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Bonkers Blog February 2018

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Old Farm

21 February (Part 2) - You are amazing!

Today was almost completely wasted on mundane routine things. The car was booked in for the annual service and MOT. It has to go to Sidcup and the return journey and back again from Abbey Wood by train via the Sidcup loop wastes more than an hour each way.

The service timetable overran by quite a margin because there was not only the routine service but there were two recall jobs to do. I sat around waiting for ages and one of the recalls could not be done for highly technical reasons. There was too much fuel in the tank.

But enough of that, what is the news on you know what?

Quite a lot as it happens but nothing that I can broadcast to everyone. Those who have been with Bonkers for a long time and I know can be trusted have been fed a few tidbits.

There has been a good number of emails from well wishers and some of them contain reports and background information which may prove to be useful

A second class stamp brought forth a plain envelope containing four crisp tenners. How about that for generosity?

If this harassment business goes on beyond next Tuesday I probably will try one of the Crowd Funding sites. The cost of bringing you the truth about Bexley Council is already quite high.


21 February (Part 1) - Contact Us

For some light relief yesterday I thought I would modify a local company’s website as they requested some while ago. Unlike BiB it is mobile friendly!

While modifying their Contact Us page I realised that a mistake had crept into it and BiB’s too. I have no need to send myself messages so I had never noticed the change since the initial testing phase. It is fixed now.

Another thing that was not working for me was the facility to run an email client. The Contact page used to run Microsoft Outlook on my desktop computer but now it was running a web browser. When I checked on my laptop it correctly, from my point of view, ran Outlook .

It had to be a configuration issue and it was. If you are a Windows 10 user and find the BiB Contact page does not do what you would prefer, open up the Control Panel and go to Programs.

While that is open type ‘default’ into the search box on the Taskbar. It should pop up a menu. Select ‘Choose a default email application’. For me Microsoft Outlook was top of the list.

That was it. Everything back to how I like it.


20 February - Harassment, a minimal report

Normally Tuesday would be a relatively free day which would allow Bonkers to catch up on recent Council meetings but as always recently there are other things to do. Since Kent Police decided to charge me with harassing Councillor Fothergill for doing her the favour of virtually proving she was innocent of the Code of Conduct charge brought against her by Bexley Council no day has been anything like normal. She didn’t like the factual reporting of her lost libel case together with some of the documents shown to the Court either.

I have seen or spoken to three solicitors and one barrister in recent weeks. One of the solicitors is prepared to be my witness should the case go to trial and has already told the police that he believes they have themselves run foul of various laws.

The barrister suggested it might be wise to remove the blogs relating to the Code of Conduct issues and the Libel case and they now reside behind a password. It is frustrating to be unable to keep readers informed of developments but that is the way it has to be right now.

Street cleanerSo moving on to other things…

Councillor Craske is very proud of his new street cleaning machine which seems to be unable to venture far beyond Tory wards but it will take much more than a few whirring brushes to clean up Bexley.

Long term Bonkers’ supporter Michael Barnbrook has secured the agreement of the police to investigate potentially criminal activity by a Bexley Conservative Councillor. In view of recent events I had better not suggest who he might have in his sights. One harassment Charge is quite bad enough.

From a totally different source comes yet another case of a Bexley Conservative Councillor being up to no good together with what seems to me to be good evidence.

It has all gone off to the police requesting they take action. If they do I would guess that someone might be in very great trouble. We shall see, the Craske obscene blog case (still with the IPCC seven years later) showed that the police tend to find ways of letting Councillors off.

What did they do for him? Oh, yes I remember now, they convened a meeting aimed at “resolving Councillor Craske’s ongoing situation”.

Is there an honest policeman out there anywhere? Well there just may be. Support for me against Councillor Fothergill’s claim has come from an unlikely source, a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police who seems to know her better than I do.


19 February - Who’s the Troll?

Not much from me today, I have to go to the Headquarters Office of the National Union of Journalists this afternoon.

Daily MailLast Monday I spotted this in the Daily Mail. It reported that Katie Price’s son Harvey who is partially blind and autistic “suffers constant abuse on social media” but it is not illegal.

The former model and TV personality has launched a campaign to make it so and has been speaking to MPs about it.

Meanwhile here in Kent reporting truthfully is an offence warranting a day in Court.

Close supporters of Bonkers have today been sent an update on the situation. Interesting eh?


18 February (Part 2) - Wilton Road, Abbey Wood. A quiet backwater

Wilton RoadI used to take a close interest in the goings on in Wilton Road, the little shopping centre to the south of Abbey Wood station. Not so much these days but I can still be seen there at least twice a day - maybe only once on Sunday - and I know a good number of the shopkeepers by name.

Over the years I have seen the occasional incident I would rather not but I guess you would say the same about any urban shopping street. I’ve been asked for 20 pence occasionally and the price seems to have crept up to 50 pence. I have been approached once in the whole of this year and seen absolutely nothing untoward except that the road is frequently deserted.

I have never once felt unsafe although I accept that some of the black guys like to stand around talking and joking with a can of beer in their hand. One is my next door neighbour and he is a perfectly decent father of three.

There are probably drug users close by but I only once smelled cannabis. Itֹ’s just an urban backwater where traders struggle to attract passers’ by, especially since the new Crossrail station began to direct passengers in alternative directions. Until recently they all exited into Wilton Road.

