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Bonkers Blog October 2018

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31 October - 55 days to Christmas

Craft MarketOn the last day of the month it is traditional to not put much effort into a blog which will disappear from the popular Month view the very next day so here's a gentle reminder that the Abbey Wood Village Food & Craft Market returns on 24th November, this time with a Christmas theme.

Thanks to a welcome intervention from Teresa Pearce MP and the Mayor of Greenwich there will be a small number of stalls out on Wilton Road. No excuse this time that people approaching from Knee Hill have no idea that there was a thriving Market in the pub car park.

There will be another Market next year as long as the pub car park remains available, and assurance have been given that it will be.

Click image for more details.

 

30 October - When improved accident statistics might not be especially good

The Transport Users’ Sub-Committee met last week and subjects up for discussion included accident statistics, police matters, bus and train news and cycling.

Additional comments came from the Youth Council which reported that “aggressive elderly people were grabbing them and pulling them back before they can get on the bus”. Maybe that is true of route 269 which generated most complaints but it is the exact opposite of what I experience on the DLR from West Ham to Woolwich Arsenal around four o’clock in the afternoon.

Road accidents are compared with the average of 2005 to 2009 and by that yardstick things have definitely got better, but less so in recent years. If one compares 2017 with 2016 as the Committee was asked to do, only eleven London Boroughs have improved their Killed and Seriously Injured statistics. Fortunately Bexley is one of those eleven. Changes in the way statistics are gathered make comparisons difficult but estimates are that Bexley saw a 23% reduction in KSIs in 2017, beaten only by Havering. Greenwich is within a whisker of being bottom of the list with a 28% increase in KSIs.

Newham is pretty bad too, 20% worse and I am not in the least bit surprised. Its residents use their horns more often than brakes or mirrors and I am beginning to dread having to drive there every couple of weeks. When a Conservative delegate to Shaun Bailey’s ‘Manifesto for London’ described Thamesmead as a ***hole earlier this month he was aiming at the wrong side of the river.

Bellegrove RoadSome cleverly constructed graphs reproduced in the Agenda demonstrated that 2016 was a particularly bad year for Bexley so maybe the 23% reduction in 2017 is not quite as good as it would appear to be.

The associated photograph from last weekend suggests that things might be better if Bexley employed someone who knew how to design a road. The pictured Keep Left in Bellegrove Road, Welling has been toppled three times in the past six weeks. 1st October 2018 and 18th September.

On the buses the performance of routes 89 and 229 was said to have improved but the B14 to Orpington was severely criticised. It should run every half hour which is bad enough but too often it is late or misses a service altogether. The bus operator said that TfL has not authorised sufficient buses to run an acceptable service.

Despite the delay to Crossrail TfL is considering going ahead with some of the changes originally scheduled for 9th December 2018 as “they may be beneficial in dealing with other existing bus issues”.

SouthEastern confirmed that it has been running its ridiculous Leaf Fall Timetable although thanks to my train running through Plumstead non-stop yesterday it arrived at Woolwich Arsenal two minutes early allowing plenty of time to make the DLR connection to West Ham which is normally a close run thing.

Just a few days before the Transport meeting was held the police had released the name of the sixty year old cyclist who was killed on Bronze Age Way on 8th October. He was Brian Barnett a vociferous critic of both Bexley Council and the police.

Brian was killed very near the speed camera which has not worked since the switch over from film based Gatsos to digital, it was one of several in Bexley which were judged to be ineffective or unnecessary. It being nothing but an ornament was confirmed to the Committee.

I have mixed views on that camera. It was installed before Bronze Age Way was first opened for traffic in direct contravention of the guidelines at the time which were not to install speed cameras unless the accident statistics justified them. No traffic equals no statistics. You may think that speed cameras are a good thing and properly used they obviously are but the premature installation in Bronze Age Way demonstrates one thing very adequately. Local Government does not follow its own rules unless it suits them and suffers no sanctions for its lawlessness.

 

29 October (Part 2) - Bexley’s rubbish

CoryPlans are afoot to expand Cory Environmental’s rubbish incinerator in Belvedere and two weeks ago three of their bosses made a short presentation to Bexley Council.

Councillors had a copy of the presentation to browse through but members of the public were afforded no such luxury, instead they must make do with this summary of what was said.

Cory Environmental, it was William Cory and Son when my mother worked for the company in the early years of WWII, has facilities along the river from Wandsworth through to Gravesend and 95% of the waste it moves for London is river borne. (Five tugs and 53 barges.) They process 750,000 tonnes of black bag rubbish in Belvedere each year.

That rubbish generates 525,000 megawatt hours of electricity and leaves behind the byproduct of 200,000 tonnes of construction aggregates.

London as a whole produces around 4,400,000 tonnes of rubbish each year so processing facilities will have to be expanded. Currently about two million tonnes is incinerated and of the rest rather more than half goes to landfill and the remainder is exported to overseas energy facilities.

Despite that London is ranked fourth best of the major European cities for its effective processing of waste but of its eleven landfill sites nine are due for closure by 2025, hence the need for expansion in Belvedere. The new processing facility will be known as the Riverside Energy Park.

It will process another 655,000 tonnes of waste for electricity augmented by a one megawatt solar panel roof and a similar amount will come from anaerobic digestion. Excess power generation will be stored in a 20 megawatt battery. Waste heat will be available to the nearby homes that form part of Bexley’s Growth Strategy. The potential 960 megawatts (the spokesman said megawatts not megawatt hours) of electricity will reach the national grid via a link to the old Littlebrook (Dartford) power station site. The existing facility exports its power to the Barking power station but that route is already at full capacity.

“The majority of [The Environmental Impact Assessment] has come out as non-significant in ecology, drainage, historic environment, transport, noise and vibration, ground conditions and air quality”.

 

29 October (Part 1) - Vindictive again?

BollardsBollardsIt doesn’t take much to upset the tyrants who run Bexley Council. Whether you misinterpret their instructions or Tweet during a Council meeting they reserve the right to take revenge. Goodness knows what this poor resident had done to upset Bexley Council to have vehicle access to his house spitefully barricaded.

It may have happened again.

The house pictured is two minutes walk away from my home and I pass it nearly every day. Throughout the Summer it has been extensively renovated, gutted if the skip loads of rubbish was any guide but the last skip departed about a month ago revealing new windows beneath a new roof.

Then a couple of days ago two of Bexley Council’s favourite bollards appeared which prevent vehicle access. What could have happened?

The parking bays in front of the house complicate matters but did some spiteful halfwit in Bexley Council merely think bollards would put paid to any possibility of off street parking. If the resident contemplated such a thing he’d be at constant risk of being trapped. My money would be on vindictiveness again. Bexley Council and Councillor Craske in particular have form.

 

28 October - Good progress but dangerous

Once a week, usually early on a Saturday morning, I walk the length of Harrow Manorway to see what progress has been made with turning it into a tree lined avenue; or whatever the idea is!

It’s been chaos down there all week because Greenwich Council has been resurfacing Eynsham Drive. It’s the major route out of Abbey Wood and it certainly needed to be repaired. The speed cushions had broken up to the point that they were little more than tyre slashers but Greenwich set about doing the job without a thought for residents and the effects of a total lack of access all day long. At least when Bexley resurfaced the fly over they did so at night.

Each week I take the same route along Harrow Manorway and cross it where gaps have been provided in the barriers. On Saturday I went through the long standing gap that leads to a pedestrian refuge, and from there, protected by the barriers, took the usual gap to cross the other half of the road.

When I did so yesterday there was nowhere to go. I had wondered why people were running in the road and walking across the roundabout itself.

I mentioned the problem to one of the Conway men and he went to take a look but when I drove by this afternoon (Sunday) things were no different.

Approach the new works from the East and the long detour was signed (Photo 1) but the barrier gap on the north side of Eynsham Drive (Photo 2) led only to a barrier (Photo 3) which compelled pedestrians to take their lives in their hands and run for the relative safety of the roundabout.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway

There is no warning that traffic is using the ‘wrong’ carriageway in Yarnton Way so pedestrians who look only one way as they have in the past could come a nasty cropper!

Something should be done about it before Bexley adds to its already deteriorating road accident statistics.

