in schools and there are plans for next year. “There are loads of things going on.”
Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) made another of those isn’t Bexley wonderful comments, his was to say how well Hall Place was doing now that it is back under Council control. The Leader resorted to her favourite F word, “fantastic”. Councillor Craske said that Hall Place was due to host a Lego exhibition next year; Bexley, borough of high culture.
The Mayor then called time on the less than enlightening proceedings.
One in 84 Bexley residents is living in temporary accommodation, that’s more
than 3,000 people, an almost incredible figure.
There is no sign of Bexley council having any answers and is content to approve planning applications devoid of affordable homes.
Labour Press Release: Click to read it all.
Bexley Council issues lots of Press Releases
many of which remain available here
but the local Conservative party confines its propaganda to a mixture of Twitter and blogs
which generally serve no other purpose than to misrepresent their Labour opposition.
When it comes to Press Releases it is Bexley’s Labour Group which is the conservative party preferring to play things straight and factual. Their latest Press Release offers support for the London Living wage and highlights the Archway Project which is a Living Wage employer in Thamesmead.
Labour Press Release: Click to read it all.
And while they were checking out the Archway Project facilities they took a selfie.
Cllr. Mabel Ogundayo, Cllr. Stef Borella, Cllr. Danny Hackett, Chrissie Ashley and Alison Harper (both from Archway Project) and Cllr. Daniel Francis
At last a little can be revealed. Ms. Hayley Warnes, one time employee of Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill
at her estate agency, AMAX Estates in Gravesend, claims to have sued Ms. Fothergill in the High Court.
Up against top libel barrister Mark Lewis who considered the evidence to be overwhelming, he offered Councillor Fothergill an out of Court settlement which was declined.
Mr. Lewis is the successful barrister behind the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the cases brought by the family of Milly Dowler and football manager Joe Royle against Manchester City. His personal claim against the Metropolitan Police also succeeded, yet Councillor Fothergill or her legal team must have thought she could take him on.
Tomorrow’s session will be the formal wrapping up of the case, the final settlement is already agreed.
Hayley and her current employer who also sued Ms. Fothergill has already sent various news outlets a wealth of information with more to come as soon as tomorrow’s hearing is concluded.
I may decide to go easy on the details and let the national press pick up the story, I do not particularly want to employ Mr. Lewis myself.
the whole of my 30 years in Abbey Wood - technically Belvedere but Abbey
Wood is much closer - I have never felt more depressed about the place.
Years of Council neglect and central government policies have changed it out of recognition and £4·2 million of new flower beds and stone features in Lesnes Abbey Park has done nothing whatsoever to lift my mood.
If I counted correctly there were seven knifings of various severity within a couple of miles of home over a period of 13 days less than a month ago. Not long before someone was bashed to a pulp with baseball bats less than ten minute’s walk away. Overnight the new Sainsbury’s appears to have become a victim unless perhaps a shopping trolley careered out of control within the store.
Meanwhile I hear that the attention the area has been given since September by the police and Greenwich Council is likely to end soon for lack of evidence of bad behaviour.
When I tell my country bumpkin relatives what goes on - my son in Wiltshire doesn’t see the need to lock his doors - I am asked why I stay here. They have a good point but who else will look after the old lady in East Ham?
Photographs by Brian Barnett. @thamesmeadnews
thought I would cover the Leader’s report from last week’s full Council meeting
today but then an email from Delhi of all places reminded me that getting ready
for next Tuesday’s news is probably a higher priority and as always happens it
soaks up more time than expected.
Last week it was a good natured Councillor Alex Sawyer who was making tea for the press camped on his doorstep. I recommend that any interested hacks should bring their own Thermos flask this time around.
I am rarely excited by the Motions that Councillors like to put before their
colleagues but I expect that is because I am not a good Socialist. Last
Wednesday Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) tried his luck at
getting Bexley Conservatives to Go Green.
He made a number of gloomy forecasts among them that Peterborough, presently 35 miles from the coast, would become Peterborough-on-Sea. Donald Trump’s name kept popping up, maybe he has interests in Bexley we don’t know about.
The Councillor was even more concerned for the thousands of homes built on the Thames floodplain (including his own) and the tens of thousands planned, may become uninsurable. Before long another Thames Barrier will be needed further down stream he suggested.
