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Bonkers Blog December 2019

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31 December - Getting ready for tomorrow

Bexley-is-Bonkers is automated to some extent and I only have to remember to do one thing when it goes from one month to the next. There is a lot more to do to get it ready for a New Year, none of it very difficult but the problem is remembering what is to be done and where the relevant code is hidden. While I continue to struggle with the long drawn out tail end of the flu I will try to get the brain working with some code fiddling today.

There will be a dummy blog for 1st January and some things may not be quite right for a little while. No one with any sense looks at this time of the year anyway.

Note: The 2009-2019 Index that appears at the top of each blog page cannot be updated in advance as it does a calculation based on the current date. If changed in advance of the New Year it would display 2008-2019 instead of 2009-2020.

 

30 December - Where’s the advantage?

Bexley Council shows no sign of easing up on its relentless war against motorists and nowhere is that more in evidence than in Abbey Wood. Since they began making their Crossrail related changes in March 2017 there has been little to show for it apart from traffic queues. Now that a mere 18 months behind schedule the end is in sight all one can say for it is that it looks good.

With Crossrail services unlikely until the year after next this is what Bexley Council appears to have given to the community for the eight million or so of taxpayers’ money it has spent.


• A 40 m.p.h. dual carriageway has been converted to a 20 m.p.h. single carriageway, one is now a bus lane.
• 30 m.p.h. carriageways have had their footpaths separated from vehicles by large granite flower beds filled with trees but the speed limit has been dropped to 20 m.p.h.
• The stairway from Gayton Road up to the Harrow Manorway flyover has been out of use for more than a year with no sign of that being situation reversed.
• Felixstowe Road has been designed in such an incredibly stupid way such that the slightest misjudgment on a near to right angled bend will send a vehicle straight into the station lifts.
• Because there is no kerb on either of the right angle bends large vehicles delivering to the small Industrial Estate cut the corner and run across the footpath. To be fair, given the poor design, drivers have little alternative.


Those who are suffering most are of course the local traders. To the north of the station shoppers must complete their purchases within five minutes. To the south a similar attack on trade is being pursued.

At Traders’ Association meetings three years ago I heard Council officers tell shop owners how they would be sitting on little goldmines once the new station opened; nothing can be further from the truth. The new station and its various exit points leads people away from the shops.

Some spent tens of thousands of pounds on improvements to their facilities to cope with the promised demand, now the loans are just millstones. The last time any Bexley Council official addressed the Traders at one of their meetings was in March 2017. There has been no consultation since; they didn’t listen anyway.

Not content with traders becoming unfortunate collateral damage of their handiwork Bexley Council is determined to inflict as much pain as possible. Two shop closures are not enough for them, further restrictions on trade must be inflicted.

There is to be a Bexleyheath Broadway style area wide Restricted Parking Zone which means that you cannot park anywhere except where specific permission is given. The well understood single and double yellow line system is thrown out of the window and replaced by an money motivated ‘catch all’.

Unless some are to be removed, new disabled parking bays will take their number up to a third of the total. They will be abused by people taking the train to bigger shopping centres and local traders will suffer again.

Closed Launderette Closed Gift Shop Parking restrictions Draconian Parking restrictions New Parking restrictions New Parking restrictions

The purple blind has been installed since the gift shop closed on 26th November 2019. Behind it is a whitewashed window.

 

29 December - New Year’s resolutions

I am going to do something I don’t remember doing before, make a New Year’s Resolution - or two.

Flu Jabs
It started on 14th December, just a suggestion of a sore throat and it was a slow burner. It took four or five days before it came and got me and I can still barely move even now; exhausted by non-stop coughing.

If you had asked me ten or twelve years ago if I had ever had the flu I would have said yes, once I think, possibly twice at the most. Just enough times to let me know that influenza is nothing like a cold. I even remember which bedroom I was confined to and that dates it to somewhere between 1975 and 1984.

And then I became eligible for the flu jab. At first the doctor was erratic with his invitations so I didn’t get one every year but I did begin to get the occasional dose of flu. Then the doctor upped his game and I have had a jab every year - and with just one exception I have been laid low by flu every year since.

Never again, no more flu jabs.

Smart Meters
I have been resisting the siren calls of the energy companies to fit a smart meter. They cannot actually save any money if you are already careful with usage and I already have phone apps which tell me how much solar energy is being generated and where it is going. Do I really want to give my energy supplier the ability to cut me off on a whim or tell me when I cannot charge my car? Probably not but I wasn’t sure I would resist them for ever.

I am now.

I drove down to my son’s place in Malmesbury on Christmas Day, got there in time for breakfast. The main meal was scheduled for 1 p.m.

At ten o’clock I complained that his wi-fi was no longer working and a couple of minutes later we realised why. Nothing was working.

The energy distribution company, the western equivalent of our local UK Power Networks very quickly diagnosed a Smart Meter problem by which time my son and I were coming to the same conclusion. The problem then was that Octopus Energy had completely closed its emergency phone system for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The distribution company advised that they were supposed to be monitoring their web form and provided the link.

What if you have no access to the web during a power cut or your mobile’s battery was flat? By about 11:30 a.m. the form was located and filled in.

Just before 4 p.m. the Octopus Energy technician arrived with his diagnostics kit having come from Newbury. By 4 p.m. the power was on again.

The not so Smart Meter had rebooted itself for reasons unknown and decided to come back to life as a pre-payment meter. Not finding any credit balance it promptly cut the power. No questions asked as would be the case with the old technology, just ruin Christmas Dinner instead.

It’s total madness to accept a Smart Meter while there is no obligation to do so.

Gillette Razor Blades
I am tempted to make a third resolution. Change my choice of razor blade. They have been going downhill for years but we seem to have reached the stage when even brand new ones are blunt. Enough is enough.

 

25 December - Where’s the Quality?

Quality StreetI suppose I should learn to throw away the old boxes, but for the record…

2017 : 720 grammes.
2018 : 698 grammes.
2019 : 629 grammes.

 

21 December - Bonkers questions

Because I keep abreast of some of what goes on in Bexley some people think I know the answer to everything. Not true; here is a selection of recently posed questions that I couldn’t answer.

Drug taking
What remedies are available if your neighbour in a privately rented house is addicted to smoking cannabis and you are sick, maybe literally, of the smell?

The landlord apparently has no power and the police are interested in very little apart from hurtful Tweets. It must be a dreadful situation. Who can help?

Is it an Environmental Health problem?

Note: The stench of cannabis is surely the Number One reason why it must never be legalised.

Harrow Manorway litter
If you walk along the northwestern footpath on the Harrow Manorway flyover it can be ankle deep in litter but the eastern footpath is as clean as a whistle. Why is that?

I thought I knew the answer to that one. Most train travellers arrive by bus from Thamesmead. They alight on to the eastern footpath and run across the road into the station. No hanging around.

When they go home they wait for up to 15 minutes at the bus stop and throw their beer cans and crisp packets on to the ground. Bexley Council not emptying the waste bins doesn’t help. There is a fortune to be made around Abbey Wood station if the pavement parkers, bus stop hoggers and smokers are targeted by Bexley Council’s various enforcement teams.
Litter Litter Litter No litter

The response was how does that theory fit the fact that the eastern walkway is weed free too (Photo 4) and the western one isn’t?
Weeds
I suppose the wind must blow the dirt and seeds in, but the prevailing wind is from the west, so that theory probably falls apart too

One thing is sure, Bexley Council cleans the flyover very infrequently.

Crossrail
This one is unanswerable…

If Crossrail has been designed to last 100 years as was claimed, how come Abbey Wood station is rusting away already?
Rust Rust Rust Rust

 

20 December - Not a good start

This must have been a daunting week for new MPs and it appears to be the in thing to do video blogs about it. Bexley Councillor Gareth Bacon (MP for Orpington) did a quite tasteful one on College Green and if the background venue is any guide Abena Oppong-Asare (MP for Erith & Thamesmead) did one on the way home each night. As a curmudgeonly old bloke (™ Philip Read) I found them a little ostentatious but I accept that it may aid transparency and understanding for those who will be voting for more years ahead than I will be.