 

27 October - They are dealers in whitewash

There was a Code of Conduct Committee meeting last Thursday, I have never known one yet that is not a farce and on the basis of what was in the Agenda - almost nothing - I didn’t bother to go, however my colleague John Watson who has been attending Council meetings for longer than my eight years is more of an optimist than I am, and hoping to witness something interesting, he dropped in to watch proceedings. That in itself is worth doing, it reminds the blighters that they are supposed to serve the public.

John has kindly written a brief report.
Committee

Bexley Council’s Code of Conduct Committee, whose purported purpose is to investigate complaints against Councillors made by residents met at 7:30 p.m. today in Bexley Council’s main chamber.

Councillor Linda Bailey, Chairman, announced that this was the first meeting of the Committee since the May 2018 elections but she added that there had been some “informal” meetings.

Virtually the whole of the meeting was taken up discussing the “do’s” and “don’ts” for Councillors. Nick Hollier, Bexley Council’s temporary Monitoring Officer, informed the Committee he would be drafting new rules that will require Councillors to adhere to the policies determined by Bexley Council. “He who pays the Councillors, calls the tune.”

There was quite a lot of discussion about how Councillors must deal with gifts of over £100 or a contribution of gifts the total value of which exceeds that figure. Mr. Hollier will draft a form on which Councillors must make declarations relating to gifts received since becoming a Councillor.

Councillor Steven Hall expressed concerns that some Councillors attending meetings are using Social Media instead of concentrating on the meetings. This, he said, was a distraction for other Councillors and it was unanimously agreed that the Councillors Code of Conduct should contain appropriate provisions.

The Independent Person, Elizabeth Dawes voiced her full support and slipped in, without any obvious reason, that she is a Magistrate who sits on the Local Bench.

The Agenda referred to two complaints made against Councillors. One was that a Councillor sent an email to a resident after the resident had specifically asked him not to do so.

The other complaint alleged that a Councillor had been using Twitter and Facebook to insult Bexley residents. On the face of it this is a clear breach of the Code, however the Agenda revealed that both complaints were dismissed without a hearing.

Matters of concern are:

• The identity of Councillors against whom complaints are made are always kept secret.
• The name of the complainant is always kept secret.
• The grounds on which Decisions are reached are always kept secret.
• The name of the person dismissing complaints is always kept secret.
• By labelling Code of Conduct Committee “informal” what should be public meetings become private.
• The reasons for the Decisions made are always kept secret.
• There is a strong suspicion that Decisions at these secret informal meetings are being made by officers of the Council which cannot be right.
• If a complainant does eventually achieve a hearing that too is always held in secret.
• This is very strong evidence by Bexley Council and against Bexley Council that the openness and transparency that is required from individuals in public office is not being achieved by either Bexley Council or its Councillors.
• The composition of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct Committee gives cause for concern because it is made up entirely of Councillors who sit as judge of their colleague Councillors while being supported by their Paymaster, Bexley Council.
• The Councillors’ Code of Conduct Committees of some local authorities do not contain any members who are Councillors. All its members are local residents.


Secret meetings. Councillors judging Councillors. No reasons given for decisions. Sounds like it’s time for a change!


John’s personal Mission Statement refers to the “liars, cheats and fraudsters” at Bexley Council and he knows absolutely that everything is contrived to protect Councillors and staff at the expense of residents but not being a user of Social Media he will not know anything about the insults issued by a Councillor against Bexley residents.

CretinI don’t think there can be a lot of doubt who the Councillor can be. The only one who repeatedly insults residents is Philip Read and the example shown here is only one of many. When the insults are directed at me his Conservative colleagues sometimes email me their apologies and dissociate themselves from his comments.

His achievements are acknowledged but at the personal level he is despised by several of his colleagues.

It is not surprising that it is now official Bexley Council policy to approve of Councillors insulting residents via Twitter and Facebook and have refused to curb their excesses. Now that the Monitoring Officer plans to make failure to adhere to Council Policy a disciplinary offence, presumably we can look forward to more comments of the type preferred by Philip Read.

 

24 October - Their hands in your pocket

This evening’s dilemma. The Transport Users’ Sub-Committee and put BiB another day behind or catch up just a little by writing the Hall Place report? The Transport Committee may have won but one can never be sure whether the rail and bus delegates will turn up and without them there is little said that cannot be gleaned from the Agenda.

Messing around with refuse collections was not the only thing of interest at the Places Scrutiny Committee, Bexley is looking to get hold of more of your money and one of their ideas is to charge an entrance fee to get into Hall Place gardens. Not a lot but every little helps and once the idea is established the price can be raised occasionally or maybe introduced elsewhere, the Belvedere Beach is the obvious candidate and it was actually likened to the plans for Hall Place during the presentation.

The presentation was by Deputy Director Toni Ainge who set out the proposals and had a few slides to illustrate some of her points. The aim is to get the whole of Hall Place self financing by 2021 and one idea is to spend £620,000 on a new playground to attract more visitors to the site. No shiny plastic so as to be in keeping with its surroundings.

An entry charge of £1 to £2 is proposed with Bexley residents getting a 50% discount. Are we supposed to carry our passports with us at all times?

The good news is that the car park will become free. Just a few years ago Cabinet Member Craske was hell bent on making it chargeable. The bad news is that children over 18 months old must pay too, take their birth certificates. The Chairman, Melvin Seymour, thought that was simply “wrong”.

HennisCouncillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (Conservative, Crayford) said she “objected to borough people paying. I don’t object to out of borough people paying, that might be a good idea”. She welcomed the proposals to rearrange the house so that it remains accessible while hosting weddings and similar events.

She made a plea to keep the rockery garden which appears to be under threat. It was reported that different playground contractors had different ideas for working around the rockery or not.

BaconThroughout the meeting it was Councillor Gareth Bacon who asked the most incisive questions.

He thought the £620,000 cost would be “manageable” but he was “interested to know how you make Hall Place self-sustaining going off into the future. The Trust lost too much money. How much money do you need to generate to break even and how confident are you that these proposals are going to do that?”.

Ms. Ainge said that when the Council took Hall Place back in-house it was running about £360,000 per annum of deficit but expenditure has since been reduced by £120,000. Under the new plans income should rise by between £120,000 and £240,000 per annum. At the highest level the deficit would be covered. With what degree of confidence her prediction was made went unstated.

Councillor Bacon wished Ms. Ainge “Good luck with that”.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) was not “enthused” by charging either and wondered why Bexley residents would not get in free and out of borough visitors charged a bit more.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) said the charges might have a negative effect on the shop income but was told that had been factored in.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said she had “mixed feelings about charging for the gardens, it might put off the casual visitor just looking for a wander around the grounds”.

The Chairman said that whatever decision Cabinet Member Craske took it should come back to the Committee for review after twelve months.

 

23 October (Part 2) - Recycling proposals. Changes are on the way

SeymourIt wasn’t the first item on the Places Scrutiny Agenda but perhaps it was the most important; Bexley Council thinks it is time to make changes to its successful recycling scheme. Out will go the wind blown boxes and in will come yet more wheelie bins. The existing Serco contract expires at the end of March 2019 which provides an opportunity for fresh ideas.

Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith illustrated his comments with a slide presentation. The options available include setting up a local authority company, bringing the service back in-house and seeking a contractor again. Slide 4 shows what the other London boroughs are doing.

All of what follows are proposals which will be studied by a cross-party sub-Committee and some addresses, such as the 20,000 flats, would require different arrangements as they do now.

If wheelie bins replace collection boxes there will be two more, one for plastic, cartons, glass and tins and the other one for paper and cardboard. Both will change from weekly to fortnightly or even three weekly collection. The food and garden waste services will continue unchanged at weekly and fortnightly intervals respectively but the residual waste could switch to a three week cycle.

In the event of a three week cycle being chosen special provision would be made for nappies and incontinence pads.

Currently about half of the residual waste could be recycled and experience has shown that the glass boxes are almost never full. Glass collection is posing a Health & Safety issue because of the noise it creates when tipped into the collection truck. Mixing it with the plastic and cartons will reduce the noise impact.

A three weekly system would reduce the number of collections annually from 23·5 million to 13 million but each one would take longer. Tipping boxes into a big bin is a lot quicker than hitching a wheelie bin to a hoist. Estimates suggest that a three weekly schedule could increase the recycling rate by 5%.