The Motion was backed by Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) with a number of claims and statistics, among them the unsurprising one that Bexley residents use their cars far more often than their counterparts in other boroughs.
It is always immediately apparent when a Labour Motion has found favour with the Conservatives; they make a minor revision and then claim it as their own.
Unfortunately the webcast does not reveal what the Conservative amendment was but apparently it was free of the “grandstanding” to which London Mayor Sadiq Khan is said to be prone.
Councillor Louie French (Falconwood & Welling) said that Bexley Council had already made steps in the Green direction and cited the move to a single Civic Office in 2014. He mischievously claimed that Labour was against that move to a single site which isn’t true, they only favoured a different location.
He said the LED lighting scheme was another Green move. “Brighter, better for the environment and less costly.” The Council’s own figures show it is in fact dimmer but let’s not quibble, it had to be done for the anticipated £685,000 a year saving.
Councillor French went on to praise the street tree planting programme - complete with anti-Labour rhetoric - but not the parallel tree and park destruction programme.
Pictures of Waring Park by Sidcup Community Group.
issued a plea to Mayor Sadiq Khan to deliver the improved transport
infrastructure that Bexley’s Growth Strategy requires and to the telecoms companies
to reduce where possible the need for transport by providing adequate broadband
facilities - Bexley Council having recently seen the futility of
antagonistic towards essential street work.
In a further nod to the future he advocated more charging points for electric vehicles “which might generate a small income”.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) as always, was keen to parade his views for the benefit of the cameras. Would he resist the temptation to kick the Labour opposition? Of course not. The criticism came with his first breath.
He believed that Councillor Husband was more interested in criticising President Donald Trump’s climate change policies than he was in the welfare of Bexley residents, a thought that wasn’t a million miles from my own while listening to the Motion. Haven’t we had enough Trump bashing already?
Councillor Leaf said that he had read most of the European Union documents on climate change as part of his day job. Labour “talked the good talk but underperformed” but since the coming of a Conservative government electricity generated from renewables had risen from about 2% to 25%. Carbon emissions had shown similar successes since Labour lost power.
Despite the national successes he thought that Green policies mattered most at local level but produced no new examples. He repeated the savings due to the move to a single Civic Office but was “disappointed that Councillor Husband scored cheap political points by talking down the Growth Strategy with his reference to flooding”.
Councillor Husband was happy to see the Motion expanded to include references to the Council’s historical achievements but not the removal of future ambitions. (It would be helpful to see the amended motion but webcast viewers are left to guess at what if anything was cut from the original.)
Despite the Labour reservations the amended Motion was adopted unanimously.
Note: I’m still not sure where this climate change business is going. 2017 has not only been the least sunny year in Belvedere since I started keeping records in 2011, it is 3% behind last year which was the previous worst year. 2017 is 8% behind 2014, the best of the past seven years.
Only three days to go.
I think I feel like an athlete who has just seen his long held record
broken and I will be trying to move future Traders’ meeting dates so that
I don’t miss
important Council meetings again. On the other hand I am really pleased I was
able to hear what Greenwich Council was planning for Abbey Wood. That was unmissable whereas the Council meeting is available as a webcast.
Webcasts are a pale imitation of the real thing losing all the atmosphere and sometimes who voted for what is not always as clear as it could be, but it’s better than nothing.
The first significant item on last night’s Agenda was questions and if you were around on the 4th November you will know that the first was a put up job by Tory activist Richard Diment who was keen to get Councillor Craske to reel off some facts and figures about the street cleaning schedule. Not too many facts mind because no one is supposed to know that the budget has been shrinking but presented by a skilled ex-Downing Street spin doctor things can be made to sound quite good.
“We spend three million pounds a year on keeping this borough clean”, Councillor Craske said. “Daily cleans in town centres and a three week cycle in residential roads.”
Thirty roads which have been difficult to clean due to parked cars are currently being given special attention. Craske joked that one of the affected roads was Councillor Alex Sawyer’s which would be looking good on TV following the current media attention at his address.
He has bought some new litter bins and his priority is to deploy the first of them in that filthy centre of deprivation known as Bexley Village.
Bigger bins will be going into parks and the grass will be cut more often.
The litter enforcement scheme has been a money spinner with over 4,000 penalty notices issued so it is to become a permanent feature in the major town centres - but probably not elsewhere because there is no money to be made in other places.