So the shopkeepers could do without the Facebook wars which keep breaking out. Four times in the past fortnight massive slanging matches have broken out on Facebook between mostly female protagonists. Probably they have the best of intentions, some are very new to the area and because Wilton Road is not perfect they want to drive even more punters away.

According to them it is a den of iniquity with men leering, swearing, drinking, begging, spitting, urinating and getting a good seeing to in quiet corners by ladies of ill repute. All of that could be read on Facebook recently except that the Administrator deleted the main thread.

But there are others. Someone set up a surveymonkey full of leading questions encouraging adverse reports and by all accounts found a large proportion of visitors felt at least a little unsafe.

The object is to get the betting shops closed down because they attract undesirables. One is my Chinese friend who likes to while away his time on the horses.

If that fails they want to take away the convenience stores’ alcohol licences to stop them selling “strong beer”. But by agreement with both Councils they don’t sell strong beers. Perhaps Sainsbury’s does.

What is it with these people that they want to put honest people out of work? The betting shop managers quickly clamp down on any dubious behaviour and will occasionally call the police who turn up six hours later. That’s a fact, I have his accounts audio recorded.

Because the police haven’t seen much of a problem neither Council will be doing much about what doesn’t occur very often. Nothing is likely to happen. The Councils are in a near impossible situation caught between those who see little or no problem and those who claim the street is a no-go area.

Because the Councils have no money and do not see much of a problem - probably rightly - yet another Facebook thread has been created today. It is asking people to crowd fund private security patrols.

It is madness.

I no longer participate in the Facebook discussions, not that such a civilised word accurately describes what goes on there. Last week one of the prominent FB ladies warned those with alternative views strongly expressed that she would report them to the police for “Malicious communications” and claimed that the police had already told her that they would take such reports seriously.

More madness but in police state Britain I can believe that.


18 February (Part 1) - The Crossrail train is back

Class 345The Class 345 Crossrail train is back in Abbey Wood after an interval of nearly four months.

An email to Abbey Wood station staff says it will be shuffling back and forth to Whitechapel on test until June. It is being guarded day and night by Land Sheriffs Ltd.

Rather worrying is that Network Rail staff at the September Liaison Panel meeting expected that this testing stage would commence on 1st November last year but there have been power supply problems.

The gory details may be found at London Reconnections. (About six paragraphs down.)


17 February (Part 2) - The Big Stink returns

SewageEntirely by coincidence, Thames Water find themselves in the firing line twice in one day.

On 9th January Bonkers showed pictures of a sewer leak in Lower Belvedere which was causing a mess, a stink and a health hazard. The next day Bexley Council swung into action with a formal notice pinned to lamp posts and almost immediately the footpath was being dug up.

A pretty good show? Well maybe not quite.

The sewer is leaking again with a fine wet sediment lying over the footpath. I saw a lady with one of those tiny dogs let it walk through the puddle and then she picked it up half way through. That is how diseases spread.

Maybe Thames Water will get someone to do the job properly next time.
Sewage Sewage Sewage Sewage
All pictures taken this morning.


17 February (Part 1) - Thames Water Survey - What a waste of effort!

Everyone in Bexley has been affected by Thames Water works over the past year or so. If you have not been held up by their road works you would have been inconvenienced by their meter fitting programme. Many residents found themselves with water tanks filled with mud and silt.

I got off relatively lightly. They said they couldn’t fit a meter outside and there was not enough room by the internal stopcock, I was therefore put on a fixed tariff. Quite pleasing because it was less than half of what it was before.

LeakUnfortunately things didn’t stop there, Thames Water wanted to come inside to check I had no leaks and knew how to economise on water. Actually I already did, I had been to their Council presentations and I make some effort to use as little as possible to minimise salt consumption in the water softener.

Being a single occupier I can choose to do the evening washing up in a bowl along with the breakfast things in the morning. If I get up in the night I don’t have to flush the toilet until morning if I don’t want to; there is no one around to complain.

I think I washed my car once in the past twelve months and only with a couple of bucketfuls of water. Last year I didn’t have to water the garden at all.

Last week I let Thames Water do their survey. A lady found no leaks and fitted some sort of aerating device to all the taps. That was it. Then she got out her computer and asked a series of questions. Do I use a bath or a shower etc. and do I brush my teeth under a running tap? “No.”

Having been brought up in an age when a bath was a weekly event in a zinc plated tub in front of the fire, I do not take four a day as the lady said some people did and she could see by the tide mark around the bath that I fill it only one finger deep.

How often do I use the washing machine? Twice a week at the very most. How often to I boil a single cup of water in the kettle?

She pressed all the buttons on her tablet and announced that I used about 10% more water per day than the average person. What? Don’t wash car, combine washing up sessions, not watered the garden with a hose for a year or more and I use more than average.

I told the lady her survey must be rubbish and she pressed a few more buttons and now I used about 5% less than average, just like that! Proof if ever it was needed that the survey definitely is rubbish.

And what about these aerator things, what do they do? How do they save water, you are still going to fill the basin to the same level aren’t you?

Downstairs with decent water pressure they don’t make an awful lot of difference. Upstairs they have reduced flow to a trickle. If they are going to save water it is only because the basin or bath takes so long to fill that you give up and go dirty.

