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Bonkers Blog July 2019

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19 July - Drama in the Council Chamber. Enter stage right

After being you know where all afternoon I contemplated not going to Wednesday’s Full Council meeting but a quick look at the Agenda convinced me that I should. The number one question of the evening was of the stomach churning arse crawling variety so beloved by the least adequate of Tory Members. Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) was going to ask Cabinet Member Peter Craske if a statement allegedly made in 2014 by the Old Bexley and Sidcup Labour Party to the effect that the 2014 library strategy would cause libraries “to become a thing of the past” had proved to be correct.

Betts CraskeThat sort of staged question is exactly what you get when you elect a Councillor of Nigel Betts’ calibre.

Councillor Craske said that contrary to the situation elsewhere in the country Bexley had seen a 4% year on year increase in the number of library visits and a 5% increase in the number of items borrowed.

There had been a number of initiatives; 4,000 children had participated in last year’s reading challenge and it was being repeated this year with a space theme. Two book festivals had attracted more than 3,000 attendees each. There had been theatrical events, comedy nights, live music, a vinyl record club and quiz nights. We have refurbished libraries and added new things to them, museums and exhibition space. In Crayford there is a community space and a Post Office. Opening hours have been extended.

Although the Thamesmead library is currently in temporary accommodation pending a rebuild the number of members has increased by 10,000 in five years. A new library is to open in Sidcup too.

Councillor Craske finished by asking the Labour Party to apologise for their remarks.

Councillor Melvin Seymour’s question (Conservative, Crayford) was asked with similar intent. How many times were grass verges cut in 2016/17 and 2017/18? These are really profound and far reaching questions to top the bill at a Full Council meeting aren’t they?

Councillor Craske said that in 2016/17 nine cuts were made each year and a year later the number was increased to ten and it has remained at that level ever since. Unfortunately the Labour Mayor had slashed grass cutting alongside the TfL managed A2 to only two per year, he said with a certain amount of relish.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green and North End) reminded the Cabinet Member that in 2015/16 the schedule dictated twelve cuts per year. Peter Craske admitted to “never being very good at maths at school” which presumably explains his insistence that changing from twelve to ten was an increase.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis asked the Cabinet Member for Education if he agreed that the Conservative Government’s refusal to fund the education of vulnerable children was an absolute disgrace”.

With commendable honesty Councillor John Fuller relied “yes I do”.

 

18 July - Caught red handed

Yesterday’s Full Council meeting was a little like old times. The Opposition Members getting agitated and the Conservative Group mouthing sometimes audible ungentlemanly language. It was a baptism of fire for the new Mayor Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis and in my opinion she handled it pretty well. At one time she even ruled against Council Leader Teresa O’Neill who was attempting to deflect democracy with some obscure point of order.

The argument was about Bexley ducking their responsibility for transporting Special Educational Needs children to school. The new rules had been applied unfairly and numerous cases had been taken to the Local Government Ombudsman who sided with parents.

Worse was that Bexley Council had put out a SEN report two weeks ago which sang their own praises and Cabinet Member comments went out of their way to portray parents in a bad light. The report failed to mention that of all the complaints received by the LGO, more than half came from Bexley and three quarters of them were upheld.
Report

Not a word about the adverse Local Government Ombudsman verdicts.

A blow by blow account should appear here after what will be a busy weekend. Meanwhile the Labour Group has helpfully issued a Press Release. It includes links to the LGO’s verdict on Bexley’s Council cruelty.

 

17 July - History in the making

Current WarsI expect it is the same on TV (I never watch it) but commercial radio and Twitter promotions have been heavily advertising the delayed but soon to be released film Current Wars in recent days. A two year old film delayed because of the Harvey Weinstein business.

It explains an epic battle which has fascinated me ever since I first read about it many years ago. The competition between inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (backed by George Westinghouse) over whether the world should adopt Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC) for the distribution of electricity. Fortunately Tesla won with his AC system or the world would not be anything like as advanced as it is now. (Actually it probably would as surely engineers would soon have realised their mistake.)