The final idea is to move to a four (longer) day service which would avoid the Bank Holiday Monday problem and result in better loading of vehicles.At present they tend to return to base at the end of the day with their second load only half full. Such a change is not imminent but needs to be considered over the next three or four years.


BaconCouncillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) who was heavily involved in setting up the existing system said he would need to see all the calculations that have led to these proposals and any impact on fly tipping. He said the longer collection day was not introduced ten years ago because of the likely impact on early evening road traffic.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was concerned about the mixed message being sent to residents. The Council had spent years telling residents to separate paper, glass and plastic and tins and now it is saying it is OK to mix them up. She also thought, probably correctly, that a mixture of one, two and three weekly collections would make it impossible to remember which collection was next due.

Mr. Bryce-Smith said that the separation processes have improved since the present scheme was introduced and reminded Councillor Clark of the H&S issues with collection glass separately.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) didn’t think a three weekly cycle would be popular. He shared Councillor Clark’s concerns about confusing residents with no longer separating waste and made some suggestions for reorganising the recycling centres. Having made my very first visit to Thames Road depot two weeks ago I very much agree that improvements are needed there.

Chairman Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) was not enthusiastic about the prospect of a four day week for workers, it was a demanding occupation and that should not be underestimated.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was critical of the way some residents are still putting more or less everything in the residual (green) bin and do not use their food waste bin. I think she has been poking her nose into some of my neighbours’ bins.


Betts TaylorVice-Chairman Nigel Betts did not agree with his Chairman, he thought a four day week would be an attractive proposition for the operatives but a three week cycle would be confusing and “it would put a lot off people off recycling because everything was just too complicated”.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) was another who believed that mixed intervals of up to three weeks would prove confusing and might increase the number of reports of missed bins. “Had those costs been factored in? Two weekly bin collections already cause overflowing and it increases street cleaning costs.”

Wheelie bins present problems for the disabled as they are heavy and more may not be helpful. She did not like the idea of some people having to put an identifiable incontinence bin outside their house. The Chairman thanked her for a good point well made.

Deputy Director Bryce-Smith said that he was not aware that other Councils which had adopted similar systems had seen an increase in the number of missed collections.

The sub-Committee will in due course reach its verdict and one must hope that all the best ideas are adopted.

 

23 October (Part 1) - Brian Barnett. Funeral arrangements

Brian BarnettThe funeral of Brian Barnett who was tragically killed in a road accident on Bronze Age Way on 8th October will be held at 1 p.m. on 16th November 2018 in Shorne, Gravesend.

Brian was a well known character in Thamesmead and Abbey Wood and across the borough as a window cleaner and prolific user of Social Media.

The service will be held at The Thames View Crematorium and Cemetery on Gravesend Road, Shorne, DA12 3JH. It is not a Council facility which seems entirely appropriate for someone with Brian’s opinion of local authorities.

Brian’s family has said all are welcome.

 

22 October - Bonkers, FM Conway and Greenwich Council. All are well behind schedule

You have heard it all before but there is simply not enough free time at the moment to keep Bonkers going to the standard I would like. I get emails suggesting that I have not got stuck in deeply enough to some stories, I know, I know.

I needed to be away from home Friday to Sunday and too much of today was spent in Newham. I would actually like to finish a DIY job but fat chance. Today for the first time in my life I called in a plumber to change some worn out valves that I installed myself ten years ago and could do again, but where would the time come from?

In the BiB pipeline are reports on Cory Environmental’s plans for their incinerator, the proposals to change the refuse bins and recycling frequencies and to charge to enter Hall Place gardens. Beaten to it by The News Shopper. Ignominy!

I also need to look into what has been happening at a local arts centre where it is alleged that private interests favoured by Bexley Councillors have made a fat profit at Bexley taxpayers’ expense. It might come to nothing, I don’t know, but it seems to be worth a look.

There may also be more to be said about former Chief Executive Gill Steward’s departure. Having to leave because of changed personal circumstances but getting a very similar job in Kingston just weeks later would appear to be odd if not unexpected.

A few new pictures have been added here and there, the Harrow Manorway redevelopment in particular where north of Yarnton Way the project appears to have been at a standstill for several months.

While snapping away last Thursday an FM Conway manager, well he was wearing a suit beneath the yellow outfit, was close by and I took the opportunity to ask why some sections were coming along nicely and others not at all. Utilities failing to move their assets promptly were blamed, Thames Water in particular.

The use of blocks as a road surface was questioned bearing in mind the experience in Woolwich and Bexleyheath.The man was certain that would not happen again. He was pleased to be using some new material imported from Germany and presumably not the cheap stuff which failed in Arnsberg Way.

Better news comes from a yard or two across the borough border in Greenwich. 18 months after it was first mooted Greenwich Council has replaced the gravel and dirt in Wilton Road with a nice buff resin surface. Better late than never.


Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road Wilton Road

 

18 October (Part 2) - Where there’s a will

It’s never too early for a bit of publicity on Abbey Wood’s latest attraction, the Food and Craft Market.

MarketAfter the successful launch event in September plans are now well advanced for November’s which will have a Christmas theme; no reindeer or Santa’s grotto but lots of small gifts and mince pies.

September’s event was not helped by Greenwich Council’s reluctance to offer assistance and preferring to quote by-laws and unhelpful policies.

Thanks to Teresa Pearce MP and the Mayor of Greenwich’s interest all of that is now changed and the Royal Borough has been falling over itself in an effort to make the event a regular success story. The first signs of this will be seen on 24th November when the market organisers will allow a small number of stalls to spill out on to the pavement. The majority will continue to be accommodated in the Abbey Arms Car Park.

So thanks to Greenwich Council and the tireless organisers, the second Abbey Wood Food and Craft Market looks like being bigger and better than ever. An hour earlier this time, 11 a.m. until 4.

 

18 October (Part 1) - Late night noise averted

I have never been to a Licensing Committee meeting and yesterday that might have changed except that there were two other meetings to go to. What made yesterday’s Licensing meeting special is that Hugh Neal who produces the Maggot Sandwich blog each Sunday was the star turn speaking against this application…
Application
As everyone who reads Hugh’s blog will know, ‘Potion’ is more properly known as The White Hart African Restaurant and Bar and the owners had submitted plans to stay open until five in the morning playing live and recorded music.

In my opinion - and Hugh’s as well I believe - there was little chance of such an application being approved, although perhaps it was a close run thing for it took nearly six hours to come to the sensible conclusion.

Hugh will no doubt be telling his readers all about it next Sunday but he has kindly allowed this preview and photograph.
Committee
What is it about Africans and late night noise? For no obvious reason the number of Nigerian families living within 80 yards of my own house has risen from one to six in no more than two or three months. Wide open windows from which high volume voices shouting at each other has unfortunately become the norm. The residents of Erith and its High Street in particular have had a lucky escape.

 

17 October (Part 2) - Safer buses

Bonkers has made a vague reference on a couple of occasions to the fact that London bus travel can be a risky business - five passengers were fatally injured last year - and what is being done to tackle the problem. He swore me to secrecy but my son has been analysing a whole load of computer data collected from a bus laden with sensors and cameras which has been operating from a TfL bus garage not far away.

The vehicle manufacturer is British and tests have been conducted on busy London roads, however today some of the developments have been placed in the public domain. I think one of the biggest dilemmas is what should the computers tell the bus to do when a pedestrian with their nose glued to their mobile, steps into the road. Hit the pedestrian or jump on the brakes and put 80 passengers at risk.

There are of course a lot more questions that need to be answered but some details may be seen on the BBC’s website. There are rather more on Londonist.

 

17 October (Part 1) - Rubbish plans

At a two and a quarter hour Scrutiny meeting last night Bexley’s Places Committee discussed their plans to change the arrangements for refuse collection and charge for entry to Hall Place gardens. In effect Bexley Council not only approves of selling parks for housing but is prepared to consider charging to enter those that are left.

Hall Place is different to some others in the borough in that it includes an historic house but what next? Is it so very different to Danson Park with yet another House or Lesnes Abbey park with its 12th century Abbey?

Committee Members adopted mixed views on the latest Bexley Stealth Tax and agreed to set up a sub-Committee to thrash out the details of the charges. £2 has been suggested for a Standard Garden Ticket with discounts for residents.