I did wonder how long she might keep it up for; four late night videos so far but I’m guessing there may not be a fifth for a while.
Tweet Swearing in
According to the Political Editor of The Sun Newspaper, Tom Newton Dunn, the MP for Erith & Thamesmead forgot to vote in what might be the most important vote of the Parliament. The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

I can only guess at what Abena’s views on Brexit are, she failed to mention either Brexit or that other curmudgeonly old man in her election literature or face questions at hustings.

I would therefore like to think she was merely reflecting the wishes of her electorate, Bexley voters being Leavers and abstaining was a compromise with those further west: but somehow I doubt it.

The wags on Twitter are having a field day of course; proposals that that level of competence is a qualification for Labour Leader, mistook the lobby queue for the lunch queue, a poor anagram of her name.

 

19 December (Part 2) - Money for nothing. Bexley Council must be in dire straits

Councillor Linda Bailey became a little agitated on Tuesday evening about the amount of money that Council consultants were running off with. £500 a day was mentioned and from other sources I have heard of even more.

What is the truth of the matter and how can you get the measure of it without knowing some names?

It might not be totally accurate but one way might be to see how much Bexley Council is paying Reed Managed Serviced Limited, the employment agency.

It was £353,194·00 in September rising to £417,722·90 in October. And the Council is worried about long serving employees raking in a tenth of that in overtime payments!

Just the tip of an iceberg?

 

19 December (Part 1) - Shameless

Apparently managing the budget in a way that leads to the sale of one of Bexley’s bigger parks is funny.
Shameless

The first spade goes into Old Farm Park and it is a cause for laughter. Jeremy Corbyn’s election strategist would be proud.

 

18 December - Budget Scrutiny. When Harold met Sally

Another Scrutiny meeting, another set of excuses. A nasty cold and cough came out of nowhere on Monday which was making me think twice about attending last night’s Public Cabinet meeting; sorry Budget Scrutiny meeting, the Council did a swap at not quite the last minute. Then only an hour before the meeting start time the emergency bell rang in East Ham. It took several phone calls to sort it out.

But there is always the webcast isn’t there? Maybe not last night. The audio started to come through at 19:38 and some sort of image (see below) which didnֹ’t ever get any better.

TweetThe webcast doesn’t convey any of the atmosphere of the meeting and misses some bits altogether. For example, half an hour into the meeting Chairman Andy Dourmoush could be heard slapping down the usual suspects for interrupting a Cabinet Member in full flow. The interruption could not be heard and therefore there was no sure way of telling if the telling off was justified on more than just procedural grounds. (Ironically the Chairman accidentally caused the problem.)

The audio began with what appeared to be the tail end of Councillor Dourmoush saying he wasn’t going to put up with any political point scoring after last Thursday which seemed like a good idea. Who would do that? Were Councillors Read and Craske raring to go?

Without any preliminaries from Finance Officers (but maybe the audio failure had lost it) Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked what ‘Children’s Services General Efficiencies’ was all about. “What are we going to do that we haven’t done before?”

More buzzwords was the answer. A coordinated approach, dedicated communications, a pioneer scheme, young ambassadors, social media, more Twitter and an updated website.

Councillor Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) cheekily asked how many children will have to opt out of the SEN Transport scheme to make up the projected £120k. saving next year?

Personalised longer term family budgets seemed to be the answer to spend on what the family needed most. Councillor Perfect said that much the same thing did not work out well last year but was told that family feedback is going to make all the difference next year.

Cabinet Member John Fuller said the new scheme was very different and families covered by it “are very keen”.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said that some Communities improvements were very dependent on Home Office funding. How confident was the Cabinet Member of the money being forthcoming? Councillor Alex Sawyer said he “was very confident”; presumably the Home Secretary had given him that assurance over breakfast. #doitforbexley Alex.

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) couldn’t quite see from the published figures where the library savings were coming from. Was it true that one more library would become community managed and opening hours would be reduced?

Cabinet Member Peter Harold Craske said the new library strategy was exactly five years old but it was too early to say what will happen next except that no libraries will be closed.

Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) asked him which library might become community managed. Cabinet Member Craske threw another of his tantrums telling Councillor Hinkley aggressively and rather sarcastically that he had just said none are to be closed. I have reviewed the recording three times and the word closed never passed Sally Hinkley’s lips, it was the Chairman’s summary of her question that mistakenly used the word. Maybe Councillor Craske will be issuing an apology.

Councillor Hinkley did not get an answer to her question. Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) said, in effect, that Councillor Craske can deny any decision has been made as much as he liked but the official report clearly states that one more library will become community managed. The responsible Council Officer gave an assurance that no such decision had yet been taken. Councillor Ferreira did not seem to be all that convinced.


WebcastCouncillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) asked if the new Capita contract to be signed this week will have any impact on Erith Town Hall which had been occupied by Capita for several years. The expectation is that Bexley Council will continue to provide their accommodation but at some time the service will be relocated as part of the Erith regeneration scheme but remain within Erith.

Councillor Ferreira asked how the service level will remain as it has been after £1·2 million has been trimmed from their fee? Because there was a rival bidder was the reason for the reduction and the new Capita contract incentivises better tax collection rates. Capita are going to introduce an automated telephone enquiry service based in Coventry so the likelihood is that any improvement in overall service will benefit the Council and not the taxpayer. Questions will be answered 24/7 using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Switching subjects, Councillor Ferreira asked how staff and unions had reacted to the proposed new Terms and Conditions of Employment? The same proposals made last year weren’t delivered. The HR manager said the T&Cs need “modernising in line with the way we work now”. They need to attract the right sort of staff. The unions have not been supportive but the relationship is constructive.

Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) suggested that the new T&Cs could perhaps be applied to new staff only. The Chief Executive said that the current arrangements cost £0·5 million of overtime payments. Presumably she has in mind reducing that figure.

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log) was critical of the use of consultants “on £300 a day or even £500 a day” employed to “pull the proposals together”. The HR manager confirmed that additional consultancy would be required but it was essential.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said she was aware of how staff morale was falling and how “very senior staff are being paid a lot of money”. Unfortunately the webcast doesn’t allow one to see who she might have been looking at at the time.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s and St. James) referring to housing, in particular of 18 to 25 year olds who had been in care, didn’t want to see them “housed in something like Homeleigh”. Does it all mean that more families might be in temporary accommodation “at a stated [in the Agenda] £8,000 a year per family which is about £155 a week? I don’t know where we are going to get all that property for this sort of money. I don’t see the huge saving of £357,000 happening. What sort of property would it be and where?”

Cabinet Member Philip Read agreed that some of the accommodation is “not up to scratch” and plans are in hand to deal with it.“It is high on the agenda.” We didn’t learn where the money was coming from.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) asked about the projected £200,000 street cleaning savings, “there is no detail, what are the Council Officer’s thoughts” she asked but Cabinet Member Peter Craske stepped in. He was putting his faith in the new street cleaning machine, the catch a smoker getting on a bus scheme and voluntary litter pickers, none of which is new. “There is less litter so it is time to review the service as is. Like libraries it is something we haven’t worked through yet.”

He went on to say you don’t see much litter in the streets now. How many roads must the man walk down, the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind and how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see - the answer once again my friend is blowin’ in the wind.

Hot air mostly.

P.S. Why does the webcast page retain June Slaughter’s old Bexley tag line?

 

17 December - The Dream Team? (Boris’s possibly)

Oh my God!I know the Labour front bench is devoid of talent but these two? Really? Johnson is likely to be in power now for ten years, is that not long enough for these two?

All we need now is for Emily Thornberry to throw her hat into the ring and Labour is done for. Hasn’t the verdict already been delivered on the Islington elite? Why add snobbery to Labour’s political armoury?

If they move their party to the left the electorate will slaughter them and if they move to the centre ground - well that’s Boris’s territory now isn’t it?

Well at least PMQs will be fun.

 

16 December - What’s all this then?

Companies HouseI have heard it said at Council meetings that to combat the financial black hole they will have to cut back on the number of consultants, on the other hand I have heard a couple of department heads say they must employ more. With the Finance Director employing one very directly I suppose we must take the black hole related comment with a pinch of salt.

I stumbled across this entry at Companies House the other day; I’ve just had confirmation from ‘within’ that it is the same Jacky Belton who is the new Chief Executive at Bexley Council. I have yet to hear of anything noteworthy she has delivered.