Thomas Edison was pipped at the post not only by Tesla but also by Graham Bell with the telephone, Joseph Swann with the light bulb and his phonograph was soon eclipsed by Emile Berliner’s much more practical gramophone. In my opinion Edison was a ruthless and rather nasty man but it was him who became rich and famous, he must have had a better PR department than Tesla.

And why is Bonkers advertising a reputedly not very good film? Some of the techie bits were filmed locally at the Crossness sewage pumping station.

Yes, Tesla cars do use AC motors although not all electric vehicles do.

Another bit of local history is the Alcock and Brown centenary celebrations at Hall Place on Sunday 21st. My father flew in rather larger bombers than the Vickers Vimy only 21 years after their historic transatlantic flight and I moved to Farnborough in 1949 where the sky was always full of strange flying machines. A time when Alcock and Brown were comparatively recent heroes. Every schoolboy aircraft spotter knew who they were.

Unfortunately a very long standing family engagement will prevent me taking the 229 bus to Hall Place but it should be well worth the trip. A pity to miss it because it is free and I won’t be able to check out if Cabinet Member Peter Craske is still denying that I exist.

 

16 July - Pushing their luck

Stupid cop Stupid womanMet. Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has been roundly condemned by everyone from the Prime Minister, through the Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt down to every tin pot journalist for attempting to dictate what newspapers publish.

Former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill thinks she can do the same.

Four months ago I decided to remove the old Bonkers pages which detailed the worst excesses of Bexley Councillors in recognition of the fact that they appear to have made an effort to clean up their act, an act which was at one time undoubtedly criminal. The job took quite some time and wasn’t completed until May. I mentioned the revisions here soon afterwards. No one commented which was a bit disappointing.

Former Councillors Massey and Fothergill benefited from that decision because they were, err, former Councillors. Has beens unable to sully Bexley Council any more.

Soon after the revisions were made I received a twelve page letter from Essex solicitors Cohen Davis warning me, I think, that if I published (republished?) details of Ms. Fothergill’s various misdemeanours they would sue me. For what? I confess I am not really sure because I only looked at the opening paragraph and another towards the end. However it seems that among other things Fothergill is looking to me for reimbursing her the costs of attempting to restore her tattered reputation and of her failed attempt to get me banged up for publishing news.

For newcomers to Bonkers, I had published how Bexley Council had found that Fothergill was likely to have brought them into disrepute because of her financial antics, how she ran foul of Sevenoaks Council for flouting planning law and had to apologise in the High Court and pay out a substantial sum to recompense her libelling of two business associates. All matters of public record that Fothergill would rather you didn’t know about.

Was she seriously going to take me to Court and have all those things brought out into the open again? The Independent Councillor for Fawkham & West Kingsdown on Sevenoaks Council must be as mad as the proverbial brush. She should count herself lucky that I’d decided to wipe various slates clean.
Just stupid

 

15 July - Making residents’ lives difficult - as usual

Road closure Bus diversionWith just ten days notice Bexley Council issued an unhelpful Public Notice announcing a two week closure of the B213 to Erith otherwise known as Abbey Road. Nearly a mile of it.

They said there would be no access to the five cul-de-sacs that lead from the B213 towards the railway line in Belvedere. The sort of of notice which one should expect from a bureaucrat who has no regard for those who pay his salary.

Fortunately the Council’s contractor, FM Conway, managed each junction such that residents could drive to and from their homes pretty much all the time; obviously not when asphalt was being dumped across those junctions but even then they tried to do it a half road width at a time to minimise any inconvenience.

No doubt someone somewhere was held up for a while but given that the road was in a very bad state and needed to be resurfaced it has been a job pretty well done.

The postman came every day, delivery vans made the effort but Bexley’s recycling lorries gave up and didn’t come until Saturday. The normal collection day is Friday. (Garden waste was on time.)

As you may deduce from the two photos shown here the job ran a day late, entirely the result of Conway’s staff being helpful to residents in their cars. The constant hold ups meant that every day they fell another few metres behind with the result that buses are still on diversion today.

The residents of New Road are understandably not happy.

Abbey Road
Abbey Road
Road closure Road closure Road closure Road closure

It is not all that long since New Road was a quiet residential climb through the woods and then the B11 came along. Last Saturday the 301 joined it taking the total number of buses to 18 an hour. That’s throbbing diesel engines at three stops in each direction from six in the morning until just before one the following morning.