Another contentious subject was revised arrangements for refuse collection and several plans were discussed including one to move the non-recyclable collection to  three week intervals. Such a move would make Bexley the ninth English Authority to degrade its service to such a level.

That aside, the new proposals were well thought out and a change from wind blown boxes to two more wheelie bins will probably be widely welcomed by those who have somewhere to put them. Waste food collection would remain weekly and the garden waste service will carry on as before.

A more detailed report on who said what will follow in due course but I cannot see a single spare time slot before next Tuesday. Old ladies, visiting the sick, traders’ meetings, domestic arrangements; when will it ever end?

 

16 October (Part 2) - Brian Barnett

Yesterday Councillor Hackett asked me if I could pick up a copy of the Evening Standard for him as he would not be near a pick up point. I ‘stole’ a dozen copies from East Ham station planning to distribute them locally. To everyone's disappointment the Duchess of Sussex’s announcement pushed Brian from the headlines.

Today the roles are reversed, Danny Hackett kindly sent me a scanned copy. Those who haven’t seen it can read it here.

Brian Barnett.

 

16 October (Part 1) - Scrutinising Resources

As I said at the time, I didn’t go to the Resources and Growth Scrutiny meeting last week, I wasn’t feeling up to it, the Agenda looked boring to me and it is webcast, so is there any point in going when one can watch and listen from home? Well I can tell you one reason, the webcast is technically appalling. I thought the audio had been improved but it is nowhere near as good as I obtain by being there with my little recorder. However I was right about the potential for boredom and the only stand out moment came within the first five minutes.

ScrutinyAfter Chairman Andy Dourmoush noted that no members of the public were present Councillor Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) made the first noteworthy comment. He referred to the overspend in Adults’ Services of £3·2 million this year paid for from the Contingency Reserves. Was it foreseen and will it happen again in future years he wanted to know.

Cabinet Member David Leaf (Blackfen & Lamorbey) said the budget was “complex” with “variables”, he “monitors it very closely” and “the contingency is there”. It was a typically inadequate response from Councillor Leaf.

Councillor Hall asked how much money was left in Contingency. The answer came from the Finance Officer. “About 2·4 million although some is already ear marked for other uses like the Winter Pressures”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) noted that half the Contingency has gone before Winter has even begun. He asked Councillor Leaf if he was confident that he could manage the overspend.

The Cabinet Member said “we are looking into that” and “to be patient”. Councillor Francis indicated that he thought the answer was inadequate.

Chairman Dourmoush issued a reminder that spending the Contingency is not the same as dipping into the Reserves.

 

15 October - Brian Barnett @thamesmeadnews RIP

What follows should have appeared earlier today but I have suffered another Stannah Day. That is when the early morning care worker in East Ham reports that the stair lift is not working and it becomes a case of drop everything and jump on a train to await the arrival of a repair man. The last Stannah Day was as recently as 6th October and one begins to wonder about their competence.

I was away all weekend but headed home early yesterday because I had an evening blog in mind but the journey took an hour longer than usual due to a long tail back on the A3 during which time the mobile kept ringing for text messages, but I took no notice. However all was revealed when the phone rang again quite literally as I put my key into the front door.

Last Monday as I emerged from the Blackwall Tunnel an LBC traffic report told me that there was gridlock in Erith and beyond after a fatal hit and run involving a cyclist on Bronze Age Way. I quickly thought as I headed north on the A12 how fortunate I was to be too mean to pay the Dartford toll, now I can’t help feeling how callous it was to run the word fortunate through my mind because that front door telephone call said the cyclist involved was none other than Brian Barnett who was a good friend of Bonkers (555 emails from him in the last two years) and known to everyone in Thamesmead who followed its news and gossip.

TweetBrian could be seen at practically every Thamesmead event whether formal or fun and the occasional Council meeting and was a keen follower of cycling as a sport. The day before his death following the collision with a lorry which did not stop he was warning fellow cyclists of the dangers faced on London’s roads.

Brian was an entertaining character and cancer survivor who knew something about everything and loved to talk about it. A self-employed window cleaner who would help anyone and everyone. He used to visit an elderly gentleman from Crayford almost daily and take him out on day trips to keep him active and alert.

Those trips would be in his old car but latterly by train, that’s because last May Brian’s car was written off by an out of control bus in Dartford. The insurance company offered a pittance for it but Brian decided he could continue his business using only a bike. When asked how he would manage to carry his window cleaning gear he reminded me he only did shop windows so a ladder was not required.

An inexpensive ex-Royal Mail bike proved to be too much like hard work and instead he put his insurance money towards an electric bicycle. The week before last while I was standing on the Harrow Manorway flyover watching the new road surface being dug up Brian appeared out of nowhere. He had seen me from a passing bus and jumped off for a chat and told me that his precious electric bike had arrived.


Brian BrianNo conversation with Brian would be complete without a tirade against the police, Bexley Council or maybe Peabody, perhaps all three. He had had run ins over parking not only with Bexley Council but with Dartford too and was always ready to explain how he had beaten them at their own rotten game.

Such was Brian’s appeal to so many people that during the course of yesterday evening I exchanged messages and conversations with several of them including Councillor Danny Hackett, MP Teresa Pearce and a former Thamesmead and Lesnes Safer Neighbourhood Team police officer, all in a state of shock.

An Evening Standard reporter phoned me twice seeking information - Danny and I think Teresa received calls too - promising a report in this evening’s issue. Sadly it appears to have been displaced by the Royal pregnancy. Brian would have had something to say about that.

Brian is the sixth friend I have lost in just 14 months but his is the death that has hit me hardest. He wasn’t my closest friend but his passing, unlike the other five, was totally unexpected. I keep seeing him not only telling me on the flyover about that electric bike which came out of the bus crash and appears to have led to his tragic death, but in a variety of places in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead where he would update me on exactly what he thought about various well known Conservative politicians, not to mention the injustices inflicted on bloggers by the police in both Bexley and Kent.

I do not recall Brian telling me about his Mother but I understand he had one still living to whom I am sure every reader will join me in sending their heartfelt sympathies. We are unlikely to see another Brian in Thamesmead.

26 Bonkers’ blogs include photographs by Brian Barnett, sadly there are none of the man himself. The two that appear here show him lurking in the background of Splashpark demo photos in 2015.

 

12 October (Part 2) - Tory Twits. How can anyone be so stupid?

I may have lost a few friends (certainly some Twitter followers) by saying that I think Jeremy Corbyn and his close mates are a bunch of Commies, probably I should have said anti-Semitic Commies but today it is the time for criticism of the Pathetic Moron (PM) in Downing Street who is actually even more dangerous; she does not seem to know her arse from her elbow and gives a very good impression of being an incompetent traitorous liar.

In June I mentioned in passing that my son’s involvement in the development of electrically powered and autonomous vehicles has rubbed off on me and I am sold on his ideas. As such I keep my eye on any news on that front and the Prime Minister’s ambitions expressed only a month ago appeared to be very welcome.

May's liesSince the PM’s (Pathetic Moron) promise to encourage green vehicles her Chancellor has announced the extension of the Fuel Duty freeze for gas guzzlers and yesterday announced that the incentives to buy zero emissions vehicles would be either discontinued on 12th November (for plug in hybrid cars) or reduced (from £4,500 to £3,500) for pure electric cars.

Discounts on hybrids were always pretty stupid, some never ran on electricity, but pure electric sales are still tiny and the prices have been going up not down.

And then there was all that climate change stuff only two days ago. Go vegan, go electric or go extinct. May’s Conservative government is in total chaos and she is little better than an imbecile.

I am not sure she will thank me for mentioning this but my daughter is a victim of the Pathetic Moron too. She has suffered from MS since she was 16 years old but has always managed to be in employment and currently drives about five miles to work every day in a Motorbility car.

Under some DWP rule or other she has just been reassessed and they have decided that as she can, with the aid of crutches and an electronic gizmo that shocks her leg muscles into action, walk 60 feet she must lose her car. She can in fact ‘walk’ 60 feet but after doing so is so exhausted that she cannot walk or do anything but sleep for the rest of the day.

With no car there will be no job and presumably the government will then have to pay out some sort of unemployment benefit. How can anyone possibly vote Conservative when they prove daily that they are a bunch of morons?