The new street cleaning machine will arrive within the next week or two.
Another member of the public asked Cabinet Member Linda Bailey what she thought of the Mayor of London’s Housing Strategy. Unfortunately she had not yet formulated her response to the Mayor but we learned she “was gravely concerned” about some aspects of it.
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) asked Cabinet Member Bailey if she was surprised to see how poorly the borough had been rated by the Mayor for the provision of affordable housing.
She was but without explaining anything, said “the document explained it all”. No one was any the wiser until some time later when she suggested that single year figures were unreliable and should only be “considered over time”.
Seán went on to say that of the 1,361 housing units approved for Belvedere Park, Erith Quarry and Maxim Road, precisely “zero were affordable”.
Councillor Bailey said the number should be 35% but passed responsibility to the Planning Committee while reminding Councillor Newman that at Erith Quarry the Council accepted the offer of a free school instead of houses for less well off people.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked man of the moment Alex Sawyer to explain his much vaunted increased expenditure on road and footway repairs and compare it with the four previous years.
“2013/14 £2·29 million. 14/15 £1·69 million. 15/16 1·85 million. 16/17 £1·65 million. 17/18 £3·49”.
Presumably it was Councillor Hackett’s intention to show that in road repairs as with everything else, Bexley Conservatives have held back expenditure in order to put on a good show in an election year.
Cabinet Member Sawyer’s further retort did indeed confirm that the extra expenditure was a pre-election stunt, “do you support the extra?“ he bellowed at Danny, “if you don’t, have the guts to put it in your own manifesto.”
In further confirmation that he has been manipulating the budget for party political gain, Councillor Sawyer was unable to confirm that the pre-election rise would be maintained in the following year.
Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked Cabinet Member Brad Smith how the Ageing Well event held on 14th October went. “Very well” we were told. 200 residents showed up.
Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) earned the rare distinction of asking a question of immediate interest to a very large number of Bexley residents.
He wanted to know what Cabinet Member Sawyer was doing to prevent “the dreaded SouthEastern” from implementing their “ridiculous” skip stop Autumn timetable. Falconwood and Welling stations had suffered significantly reduced services.
Alex said that six trains an hour had been reduced to three or four. He should perhaps venture further north where he would find six trains an hour have been reduced to only two stopping at the minor stations.
He said that unfortunately the failure to provide a decent service was approved by the Department of Transport in conjunction with the Meteorological Office and he “would jump up and down and scream but there is very little we can do”.
When asked if Bexley commuters were getting value for money from SouthEastern Councillor Sawyer simply answered “No, their services are bizarre” and went on to list a whole host of examples. Impressive for someone who admitted not using trains.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) reminded Councillor Sawyer of the Transport Minister’s well known failings when extending SouthEastern’s franchise and advocated TfL control of their suburban services. Councillor Sawyer said he disagreed with Councillor Borella on every point he made.
Councillor Colin McGannon (UKIP, Colyers) asked when the Council intends to move forward with the next stage of consultation on their regeneration plans for Slade Green, Erith and Belvedere. “By the end of the year” according to Cabinet Member Bailey. She said it was still a consultation not a planning application and “the myths out there need to be sorted out”.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) had a simple question. “How many street trees did Councillor Craske intend to plant?” 300 including those which are part of highway improvement schemes.
Such a simple question was bound to have a sting in its tail. Is it true that only 15 of those are to be planted in Labour wards and is this another pre-election stunt? was the gist of Joe’s supplementary question.
Councillor Craske said that the Labour Councillors voted against spending money on trees [while the poor and the homeless are suffering} so they were getting more than they asked for. He said “the allocation is fair”. Not quite sure how, but that is what the purple pygmy said.
Councillor Caroline Newton (Councillor, St. Michael’s) said she was pleased with the tree planting programme.
And with that the Mayor wrapped up Agenda Item 6.
Note: Only five more days to the big one!
As stated at the weekend, there was a diary clash this evening; the Abbey
Wood Traders’ meeting (I’m secretary) conflicted with Full Council. The former starts at 6:30
and has never gone on longer than an hour and ten minutes so the plan to get to
Full Council only half an hour late seemed entirely reasonable.
It was not to be. The Traders’ meeting went on until 20:45 and sadly I have missed a Full Council meeting for the first time in seven years, probably a better record than any Councillor but disappointing none the less.