Maybe she simply doesn’t have the time.

 

15 December - Priti disgusting

Priti PatelThe things I am hearing from family members more closely connected to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel than I am are worrying. It is nearly seven years since the Home Office funded Panel began its investigation into the murder and subsequent police cover up of a Private Investigator who was on the brink of exposing police corruption.

It has become the biggest Metropolitan Police corruption scandal ever and a Deputy Commissioner publicly acknowledged that “We recognise that we have to take responsibility for the consequences of the repeated failure of the MPS over the years to confront the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice.”

Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid, Jacquie Smith and Alan Johnson were all Labour Home Secretaries who refused to believe that the Met. Police is an institutionally corrupt police force and then along came Teresa May who actually got around to reviewing the evidence and concluding that her predecessors might very well have been wrong.

Since then the Panel she authorised has had to battle the delaying tactics of Commissioner Cressida Dick, who in her own way appears to have behaved just as corruptly as most of her predecessors.

And then there was Priti Patel. It is one thing to seek more police officers on the streets, it is quite a different matter to suggest an honest attempt to bring to public attention the fact that some police officers have been murderers and supporters of murder would be best suppressed.

 

14 December - Labour losers and Conservatives losers

ScreenshotThere are many good and decent people in the Labour movement, I am certain of that because I know some of them but it also attracts the worst of humanity. It’s always been that way, my earliest political memories are of their wall slogan daubers and public realm defacers and it shaped my party outlook from an early age.

I used to think that it was because uneducated people were enthusiasts for a something for nothing society but I was hopelessly wrong. There are videos out there right now of trainee doctors wishing cancer on the Prime Minister. Words fail me. Unless the Labour Party can rid themselves of such people they will be finished and deservedly so.

The Tweet alongside attracted a few hundred likes. For reporting with 100% accuracy facts about former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill without comment I was charged with a criminal offence, what will the police do about Amelia?

I can’t imagine how a candidate who has put her heart and soul into combatting the Amelias of this world and losing must feel. Maybe the trainee doctors guaranteed the Labour hold in Canterbury.

There are 32,000 university students in Canterbury and Conservative candidate Anna Firth, late of this parish, lost out to their juvenile views.

Ironically she may have done better in Erith and Thamesmead where the Labour vote collapsed. 10,014 more votes than the Conservatives in 2017 and 3,758 more last Thursday.

The Conservatives did not announce their 2019 candidate until Nomination Day and I never heard from him, never saw him. In 2015 Anna Firth was banging on my door four months before the election and you could hardly go a day without seeing her pictured fixing fly tips.

The local Conservative Association simply didn’t try and for their electoral failure I suspect Councillors Philip Read and John Davey are to blame.

Labour supporting student.

 

13 December - Bring back Anna Firth

After keeping me up until 4 a.m. to see their results, congratulations are due to David, James and Abena for being the borough’s three MPs. Perhaps Joe Robertson, the previously unknown candidate for Erith & Thamesmead deserves a pat on the back too for turning that constituency into a Labour marginal but he should have done more. Maybe the Mayor, who did the announcement honours, will learn to pronounce Abena’s surname now.

The usual Bexley crew were in attendance at the count, I declined an invitation, who would want to talk to me, but apparently I missed John Ferry’s more than usually gaudy tie, some scruffy looking Bexley Directors who have not recently encountered a razor and a good victory speech from James Brokenshire. Better prepared than Boris Johnson’s no doubt.

If Joe’s candidacy had been announced before Nomination Day, if he hadn’t buggered off to Eltham to help Louie French, if he had been outside Abbey Wood Station when I came out of it at 6:30 on Wednesday evening it may have been different. It was as if the Conservatives didn’t care. Didn’t capitalise on Teresa Pearce’s withdrawal, didn’t capitalise on the incomers drawn to the area by Crossrail, didn’t capitalise on Thamesmead and Erith voting Leave (maybe not the Plumstead end of the constituency) in the referendum and generally being lack lustre.

Where were John Davey and Philip Read in this campaign? Sore that their favoured man was whisked away to Batley at the last minute presumably.

Fortunately for right wingers the Tories further north ran a better campaign. Watching all those northern industrial towns come crashing down into Boris Johnson’s clutches was a sight to behold, steel making towns, railway centres, former mining areas all painted blue and John McDonnell on TV saying his was a centrist party. If the blinkers are not removed Boris Johnson will be in No. 10 for ten years.

Clearly I should spend less time looking at Labour supporting web sites and listening to radio phone ins. In both 1987 and 1992 I won the office sweepstake for guessing the election results. Listening to real people is obviously a much better thing to do than listen to a small number of loud mouths trying to masquerade as a well organised army of rational thinkers.

In recent days I became a pessimist who thought the Conservatives might be lucky to secure a majority of 25 seats.

With Erith & Thamesmead no longer a shoo-in for Sadiq Khan next year maybe the area will benefit from a few of his bribes. Is the DLR to Abbey Wood too much to hope for?

With extreme left wing politics consigned to the dustbin for five years maybe my BT and Shell shares plus two Jewish friends will be safe from Corbyn’s clutches along with my pension, savings, children’s inheritance and single person Council Tax discount. But no free Broadband.

Actually I could be wrong on that. Yesterday afternoon the Technical Director of my ISP called me to enquire if the Christmas hamper he sent me had arrived safely and asked if I would revert to my old beta testing role by being the first of his customers to be given a 330 meg line.

If Bonkers fails to update during January you may assume it has all gone Corbyn shaped.

One bit of bad news… You will have heard me say I never watch the telly. I did last night obviously and discovered that every 30 minutes or so it turns itself off, sometimes rebooting itself and other times not. Ten years old and it does that to me!

Commiserations to Anna down in Canterbury, my big disappointment of the night.

 

12 December (Part 2) - When in a hole; change the subject

Knee Hill hole Knee Hill hole Knee Hill holeCommenting on politics will be rapidly losing me the few Council friends I have although it has pushed the number of Twitter followers to an all time high.

This evening I will take refuge metaphorically in Greenwich, but only just.

I think it was on 15th November that the bottom end of Knee Hill close to the old Post Office building cracked and partially subsided. It was so bad that FM Conway’s men rushed to patch it up before a motor cyclist went over his handlebars.

Within a day or two (Photo 1) it had subsided again.

I wouldn’t mind betting that Bexley and Greenwich Councils then argued over who should patch it up but it was fairly obviously a foot or two across the boundary and in Greenwich.

Today only a day short of four weeks later Greenwich Council came along to fix it. It looked like they meant business; barriers and spades and temporary traffic lights. Photo 2 was taken at 12:32 today.

I don’t know when the contractors packed up and went home but three hours and 56 minutes later the repaired hole was subsiding nicely all over again.

 

12 December (Part 1) - It’s fingernail biting time

It’s been a funny sort of day, dodging the rain and apprehensive about the future. Forty years ago, not to the day obviously, I promised my then seven and nine year old children I would double their pocket money to a pound a week if Mrs. Thatcher was elected; they told me not all that long ago that it made them the richest kids in class but I am not sure it did a lot of good. One is sufficiently left wing not to be sacked by the BBC and the other one runs a successful small business but is inclined to vote Lib Dem this time. University First Class Honours Degree and all!

I must have been a bad parent.

I have never ever seen any reason to vote Lib Dem. Until this year I’ve never known what their policies are; they have always been inclined to have different policies for different constituencies but in 2019 we do know what they want, to undo the result of a referendum they campaigned for.

There have been a handful of interesting emails today, one from someone who has extracted a promise from the Conservatives to fix the social care problems.


We will urgently work across Parliament to find a cross-party consensus that addresses the significant and complex challenges we face. This process will begin as soon as the next Parliament is established, and we will bring forward an answer that solves the problem, commands the widest possible support, and stands the test of time.

The third point of our plan is that without exception no one needing care will have to sell their home to pay for it.

This three-point plan stabilising the current system, immediately securing cross-party consensus for a long-term solution, and guaranteeing that no one will have to sell their home to pay for care will provide certainty and security for our older population.


With the old girl in East Ham seemingly going on for ever that would be a welcome development.