How long before South East London gets to see the silent electric double deckers being introduced in North West London? (Final Photo below.)

Today because of the continuing Abbey Road closure the regular New Road buses are joined by the 229, 469, 602 and 609. A total of at least 36 buses an hour. This morning a neighbour told me that her bus was one of a queue of three descending New Road while two were trying to go the other way.

The junction of New Road and Abbey Road (See Photos below) is a typical poor design from Bexley Council presenting difficulties for the drivers of all large vehicles and the left turn from Woolwich Road to Brampton Road at the Knee Hill traffic lights is close to impossible for buses without the good will of fellow drivers. It was occasionally difficult with four buses an hour, now we have more than twice as many much bigger vehicles.

Not easing over the kerbs on Knee Hill by just a couple of feet looks more like stupidity by Bexley and Greenwich Councils with every bus that passes.

301 bus Road closure Road closure Electric buses

The Alexander Dennis electric buses are essentially Chinese technology assembled in the UK. They have a 382kWh battery (64.2) and a 200kW motor (150kW) giving it a range of about 160 miles (320).

Figures in parenthesis - my electric car. I imagine the bus would have difficulty competing with my 0-60 figures.

 

14 July - Much more than just a good constituency MP

“Surprised you didn’t get the scoop from TP” was the message that reached me first after Teresa Pearce MP announced her decision not to put herself up for re-election; to which the reply was “I don’t like to betray confidences”.

Not that Teresa gave me advance notice very directly but my Teresa Pearce MP email folder in Outlook contains 3,147 messages and I don’t think any of them are about politics. Some must be I suppose but very few.

Most of them are about family, hers and mine, and the day to day problems of life. illness, old age, death, the pleasures of being a grandparent and in her case the perils of being an MP in an age of ill-tempered intolerance.

TeresaOne would have to be very insensitive indeed to not read into those emails what was on Teresa’s mind.

She was fond of saying that “all political careers end in failure” which in her case is most definitely not the case unless you count not having solved the problems of homelessness etc. which are so dear to her heart. Hardly her fault and she would always do her best.

Since her announcement Social Media locally has been swamped with praise for her constituency work in Erith & Thamesmead with almost zero detractors but she was more than a good constituency MP, to me she has been a very good friend too.

She knew I didn’t share all her political views but I think we very often shared values. I doubt I’ve met her more than two dozen times, five, or maybe it was six, when she stood by me helping to take on a police force that can only be described as politically motivated. Even now she is still fighting one such battle on my behalf and I’m hopeful that one day she will manage to convince the police that they have got themselves into the most awful muddle.

When I first met Teresa on social occasions I worried that we would fall out over whatever was the burning issue of the day but nothing approaching that ever happened, Teresa really is the most lovely of ladies.

When I first had problems with Newham Social Services in 2015 she stepped straight in and spoke to the appropriate people to great effect. When the police put out a Press Release to say they were going to prosecute me for what someone else hadn’t done she was on to them before I even knew it to tell them that their knickers were well and truly in a twist and when I was unwell for seven weeks Teresa volunteered to be my personal shopper.

Teresa really is the most delightful and kindest friend one could ever hope for who just happens to be a damned good MP too.

I owe her a lot and wish her a happy retirement when the time comes. To my mind she deserves an award of some sort for services beyond the call of duty.

 

13 July (Part 2) - All is not well in Welling and it is dead in Bexleyheath

The next subject on the Cabinet’s Agenda was shopping centres, what is to be done with them, and the final draft of the Shopping Strategy was up for adoption. Deputy Chief Executive Jane Richardson put forward the case for it.

High streets are changing as purchases go on-line with the “grim prediction” that it will soon reach 50% of sales. “But we know how important our towns are to the economy of our borough and how critical they are to the wellbeing of our community”. (Around 23,300 people are employed in the town centre businesses which generate around £1·56 billion a year.)

“Our report is the outcome of considerable research and engagement and is a lengthy tome. We face a massive challenge and we will need to work collectively to sustain our town centres.”