So what was so important about tonight’s Traders’ meeting that justified putting attendance at Full Council in jeopardy?
Both Greenwich and Bexley Councils had promised to send someone from their Anti-Social Behaviour teams to update the Traders on their plans to rid Abbey Wood and Wilton Road in particular of the street drinkers, drug dealers, public micturators, beggars, good time girls and miscellaneous loudmouths who plague the area.
Perceived ASB if not the real thing is driving people away from Abbey Wood’s village shopping area and trading conditions are becoming ever more perilous. The coming of Crossrail will not help if all that commuters want to do is get out of town quick!
Bexley’s ASB representative failed to show up which probably doesn’t matter a lot as the two Councils have been working closely together and will no doubt have the same message.
As you know I am not at liberty to go into any detail about a private meeting but I will say that I am very pessimistic about seeing an improvement any time soon.
The Councils have a few ideas which may over time make marginal improvements but their basic attitude is far too negative. Drinkers sitting on benches? Take the benches away.
Misbehaviour in the public toilets? Close the toilets - and they have.
Any chance they can install CCTV? No, we have no money. What if the traders install their own system? No, you are not allowed to record what goes on in a public space.
Over the past 18 months every promise to improve matters, whether it be by a Bexley Council official or, more often their opposite number in Greenwich, has come to absolutely nothing.
The only time any action was seen was after BiB broke ranks with the Traders’ official position and made a fuss both here and on Facebook.
I am confident that if BiB returns to this subject in a year’s time the story will be just the same.
Cabinet Member in the family that is.
Priti Patel has come off the payroll too. (Alex comes off the payroll.)
Will Alex be at this evening’s Full Council meeting? Could hardly blame him if he decides his priorities lie elsewhere.
I was labelled a misogynist by the local Labour party this morning. Following
last night’s blog they suggested I should encourage more females to be election candidates.
I responded with a list of female politicians who do not enjoy the best of reputations. For the record they were Teresa O’Neill, Theresa May, Priti Patel, Amber Rudd, Dianne Abbott, Emily Thornberry. Sharon Massey and Cheryl Bacon. The list used 139 characters which didn’t leave room for a smiley face but I judged it didn’t need one. Surely everyone would see it as a joke?
Not if you are a socialist apparently.
Few would disagree that in recent years Britain has become an extraordinary mess in practically every conceivable way and sinks further into the morass with each successive news bulletin but I see no lack of female leadership.
Prime Minister - Theresa May.
Home Secretary - Amber Rudd.
Leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party - Nicola Sturgeon.
Leader Democratic Unionist Party - Arlene Foster.
Leader Plaid Cymru - Leanne Wood.
Leader Green Party - Carolyn Lucas.
Leader Scottish Conservatives - Ruth Davidson.
Leader Scottish Labour - Position currently vacant but Kezia Dugdale until two months ago.
Leader of House of Commons - Andrea Leadsom.
Leader of House of Lords - Baroness Natalie Evans of Bowes Park.
Commissioner of Metropolitan Police - Cressida Dick.
Director of Public Prosecutions - Alison Saunders.
Leader of Bexley Council - Teresa O’Neill.
Leader of Greenwich Council - Denise Hyland.
I see no reason to suppose that female leadership is the answer to years of male failure. The only possible change might be a collective sense of humour failure.
is quite a lot of discontent with the performance of Councillors in and around
Abbey Wood. On the Greenwich side of the border the three Councillors are
severely criticised by everyone, on the Bexley side most people think there is
only one Councillor and that is Danny Hackett. Dig a bit deeper and you will find
he has his critics too.
It is not very surprising to find residents keen to find alternatives.
The idea has a certain amount of logic in Greenwich where a Labour Council is accused of neglecting its eastern outpost. The regeneration of Wilton Road achieved very little and was not finished off properly. The gravel strip, always an extremely stupid idea has been entirely kicked away. None of the trees were given any protection either with entirely predictable results.
On the Bexley side of the border we have seen how the minority party is sidelined by ruthless Conservative control, independent thought is simply not permitted by Leader Teresa O’Neill.
Every improvement to the borough’s North West corner has come from outside agencies, Peabody, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Network Rail and two of those are not universally popular.
I was asked to be an Independent candidate by the local organisers but declined. Too old and too cynical. I have seen first hand how Bexley Tories abuse opposition parties and have obliterated every UKIP initiative.