There were less interesting emails too. Someone complaining they would not vote for anyone who called an election in December. Was there any choice? The complaint came from one of those poor losers who do not understand the word democracy. A school teacher. Would you expect anything else?

There was another from a Sikh complaining bitterly about the Labour Party’s antisemitism. “It will be us next.”

A local businessman gave me a Crossrail related anti-Sadiq Khan rant. “A sh*t Mayor”.

FrothThere was an email from a lady who says she is not voting because her back garden fence is in a different constituency to her house and she is not going to vote for an MP from, as she sees it, a foreign borough. All her business is conducted on the far side of the fence. There is no accounting for that but it is one Tory vote lost.

A rather premature message commiserates with me (using today’s favourite word) for being represented by “a sh*t new MP”. That is very unkind and we don’t even know for certain that Joe Robertson is going to be elected yet.

By the way, the neighbours who burned their furniture to keep warm in the late 1960s “when the pound in your pocket” bought less as every day passed by went on to burn all their doors.

It’s going to be a long night and I have a horrible feeling it will be a horrible dark five years ahead of us too. A reader is so sure I am wrong that he emailed to say he would bet and buy me a beer if Boris Johnson didn’t win a majority. I told him to keep his money. If Corbyn wins he is going to need every penny he has and under him the beer will be all froth anyway, just like his promises, no substance, just air.

 

11 December - It’s only banter, honest it is

When this election was first declared I honestly didn’t know who I would vote for, some days it was the Brexit Party candidate, other days it wasn’t.

I thought Mabel Ogundayo might make a worthy successor to Teresa Pearce although to actually vote for her was a bit of a stretch for someone who believes that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would be the worst disaster to hit this country in my lifetime. I felt I would probably choose between Brexit and Conservative dependent on what I thought of each candidate on a personal basis.

Since then Mabel fell by the wayside to be replaced by Abena Oppong-Asare. Presumably her close connections to the GLA enables her to summon support from Sadiq Khan even though he knows so little about the area that Saturday’s video shows him mispronouncing Erith.

IzzardHowever Abena’s influence appears not to extend as far as Jeremy Corbyn but only to lesser comedians. Yesterday she brought Eddie Izzard to Abbey Wood and Erith. If I was still a floating voter that would certainly help me make up my mind.

What is more striking is the comparative lack of local political support. I’ve looked at Abena’s photos as they have appeared on Twitter and seen her backed by Joe Ferreira (Erith Councillor) in one and I think I saw Mabel Ogundayo (Thamesmead East Councillor) lurking in the background of another. There are probably some with Greenwich Councillors but I’m not sure I would recognise them.

I have not seen local Labour Councillors Daniel Francis, Sally Hinkley, Nicola Taylor, Esther Amaning or the former MP in any of the photos although former Councillor John Husband was seen out delivering leaflets.

Probably I have missed a few.

The wisdom of being disproportionately photographed alongside people of talent, as Channel 4 News might call them, even when canvassing the Northern Territories is debatable to my mind but presumably Abena knows exactly what she is doing. It is not very surprising. In 2018 the Thamesmead East ward was calling for an all black candidate list. Probably they regret not going ahead with that plan given events earlier this year.

My oscillation between The Brexit Party and The Conservatives did not make any real headway until very recently because I knew next to nothing about the two candidates. I still don’t. I know what Abena has achieved because various Labour people have told me but Joe Robertson has proved to be something of an enigma.

In 2015 Anna Firth made sure I knew everything I needed to know about her, Joe Robertson is not cast in her mould. Who is?

My decision has had to be based on something else and that something else has been Nigel Farage. I confess I had been going off him for several months past but his recent decisions have left me puzzled.

He says Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, which I read but maybe didn’t always understand, was good enough to justify withdrawing his candidates from traditionally Conservative areas but it wasn’t good enough for withdrawal from Labour areas. That makes no sense whatever and I can only conclude that Farage is no longer thinking clearly.

If his intervention causes a hung Parliament he will have defeated his own lifetime’s work.

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister I can see only one benefit. A whole new generation of voters will learn the very hard way as I was forced to in the 1960s and 1970s that Labour governments always lead working people to disaster. I am probably sufficiently well off to survive financially but not so well off that I will be specially singled out by the Marxists for individual attention. Maybe the best place to be.

The average family will suffer to an extent they might not believe. I remember neighbours who burned their furniture to keep warm and sat on orange boxes and a government brought to its knees because a nationalised airline bought one solitary Boeing. Income tax at 98% for those who led successful lives. No one knows what poverty is any more and a bit of me will probably be thinking ‘Serves them right’ about working Labour voters in a year or two’s time.

PS. Councillor Philip Read thinks I am a Labour supporter paid to Troll his party. He’s not very bright is he?

 

10 December (Part 4) - Hey Jude, don’t make it bad

JudeAnother leaflet from Labour candidate Abena Oppong-Asare tumbled on to my doormat this afternoon. At the bottom of Page 1, or maybe it is Page 2, hard to tell with the way these things are folded, is a picture of Abena complete with trademark scarlet lipstick and a bearded gentleman against the politicians’ favourite backdrop; Abbey Wood Crossrail station. Not Sadiq Khan of course, he’s too embarrassed to be seen anywhere near it.

The hirsute social worker is named Jude. I’ֹm pretty sure it is the same Jude who sorted out the crisis caused by the totally incompetent uncaring nincompoops at Newham Hospital back in May. He lived in Abbey Wood and took the train to Newham every day.

I said then he was good. He recognised the situation, knew what had to be done and did it. I hope his support for Abena proves to be justified if she is elected.

Click image for the complete leaflet.

 

10 December (Part 3) - Newham’s financial woes. Bexley next?

Rokhsana FiazFunny things go on in my second home across the river, Newham is a bit of a dump and I try not to be there after dark. The current Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz was elected in 2018 to clean the place up after Sir Robin Wales’ 16 years in office.

Newham Council is the major partner in OneSource, the three borough consortium that is supposed to save Bexley money. In the year before Rokhsana’s election a lot of money, reported to be £7·5 million, went unaccounted for at OneSource. Whatever it was the auditors spotted the discrepancy and Newham’s new broom Mayor asked The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to look into its accounts. The CIPFA report is here. (PDF)

Paul Thorogood was associated with Newham Council from January 2013 until December 2018 being Director of Finance for the final two years - the period covered by the CIPFA report. It was Paul Thorogood who oversaw Newham and OneSource’s financial affairs during that critical period, the same Paul Thorogood who has been in charge of Bexley’s finances since this time last year.

CIPFA said that during 2017 and 2018 there was “a lack of clear vision” and “a lack of transparency on financial matters between members and officers. Savings targets were insufficiently planned”. There was “a lack of accurate profiling of Capital expenditure and a lack of delivery”.

CIPFA was not exactly complimentary about Newham’s high interest Lender Option Borrower Option loans either.

Just as in Barnet there were multi-million pound frauds, allegations of fraud and staff dismissals. Nearly £9 million of it in Newham. Councillors reported the matter to the police. More poor financial management?

It’s a pity that it took a new Mayor elected on a promise to drain Newham’s swamp to get on top of the money problems and not their Finance Director.

Bexley appears to have imported an architect of failure. One must hope that ‘Lessons have been Learned’.

 

10 December (Part 2) - Five feet from death

Perambulator Felixstowe RoadIt is fortunate that baby buggies are no longer five feet long. The specimen seen here was a Silver Cross from 1970 which cost £35. If that was put in the Abbey Wood station lift and taken down to Felixstowe Road the front end would have to be pushed into the road before it could be got out.

The clowns who design these things have provided a five foot pavement and no kerb before reaching the road which is a Z bend.

Lunacy by Andrew Bashford and his friends.

Felixstowe Road

 

10 December (Part 1) - How can this be? An explanation

Two days ago a blog was published entitled ֹ‘How can this be?’ which was an allusion to Bexley’s Returning Officer not rejecting Nomination Papers from an election candidate who admits, some might say boasts, to having served a lengthy prison sentence. I have received an explanation.

All candidates are read a statement reminding them that it is a criminal offence to make a false declaration. The Guidance does not require the Acting Returning Officer or deputies to advise the candidate further who should have read the Guidance disqualifications himself.

Presumably the Electoral Commission takes an interest if they discover the law has been broken.