My daughter, being more resourceful than your average Tory Minister, is planning to travel those five miles to work each day on an electric scooter. I am not sure how that will work on a rainy day.

 

12 October (Part 1) - Their secret is out

In July it was reported here that Bexley Council had purchased 63 Belvedere Road, a property which in effect commands the access to Council Leader Teresa O’Neill’s private park by being adjacent to the existing locked access gate.

DecisionAs is the norm in Bexley our frequently dishonest Council made sure that the transaction was kept as secret as possible but the speculation must be that Burr Farm Park is being lined up for acquisition by BexleyCo and eventual development.

But not everything can be kept secret for ever and that includes the price at which properties change hands. The Land Registry stores all the details but extracting them costs a small amount of money.

Fortunately Zoopla sometimes does much the same thing. It reveals that Bexley Council paid £638,000 for 63 Belvedere Road which is almost five times the price it last sold for fewer than 20 years ago. Wow, Bexley Council must have been desperate to get their hands on it. The price is about 50% higher than anything else in Belvedere Road.

Strategic

 

11 October (Part 2) - Rudeness, aggression and claustrophobia

Bexley Council deployed a new weapon against members of the public attending meetings at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting; they confined them behind the Gill Steward line in a narrow six foot strip. With the seats to my left occupied by Council employees there to hear themselves lauded over the excellent OFSTED report it was not possible to move around to grab the occasional photograph. I did so only once by exiting via the east side door and reappearing through the west.

Top TableThe meeting itself was for the most part repetitive in nature with both the OFSTED report and the exemption from Council Tax for under 25s given another airing.

Cabinet Member for Children, Philip Read, varied his OFSTED speech already delivered to two Committees by going beyond extolling the virtues of his staff and boasting that he was “the only elected individual to whom they spoke”.

Councillor Read should and could have gone out in a blaze of reflected glory but instead decided to revert to type by criticising the Labour party opposition. He acknowledged that Councillors Ogundayo (Thamesmead East) and Perfect (Northumberland Heath) had congratulated him “and it is right that they should have done so but neither had thought fit to congratulate this administration on putting in place the policies and people that achieved this result”.

They had “rebuked” the Cabinet in 2014 for “a lack of adequate improvement in the service, you would think that they would now be congratulating us but instead there has been a deafening silence on that front. It must have caused them turmoil trying to find a way to turn Outstanding into something less impressive. It is indicative of the double standards that permeates their party”.

Just what is Philip Read on?

On 3rd October Bonkers placed on record that Philip Read’s Labour shadow had heaped fulsome praise on the OFSTED achievement “just in case Cabinet Member Philip Read tries to claim she didn’t join in at some future date”. Councillor Perfect is on the record saying the achievement was “fantastic”.

One doesn’t have to be a genius to forecast that Philip Read will always try to spin the truth. Only six days and it all comes true.
Top Table
Little Sir Echo otherwise known as Cabinet Member David Leaf (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) made similar anti-Labour comments.

Moving on, the Cabinet then approved their own suggestion that under 25 year olds who had been in Council care would not have to pay Council Tax from April next year and that they were no longer pursuing arrears from 2018.

Everyone agreed that this was a thoroughly good idea, children often get financial help from parents and in this case Bexley Council is the Corporate parent. It is not only a good idea, but it will win lots of Brownie Points for next to no money. Estimates are under £40,000 a year.

Next on the Agenda was something entirely new. Something called the Corporate Peer Challenge which gets people in from other local authorities to look at what Bexley does. In this case five people had come from as far afield as Oldham to enjoy the delights of Bexley.

The Conservatives were obviously keen to cherry pick the best bits of the report and boast about them wherever they could.

ReportMaybe it is just me but I found part of it to be hilarious.


The Leader is widely held in very high regard, having been in the role for nearly 10 years. There is strengthening corporate leadership, headed by a Chief Executive who commenced in post just under two years ago and who is held in very high regard both internally and externally.


As soon as the great and the good returned to their homes the Chief Executive was shown the door covered by the Bexley Council cloak of secrecy!

Dig deeper into the Peer Review and more cracks begin to show. I am not alone in suggesting that Scrutiny in Bexley has been a sham, public questions are not welcome, neither are Councillors’ who on occasion have had to take the FOI route to obtain any sort of answer.

Several Cabinet Members found things in the report with which to polish their egos but in truth it was far from universally good.

The independent examiners said…


• They could not find any evidence of any different outcome secured through any Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
• Tens of thousands of hours of officers’ time is taken up annually (by Scrutiny) to achieve nothing.
• Officers throughout the organisation are apprehensive about interacting with Overview and Scrutiny.
•Those asking questions are dealt with in an unacceptable manner. Rudely, aggressively, discourteously or disrespectfully.
• Perceptions are negative and it has very serious implications for the authority and is damaging to its reputation.


Labour Councillor Stefano Borella (Slade Green & Northend) commented on how other nearby boroughs run their Overview and Scrutiny Committees and it would appear from the statistics he quoted that Bexley does indeed do its level best to inhibit legitimate Scrutiny. Councillor Leaf disagreed with him stating for no obvious reason that the electorate too had disagreed last May. The Labour comments are “misplaced”. Deputy Leader Louie French condemned them as “all smoke and mirrors”.

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) objected to the conclusions of the Peer Review but maybe that is because his Committee has been one of the better managed ones.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere), choosing his words carefully, reminded the Cabinet that Members were called “disgraceful names” and Members’ legitimate questions were refused.

So there you have it. An independent Peer Review has concluded that Bexley’s Cabinet is rude, aggressive and disrespectful just as you have read here over the years. To be fair things seem to have improved this year, the smaller Scrutiny Committees do appear to be better behaved but maybe its a deception based on the new seating arrangements preventing members of the public getting a decent view of proceedings.

 

11 October (Part 1) - Caught out?

Frying pan to fire? Whether it be in Cornwall, West Sussex, Bexley or Kingston upon Thames, Gill Steward always manages to hit the headlines and not in a good way.
Gill Steward

Click image for Source web page.

The “leaked document from Bexley” is almost certainly her job application available on Bonkers since Steward arrived here in 2016. In it she claims a Masters Degree in Public Administration, Warwick University (Partial completion).

 

10 October (Part 2) - The police are ignorant and corrupt. It needs to be said again

I have decided not to attend this evening’s Resources and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, not because the Agenda looks to be less than scintillating, although it does, but because I have been to East Ham five times in the past seven days and have just returned again feeling too tired to drive. I do not wish to fall asleep during the meeting and emulate what one member of the public appeared to do at last night’s Cabinet meeting.

I shall try to stay awake long enough to view the webcast live and write a report if anything interesting happens.

So having promised a Part 2, here is another of Bonkers’ occasionally series of videos depicting corrupt police officers - is there any other sort?

You may not realise it at the outset but the dishevelled thug with a lollipop in his mouth is a Detective Constable employed by West Yorkshire Police. In his initial report he made a written allegation of Breach of the Peace against the innocent bystander but changed his tune when he realised that the entire sequence had been videod.

The Detective Constable received only “words of advice” for assaulting a member of the public.

Source.

 

10 October (Part 1) - Bin abuse

Fly tipping Fly tippingEver since the pictures of overflowing and contaminated bins in Coptefield Drive, Belvedere were published ten days ago local Councillor Dave Putson (Labour) has been trying to get some remedial action. He has asked me a few questions and been in correspondence with the relevant Council department. Coincidentally or not the discarded mattress and large pieces of cardboard have already gone.

It has been a long term problem, those who use the bins appear to have no concept of segregating the different materials and it gets worse as new people move into the flats which the bins are intended to serve.

The two yellow vans have stood opposite the bins for the past ten years approximately. The fence was painted around them more than eight years ago and the section behind the vans that could not be painted at the time may be seen in Photo 1.

Councillor Putson has persuaded someone in the Council to have the bins emptied as non-recyclable waste which is a shame because some of the content may be my own plastic bottles and cans all carefully washed. He has been told that the flats management company, Centro Ltd, is responsible for clearing the rubbish. Why a private company is responsible for taking away Bexley Council Taxpayers rubbish from Bexley Council owned bins he did not explain.

The abandoned vans are more of a problem. Another Labour Councillor, Danny Hackett, tried to get Bexley Council to remove them more than two years ago as he believed vans stuffed full of discarded timber might be a fire hazard. His best efforts got him nowhere.