I also saw how much effort Mick Barnbrook put into Blackfen in 2014 with the intention of damaging Peter Craske’s ego. He failed thanks to the UKIP surge. As an Independent parish Councillor in Ramsgate he gets no support even for simple things like putting pictures of Councillors on their website and providing an ID card for when he visits electors.
The only thing that might send Bexley in a different direction next May is a big swing to Labour and In Greenwich the reverse would appear to be an impossibility.
Bexley Conservatives imposed a street cleaning budget cut.
It’s going to be impossible for me to get to next Wednesday’s Full Council meeting on time which means I will miss public questions.
A few years ago I would have been very disappointed by that. Five years ago people I knew would try hard to get the Council to accept a meaningful question but faced a barrage of rules designed to make things difficult and if possible rule them out of order. One was that anyone posing a question must agree to having their address published on Bexley Council’s web site. Fortunately the Information Commissioner had something to say about that.
If a question did get through the net it would face further obstacles, an answer to a different question might be given, it might become the subject of a filibuster or it could be timed out by slipping in questions from Tory supporters beforehand.
Gradually questions from members of the public diminished in number but next Wednesday we have one.
A Mr. Richard Diment has agreed to boost Councillor Craske’s ego by giving him an opportunity to brag about his new street cleaning machine.
Will the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Environment and Leisure, provide details of the action being taken to improve the public realm and cleanliness of the Borough?
So who is this Richard Diment drafted in to do a double act with Craske for the benefit of the webcast cameras?
One doesn’t have to look far to find his support for Bexley Tories. (Chris Taylor was defeated in Blackfen by UKIP, the other names are all current Councillors.)
Look a bit harder and you will find references to Richard Diment handing out political leaflets to commuters at railway stations. I doubt they were Labour leaflets.
So Bexley Conservatives, dishonest as ever, have fallen back on the old planted question technique to push their too frequently dishonest propaganda. Talking of which
As one might expect, questions must be addressed to a Cabinet Member and relevant to his or her portfolio. A question to the Leader on knee fondling or to Cabinet Member Craske on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals would quite rightly be rejected. Similarly a question about Mayor Sadiq Khan’s policies or maybe lack thereof would not be accepted.
I know enough of the system not to ask such a question and our Labour Councillors most certainly do. But maybe you didn’t know in which case the most recent of Bexley Conservatives’ dishonest tricks might go unchallenged.
Now that his colleagues seem to have persuaded Councillor Philip Read that blatantly lying on his Twitter account is counter-productive the Tories have had to become far more devious.
The Evening Standard carried an article in August attacking the London Mayor’s record on house building and Bexley’s propaganda machine went into overdrive, goading Labour Councillors for not asking questions about Khan’s failures at Wednesday’s Council meeting.
How could they? There is no responsible Cabinet Member in Bexley at whom to aim such a question.
The Tories own rules would have seen such a question thrown straight out, nevertheless they have managed to distort reality into a story they hope will influence the borough’s gullible.
Bexley Tories have upped their lying game again but we are not all as stupid as they think we are.
Note: Just ten more days to go.
If you are
looking for a lift at Abbey Wood station then I am afraid that Stannah are still
letting the side down, however maybe a caffeine injection will provide a different sort of lift.
The WH Smith Coffee Shop opened this morning behind the builder’s hoarding which they have not yet removed.
I was pleased and a little surprised to learn it will be a seven day a week operation, opening at 6 a.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. at the weekends.
Being from the generation that remembers when a Lyons Tea Shop charged 5½ old pence for coffee I think it is safe to say I might try it once and never again.
good luck or by cautious driving over the past 56 years, probably both, I’ve never yet made contact
with another vehicle, except someone once drove into my stationary car while distracted by
a friend waving from the footpath, however that record nearly came to a
sticky end four or five months ago.
Bexley Council rearranged the junction of New Road with Abbey Road quite a long time ago, maybe ten years. It is now more difficult to negotiate which is supposed to make it safer but it is still a little too like an acute Y junction than a T junction. Looking towards the right requires twisting one’s neck through more than 90 degrees. Maybe it was that which was nearly my downfall. Late at night I failed to see a black car approach on side lights only. I had pulled out only a couple of feet before seeing it and going no further. The oncoming driver was easily able to pass in front of me, a calamity averted but I am even more careful at the junction now.