 

9 December (Part 4) - Candidate makes his threat

There are hundreds of videos freely available on the web showing election candidates saying and sometime doing controversial things; politicians must rue the day that someone squeezed a video camera inside a phone, TV stations started putting news clips on the web and YouTube hosted a trillion bits of incriminating evidence.

I can dig them out and reproduce them here until my ISP sends me a stroppy letter about the number of megabytes I have been putting on its server.

Here’s one of Jeremy Corbyn refusing to condemn the IRA’s bombing of innocent people and eventually putting the phone down on his inquisitor. There is not a thing he can do about it and God help the paratroops who served in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s if he is allowed to form a government.

Jeremy Corbyn refuses to condemn the IRA bombing of innocents.

I can do that about Red Jezza and no one complains but do it about a local candidate and the threats rain down.


You know nothing about what you are writing about except what the MSM have told you. The entire case was a fraud. You have written a libellous article during an election. Remove it or I will prosecute. What YOU have done is a criminal offence!


For the record I have not been in touch with any Main Stream Media, sometimes, especially at weekends I idly browse around the web. The blog which is said to be libellous did not directly mention the candidate’s name but merely provided a link to an interesting newspaper article; there are more but one was probably sufficient. A YouTube video had the candidate himself boasting about his criminal past.

I took advice during the day and found no legal reason why the facts need to be suppressed during an election period and have a clearer picture of the legalities of the nomination process. The blog remains off line only because it is possible that people who spend five years in Belmarsh will have acquired some unsavoury friends.

 

9 December (Part 3) - Pretty damned good!

RecyclingBexley Council has treated me well over the past week. I complained that my Winter issue Bexley Magazine was not delivered and it was getting to be too much of a habit.

Jane Parsons popped a copy in the post for me and promised to have a word with the distribution company.

I had occasion to seek advice from a Council Department and received an excellent response with an hour or two.

On Friday I engaged in a Twitter conversation with someone who had not received any instructions on use of the new bins and I said delivery was a bit hit and miss in my road too.

I subsequently discovered a very wet copy in a neighbour’s front garden. He had chucked it out unread which perfectly illustrates how difficult it is to get the recycling message out to residents.

This afternoon a pristine copy of the same leaflet dropped through my letter box. There were in fact two booklets, one I hadn’t seen before.

That’s pretty damned good don’t you think?

 

9 December (Part 2) - Vote Alan B’Stard!

RobertsonA second Conservative election leaflet to mull over in Erith and Thamesmead.

Joe Robertson says he lives in Abbey Wood and my detective work suggests he is on Bostall Hill and his links with the Isle of Wight are largely severed.

His priorities are schools and he has employment links to the NHS. He wishes to focus on housing and cutting crime while raising the minimum wage along the way.

He wants to see Gigabyte broadband across the country which may be a bit ambitious in one Parliamentary term but a full fibre connection to every address was coming to most places under existing arrangements anyway but without the downside of the internet being controlled by the government as if we had adopted the Chinese economic model.

Like his Labour counterpart Joe fails to mention Jeremy Corbyn but he does remember to include the all important buzz phrase, Get Brexit Done.

I don’t think I really need the missing Lib Dem and Green leaflets, I have done enough mulling for one election.

 

9 December (Part 1) - Police incompetence - or is it more corruption?

It is 21 months since I wrote to Alan Pughsley, the Chief Constable of Kent, accusing former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill of a criminal offence, that is making a false statement with the intention of getting me arrested for reporting her Libel against her employee at Amax Estates and a business associate. She admitted the Libel before the Court gave its ruling and incurred a very large bill.

Pair of incompetentsIn summary Alan Pughsley said I was not her victim and so did the Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott. On appeal the PCC said I was abusing the complaints process.

The case was taken up by my MP Teresa Pearce. Matthew Scott’s incompetent outfit told her that the case had been settled and provided her with evidence in the shape of various letters which they hoped would prove me either an idiot or a liar.

Teresa Pearce went straight back to Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner to ask them to look at the papers more carefully. They eventually came back only slightly apologetically to admit they were in a right old muddle. What they didn’t do is answer the original question. How was I not the victim of Maxine Fothergill’s dishonest statement?

Teresa decided that responding to Matthew Scott might not be very useful and she would be better off going directly to the organ grinder.

I’ve seen the letter, it couldn’t be clearer, but precisely six weeks later Alan Pughsley has not seen fit to acknowledge or respond to it.

This creates an interesting situation. I have a written admission from the Crime Commissioner that he was wrong to have dismissed my complaint and accuse me of abusing the process - there is an office for complaints against the PCC - and I can complain again about the Chief Constable of Kent not responding to complaints at all.

If I have counted correctly no fewer than seven allegations of crime have been made to Kent Police against the Independent Councillor for Fawkham and West Kingsdown, Maxine Fothergill, and every one of them has been ignored, some with an acknowledgment and some without. It is tempting to think she has some sort of hold over them which makes her immune from prosecution.

 

8 December (Part 4) - Mr. Graham Moore

Graham Moore the English Democrat candidate for Bexleyheath and Crayford has told me that drawing attention to a YouTube video and a newspaper article that may or may not refer to him is a criminal offence so I have taken a blog off line until I consult someone at Bexley Council in the morning to see what the truth of the matter is.

I stumbled across both and a third I didn't mention while idly putting candidates names into Google, I had no idea no one was supposed to do that during an election.

 

8 December (Part 3) - Lost in the post

The Party Election leaflets I have not received so far are from the Lib Dems and the Greens. I am led to believe it may be the fault of the Royal Mail.

Several thousand Lib Dem leaflets which were addressed to the Royal Mail’s distribution centre in Dartford allegedly ended up in Rochester. The delay will likely stop them getting to some electors in Bexley before Thursday, a huge waste of money and the total loss of the Lib Dems election message.

Legal action is said to be under consideration.

 

8 December (Part 2) - Another recycling degrade

The Recycling Guide Book that my neighbour flung out unread has dried out now.

The diary is probably the most useful thing in it and it says the blue lidded bins (paper etc.) and green (refuse) will be collected one week (the shaded weeks in the diary) and the white (plastic and glass) and brown (garden waste) will be collected on the unshaded weeks. (This will be reversed in some areas.)

Complicated isn’t it? Blue and Green, White and Brown. Say it over and over again.

The Guide highlights for the very first time a further downgrade of the refuse service, it robs you of an additional 15 minutes in bed. Bins must be on the street by 06:30 now and not the 06:45 shown in last year’s Recycling Guide.
Nomination

All the Recycling Guides issued in the past ten years are available from the Services menu beneath the site’s banner image.

 

8 December (Part 1) - How can this be?

Now that General Election voting has come to an end, this blog is no longer very relevant so is hidden from view.

 

7 December (Part 3) - Abena is supported by Sadiq. Is that an election winner in Abbey Wood?

CampaigningThanks to former Councillor John Husband trudging the bin littered streets of Belvedere this afternoon I now have leaflets from four of the six General Election candidates in Erith and Thamesmead. Abena Oppong-Asare for Labour is the only one of the four to splash out on an A3 sized double sided leaflet but failed to find room on it to mention either Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn. Who can blame her but by the same logic one might have thought she would keep Sadiq Khan at arm’s length too.

Not one of the dozen photos of him that have cluttered up Social Media today (he joined Abena’s campaign) were taken outside Abbey Wood’s Crossrail station. All the candidates short and long listed were anxious to be photographed on the station concourse but not the Mayor of London. I wonder why.

It’s not a bad leaflet overall, better public transport, more houses, more police, tackling climate change, against privatisation of the NHS, it could almost be a Tory leaflet except there is not a word about paying for it all.

Abena even manages to get an endorsement from her illustrious predecessor Teresa Pearce. Maybe it is just me and my conspiracy theories but it seems to read more like a catalogue of facts rather than a a ringing endorsement.

I had better shut up, I may need Abena one day if Bexley Council ever produces another Maxine Fothergill.

I have also received a copy of the personal letter referenced on 3rd December.

 

7 December (Part 2) - The beautification of Abbey Wood?

PeabodyPeabody’s architects were in Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s today to show off their plans for the redevelopment of what is now called the Lesnes Abbey Estate. It’s the Coralline Walk area opposite the Thistlebrook Estate.