I have removed them obviously, so the Thames Water lady has achieved absolutely nothing.

If you are being pestered by Thames Water for a survey and you think you are already being as frugal as you can be, then just tell them to go away. The survey is a waste of everyone’s time.


15 February - Better late than never

You are going to have to get used to some days with short or inconsequential blogs, far too much time is being taken up with correspondence and meetings, there is another in SW1 tomorrow so let’s go with something quick and simple for today.

Fly tipperOn October 11th last year I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to Bexley Council (only my third one ever) which in effect asked them what they had done with my fly tipping report made a year earlier. At that time the Council said it would get back to me but they never did.

The same fate befell the FOI, beyond the almost automated acknowledgement I never heard another word, not even when I sent a reminder. A complaint went off to the Information Commissioner. He wrote to me yesterday to say he had kicked Bexley Council in appropriate places.

To be fair to our less than transparent Bexley they actually beat the Commissioner to it and sent their answers a day earlier. It makes for quite interesting reading and it will be brought to you in more detail as soon as possible. If nothing else it shows that fly tippers can be more than that, some are serial criminals.

Take a look at the picture; does it or does it not show a man taking rubbish from his truck and putting it directly into a Bexley Council’s recycling bin. If the photo doesn’t the video most certainly did.

I think that is going to become very relevant to the forthcoming more detailed report.

Meanwhile I am going to crawl away and doze in an armchair.


14 February - Nothing to see here

Some people expect to see something here every day but it is not always possible.

Today will be entirely taken up by attending to the needs of my near 98 year old aunt who, according to a hospital endocrinologist, has been mentally damaged by poor prescribing. She was also totally neglected by her GP, she just wouldn’t come out to visit.

It is likely that the mistakes and lack of medical care will be prove to be very expensive.

The plan was of course to write something for today yesterday but a repairman who was due with me on Thursday asked if he could fill in a cancellation by coming yesterday. That took until nearly one o’clock. The afternoon went on obtaining more legal advice and by the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything. Didn’t even get to the Places Scrutiny meeting but recorded the webcast from home so no doubt some sort of report will appear eventually.

I think there may be more days like this over the next couple of weeks.


13 February - Bexley. A Council built on lies and deceptions

TweetBexley is not the worst run Council in London, not by a long way. It is not a Labour Tower Hamlets nor is it a Conservative Kensington and Chelsea.

But they lie. Constantly. Why?

When they put out propaganda on Twitter it is nearly always a lie and alongside is a prime example.

According to Bexley Conservatives they monitor their CCTV system.

They monitor the CCTV? Oh yeah!

In 2015 they conducted one of their sham consultations about stopping the active monitoring of CCTV. The consultation has long since been removed from Bexley’s website but the blog remains. It says they would save £225,000 a year by abandoning system monitoring.

Six months earlier Councillor Alan Downing, a former police officer, had asked the Borough Commander what use the CCTV system was. CS Ayling said it was the primary measure for catching offenders. Nevertheless, Bexley Council went on to close the system down.

The following October the Borough Commander said he could not monitor from the police station.

By July 2016 all the CCTV staff had been made redundant.

In April last year following the Northumberland Heath riot, Councillor Joe Ferreira asked whether saving the £225,000 had been worth it. Councillor Craske said the riot was picked up on CCTV right from the outset. Really? That was lucky with no one to keep watch, they will have looked at the recorded files after the event.

Cabinet Member Craske said that the Borough Commander confirmed at a Scrutiny meeting that the beginnings of the riot in Bexleyheath were picked up on CCTV. I have checked the recording. He did not, he said it was picked up on Social Media. Yet another Bexley Council lie.

Last week Deputy Director Toni Ainge confirmed that it was maintained but not monitored.

Why can’t Bexley’s Cabinet and Comms Team tell the truth, especially when it is so easy to discover?


12 February (Part 2) - People Plans and Praise

Councillor James Hunt’s People Overview and Scrutiny meeting can be interesting because one often hears reports from the police about the soaring rates of crime and the medics telling their sometimes dismal stories. Last time it was failures by the Stroke Services and in the past we have heard how some of Bexley’s health statistics are among the worst in the country; HIV rates have been particularly bad.

The Clinical Commissioning Group’s report for 2016/17 conveniently omits mentioning HIV rates. Every statistic chosen for inclusion in that report shows Bexley to be better than the London or UK averages.

Unfortunately neither the police nor CCG staff were invited to last week’s meeting and as a result there was no particular highlight. With luck this report will be brief.
Unlike at Resources two days later where it was said that the Agenda must include Cabinet papers, Councillor Hunt made sure right from the start that “everybody has brought their Cabinet papers with them”.

The Finance man reported that this year the budget was running pretty much on track and “there are positive things for next year but the medium term remains challenging”.

Councillor Borella’s (Labour, North End) interest was Social Care which has a total budget of £50 million this year with no significant increase over the next three years.

SmithCabinet Member for Adult Services, Brad Smith, said “you don’t just get a better service by spending more money, you make a better service that costs less”.

Bryce-SmithDeputy Director of Housing etc. David Bryce-Smith said that “homelessness was a challenge for the borough but he was also doing a lot of work on those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Identifying people in private accommodation whose housing benefit does not cover the cost. Seeing what we can do to assist those people proactively. There is a lot more work to do.”