This morning something similar must have happened and a motorcyclist came a cropper. I stayed a respectful distance away but as far as I could judge there were no serious injuries.
The ambulance and fire brigade turned up shortly afterwards but not the police while I was nearby. For reasons which made no sense the fire appliance which put sand over spilt oil, parked sideways on in the middle of the road such that cars could get down the hill but buses couldn’t.
You may have noticed that BiB took no interest in Sadiq Khan’s rather
ridiculous proposal to close Bexleyheath’s police station and thereby police the
town centre from a far flung outpost in Sidcup.
My rational thoughts were subdued by the knowledge that Bexleyheath police station is stuffed full of officers who when in possession of 100% good evidence and a fabrication by a Bexley Councillor will use the latter. (The Olly Cromwell case where a totally false allegation that he had Tweeted about dog faeces and letterboxes was sent to the CPS by officers who absolutely knew that the truth was somewhat different.)
Then there were the two trumped up harassment allegations against myself. The first believed to be engineered by Council Leader Teresa O’Neill for reporting on BiB what Hugh Neal, the well known Erith blogger, had written about her. I was threatened with arrest, Hugh heard nothing at all.
Then more recently the self-important Cabinet Member Don Massey persuaded an obedient police officer that my publication of a mess of unrecognisable pixels with no comment that breached that anonymity had somehow divulged all his daughter’s personal details. One expects dishonesty from Bexley Councillors, it is scandalous when police officers tread the same path.
So maybe you will understand why I didn’t add my name to the petition to save Bexleyheath police station. Moving it as far away from the Civic Offices as possible was not without its attractions.
In any case, no one takes any notice of petitions. Bexleyheath police station has been saved because the police themselves saw all too clearly the problems that would ensue. Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell summarised some of them when he addressed last month’s People Scrutiny meeting.
Despite all that, Bexley's Conservative Councillors are keen to take the credit for saving Bexleyheath police station. Twitter is awash with their wild claims
and maybe they have persuaded some people that they deserve all the credit.
While Bexley Conservatives were busy with their placards, their petitions and their propaganda what were Labour Councillors doing?
Were they in cahoots with the Labour Mayor? Were they marching on City Hall and organising publicity photos?
No, I am afraid they were not.
They were writing well reasoned letters and sending them to influential people. The Home Secretary and the Deputy Head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing (MOPAC) with attachments. (Click the links to read them.)
And finally there is the Bexley Labour welcome for the police station’s reprieve.
When you hear Bexley Conservatives taking all the credit and possibly claiming that Labour wanted to see the station closed you will hopefully know the truth.
There has been another email about
last week’s Transport Users’
Sub-Committee meeting and it prompts me to make an admission. Every Transport
meeting report on BiB, as far back as I can remember, has omitted mention of one topic. Cycling.
Bexley Council doesn’t allow any member of the public to speak at Council meetings. Their rules permit it but no Chairman has yet failed to exercise their prerogative to ban such questions and threaten eviction if the questioner persists.
Unless you are a cyclist at a Transport meeting.
Believe it or not a member of the public who is a keen cyclist is allowed to sit with the Committee and take part in the meeting pushing his pro-cycling Agenda.
Until a bus passenger, a rail commuter, a pedestrian and a motorist is afforded the same privilege he will get no publicity here. It is bad enough that TfL puts cycling above all other forms of transport without Bexley Council doing the same.
Now another biker has emailed me on the subject but not, I am pleased to say, for being censorious
It was pleasing to hear about the plans for more cycle stands and cycle training but are Councillors really interested?
I rode to the Civic Offices and used the cycle rack provided. My bike was very lonely.
Travelling home along Albion Road the absolutely crass Bashford approved cycle lanes were amply demonstrated. They simply disappear whenever they meet an awkward bit such as side roads or roundabouts just where a segregated route would be really appreciated. Straight bits are not the problem. When will road designers ever learn?
It might be appropriate to mention here that when I left the Civic Office in the dark I crossed the Watling Street safeguarded by the traffic lights and found myself with nowhere to go on the other side. I had to walk in the road a short distance to Gravel Hill where there was no approved pedestrian route to the traffic island in the middle of the road.