Councillors Diment, Clark and BaileyCabinet Member Louie French said, err, nothing not said already while Cabinet Member Craske said that “town centres that invest and stop; die. The successful ones keep reinventing themselves”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) welcomed the fact that the Strategy acknowledged that all Bexley’s town centres are different and stressed the importance of proper funding.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) said the Strategy was very well thought through but it was “important to have key partners on board”. He reintroduced the subject of Post Office counters and “their attitude”.

They closed the Post Office in Sidcup three weeks ago, they knew three months earlier but did absolutely “nothing to facilitate a solution”.

“They only got around to a consultation letter on the day the Post Office actually closed. Mr. Brokenshire met the Post Office in London today about their apparent tardiness.”

“Small businesses have a fleetness of foot but key people like the Post Offices have got to be in our town centres. We saw Bexley Village go eight months with no Post Office and there are problems in Abbey Wood and Slade Green. Somehow people like the Post Office have to be brought on side and made to be far more responsive to the needs of the local community or otherwise Councillors end up being blamed, as we are in Sidcup, for the closure of the Post Office. Post Office counters have a very frustrating attitude at the moment.”

Richard Diment is becoming a very good campaigning Councillor for Sidcup and Bexley more generally.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said things “are deteriorating in Welling, the traders feel let down by everybody”. There is too much crime and three of the shopkeepers have given themselves a year “and I am getting out”. They don’t like doing business in Welling and they are afraid. One had a violent attack in her shop and received no support from the police.”

“They don’t like it there any more; it is the upsurge of crime. The challenge is greater than it was even a few months ago.”

Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crooklog) said that in Bexleyheath everything including the car park shuts at five thirty “and then it is dead”. Cabinet Member Louie French said “the big game changer will be the opening of the Bellway development. The flow of people will see some changes to the town centre and businesses will open up”.

Despite the misgivings the Town Centres Strategy was adopted.

If like me you learned very little from the meeting of what the Strategy means in practice maybe the stated key aims will shed a little light on it. Maybe.


• Business Health and Inward investment: Supporting independent businesses and encouraging inward investment (from both nationals and independents) into our town centres, broadening the appeal of each town centre with its target customer base.
• Digital Economy: Facilitating improved connectivity in town centres and helping equip businesses to compete digitally through online commerce and marketing.
• Evening and Night Time Economy (E/NTE): Encouraging a more diverse offer for all ages to socialise and enjoy, whilst managing the Licensing and Planning regime to ensure locations with E/NTE uses feel safe to both users and residents.
• Place Marketing: Working with partner organisations to market each town centre in a coordinated way. Enhancing and celebrating each town centre’s unique selling points to develop positive brands.
• Place Making and Public Realm: Creating sustainable, healthy, distinctive and attractive places for people to live, work, shop and socialise. Longer term this involves managing the development agenda through the Local Plan, but within the scope of the Town Centres Strategy this focuses on nurturing and reinforcing character through preserving or repurposing key sites and enhancing the public realm.
• Diversifying the Retail and Leisure Offer: Improving our understanding of the retail and socialising needs and expectations of town centre customers – including children and younger people. Providing more Planning flexibility to encourage innovative uses of space and testing new retail and leisure concepts through meanwhile use.
• Accessibility and Wayfinding: Making our town centres easier to access through a variety of modes – making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle - and the town centres themselves more welcoming and inclusive for all residents and visitors – including those with disabilities.
• Events, Markets and Meanwhile Uses: Encouraging and supporting a wider range of quality special events and markets to activate public spaces, and using vacant retail units for test trading of new and innovative business/leisure offerings. A key part of the Strategy is to identify how, working with other town centre stakeholders, the Council could either directly or indirectly enable improvements and economic prosperity, and in doing so tap into a wider range of resources to effect change. This will include working closely with the existing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), but also with businesses and landlords more widely to build the collective capacity to effect change in their localities. Subject to available resources, the potential interventions will need to be developed, including the prioritisation and programming of current budgets and working with external stakeholders. These will be included in an action plan to be published early Autumn.