Mr. Bryce-Smith has increased his house purchase spree to 200 properties. He was considering leasing them to “another organisation”.

Mr. Rowbottom, Deputy Director of Adult Social Care,  had been speaking to Peabody “and they are very keen to talk to us about how they can help [with care services] not just for older people but for supported housing for working age people with disabilities. Hundreds of units over some years”.

Councillor Langstead (Labour, North End) queried the £225,000 expenditure on CCTV which is no longer monitored. She was told it was the maintenance cost.

DowningVice-Chairman Councillor Alan Downing said he was very impressed by the Financial Plans and any Council in London that can present a budget like this year on year like Bexley should be very very proud. To come up with a budget [correct] almost to the penny and at the same time the services have been running hard and even improved in lots of circumstances and has even put money into reserve really should step back and pat themselves on the back”.

“The two big points are housing and homelessness, it is a serious serious business and I am just hoping that all the work we have done so far…” and then he wandered off on a tangent about the academy for social work but when he came back said “in all honesty this is a marvellous budget and I am very pleased with it.”

I can hear the various park saving groups asking why if things are that good were four parks sold off?

Twelve years on from the 2006’s Labour administration Tories still bring up their 40% tax increase - which was never handed back so presumably it was justified - and in twelve years time you will still hear the cry of Save Old Farm Park etc. It will be the Tories’ epitaph with only an octogenarian Councillor Slaughter being able to hold her head high.

On the subject of the Social Care Academy for children introduced by his colleague Philip Read, Brad Smith said he was planning the equivalent for Adults’ Services.

The discussion on finance was concluded and so is this report before my eyes totally close up.


12 February (Part 1) - What’s the point of the trial Chariot service?

Chariot ChariotThe young man handing out Nuxley Navigator cards at Abbey Wood Station this morning said that the trial service will end next Friday. They didn’t give it much time for the word to get around did they?

I would be surprised if the trial did well because until Crossrail services commence there is nothing to attract Erith and Belvedere commuters to Abbey Wood.

Carlton Road people can take a short walk to Erith Station and those living around the Nuxley Road stop in Belvedere will walk down the hill to Belvedere Station.

What is the point of changing the habit of a life time to pick up the same train in Abbey Wood or more than likely a later one?

It is not as though the coffee at W.H. Smith (Abbey Wood) is anything to write home about.


11 February (Part 2) - Resources Report - The Twittery bits

O'HareBexley Council has been reviewing its communications policies, in particular those relating to the digital age. I attended the first meeting of its Sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Nick O’Hare. Last Thursday he provided the Resources Scrutiny Committee with a progress report.

Councillor O’Hare said he was happy to see the numbers of residents who now engage with the Council electronically. “I am very very pleased with this report.”

Councillor Danny Hackett asked if there was any data relating to “interactions on social media platforms and how many are positive and how many are negative. Are we tracking something like that?”.

No one present knew the answer to that question but the responsible Councillor officer Nick Hollier said “where adverse comments or complaints are made through those channels they are picked up and fed into the system and addressed. Tracking all the interactions would be quite a task”.

HackettCouncillor Hackett said there are effective tools available for tracking. He was critical of the frequent referrals to on-line forms. “Residents may take a quick picture of fly-tipping and upload it to Twitter while walking down the street and that is the end of their involvement. What they do not want to do is follow links to a web form and be bothered by follow up email.”

Cabinet Member Massey said that problems arise when a resident is insufficiently precise with the location.

Councillor Howard Marriner said that his electors had reported at his ward forum meeting that they have to pay in cash at libraries for things like the Garden Waste Service. He was assured that “every sort of payment would become accessible as soon as possible.

Councillor John Husband asked what had become of the Member’s Portal on the Council website. Mr. Hollier said it had only been looked at six times in a year but he recognised that “a more efficient resource for Members was required”.

Councillor Leaf admitted that he had not found any need to use the portal in at least two years. He appeared to agree with Councillor Hackett when he said that uploading to Twitter was quicker and easier than navigating through a website which can “be challenging”.

He went on to mention the Council’s email archives, residents bring up subjects and refer to previous correspondence and it is no longer easily searchable. The same sort of thing can happen in correspondence with Council officers.

Cabinet Member Massey referred to “Terrabytes of data which is never looked at again” and spoke of “getting the right balance”.

Mr. Hollier helpfully added that there are “currently ninety odd million items stored in the vault”. Much to my surprise he admitted that “the new website isn’t the easiest thing for residents to do transactions on. There are some areas which are good but others where it is perhaps more clunky”.

Improvement “is an on-going project”.

SlaughterCouncillor Slaughter also had problems with the Members’ Portal and made a plea for consultation “at an early stage”, the old one was neither “easy to use or contained anything really useful”

FrenchAs can be seen in the adjacent photograph sitting immediately behind Councillor Slaughter was Councillor Louie French and I became aware that he was fiddling with his mobile phone.

He complained of people “not acting properly on Social Media quite a lot” and then referred to a Tweet sent by Councillor Hackett while the meeting was in progress. It was, he said, “complete garbage” and proceeded to read it out.

It said something about the Tories being critical of Council officers. It was fleeting and I did not consider it worthy of a report here but Councillor French was clearly upset by it.