It was too crowded to get any photos but they will be repeating the exercise in the Information Hub on Yarnton Way next Tuesday between 15:00 and 20:00.

(Apologies for the lack of notice, I prepared a short blog but somehow seem to have lost it. The ambiguity may be very apt.)

 

7 December (Part 1) - The uglification of Bexley

Bin storeMy two new bins arrived last Tuesday, three days ahead of schedule and are now inconveniently parked in my back garden store of never likely to be used bins. The brightly coloured lids are particularly unsightly. They were supposed to come with a Guide Book but not in my road they didn’t. That probably explains why lots of them were out on the road on Friday awaiting a collection that isn’t due for another week.

Without a Guide Book most people will be unaware that Bexley has lost its weekly recycling service except for food waste.
Tweet TweetAlmost needless to say, the driving force is money. Collecting on alternate weeks only will save £450,000 a year.

I attended all the Council meetings that discussed the revised recycling service. It seemed a reasonable enough change overall. I heard Cabinet Member Peter Craske say that he needs every last bit of recyclable material collected even down to the humble toilet roll core. It all adds up.

I heard numerous Councillors say that too many people still ignored the recycling rules and more than 50% of what goes in the rubbish bin could have been recycled. I heard the Director of Bins say that the government does not allow Councils to penalise those who break the rules.


Overflowing bin Overflowing binWhat I never heard was anyone say that large cardboard boxes would no longer be collected. Maybe that is included in the missing Guide Book. It has certainly not been mentioned anywhere else.

Phil in Ennerdale Road (photos from his Twitter feed) certainly didn’t know and Bexley Council let him down on his very first paper bin collection day. They left him with a bin full of material with which they could have made some money and sent him away with a rather dismissive Tweet.

Councillor Craske speaks with a forked tongue and it would appear that Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green and Northend) was not so wrong after all. (See Tweet from last March above.)

Why are large cartons no longer welcome? They went in the bin lorries easily enough before. It can only be due to the petty bureaucracy of a sometimes stupid Council which has been getting something between £10 and £90 a tonne for paper in a fluctuating market.

Taking nothing because of an oversized piece of cardboard is just plain spiteful and exactly what one has come to expect from Councillor Craske. A clear case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Bexley MagazineThe Recycling Guide Book is not the only Council publication that fails to reach me. I almost never get the Bexley Magazine.

Ever since Bexley Council decided to privatise magazine distribution I’ve almost never received one. I complained into the friendly ear of a Council officer a couple of years ago and the next two did arrive but then they stopped again.

I resorted to begging from Councillors but for the current issue my Councillor hadn’t got one either, she told me that she had conducted a mini-poll and found that most people didn’t get one.

Bexley’s website said if the Winter issue was not delivered by 2nd December the Communications Department should be advised so I did that. Two days later one arrived in the post thanks to Communications Manager Jane Parsons.

It is good to see Bexley Council standing by their promise to publicise Abbey Wood’s Christmas Market (Page 26) to be held in the Abbey Arms Car Park on Sunday 15th December.

Note: After writing the above I found a rather wet Guide Book in my neighbour’s front garden lying in the old paper box of all things! When questioned he admitted to not reading it and told me I was welcome to take it.

The Book does say that only items placed inside the wheelie bin will be collected thereby confirming Craske’s forked tongue. He doesn’t really want your toilet roll core after all.

 

6 December (Part 2) - I suppose it is quite clever really

Conservative leafletJust as I was leaving for the hustings on Tuesday a Conservative leaflet for Erith & Thamesmead came through the letter box.

I thought Joe Robertson’s leaflet was quite good. It appeals to the Erith & Thamesmead Leave majority and highlights one of the polls favourable to the Conservatives. A later one put Labour on 41%, Conservatives 38% and Brexit at 8% so appealing to potential Brexit voters is a shrewd move.

So is reminding everyone that “Teresa Pearce is standing down”.

Teresa commanded a richly deserved personal following and can never be satisfactorily replaced. The 2019 Labour candidate was a Bexley Councillor from 2014 to 2018 during which time she fought against removal of a fire engine from Erith.

Whether she is good or whether she is not so good, does anyone wish to see a Corbyn led government and the economics of the mad house?

The big puzzle with the Conservative candidate is that he claims to live in Abbey Wood but every Google search traces him back to the Isle of Wight; his Register of Members’ interests remains visible on its Parish Council’s website.

Probably doesn’t matter much, maybe he is just shacking up with a mate until 13th December.

Click image to see all of Mr. Robertson’s leaflet.

Note: It has been confirmed that Joe Robertson lives on Bostall Hill in the borough of Greenwich.

 

6 December (Part 1) - A Lib Dem gets a D minus in economics

This was my favourite bit of the Old Bexley and Sidcup hustings. Lib Dem candidate Simone Reynolds says “Let’s not borrow all this money like the Conservative Party are going to have to do to invest in all these services that we’ve got which are currently paid for by the EU”.

A deluded Lib Dem plonker speaks. “Services that we’ve got are currently paid for by the EU”.

 

5 December (Part 2) - Old Bexley and Sidcup election hustings

My friend Elwyn Bryant asked me if I would go with him to the Old Bexley hustings in Sidcup’s St. John The Evangelist Church and as he had a friend who lived more or less next door with a spare parking place on her drive there was absolutely no reason not to go. Erith & Thamesmead has been dead electorally as far as I can see.

Hustings HustingsI must say the church building is magnificent but whether it is the right place for hustings is debatable; maybe the environment helped to keep the more excitable elements on their best behaviour.

All five candidates were present with Reverend Cathy Knight-Scott in the chair. She ruled the roost very decisively with four minutes of introduction per candidate and one minute each to answer questions. There were only five subjects up as questions, a couple on Brexit and one each on housing, NHS, reversing austerity and WASPI women.

Including a quite lengthy introduction and the drawing of lots to determine seating positions the questions session lasted for only 70 minutes after which refreshments were served.

It was all over far too quickly and by accident or design no one known to be active politically was allowed a question. As such it was all a bit too easy going and with no more than 70 people present and no one from the press one must wonder what the point of it all is.

Rather than provide a narrative version of what went on, below is a list of what was said in response to the various questions by each candidate. As one might expect given his experience James Brokenshire’s was the most polished performance but Matt Browne from the Green Party spoke well too.

You may safely assume that what follows is mainly verbatim quotations extracted from an audio recording stitched together into a few short sentences. Despite the temptation, no comments.
Candidates
Carol Valinejad - Christian People’s Alliance
Ms. Valinejad is a qualified clinical psychologist and long term Sidcup resident. She had no priorities for the area preferring to consult the electorate first. Naturally she was fully in favour of the NHS being accessible to all.

She said her key values were dominated by the Abortion Act and family breakdown costing an estimated £48 million a year. There is too much mental ill health among young people. They are the challenges this nation faces today.

The unborn child deserves the full protection of the law while providing full support for those in crisis. More than 9,000,000 unborn children have lost their lives because of the 1967 Act. Abortion can cause overwhelming trauma to mothers.

A grant of £12,000 should be given to those who marry and possibly more when they have their first child. The Chairman cut off Carol before she could finish stating her policy in full.

The CPA stance on Brexit is to honour the referendum result but have another in five or ten years time. They have every confidence in Britain’s ability to trade outside the EU. An investigation should be made into why Britain can’t build homes and part of the problem is that students are indebted by student loans and can’t afford them.

The WASPI situation is despicable and the full quota of benefits must be restored.

The CPA said that austerity was caused by a lack of Christian values and the government was more interested in funding crime than families.

Simone Reynolds - Liberal Democrats
Simone is another Sidcup resident and she said hers was the biggest party out to stop Brexit. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are both extremists and stuck in the past, they do not deserve to be Prime Minister and the Lib Dems is the centrist party. Under the Lib Dems everyone will thrive. We will stop Brexit because the Conservatives told blatant lies (bus references) and the Lib Dems will invest £50 million to boost the economy and tackle inequalities. She said that the £50 million will come from the simple act of doing nothing and staying in the EU.

She advocated another People’s Vote. The Labour Party and The Green Party had both jumped on that bandwagon. If Leave wins again Simone will accept it.