 

13 July (Part 1) - Doing for Bexley?

Perhaps I was too hasty in dismissing last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as an event of little interest; my excuse is that listening to the webcast while making conversation with an old lady who is not sure whether I am her father or her brother is not conducive to paying close attention. Bexley Council thought the first part of the meeting was sufficiently important to issue a Press Release about it yesterday; it prompted a revisit of the webcast.

Unfortunately the beginning of the meeting was not recorded at all so Ms. Ainge’s explanation of Connected Communities was at least partially missing. There had been 360 responses to a consultation which “included Councillors and key partners”. (Some Councillors had made multiple submissions.)

Whatever can Connected Communities be? Apparently nothing to do with public wifi and ultrafast broadband. It is to promote Cohesive Communities; Healthy Communities; Socially Active Communities and Successful Communities.

And why?

Probably the principal motivation is to save money. The Council wants to see a thriving voluntary sector, with “strong volunteers” and Civic participation and vibrant spaces and places. Not a bad thing obviously but in reality it is all part of the (relative painless) cuts agenda.

SawyerCabinet Member Alex Sawyer was the first to speak in favour of the plan. He wanted “Bexley to be a welcoming place which residents are proud to call home”. He wanted to see decision making “move away from the centre to working in partnership with residents and community groups as equals”. (A dramatic move for a Council with a long history of not allowing members of the public to speak at Scrutiny meetings.)

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that ‘Do it for Bexley’ really means ‘Do it for yourself’ and 24% of residents had no idea what the Council’s slogan meant. She is probably right but if the budgetary black hole is to be filled without impoverishing residents in her ward what else can be done?

Councillor Sawyer said that the 24% of ignorance represented an opportunity “and it was a great basis to build upon”. He said that Councillor Ogundayo’s suggestion that the Council should be doing everything “was an absolute nonsense, if volunteers want to do things, let them do it. Empower them”.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske said “he really didn’t get why people expect the state to do everything” - on a day his government floated the idea of dictating the amount of sleep we should all take.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) who is heavily involved in the Sidcup Community Garden said that volunteering brings new friendships.

The Cabinet formally voted in public to adopt a plan that it had privately approved before the meeting started.

 

12 July - Temporarily and permanently, buses are forbidden to use direct routes

Councillor Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) suggested I should ride on the top deck of a 229 bus while Abbey Road is closed and it was still being diverted up New Road and down Heron Hill. She said the views were spectacular.

Earlier this week I was near a Harrow Manorway bus stop when a 229 came along with no one in the front seats so I hopped on. I won’t mention precisely when because I don’t want to get the driver into trouble but while ascending New Road (Photo 1) it encountered the sort of inconsiderate driver all too common around here and the bus was forced to briefly mount the kerb at low speed. There was an expensive sounding crunch and I went back later to that spot and saw the scrape in the concrete.
229 229 229 229

Almost inevitable because for most of New Road the bus must be on the wrong side of the road so it is fortunate that the diversion is scheduled to end today before there is a more serious accident.

301Oh, hang on a minute. From tomorrow a new double deck route 301 will be ascending New Road every 12 minutes with every likelihood it will meet another coming down.

Probably there will be a few more kerb scrapes or maybe worse.

The possibility could so easily have been avoided if Bexley Council was not so pig-headed about Knee Hill. The kink at the top which prevents the 301 from running that more direct route could so easily have been removed to the benefit of every driver.

But no, Council heads are stuck firmly up their backsides determined to preserve just a few square feet of the woods because they say it is ancient.

The 301 is intended to provide Bexleyheath residents with a quick route to the Crossrail station and every time they miss their train by a couple of minutes they should curse the intransigent jobsworth who decided that their bus must take the longer route. As it is, it is scheduled to do Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood in between 13 and 16 minutes depending on the time of day.

Murky Depths has the full timetable.

Vista

Belvedere’s new industrial area from the top of a diverted 229.

 

11 July (Part 2) - The non-stop gravy train

Remember how I said that highly paid public servants are mainly interested in job jumping their way to the top collecting Golden Goodbyes as they go but I had lost some of the documents that helped prove it?