Knowing how Councils generally solve long term problems, I fear that Bexley Council will simply take the bins away. It would be their customary easy way out.

 

9 October (Part 3) - Who’s the vandal?

Lesnes Abbey The Lesnes Abbey playground which was burned by what Councillor Craske called "utter scumbags" has still not been repaired although a company called Play Cubed were working there today.

To the alarm of local residents (who passed on the news to me) Play Cubed were not repairing the play equipment but instead ripping out the boundary hedge, they were well equipped to the extent that a mechanised wood chipper was in use.

According to a resident who asked what the men was going on, the hedge is being removed to open up the view from the road which is exactly what the residents don’t want. It acts as a bit of a sound baffle too.

If that is true, and unless the work is not yet complete I cannot see how tearing out the hedges has done anything to expose any would-be vandals.

Photos 2, 3 and 4 taken at 9 a.m. this morning, No. 5 at 4:30 p.m.


Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey Lesnes Abbey

 

9 October (Part 2) - Garbage in and garbage out

 While I was driving almost to Lincolnshire yesterday Bexley Council issued a Press Release about recycling. They first mentioned adopting new arrangements in July, now things appear to be getting serious.

The Press Release is well worth a read but in summary it is…


• Offering residents a choice of wheelie bin sizes, rather than recycling boxes, where people have the space to store them.
• Moving to a 1-2-3 collection cycle: weekly collections of food waste, two-weekly collections of garden waste, fortnightly or three-weekly collections of recycling and fortnightly or three-weekly collections of residual waste for incineration.
• Introducing additional collections for residents who need to dispose of large quantities of nappies or incontinence pads.
Introducing a longer four-day working week (Tuesday to Friday) to make more efficient use of staff and vehicles and eliminate the disruption caused by bank holidays from 2021/22.
• Bringing the collection service and other street services back ‘in house’, transferring the service to a company owned by the Council, extending the current Serco contract or re-tendering.
• None of the options under consideration affect people living in flats.


If they are agreed by the Council’s Cabinet in February, changes to collection arrangements could take place next summer.

 

9 October (Part 1) - Drawing a line

238 Woolwich Road 238 Woolwich RoadIf you go down in the woods today…

…you will find that Bexley’s planning officers have been out with their GPS surveying gear and marked out the boundary of the Lesnes Abbey woods and 238 Woolwich Road with a spray painted line. Residents say it goes across the concrete slab and the fence shown in Photo 2.

I imagine Mr. Singh is not best pleased.

See previous report for full details.

Photo later after I have trudged up the hill!


238 Woolwich Road 238 Woolwich RoadI climbed the hill and the boundary has been marked with metal studs, wooden posts and yellow paint which bisects the fence. Whether it cuts across the concrete slab I could not see without getting right on to it (†) and what looked like one of Singh’s men was at the other end.

Having walked along the high path from the top of New Road I would guess that several boundary fences may have ‘migrated’ over the years.

† A neighbour has since confirmed that the line does cut across the concrete slab to a small extent.

 

7 October - Just what you need on a wet Saturday evening

EN64 FEPSo you spot on the CCTV that the stair lift is upstairs and the 98 year old is downstairs and using the outside toilet and you phone and ask why. The old girl doesn’t seem to know what a stair lift is. A friend goes in and confirms the chair isn’t working.

Phone Stannah and they say they will go around within an hour or two, can I be there? It’s raining cats and dogs and its a long walk from the station at the other end; curse Bexley Council for campaigning against Ken Livingstone’s bridge. The car is taken from the garage and you find this; blocking my drive to the right and the one behind the camera.

It happens all the time and the 1986 plans show the area as No Parking. It's about time the rule was enforced with a bit of yellow paint.

Fortunately I am getting to know which of my lovely neighbours has visitors who do this sort of thing so some door knocking got the problem fixed quite quickly. No apology.

Everyone who blocks my drive so blatantly gets featured here for posterity.

For the record, Stannah took until past 11 p.m. swapping parts and nothing fixed the chair, so their man eventually took all the new components out and replaced the original ones. It then worked and no one has any idea why. Stand by for another emergency call soon. Shades of Abbey Wood station lifts!

 

6 October - Tax free living

MunurWhen I discovered that the Children’s and Adults’ Services Overview and Scrutiny meeting was to be held at the same time as I was due to be with the local shopkeepers at their meeting I was not too disappointed. Going to all the Scrutiny meetings risks listening to a great deal of repetition but when the other traders’ meeting was postponed at the last minute I lost my excuse to give Scrutiny a miss.

I was not wrong about the repetition, the News Shopper’s reporter lasted 20 minutes and I sat it out until Cabinet Member Philip Read began to read out exactly the same speech as he had delivered to ‘Communities’ a week earlier, Then I headed for the exit. I don’t begrudge Councillor Read glorying in his team’s significant achievement with OFSTED but I am already convinced of it; no need to hear it again.

The meeting was Chaired by Councillor Cafer Munur (Blackfen & Lamorbey) who unlike Councillor Newton forgot to include members of the public in his welcoming remarks; to be fair I think he usually does. The first item on the Agenda was discussion of the Annual Report of the Safeguarding Adults’ Board, the existence of which is a Statutory Requirement. It includes not only the Council but also the Police and NHS.

Committee
Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) wondered how much the restructuring of the Police would affect the Board. I think the rather lengthy reply amounted to ‘wait and see but probably not much’. It will be “monitored closely”.

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log) was a little “concerned about the large number of Agencies involved”, about a dozen, which have links to the Board. “At the end of the day will anything get done?” She was told that everyone present had to be “a decision maker”. Buck passing was not allowed, it would generate a complaint to the management of the offending Agency.

Apparently 22 London Councils exempt young persons who have been in Council Care from the payment of Council Tax until the date of their 25th birthday. Bexley plans to join that group. The 100% discount will include all precepts.

A number of questions were aimed at how that would work out if the exempted person shared with others. The answers all boiled down to the same thing. He or she would be deemed not to exist which would mean that if, for example, they shared with one other person that person would get the single person’s discount.

Councillors John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) and Richard Diment asked a number of questions that might trip up a less logical arrangement but the one proposed stood up well to scrutiny.

The annual cost is likely to be in the region of £38,000 and the transitional arrangements at age 26 would have to be carefully managed, there would be no taper.

You may read what Bexley does for Children in care at this snappily titled URL. http://www.bexley.gov.uk/sites/bexley-cms/files/2017-11/Looked-After-Children-and-Leaving-Care-Strategy-2017-to-2020_1.pdf

Cabinet Member Philip Read (West Heath) then said “I just want to repeat what I said at Communities last week; the presentation of their findings by OFSTED was one of the most incredible and emotional of occasions…”. Yes I am sure it was but my memory is not so short that I have forgotten what the great man said last week. My cue to go.

 

4 October (Part 3) - Not for the riff-raff. Council use only

The Knights seem to be a family of engineers. My Great Grandfather spent his life planning and building Indian railways, my Grandfather tinkered with ships’ boilers until a torpedo got him in 1915, my father took Rolls Royce Merlins apart during the war and went on to have a hand in developing Concorde’s engine, me in Telecoms, and my son is into vehicle design. And there it might stop unless my Granddaughter realises her ambition to be an astronaut.

I would not be interested in cars if it was not for my son going on about his work on developing and testing autonomous vehicles, not just cars but lorries in convoy and buses too. He has ordered a Tesla because they are further down the autonomous road than any other manufacturer. They are exclusively electrically powered and his interest has rubbed off on me to some extent.

Bexley Council has shown some interest in electric cars too and is currently asking residents’ opinion on charging infrastructure. Topping up the battery on a long run takes best part of an hour on most cars and is a considerable disincentive to ownership. My son is 144 miles away from Bexley and the only fully electric cars that will go that far in all weathers at motorway speed cost £70,000 and upwards or have a one year waiting list. New models from South Korea.

The current crop of affordable electric cars, Nissan Leaf and KIA Soul are not quite up to it. All too long in the tooth.

Even if you are happy to stop to charge on a 140 mile journey there is a very good chance that you will find the Motorway Services Area chargers out of order. The company that won the monopoly contract to install chargers at MSAs appears to have run out of money and fails to maintain them. Not only that a software issue has prevented them charging BMW and Hyundai electric cars.