Having safely got that far there was an opening by the Marriott Hotel through which to get to the footpath, effectively replicating the Watling Street situation. It would be a silly bit of temporary road design by F.M. Conway for daytime use but at night one simply couldn’t see where free passage was blocked.
over two weeks ago Greenwich Council painted nice little back drops on a wall which were only likely to
attract the local graffiti artists of which there are many. (The wall is no more
than 50 metres from the Bexley borough boundary.)
Mr. Quinn who takes a keen and welcome interest in his local community went on Facebook to voice his disapproval. I cannot tell you exactly what he said because his comments are no longer showing on ‘What’s New in SE2’ - or maybe it is me being a Facebook incompetent again. (†) However what Kieran said was as measured as anyone could expect. I went further by suggesting that Greenwich Council’s actions were “moronic”.
Sure enough Kieran’s forecast has been fulfilled in the worst possible way beyond anything he may have imagined or deserves.
A quarter of a mile away Crossrail is taking no chances with their new train. Wikipedia says that the original contract for 66 class 345 trains was worth a billion pounds and four more have been ordered since then, so mounting a 24 hour guard against the Abbey Wood vandals is a very good decision but an appalling example of what Bexley Council has allowed to go wrong in the north of the borough.
One must hope that TfL is going to mount a 24 hour guard on their four external station lifts too. I fear the worst.
† The comments mysteriously reappeared on 4th November.
Last week’s Transport Users’ Committee meeting gave me no cause to be
critical but apparently my view is not universally held. One of the seven, I
think it was, members of the public present read
yesterday’s report and sent me a rather different opinion, an opinion which
will definitely find favour with my friends Mick and Elwyn. Both are far more
hard of hearing than I am and they have complained about the Council Chamber’s
poor acoustics and awful sound system many times, sometimes to the Equalities Commission.
My hearing is not too bad for an old ’un but I quite often give up on following a discussion because I cannot hear it clearly enough to be sure any following report will accurate. Some Councillors simply don’t know how to use a microphone and very often the public is made to sit well away from the aim of the directional speakers. Nobody at Bexley Council cares.
The BiB reader’s email is headed ‘Council crap audio arrangements’ which seems a fair enough description to me and it goes on to say
I’d not previously attended a Council meeting in the new offices but decided almost on a whim to pop in to the Transport Sub-Committee meeting, I will not be doing so again, not unless they dramatically improve the audio arrangements anyway.
All the Councillors have microphones but most do not use them correctly. One or two could be heard clearly but for the rest (including the Chair) it was impossible to follow what was being said. The same was true of the police’s audio/visual presentation.
Would it be too much to hope Bexley council might invest in some better audio equipment - microphones which hang around Councillors necks or clip to jacket lapels perhaps?
Their microphones look to be the same as those in use in the old Civic Offices’ Council Chamber. They were pretty useless there but they seem to have just been walked down the road. Spoiling the ship for halfpence of tar springs to mind in a brand new Council Chamber.
My correspondent should count himself lucky; the Transport meeting is small and the public has a reasonable view of every speaker and sits directly in front of the loudspeakers. He should try next week’s Council meeting where no member of the public sits in front of the loudspeakers, half the Councillors sit with their backs to the audience and they all have to stand up when speaking taking them a couple of feet away from the mic heads designed for close speaking.
It’s the way Bexley Council likes it, the less their squabbles are heard by the public the better it is for them.
I had given up on pressing the Wait button on the pedestrian lights outside
Sainsbury’s on Harrow Manorway, I’m not usually in too much of a hurry and TfL have twice confirmed that
lights change all by themselves without the need to press a button.
It may seem stupid but for TfL ‘Every Journey Matters’ unless you are trying to get in or out of Thamesmead in a hurry.
However yesterday it was all changed, traffic is brought to a standstill only if some nuisance of a pedestrian needs to cross the road.
The question is, should the lights be reported to TfL as faulty or should we leave well alone?
rather like this. It is among the comments on
the Diamond Geezer blog about the
opening of Abbey Wood station. The Geezer kindly provided a link to a couple of the Bonkers’
Crossrail photo diary pages.
(I suppose everyone knows by now that since yesterday it includes
pictures of the Crossrail train parked at Abbey Wood?)
Something, presumably that link, provided a nice little traffic boost on the 23rd October and for a couple of days from then. Every little helps.
Back to Bexley later but it seems to be another day full of meetings.