Bexley’s former Chief Executive Gill Steward was handed £94,000 for a two year stint in the borough whilst achieving nothing very obvious and now she has been replaced by Jackie Belton who has come to us via Newham and Lambeth.

A trawl through Newham’s web archive reveals that Ms. Belton was gifted £170,000 when she left as a Director on 30th April 2015 and was paid £13,334 for that one month’s work, if that is the appropriate description for what a Council Chief Executive does.

Four years later she left Lambeth. On past form she seems to be good for at least forty grand a year just for leaving for a better job let alone the £150,000 a year salary.

This clique of people jumping on the pay Merry Go Round which is the public purse are disgusting aren’t they?

Sir Eric Pickles was right when he said that none of them were worth more than £100k. a year and shouldn’t be employed at all if the borough has, as in Bexley, a full time Council Leader.

What’s wrong with the perpetual temporary stand in Paul Moore or even Jane Richardson? Both know Bexley inside out while recent Chief Execs have only known the inside of a bullion vault.
Paid off

Note 1 merely gives the date of departure.

 

11 July (Part 1) - “Devious Bastards”

At some time in the first half of the 1970s, Hart District Council summoned me to Aldershot Magistrates’ Court for not paying my Rates. I most definitely had so I thought it might be fun to let them do it and show up with my bank statement.

However a few days before the hearing I decided to double check my payment with the bank; in the 1970s you could walk in to a bank unannounced and talk to someone. All was well, the money had really gone from my account with correct sort code etc.

Unfortunately I had overlooked or hadn’t noticed that I banked at the same branch as the District Council and the manager tipped off the Council that they were about to make fools of themselves. I remember feeling deprived of an opportunity to make monkeys out of Council bureaucrats. I imagine one Bonkers reader is feeling much the same.

At the end of last month I briefly mentioned Bexley Council taking an elderly gentleman to Court alleging he had not paid one of the three Council Tax installments due so far when he had ample evidence that they were wrong. He too opted to see them in Court. You may as well read his report verbatim


I decided against taking my bank statements to the council offices in favour of having my day in court so that their incompetence could be made public. Well it didn’t turn out that way; they have another trick up their sleeve to cover their arses.

Upon arriving at Bexley Magistrates’ Court I was directed by reception to an area at the end of a corridor. Already there was a bloke and two women engaged in conversation and then later another woman arrived and explained to the others that she was late due to traffic.

Then one of the women went and sat at one of two tables placed at the end of the corridor and called me over. After looking at my bank statements she phoned her office then wrote on my summons “Withdrawn”. She then informed me I didn’t have to attend court as though she had done me a favour.

So anyone wrongly accused of non-payment of council tax by Bexley Council will find it impossible to get justice at the Magistrates Court to which they have been summoned. Devious Bastards.

The woman then asked me if I would be at home all afternoon to which I replied yes so she said she would phone me. Did she? NO.

 

10 July (Part 3) - ThamesLink fined

It’s transport time again. Those who use the most northerly of the three cross borough railway lines will remember the havoc caused by ThamesLink when they supposedly started a Rainham to Luton Service 14 months ago. Their incompetence caused the loss of the ten minute interval service on the Greenwich line. Locally Abbey Wood and Slade Green were the most affected.

A ten minute interval service means there is no need to consult a timetable, you just turn up and a train quickly does the same. Thameslink took over two of those six trains an hour from Southeastern and then cancelled almost all of them.

Even when they began to get on top of the problem they only attempted to run one of the two scheduled services and just to make things more exciting they didn’t bother with the xx:58 (to London from Abbey Wood) in the morning but it was the xx:28 that didn’t run in the afternoon. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever it was it was hard to remember.

I was frequently inconvenienced when the DLR brought me back to Woolwich Arsenal and I’d find myself with a 20 minute wait. So would many other people.

Things have been pretty much normal for the past couple of months but that wasn’t good enough for the Department of Transport. As Bexley’s Labour Group are telling people in their Slade Green heartland, Govia Thameslink has received a £15 million penalty for inflicting so much inconvenience on passengers.

As they explain in a Press Release, Slade Green station is going to get a £30,000 share of the pot.

What do you want to spend it on?