The Lib Dems are going to combat the climate emergency by generating 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030 and spend £100 billion doing it.

There will be 20,000 more teachers and £10 billion a year more going into schools. Free child care and £10,000 per adult to improve their skills. £2·2 billion extra to solve mental health issues and a billion for 20,000 more police officers with a 2% immediate pay rise. Everyone will have a brighter future if they vote Lib Dem.

The Lib Dems want to put an extra penny on Income Tax to fund the NHS and build 300,000 houses a year and banish no fault evictions.

The Lib Dems will compensate the WASPI women and there is too much gender discrimination. Even pink razor blades cost more.

Simone Reynolds said the government should have borrowed more while interest rates were low, they could have built more hospitals. Universal Credit should be changed in a way similar to that advocated by Labour. She was proud to say that the Lib Dems had voted against every Conservative budget since 2015.

Simone finished by saying she was sick to death of Brexit and it was a national embarrassment. Let’s remain in the EU. We then won’t have to spend the money on things the EU currently pays for and we will gain a £50 million remain bonus and make a fairer equal society for everybody..

James Brokenshire - Conservative Party
James Brokenshire the sitting MP regretted the need for another election but Parliament had become stuck. It was not able to move forward and it was unable to deal with Brexit. The referendum result must be respected. Without moving forward on that issue we are stuck in a political purgatory.

The choice is between getting Brexit done and more delay, indecision and dither. A clear decision will allow a positive agenda for the future. £33·9 extra for the NHS every year. 20,000 more police officers and more spent on education. We need a strong economy to do that.

Alternative Agendas proposed by others will lead to more tax and higher rates of inflation, He referred to protecting local green spaces and better train services into London. The lack of a Post Office in Sidcup received a mention but the big issues are Brexit, the economy and the climate emergency. Creating jobs and opportunity is what is at the heart of the Conservative Party.

James wants to see the post Brexit trade agreements settled by the end of 2020. The terms of the withdrawal are already settled but continued uncertainty is harmful.

The NHS needs a long term plan which the Conservatives now have must be supported. It is absolutely not on the table at any trade deal.

There have been 222,000 homes built in the past year and it must be raised to 300,000. James had while Minister increased Council borrowing powers and wanted to see the end of unfair evictions and allow transferable deposits.

A billion pounds had been injected to minimise the impact on WASPI women. The subject should be kept under review but there could be no uncosted promises.

James said that there were 400,000 fewer people living in absolute poverty and 730,000 fewer children living in workless households under the Conservatives but there is more to do. The Living wage will be raised to £10·50 and people have been taken out of tax altogether. Changes have been made to Universal Credit to ensure payments can be made available quickly. The Lib Dems and Labour would wreck the economy instead of having one that creates jobs.

James made a final plea for a strong economy and to get Brexit done to allow things to move on.

David Tingle - Labour Party
Mr. Tingle is a local businessman employing nine people. His manifesto is the best and fully costed and he lost no time in criticising the Conservatives who questioned that statement. The Tories do not understand averages.

His staff have had a fantastic education and that is why he is a successful businessman. We must fund the NHS not cut it. Businesses must pay their fair share of tax. The Tories locally were elected because of their false claim to be able to save Sidcup’s A&E Department.

Only the Labour Party has a fully costed positive outlook for the country. It has a new green deal to generate jobs and influence the whole world.

Brexit will be sorted (but he wants to see a credible Leave deal with all the existing arrangements preserved) and Labour will keep you safe. Court delays will be fixed and criminals will be rehabilitated. The minimum wage will be £10 an hour immediately.

David blamed all the Brexit delays on the Conservatives. They had a majority and couldn’t get their deal through Parliament. It wasn’t a Labour responsibility to help them.

The Labour Party said the NHS will be sold off piece meal by the Conservatives. Sidcup’s A&E was sold off.

The waiting list for housing is ridiculous and developers that sit on sites must lose them.

Mr. Tingle said that the WASPI women had had their pensions stolen, it was their money and he would borrow £58 million to pay for it.

Mr. Tingle is very angry about austerity and he will stop people running out of money and suspend the vicious sanctions regime that goes with Universal Credit and its two child limit.

The Labour candidate concluded by saying his manifesto would be fantastic for the country. He will end homelessness, sort out the social care system, save the planet and get Brexit done by this time next year and we will have a positive friendly country.

Matt Browne - The Green Party
Matt agreed with James Brokenshire that the Parliamentary process was stuck and he blamed the voting system which is depressing and grubby. In Sidcup one party has been in power for ever but elsewhere difficult decisions must be made.

The Green Party has power because it is not obsessed by power. A Green vote sends a message to those who are in power. It was the only party to object to austerity and now even the Conservatives are taking the same view. Other parties. Labour in particular now support the Green agenda on climate change. Britain must lead the world on decarbonisation.

On Brexit the Greens are remainers to ensure there will never again be conflict on this Continent. The EU is a peace project and the only way forward is a People’s Vote.

The NHS will be safe under a Green government. The demand on its services must be forced down.

The Greens wanted to build more traditional Council houses, a home for life. Ten million of them over the next ten years.

Mr. Browne would compensate WASPI women through a system of universal income which he said he could not explain within the minute allowed. Ten billion a year must be given to local Councils, the money is there, it just needs to be taxed.

The Green Party will do something really really great over the next ten years with everyone working together based on a radical vision of kindness.

Green votes have power, cast yours for the Greens.

30 minutes of Refreshments
James BrokenshireElwyn Bryant was not at all pleased about not being able to ask a question, at coffee time he made an immediate bee line for James Brokenshire. It was entirely the Conservative Party’s fault that we are still in the EU. We should have been out in March, in June, in October but we weren’t. That failure was down to the Conservatives and no one else. No excuses were offered such as Bercow or Ben or Grieve or Soubry or a dozen other democracy deniers. It was James and his ilk who did not stand their ground and meekly accepted a bad deal until that position became untenable and everyone changed their tune and turned on Theresa May. Increasing the numbers of nurses and police officers was a charade, the numbers should not have been reduced in the first place.

Mr. Brokenshire stood his ground valiantly and was a walking encyclopedia of every government statistic known to man. An impressive display if a little reminiscent of “Alexa, give me all the reasons for voting Conservative”.

It cut no ice with Elwyn, the Conservatives had let us all down and James had to concede he might be happier voting Lib Dem or Labour. He doesn’t know Elwyn as well as I do; a former trade unionist who knows how the Left operate far too well and there is no way he will vote for any Left leaning party.

Both of us moved off to allow James to recover from the grilling and soon bumped into Councillor Richard Diment. Neither of us had spoken to him before. I already knew he was a man of intellect and considerable substance but Elwyn seeing that for the first time was well impressed. A Conservative who was open, transparent, apparently honest and who spoke a gentler version of Elwyn’s preferred language, a man he could relate to. I thought I was going to spend the next week convincing Elwyn that in today’s prevailing circumstances the only sensible vote for a man of his opinions is to vote Conservative, but there is no need. Richard did the job for me.

 

5 December (Part 1) - St. Catherine’s School strike

There was a time when I thought my extended family were all school teachers, eleven of them (only two male) with a school secretary and Council officer in the Waltham Forest education department thrown in for good measure. Retirement and mortality have taken that total down to three and the secretary but teachers used to form more than 50% of working adult family members.

Politically all were Pinkos to some extent, two of them fully paid up members of the Communist Party. In the 1960s and 70s they would regularly take mysterious expenses paid holidays in the U.S.S.R. I fear they were up to no good. My memory of that period is that the mildly Pink would complain that the Crimson ones were leading the profession to disaster. The net result is that I view the teaching profession with a good deal of suspicion and regard its malign indoctrination of the young as an affront to democracy.

For the record the school secretary and former Council officer are very far from being Pinkos now, with age comes the ability to see through the lure of the Left.

School strikeAbout a month ago I became aware of a teachers’ squabble at St. Catherine’s (Girls’ Catholic) School. I took little notice of it, didn’t even know where the school was and a bullying Head allegedly abusing her position seemed to be entirely typical of bosses promoted until they eventually reach a position of total incompetence. I was at work long enough to see how that system worked but it was not a Bonkers’ issue, Academies are nothing to do with Bexley Council.