Cabinet Member Massey said “It is really really sad that he (Councillor Hackett) should spend time on Social Media rather than listening to the Committee. I am a fan of Social Media it has a great place in society and in business, sadly there are a few people who abuse it and make it bad and it is quite honestly pathetic”.

The Chairman Councillor Hall reminded Members that “if they can pay more attention to the meeting rather than playing with mobile technology it would be great”.

The irony that was missed by everyone was that Danny Hackett sent what may well have been a misjudged Tweet from his Council tablet while Councillor French picked it up on his mobile, a personal one because Bexley Council does not issue such things itself. Who was unnecessarily playing with mobile technology?


11 February (Part 1) - The Crossrail update

Bonkers used to do a fortnightly pictorial update on the progress made towards providing a new train service from Abbey Wood next December but by the end of 2017 with the major infrastructure completed the interval was stretched to a month. Just recently there has been very little new to see, hence waiting two months to see if anything significant happened. It didn’t.

Crossrail CrossrailThe Felixstowe Road lifts have been just a couple of weeks away from commissioning from soon after the station opened on 22nd October 2017. And still they are closed.

The barriers around them are changed periodically, sometimes it’s plastic barriers, at other times it is yellow hinged metal screens and right now it is an ugly corrugated metal shroud as can be seen in Photo 1.

The lack of lifts is inconvenient for the many but all around there are major problems for the few.

Photo 2 attempts to show what one business has right on their doorstep. A deep trench crudely barricaded off within a couple of feet of their property’s closest wall. The proximity is not shown because of security concerns. One cannot safely show exactly where someone’s rear doors and windows are but be assured the picture is cropped right up to the brick wall.

The situation is not only dangerous but it prevents the property owners going about their normal and essential business.

I watched yesterday as they attempted to get help from Network Rail. None was forthcoming. Photo 2 was taken today.

161 new Crossrail pictures show that nothing very obvious has been achieved over the past couple of months. The Harrow Manorway approach has slowly progressed but the only other thing you will notice apart from the varying lift barriers is that the stair handrails have all been on, off and on again more than once. I can see it must be difficult to get all the angles right but with all the equipment Network Rail has you would think they might have made a better job of it.


10 February (Part 2) - From the post bag

Nothing too serious to begin with; probably we need some light relief.

Bexley Action Group
Four years ago Michael Barnbrook and his friends set out to defeat Councillor Craske at the 2014 election. They just failed thanks to the UKIP surge and Councillor Chris Taylor lost his seat instead. Serves him right for having a surname beginning with T instead of one at the top end of the alphabet.

Mick campaigned under the name Bexley Action Group with leaflets, brochures and website to match.

Today someone emailed to say that the name Bexley Action Group is copyrighted. A bit late in the day for such a claim is it not? What can I do about it four years later, especially as the message came via BiB’s anonymous Contact system?


I suppose there could be some truth in that.

Yet another email demands that I “send a copy of the statutory regulations which the police claim you have breached and a copy of the Court summons”.

Well if only I knew! I haven’t a clue what regulations I may have breached but it is all academic anyway. How can I send anything to someone who has used the anonymous Contact facility? It is genuinely anonymous. No names, no return email address, no accessible data trail.

Someone who is not anonymous to me, he gives his name and address, but asks that he remains anonymous to you tells me he is in trouble with the law too.

Like me with the libel case he stuck absolutely to the truth in one short blog. He was accused of harassment and when he was eventually told what he had done it transpired that no one disputed his truthfulness, the problem was that the truth had “upset” just one person.

The police eventually abandoned the case against him but if he upset anyone again he would be charged. Surely they must have been bluffing.

And which Police Farce would this be? Why Kent of course.


10 February (Part 1) - Resources Report - Money talk

I took myself along to last Thursday’s Resources Overview and Scrutiny meeting and it was definitely the place to go if you wanted to witness Bexley Council imposing massive inconvenience on its citizens. Outside the Civic Offices the scene was one of total gridlock around the two new roundabouts. I tried hard to get photos of the work going on but in the main the view was blocked by crawling and stationary traffic.

Gravel Hill Gravel HillIn the best traditions of Bexley’s road planning a pedestrian controlled traffic light had been placed at an exit from the roundabout causing it to be blocked from all directions. Andrew Bashford at his very best.

Inside the Chamber things were very different, three Conservative Councillors and a couple from Labour all very friendly and welcoming and Chairman Steven Hall did his usual efficient, if somewhat inflexible, job from the top table.

Steven is backed by two Vice-Chairmen on a generous and probably unnecessary £3,000 a year. They are Councillors Andy Dourmoush and Maxine Fothergill but on this occasion one was missing.

Chair and Vice ChairCouncillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was first to speak and asked why it was that the Council went to the expense of reprinting Cabinet papers within the Scrutiny Agenda when they were easily available elsewhere.

I have commented before that it make things difficult for a member of the public who has dropped into just one Scrutiny meeting, the Agenda would become difficult to follow. However I have come around to the view that such a thing never happens and I am the only person who bothers to attend, in which case Councillor Slaughter probably has a valid point. However she was told that it is a statutory requirement. It’s only taxpayers’ money so who cares?

Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falcon Wood & Welling) spent quite some time thanking finance officers for doing their job and putting Bexley into what he thought was one of the best positions in London, however he was concerned about a £400,000 overspend. Unfortunately he failed to reference the Agenda page number and I spent far too much time hunting down what he was talking about and thereby missed his point.

The finance officer explained that whatever it was was a one-off contingency transfer and did not seem too concerned about it. I suspect she is right, the finance officers usually are.

HackettCouncillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) referred to the savings in Committee Services which will flow from the forthcoming reduction in Councillor numbers. How much comes from each? No one had the figures to hand but the total might reach £400,000.

Councillor Colin Tandy wanted to chip in that the ‘Financial Plans and Draft Budget’ was “an extremely good piece of work, an excellent piece of work, that shows that this Council is in control”. He did not have a question.

Leaf HusbandCouncillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) said something with which I can entirely agree. “Don’t talk down our economy” he said. He too thought Bexley was now in a very good place financially.

I was also right behind Councillor Leaf when he said we had a Mayor of London “who wants to whack the Council Tax up as high as possible following his mismanagement of resources. One again residents foot the bill for mistakes and poor financial practices”.

Councillor John Husband (Labour, Lesnes Abbey), quoting from some report or other on the UK’s financial future said the “possibility of a recession is high”. Various voices said that a different view could be found in different newspapers. Finance Cabinet Member Don Massey said that “journalist will talk about what they want” - as long as it is not about a libel case lost by a Bexley Councillor presumably.

Councillor Tandy (Conservative, St. Mary’s) wanted to comment too but the Chairman interrupted him. He tried again but was quickly slapped down, rather rudely I thought.

French O'HareMoving on to Treasury Management, Councillor French returned to his previous theme, “applauding” officers for their decisions. He also had a question about interest rates following the Bank of England’s announcement earlier in the day. He was told that the Council borrows at about 3% and it has long term investments.

Like me Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) wondered if that was good when interest rates might be rising. Bexley Council has never pursued any risky investments, he was told, Icelandic banks etc. and a finance officer said it was “not locked in” and had “flexibility“.

Neither he nor the Cabinet Member showed any concern. The consensus is that they steered the borough through difficult times in the past, they expect to do so in the future.

Councillor Leaf asked about “Capita resilience” following the company’s profits warning. Again no one was particularly concerned. A finance officer said Capita had “prompted us to make sure we are happy and look at them in detail and that is an ongoing process”.

Cabinet Member Massey said the Capita contract was due for renewal in 2019, “probably the timing is right for us”. He had heard stories about Capita “a couple of weeks before it hit the news”.

Outside the meeting Cabinet Member Massey has said that he “has no immediate concerns” and is “prepared to respond to any possible supplier failure”. What else could someone locked into a contract reasonably do?

Dourmoush DeadmanCouncillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) asked if contract penalty clauses were properly enforced. Things like jobs that are not finished on time.

The answer was long and rambling which raised suspicions and Councillor Dourmoush came back, asking his question more forcefully - and louder! He was concerned about taxpayers’ money. He then got some sort of assurance. The penalties are “applied rigorously”. Why couldn’t they have said that in the first place?

Councillor Deadman (Labour, North End) asked what many residents would want to ask, “who checks up on whether works are done properly or not?” He quoted examples of jobs that clearly had not been done properly.

After a long delay the Council officers said it wasn’t them, it must be someone else.

The meeting went on for another 20 minutes but that was the end of financial matters, the rest can wait for another time.


9 February (Part 2) - Harrow Manorway regeneration

Bexley Council has been busy Tweeting pictures today of its regeneration projects in Harrow Manorway.

As usual BiB has many more pictures of the developments being made in connection with the Crossrail project.

Click either image below to go to the appropriate Photo feature.
There are also Photo features in development of Peabody demolition projects in the same area.
The Harrow Inn. (In reverse chronological sequence.)
The Barge Pole. (In reverse chronological sequence.)


9 February (Part 1) - Sweet Chariot?

Bexley 853 reported yesterday on Greenwich transport issues and it’s worth a read even if you are a Bexley resident. It seems that in Greenwich representatives of Crossrail, Network Rail and Southeastern attended their Council’s transport meeting which is in stark contrast to Bexley’s meeting where Network Rail may show up once in a while but the others have absented themselves for more than a year. Bexley’s meetings are approximately quarterly whereas in Greenwich they are once a year.

Interest by the public is similar though, only one person showed up in Greenwich and it’s the same in Bexley.

The 853 report is of general interest because of its news of the Woolwich Ferry and its impending closure.

Affecting Bexley is the suggestion that Southeastern trains coming from Dartford would likely empty at Abbey Wood for Crossrail which means any capacity problem closer to London would disappear. We shall see.

The Crossrail rep. said that Abbey Wood will have a train every four minutes instead of five for its first six months of operation, if of course it opens on time. RAIL NEWS is suggesting it might not.

Meanwhile the Nuxley Navigator seems not to have started operation yet, at least that is what the young fellow who gave me this card on Wednesday said.


8 February (Part 3) - Gravel Hill

Yet another Press Release from Bexley Council. It’s all change on Gravel Hill and there are to be more night closures.