So local councils installing chargers in car parks just off major trunk routes looks to be a very good idea (†) and there are government grants available to do it.

Chargers Chargers ChargersIf you are thinking of going electric (or already gone) you may be overjoyed to know that Bexley Council has just installed seven chargers. On the other hand you may not.

Looking after itself before residents as usual, every single one of them is for exclusive use of Council employees only. Do any even own proper electric cars as opposed to the ‘plug ins’ that use a traditional combustion engine for going more than a handful of miles?

None of the ‘pool’ cars being charged in the Civic Office’s car park last night were proper electric vehicles, they are Toyotas which as electric cars are pretty much useless in terms of electric range and one day Toyota is going to be in big trouble for publicly stating that it has no intention of producing a non-polluting electric vehicle. They will always rely on fossil fuels to go any real distance.

Yesterday the European Parliament threw an enormous bomb into the motor manufacturers’ arena. Ignoring the pleas of the German manufacturers it said that by 2025 every car manufacturer must be making at least 20% of its output totally pollution free and 40% by 2035. Denmark has gone further and banned combustion engine cars altogether by 2035. In the USA Tesla is already outselling BMW by a considerable margin.

Bearing in mind how long it takes to develop new vehicles Toyota may be in big trouble. They have said they will produce no fully electric cars and the EU has said their production must be 25% zero emissions in only seven years time.

Maybe they are hoping that enormous bomb will be Hydrogen powered, but if you think the electric charging infrastructure is a disaster area don’t put any faith in a hydrogen based salvation. At the last count there were only two places dispensing hydrogen to vehicles in the entire country.

Maybe Bexley will put in a third - for Council use only of course.

† Bexley’s chargers look to be only 7 kilowatt units which is not to MSA standards which are usually 50 kW or higher.

 

4 October (Part 2) - The super talented Councillor Sue Gower

I doubt anyone could honestly say that there is a stand out intellect among Bexley’s Cabinet. We have a couple of political ruffians, Craske and Read, a one time sportsman (John Fuller) before he did for his knee, an apparently shy one who beavers away to good effect away from public view (Brad Smith) and a couple of newbies yet to show their hand. (David Leaf and Louie French). Oh! I nearly forgot, we have Mr. Priti Patel too. (Alex Sawyer.)

What about Teresa O’Neill OBE? Don’t tempt me. Her only talent is self preservation.

GowerThe Bexley Conservative who came particularly to my notice at the last election was Sue Gower. That is Sue Gower MBE JP MA PGCE QTLS GDPRP FCIM. I don’t even know what all those initials mean but I can recognise that she is some sort of superwoman. She has connections with all sorts of professional organisations, The Social Care Institute for Excellence, an Adviser to Plymouth University, an Ambassador for the Centre for Exploitation and Online Protection, a Trainer for the National Offender Management Service and for the Home Office, on the Board at the Demelza Children’s Hospice and that’s only about half of her achievements. I think I am going to ask her for lessons in time management.

Will her talents ever be recognised within Bexley Council? I doubt it and unlike some of her new colleagues she was not chosen to take a leading role on any committee or even plant questions designed to polish the Leader’s ego. Probably she is above such shenanigans.

However Sue has been recognised elsewhere. She is shortlisted for Public Servant of the Year 2018.

Bexley’s very own Nicola Horlick. Weird that it's not been highlighted by Bexley Council but maybe the OBE trumps an MBE? She's vindictive enough for that.

 

4 October (Part 1) - There is no stopping Mr. Singh

It looks like someone is getting ready to build another concrete slab at 238 Woolwich Road. The man even gets his own name on the concrete truck!
Singh

Photographed 3rd October 2018.

 

3 October - Communities changing fast

There was a Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting last Wednesday chaired by Councillor Caroline Newton. Not for the first time, a few minutes before the meeting was due to start, she left her seat and came around to pass the time of day with me. I’m sure some will say that is a cynical ploy to win favour and ensure a favourable report here whilst those of a kinder disposition will be content to think she is simply a nicer person than some of her colleagues.

Perhaps her reasons for making small talk do not matter very much but surely she demonstrates greater political nous than some of her colleagues who have gone out of their way to be antagonistic. Whatever; the tactic seems to work because I am happy to report that Caroline Newton makes a good chairman of her Committee.
Committee
The first item on the Agenda was the recent OFSTED report on Children’s Social Care which gave Bexley a pretty good bill of health. I don’t think we need dwell on it too much, everyone present was full of praise for Director Jacky Tiotto. Her team was described as outstanding, impressive, exceptional and meticulous.

Let me place on the record that fulsome praise also came from Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) just in case Cabinet Member Philip Read tries to claim she didn’t join in at some future date. Councillor Read said he would be aiming for further improvements to Children’s Services.

The OFSTED report is beginning to be old news so the next item on the Agenda held rather more interest for me. Bexley Council had won £819,000 from central government to look into the demographics and ethnicity of the borough. They had engaged the services of a former top man from Experian, the credit rating agency, who had used his experience and software tools to collate a great deal of information on us all.


NewtonSome of the data does not come as a great surprise, Thamesmead for example no longer has a majority White British population and the area bordering the Thames from Abbey Wood through to the boundary with Dartford is described as having a fairly large non-White British population with mono-cultural areas. Nigerians are dominant.

East Wickham and Falconwood & Welling are similar but with a slightly higher proportion of White British but it is changing just as fast as the northern outposts are, whilst the south of the borough is exactly as you would imagine where nothing much has changed over the years.

What might not have been guessed is that Bexley overall is moving steadily towards a diminution of the White British population at the 18th fastest rate in the country. 24% non-White British in 2016 and moving up at about 1% per year.

The Council officers were at pains to point out that although the report refers to White British it might be best to not interpret the term too literally, it will also include any other long term settled members of the community.

“The changes potentially flags things for us in terms of community cohesion”.

Another subject up for discussion was the imposition of a £400 school transport charge from next September on the parents of children with Special Educational Needs. The decision has already been taken to discriminate between the majority of school children and the disadvantaged 16 year olds and over. The policy has been much criticised and has run into a number of practical snags.

Cabinet Member John Fuller reminded the Committee that no parent with an SEN child receiving free travel now would be affected, only new applicants would pay. He forecast that no more than 47 people might be affected next year. For an £18,000 saving you might wonder why they bother. The answer will likely be that it is the thin end of a wedge.


DimentVice-Chairman Richard Diment had with the aid of a sub-Group (Councillors Newton, Gower and Perfect) produced a document which he hoped would answer everyone’s questions “clearly and concisely”.

Councillor Perfect is not a member of the Committee but was in attendance. An hour and five minutes into the meeting, while Cabinet Member John Fuller was speaking she, without warning, interrupted him, something that I have observed several times before. The Chairman asked Councillor Perfect to to desist.

Councillor Fuller’s theme was that some Academies do not cooperate with the Council, they have OFSTED inspections but don’t even bother to tell the Council and there is nothing that can be done about it. Ditto the A Level results, the Council still hasn’t got a clue what they might be.

Six minutes later Councillor Perfect interrupted again but was allowed to get away with it but after another six minutes when Councillor Perfect interrupted the Chairman she was put down quite severely. Two pairs of eyes rolled towards the ceiling, one was Chairman Caroline Newton’s, the other was mine.

 

2 October (Part 2) - Just when I began to believe that Bexley Council may be going straight they resume their crooked ways

At the beginning of this year it was drawn to my attention that on three occasions former Councillor Maxine Fothergill had submitted planning applications in which she declared she had no connection with Bexley Council. Michael Barnbrook reported her to the police under some obscure and ancient Act (Perjury Act 1911) on 31st January but Ms. Fothergill is blessed with a Get Out of Jail Free card so nothing became of that.

Maybe it wasn’t the crime of the century and it was subsequently discovered that other Councillors suffered from the same degree of forgetfulness, Hare brained one might say. Some might see it as just a minor embarrassment to Bexley Council, nothing more.

It may seem minor to you and me but Bexley Council doesn’t like being found out on anything. What would they do to put a stop to embarrassing mistakes; issue reminders to Councillors perhaps?