However over the past handful of weeks I have been sent enough snippets of information from parents to persuade me that I should pass on their views. It is quite possible that I was not the only observer to draw all the wrong conclusions - or at least be totally unaware of how some parents feel about the situation.

I am told that here have been twelve strike days so far with four more scheduled. Can you imagine the disruption to family life that that will be causing to say nothing of the lost education?

As I understand it from comments received a letter was sent to parents at the start of the school year. It explained that due to staff dissatisfaction following a staff dismissal and two suspensions, the teachers would be striking on 28th October. A meeting with the teachers, Head, governors and the National Education Union (NEU) at the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) did not remedy matters so the strike went ahead.

The teachers claim is that staff were fired without due process. Independent investigations by outside HR companies upheld the dismissal but not one of the suspensions, a union rep. who has returned to work. I remember from my time at GPO/BT how it was almost impossible to sack a Union Rep.

The Union was demanding the reinstatement of two members of staff as the price of calling off their child damaging strikes.

At their daily pickets outside school, teachers and NEU members have apparently relished the opportunity to talk to the public about the “culture of fear” and “bullying” behaviour of the Head but no one reports them calling for her suspension or resignation which was one of the stories promulgated on Social Media.

A report sent to me says that the governors have received 34 complaints from staff about the Head since her appointment in September 2016. The governors investigated and the school trustees and their lawyers all deemed no further action was required and that the complaints ranged from those not warranting a suspension to the 100% “frivolous”. As an Academy, Bexley Council has no power to intervene.

The NEU does not represent all the teaching staff and so some are not striking, some are said to vehemently oppose the strike. Apparently the “culture of fear” does not impinge on non-NEU members. Strange that.

Meanwhile, parents on Social Media have been splitting into various factions. A deep divide has been created with frenzied calls to topple the Head on one side and suspicion of teachers and unions reminiscent of my own forming on the other.

A small but growing group are forming a counter-protest on strike days opposite the picket line. Parents are finding it hard to know where to turn for help. The Diocese has been told not to get involved.

All parents are naturally very worried about their children’s lost education. Has a strike of this length ever been seen at a British school before?.

After a meeting with Governors where some parents insisted on further investigation of the Head the NEU inexplicably moved the goalposts from requiring reinstatements to insisting a second investigation could not go ahead and the strike could not be ended until the Head is suspended. Only that would enable a second investigation.

The Governors convened an emergency meeting this week and voted unanimously not to suspend the Head as there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. With three of them having daughters at the same school they presumably know exactly what the true situation is. A very recent communication says three striking teachers returned to work yesterday.

A Conservative Councillor told me that the Labour candidate in Bexleyheath and Crayford, Anna Day, has been joining the picket line and backing the NEU. A sure sign of how a Corbyn victory in a week’s time will take us straight back to the 1970s and freebie trips to Moscow.

So for now it is stalemate with neither side willing to move. The teachers are at pains to explain this is “not about the girls”, but it’s hard to see how the students are not the ones suffering the most.

With thanks to various contributors for their insight into what appears to be going on. If there is another side to this story I have not heard it directly but there are some Social Media comments to be read. @ST_CCSPG and @OfficalVeritas for example.

 

4 December (Part 2) - Why are we waiting. Oh, why are we waiting?

Gayton Road

Bexley Council's Legal Notice regarding Gayton Road dated 19th September 2018.

Gayton Road

Gayton Road unfinished and barricaded. Photographed from the Western end today.

Gayton Road

Gayton Road unfinished and stairs still closed. Photographed from the Eastern end today.

Photo history of Gayton Road.

 

4 December (Part 1) - Has Singh moved in?

Leather Bottle site Leather Bottle siteIf you are familiar with the history of the Leather Bottle site you will need no explanatory introduction and if you are not aware of it you are probably uninterested in this recent development.

The site which has had two planning applications rejected so far has been an eyesore for the past three years but that hasn’t deterred someone from moving in to live there. Probably not travellers in the accepted sense, the ratio of caravans to Transit vans is a little too low.

More likely to be one of Kulvinder Singh’s work mates if I had to guess.

If you do wish to catch up with the history of Ye Olde Leather Bottle a list of related blogs may be seen here.

Registration numbers visible in original photographs are White Fiat Ducato WR55 BYM, White Mercedes RJ04 WTU, White Transit EJ54 HCF, Red Transit LJ06 PVU, Peugeot Boxer Van number partially obscured by fence in Photo 2 but Photo 1 suggests VK05 LYU and Trafic caravanette L115 MSO. Which of these will be legal?

 

3 December - Reliably spiteful

TweetStill no election leaflets from the main parties. One from the Brexit Party two weeks or more ago and that’s it, however Councillor Philip Read reveals that there is at least a letter circulating from Abena Oppong-Asare but as yet I have no evidence that the Conservative General Election candidate has written anything at all.

Clicking on Councillor Read’s Tweet will reveal a very poor copy of Abena’s letter and you will need to be reading this on a big screen to have any chance of deciphering it. Using a direct link to www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk/images/blog/2019/12/0301/letter.jpg might be a better bet.

The original criticism of the letter by @L_J_Hodson is not an unreasonable one; why is the name Corbyn or the word Brexit not mentioned in Erith & Thamesmead’s Labour literature but Philip Read says the whole letter is nonsense. He is entitled to that view but I think I would have used a different word; ‘unconvincing’ perhaps.

Read being Read goes on to criticise Abena’s record as a Councillor. It is true that she was one of the quieter ones earning only 17 mentions on Bonkers. If that is a measure of success as a Councillor I should mention that this blog takes Councillor Read’s score to over 900 so obviously it is not.

For the record here is a list of blogs in which the Councillor Oppong-Asare’s name cropped up. Judge for yourself whether or not Councillor Read is right. Were there ‘No Positive Ideas’?

6th June 2014 - 27th July 2014 - 10th October 2014 - 11th November 2014 - 9th March 2015 - 2nd April 2015 - 27th September 2015 - 7th November 2015 - 19th January 2016 - 15th April 2016 - 26th April 2016 - 25th October 2016 - 26th October 2016 - 4th May 2017 - 2nd September 2017 - 19th April 2018 - 22nd April 2018.

 

2 December - Decluttering Bonkers

This is barely worth mentioning but it is possible that someone will be puzzled by it…

The pale green background to Bonkers’ text which appeared when viewing on small screens (480 pixels wide and fewer) has been replaced by white. The barely visible Bexley Council logo that used to overlay the green has gone too.

 

1 December - West Street Park sold. The protests continue

West Street Park West Street Park West Street ParkWest Street Park is the green you pass on a 229 or 469 bus from Belvedere just before the stop for Erith Station. I went there yesterday on the invitation of Erith Think Tank whose people I have met two or three times, I was a little surprised to find none of them there. As far as I could tell the protest event was being run by Extinction Rebellion; as such the police soon showed up to see if they had any Super Glue with them.

I stood around minding my own business while imagining what the area might be like once Bexley Council has concreted over the only green oasis within somewhat grim surroundings. It wasn’t a pleasant thought but Bexley Council will not be concerned by that, no Councillor was sufficiently interested to put in an appearance.

I eavesdropped a few conversations, none of them complimentary but maybe some were misinformed. “They steal the land from the people, they sell it to themselves, quickly nod through the planning permission, build low grade housing, sell it and spend the money on improving Bexleyheath and Bexley” was the general theme.

There is some truth in it but maybe planning permission is not as easy as stated. BexleyCo, Bexley Council’s less than successful property developer came a cropper with their Wilde Road development. It was thrown out by the Planning Committee twice and wasted a great deal of money which so far at least is all that BexleyCo has been good at.

I hung around to witness the tree planting ceremony but it was a bit of a non-event. A hole was dug, some compost added and a small beech tree carefully put in place and nobody took any notice of it. 20 photos have been added to the Index of Photo features.

BexleyCo’s latest in a line of failed managing Directors is Graham Ward, he who has been signing the Traffic Orders for the past couple of years. I suppose the thinking is that his schemes have fleeced motorists out of a lot of money let’s see if he can work some sort of miracle at BexleyCo. The alternative is another Thames Innovations Centre/Engine House money pit.

 

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