I do wonder if the roundabout design is right. I drove up Gravel Hill towards Erith Road a couple of nights ago and as I carefully stayed in lane at the Watling Street junction, another car, a large white SUV, also heading for Erith Road managed to overtake me on the roundabout. Must have saved him all of half a second.

Gravel Hill Gravel Hill Gravel Hill Gravel Hill
Maps are linked from the Press Release.


8 February (Part 2) - No more Barge Pole

Barge PoleThe Agenda for next week’s Places Scrutiny meeting reveals that Peabody has purchased Thamesmead’s Barge Pole pub (I’ve never been in it) and the old Thresher’s off-licence next door to the long demolished Harrow Inn (I never went inside it) and both are to be fast-tracked to demolition.

Did I say fast tracked? I’ve not seen Peabody do anything fast since taking over from their Gallions predecessor.

While I was otherwise occupied the excellent fromthemurkydepths put out yet another of its reports complete with a photo borrowed from Bonkers. I will try to get a better one later today.


8 February (Part 1) - Smokefree Bexley

Bexley Council has revised its Smoke Free Bexley Press Release. The difference would appear to be that there will be people out in the Broadway carrying out surveys.

If the feedback to me and the comments on the News Shopper's website are an accurate indicator I am the only Bexley resident who might welcome a ban on smoking and vaping in Bexleyheath’s Broadway. It’s an attack on freedom and the Council should have better things to do is a widespread opinion. I suppose there is some truth in that.


7 February - The W1 address sounds expensive to me

Nothing today, I am off to see a solicitor. Need to find out if writing a favourable series of blogs which at the time satisfied the subject can retrospectively become harassment.

Also if saying that committing libel is a silly thing to do and that it is nasty to make a false allegation resulting in an eleven month arrest is sufficiently derogatory to deserve a possible six month prison sentence.

Kent Police think it could be.

Still not found the threat that is bundled into the Charge.

That’s it really. See you tomorrow.


6 February - The police everywhere appear to be off their heads

TelegraphNot only is a man on the South coast being considered for prosecution because he accurately reported that a local community group was claiming to be a registered charity when they weren’t but in Suffolk the police have been knocking on the doors of two residents who had the temerity to criticise their local Hadleigh Town Council. (Click image for the Telegraph’s report.)

That is pretty much identical to what happened to me in 2011. I was threatened in writing with arrest if I continued to criticise Bexley Councillors. Just what is this country coming to when the police can knock on doors for no lawful reason while ignoring a multitude of crimes they judge to be of no consequence?

The on-line Daily Mail carried the same story.

Former Town Councillor Tony Boxford, one of the two people said to have been threatened by the out of control Suffolk Police Force, said the officers had no idea why they were at his door.

I can tell him; it will be the same as happened in Bexley. Someone senior in the Council told the police what they had to do. The police probably knew they were on shaky ground but it would be more than their jobs are worth to admit the truth, so they plead ignorance when asked why they are doing it.

PanelMr. Boxford has said he will report the incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and so he should.

I did the same and they jumped on Bexley police pretty hard. Told them they must withdraw the threat and apologise. The threat was withdrawn but I have no recollection of receiving an apology.


5 February - It’s unhealthy and it stinks

There have been several brief references on Bonkers to my dislike of smoking. My father created brown patches on the ceiling above his favourite armchair and was dead by 68. It’s unhealthy and it stinks.

Having nailed my colours to the mast several times I can only applaud Bexley Council’s initiative for Broadway. They plan to ban smoking during shopping hours for six months. They seem to be doing an alarming number of things right recently.

The News Shopper has a report. The council has a survey for you to complete.

When the Labour government introduced its smoking ban in 2007 I thought that they got things entirely back to front. Smoke free restaurants and pubs with smoke free areas were already becoming quite common. With only 16% of the population being smokers (now down to 12·5% in Bexley) market forces would soon have done its job, but outside in the street you cannot get away from it. Slow down, cross the road, run to get in front of the smell are the only remedies.

A ban is well overdue, all shopping areas and parks next please.

Council Press Release


4 February - Crossrail. A pessimist’s view

Over the past fifteen months, the period during which Abbey Wood’s new station has taken real shape, I have gradually come to dislike it and what it is doing to the area where I have lived for 31 years.

Except when viewed from the flyover the station is ugly, I have heard the station staff refer to it as “the prison”, not a reflection on what it is like to work there but what it looks like from the north and the south.

Crossrail CrossrailThe wooden cladding is a lot less stylish than was shown on the artists’ impressions and we have lost the wide open concourse; an anti-terrorist measure presumably, but it does nothing for the aesthetics.

In only nine month’s time, Balfour Beatty strikes permitting, we are going to have a train into the centre of London every five minutes which has to be good, at least when viewed in isolation. I may use it occasionally when I go to Wiltshire. I have become fed up with having to allow an hour and a half to get to Paddington and queue for a ticket.

The fact that the value of my house has increased by 50% over the past couple of years after stagnating for most of the millennium is good only because it will allow me to sell up and get out of Bexley. It will do nothing to help young people on to the housing ladder. I fail to see any more Crossrail positives that benefit long term residents.

Far from Crossrail being, according to both Councils, “a goldmine” for local businesses, it simply isn’t. Local shops which suffered dreadfully (around five closed down in Felixstowe Road) while Crossrail works were in progress are now suffering even more. Wilton Road has become a dead zone since commuters found more convenient routes out of the station. One shop has closed, two are for sale and a fourth may change hands, possibly taken over by a chain.