No, that would be too easy and far too honest. Instead they have done something that is totally effective but at the same time irredeemably deceitful. They have removed all the completed planning application forms from the their website. Whether Councillors be crooked or forgetful they are now safe from criticism and that is all that matters to a bent Council.

I really was hoping that Bexley Council was more honest now than when I started Bonkers in 2009 but it would appear that I am to be disappointed.

I cannot check every planning application obviously but I have looked at a few old ones at random and it would appear to be an across the board withdrawal, not just Councillors.

Note: A correspondent has suggested that the withdrawal of planning applications from public view probably has nothing to do with Maxine Fothergill’s fogetfulness, much more likely to be connected to the publication on Bonkers of Leader Teresa O’Neill’s application last April. I had forgotten that, yes, much more likely that Council policy has been changed on the instructions of the Great Dictator in order to protect herself from scrutiny.

 

2 October (Part 1) - Just a spot of landscaping, you won’t mind will you?

Mr. SinghIt was three weeks ago that Bonkers first started to get reports of devastation being wreaked on some garden trees on the southern fringe of Lesnes Abbey Woods. The address was 238 Woolwich Road.

Those reports said that the house had been purchased in the Spring of 2018 for around £450,000 by an individual who turned out to be the same man who had taken full advantage of planning laws when Ye Olde Leather Bottle was demolished and the site left in such a state that the Health & Safety Executive took an interest in it.

To my regret there never seemed to be a good time to visit Woolwich Road but last Sunday I managed to get around to it. A Sunday was chosen because last time I encountered Mr. Singh he pushed me around a bit and made various threats. I was in luck, Singh was not there but a neighbour was.

From the neighbour’s rear garden the sight is simply unbelievable. Where ancient oak trees once stood there is nothing but a barren landscape but look a little closer and it can be seen that the earth is no more than a couple of inches thick. Beneath it is a slab of concrete estimated to be more than 20 metres square.

How was that allowed to happen under the neighbour’s noses? Easy. The new owner befriended them, said he was going to refurbish the house and move into it with his family, but first he was going to terrace the garden which drops at such an angle as to render it almost unusable. Would the neighbours like any surplus earth to help level their own gardens? Would they like retaining walls erected free, gratis and for nothing? One or two small trees might have to come down.

The neighbours were happy to oblige their new friend.

Work began, the most contentious of it at weekends, and soon the most enormous hole appeared, quickly secured with a high wall and pumped full of concrete from a convoy of rotating carriers not seen in such numbers since Network Rail put in the foundations for their new station a mile to the north.

Woolwich Road Woolwich Road Woolwich Road Woolwich Road

What happened to the oak trees? They came crashing down one Sunday morning and crashed not only across the immediate neighbour’s garden but the next one too.

On my way from the scene another neighbour came over with further information, this one with first hand knowledge of large civil engineering projects.

Where the concrete slab takes the greatest pressure from the sloping terrain the concrete is about four metres thick, tailing off to something like one metre at the other end. The job could not have cost less than £40,000 I was told and currently the house pictured is close to the point at which there is some danger of it slipping into the pit.

Why would anyone need such a massive slab of concrete in their back garden? No one knows but the civil engineer said it was the sort of slab on which one could build a skyscraper. 

Woolwich Road Woolwich Road Woolwich Road Woolwich Road

Where the garden meets Lesnes Abbey Woods and one of its many footpaths the retaining wall towers above the heads of any wood walkers. The pictures do not do the scene justice. A fence to mask the wall is under construction and it must be more than 15 feet above the original ground level.

As you may imagine, the neighbours are no longer best friends with Mr. Singh and just as I was myself two years ago have come under threat. They have been led to believe that another concrete slab is planned, maybe even two more and Mr. Singh is very annoyed with them for reporting the situation to Bexley Council, something they deny.

That is because it was me who precipitated that train of events.

When I failed to go to Woolwich Road as quickly as I should have done I instead passed my information to my Belvedere Councillor Sally Hinkley who reacted immediately. She had already noticed the evidence of building work in progress when driving by but had no idea of what lay out of sight. Suitably shocked she told Councillor John Davey about it as the property is in West Heath ward.

As I understand it, it was John Davey who involved the planning officers and reports are that contrary to Mr. Singh’s assertions the work he has carried out is not permitted development and planning permission is required.

How he can put things back to how they were if his application is refused will pose a bit of a problem.

Will Bexley Council prove to be more effective than they were when Ye Olde Leather Bottle was demolished without their knowledge?

 

1 October (Part 3) - The police are ignorant and corrupt. It needs to be said as often as possible

Today the family of PC Keith Palmer who was murdered last year by a Moslem terrorist found out what I have known for more than 20 years. When the police have made serious mistakes, like being involved in the murder of my almost a relative, Daniel Morgan, they will move heaven and earth to cover up and destroy the evidence.

Daniel was a private investigator who had discovered just how deep police corruption was in South East London. Drug dealing, robberies and stitching up their innocent victims, sometimes for reward. Daniel paid the price with an axe in his skull in the car park of the Golden Lion in Sydenham 31 years ago.

Almost all of the Met's Commissioners have been involved to varying degrees with the subsequent cover up and I cannot wholly exclude the present incumbent.

I still haven't got around to publishing my correspondence with Kent Police and commenting on why I believe them to be another corrupt police force, intent only on covering their own backsides, so meanwhile I give you this. Yet another Metropolitan Police Officer with no knowledge of the law, abusing and injuring an innocent motorist

“The police are not a barrel full of rosy looking fruits poisoned by a few bad apples, they are a huge industrial tank of rotten cider with maybe a few good apples bobbing about waiting to be pulled under by the weight of corruption, unaccountability and incompetence that defines policing in Great Britain today.”

From crimebodge.com.

So corrupt are establishment organisations these days that crimebodge is no longer paid its Youtube fees presumably in an effort to close the author down. Who would have asked Google (Youtube owner) to do that?

 

1 October (Part 2) - It’s got to go

Overflowing bins Overflowing binsI have spent the past three weeks, on and off, rearranging the shelves and hooks in my garage (and shed) to accommodate a new car which is an almost unbelievable eight inches wider than my previous one,

I think I am going to have to make my first ever trip to a Bexley recycling centre. I have next Wednesday in mind for dumping a car boot full of computer graphics boards, several old routers, a couple of CCTV cameras, an old TV and a professional grade TV monitor which I rescued from a TV studio in the late 1990s. It seems a shame but it has to go.

I am not much looking forward to the trip to Thames Road and I think I understand why some people might take the easy way out.

Across the road from my house some people manage to exist without a conscience. The current problem began about a month or maybe six weeks ago when someone wrenched open the plastics bin and dumped one of those large canvas-like hopper baskets in it that builders use when delivering a cubic metre of sand.

This one may have been full of builder’s rubble and not unnaturally Bexley’s contractor didn’t take it away. It has sunk out of sight now and covered with a variety of other items, some plastic some not.

A neglected recycling bin merely attracts more fly tippers and the bins are now adorned with all sorts of overflowing rubbish and a mattress.

I’m not going to report it, it’s a waste of time, they see my name attached and the report gets tossed aside. That’s what happened last time. However I do have just a little bit of sympathy with Bexley Council. The abuse of the facilities must be a major problem but on the other hand turning their back on it and leaving a heap to fester for weeks on end is no solution either. Sooner or later the rubbish will have to be taken away, so why not do it now?

 

1 October (Part 1) - Things that go bump in the night

Bellegrove Road Bellegrove RoadBellegrove Road in Welling and Abbey Road in Belvedere have more in common than both being east west corridors that used to be largely free of accidents; they were both redesigned by Bexley’s Head of Highway Services with a bee in his bonnet about narrow roads and an excess of Keep Left pedestrian refuges.

Both have suffered traffic accidents since they were reconstructed and in Belvedere a group of residents is getting very agitated about the loss of their boundary walls and the risk to their personal safety.

I have no idea if Welling residents have similar fears but maybe at least one of them has.

Fewer than two weeks after his last accident report he has updated me on developments over the past three or four days.

FM Conway came along in the middle of the week and replaced the lighting column destroyed only a matter of days earlier. On Saturday a motorist demolished it.

It’s easy to blame careless motorists but with so many accidents occurring in the same old places, isn’t it time that the Highway Engineer who signs off these schemes shouldered some of the responsibility?

 

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