CrossrailTraffic congestion can only become worse. There will be very little space for passengers to be dropped off and collected by car and the Felixstowe Road car park closed in 2013 is earmarked for alternative uses.

Bexley Council has twice announced at public meetings that it expects to quadruple the size of its Controlled Parking Zone in the year following the introduction of Crossrail services. I will have yellow lines in front of my house, which may not be an entirely bad thing for me, but then my drive is big enough to take four cars easily.

Waiting times near the station will be reduced from an hour to 30 or even 20 minutes according to Council informers.

There will be more buses on the narrowed flyover and the new 301 will run to Bexleyheath from 8th December. However it will not provide the fast and direct service which Abbey Wood has lacked for ever. It will double back on itself at the foot of Knee Hill and take a meandering route along Abbey Road, New Road and Woolwich Road wasting five minutes in the process. Almost needless to say, all Bexley Council’s fault.

The area will change beyond all recognition, inexpensive family homes swapped for flats marketed primarily in Hong Kong.

If you are one of those newcomers rushing into London every day Crossrail will undoubtedly be a good thing but established residents will see that and balance it against the negatives.

A few people lost their homes completely and some had their gardens cut down to about six feet. (Chantry Close.)

Loads had their gardens trimmed, lost their sheds and in some cases all their privacy. You cannot make an omelette without smashing a few eggs obviously and that may well be regarded as unfortunate but absolutely necessary but that isn't true for everything.

I attended every single one of the Crossrail Abbey Wood Liaison Panel meetings and my file of old Agendas, Minutes and Moving Ahead leaflets is more than two inches thick.

At the first of those meetings in December 2014 a lot of residents, all elderly ones it has to be said, but they are the only people who were taking an interest at the time, said that if Network Rail wasn’t careful they would disturb a lot of old water courses and cause the area to flood. “Oh no it wouldn’t” said Network Rail; Greenwich Council and the Environment Agency has said everything will be fine.

And who was right?
The old timers who had lived here all their lives of course.

The scene shown above has been pretty much a constant feature for dozens of residents over the past twelve months and more. Cellars flooded, mould up walls, bad smells and children confined indoors.

It wouldn’t be true to say that officialdom is not concerned about it at all, various remedies have been dreamed up and in some cases abandoned as ineffective or perhaps too expensive.

DrainThe most effective might be a huge underground pipe to feed into the station drainage system which is pretty extensive but to do that properly means moving the railway fence, rearranging a whole load of electrical cables and making room for a pipe next to the track. Not cheap!

Many of the residents are so desperate to see dry land again that they are willing to see their gardens dug up, their replacement sheds destroyed and a pipe installed beneath their own land, but who will pay to fix it when it silts up in 20 years time? Both Greenwich Council and Network Rail are saying “not us”.

So it’s a disgraceful impasse and dozens of householders along a 350 metre stretch of road are suffering intolerably while bureaucrats squabble and nothing tangible gets done.

Flood Flood Flood Flood
Who is going to help them? Not their local Councillors apparently one of whom is the Leader of Greenwich Council.

Note: Flooding pictures from the Greenwich side of the borough boundary.


3 February - The Sleazebuster is back

SleazebusterA small number of people have enquired how Mick Barnbrook, who tags himself Sleazebuster on Twitter, is getting on following his heart attack. It is good to be able to report that no permanent damage has been done and he will be able to continue with his life in much the same old way - but perhaps a little more slowly.

Another indication that all is well with Mick is that he has resumed his war on political wrong doing. He had a hand in bringing down nearly a score of MPs during the expenses scandal and his complaints were directly responsible for putting a couple in prison. More recently Mick was the principal complainer against his own MP, Craig Mackinlay, who may be in trouble over election expenses.

Mick was proud to have entertained the Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick at his home and given a short spot on his TV show. Mick also enjoyed opening his door to Craig Mackinlay when he was out canvassing.

Mick is definitely back to normal. This week he sent another letter to a senior police officer accusing a politician of some obscure offences against the Perjury Act. It is no sillier a hobby than political blogging.


2 February - Belvedere’s bomb site

TweetI have clear memories of scrambling over East London bomb sites in the late 1940s, quite how young boys survived some of the foolhardy antics, all unsupervised of course, I am not quite sure. Looking back some of them still seem scary.

Yesterday a Tweet encouraged me to relive that experience. Take a look at the Olde Leather Bottle site it said, and what a dump it is.

Why does Bexley Council allow it?

Ever since the site of Bexley’s oldest pub was excavated and later demolished while the Planning Department was looking the other way Bexley Council has behaved shamefully.

When the Health & Safety Executive took an interest in the unsafe demolition practices Bexley Council refused their co-operation. I was invited to the H&SE Head Office for interview and to certify the dates of my photographs. I was not alone in being called there but there has been no evidence of a prosecution.

Locally there were stories of rather tenuous links between the developers and Bexley Council. Whether true or not the current situation is a pretty good indication of how little Bexley Council cares about the environment and the safety of its residents.

Their priorities right now are entirely concentrated on maintaining their vote in the Southern wards.

Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site
Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle site


1 February - Kent Police prosecute



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