 

10 July (Part 2) - Transport for London. Talking fresh Lunacies

Bus stop Bus stop Bus stopThe inaccurate bus stop sign outside Abbey Wood station was first mentioned here on 9th March and pictured six days later the reason being that it is very obviously the wrong sign in the wrong place.

It is marked Lensbury Way which is a quarter of a mile to the north and because of that the B11 is not listed as stopping there because that route does not serve Lensbury Way.

A Bonkers’ reader whose faith in getting TfL to do something about it is perhaps touching has batted emails to and fro with Transport for London to no avail. Here is the latest bit of nonsense that has come out of their Customer Service Department.


TfL emailAccording to Naomi Tuckett who can have no knowledge of the area but knows better than her correspondent who lives only a few hundred yards from the flyover the B11 stops only at bus stop D.

That is indeed correct but only for those wishing to travel in the opposite direction.

I wonder if there is some kind soul on Bexley’s Transport Sub-Committee who could phone 0343 222 1234 and put Naomi out of her misery with Stop A?

Maybe she will do better with the question about there being insufficient shelter at both stops. An arrivals board would be nice to. Most station bus stops have, why not the most prestigious locally?

 

10 July (Part 1) - Public CabiNOT

I have missed three Council meetings in a row. Two because of events in Newham and one because it coincided yet again with the local Traders’ meeting which was held in the newly refurbished Abbey Arms.

Yesterday Newham Hospital decided to discharge my 99 year old aunt who has been treated for a urinary infection. They kept her in for longer than when she broke her leg in April and except that like all hospitals they just dump patientsְ’ food in front of them and walk away with no regard for their inability to eat, all was well. It obviously pays to become known as a vociferous complainer if you don’t want to be neglected and ill-treated. My aunt still has the bed sores they sent her home with in April which require District Nurse attention twice a week.

I had to be in East Ham by 13:00 to await the homecoming and she turned up at 18:40. There never was a realistic chance that I’d be back home in time to get to Public Cabinet and since the old lady refused to go to bed “until my wife gets in” (fat chance!) I sat and watched the webcast instead. It was quite short, about an hour and twenty minutes if I remember correctly, and unremarkable. I don’t think I will be doing a formal report.

I think I heard Councillor Alex Sawyer say “our residents love Bexley” or something similar - I’ll check when the recording goes on line - which I suspect is a case of supreme optimism.

The meeting ended with the Leader thanking Children’s Director Jacky Tiotto for her transformation of Children’s Services in the borough. It was her last meeting before taking up a new appointment. Unfortunately someone pressed the Stop audio button on the webcast system so I never got to hear how Councillors reacted.

 

9 July (Part 2) - Crossing boundaries

Sunday’s blog proved to be a bit of a scoop. It seems that no one else had bothered to find out why Bexley Council was closing off so many parking bays in Wilton Road and on closer examination over the boundary into Greenwich too. News quickly spread across Twitter, the local Facebook group and to other blogs.

TweetIt was confirmed that a film company making a promotional video for bookmaker Paddy Power had been authorised to disrupt Wilton Road and its environs by Bexley Council. You can only guess how that happened. Who is the Head of Public Relations for the Association of British Bookmakers and also in charge of licensing filming in the borough? One Councillor Peter Craske. The one time Bexley blogger.

Thanks to his department taking over Greenwich too we had for one day only a better quality bus shelter in Abbey Wood Road than Bexley Council could arrange for the nearby Crossrail station.

It’s odds on that someone somewhere appears to have overstepped the mark. Who accepted the fat fee?

Abbey Wood Councillor Denise Hyland is asking questions. If she doesn’t get an answer then a Freedom of Information request should do the trick.

Paddy Power Paddy Power Paddy Power Paddy Power

 

9 July (Part 1) - No major project runs on time in Bexley

The bins are late and the road works around Abbey Wood station seem to have been going on for ever. Network Rail moved in in August 2013 and built their station more or less on schedule. It opened on the originally forecast date with just a few oddments to be finished off; the lifts being the most obvious.

Gayton Road Gayton RoadIf only Bexley Council could aspire to something close to that achievement but there’s probably no chance with everyone’s favourite roundabout designer Andrew Bashford in charge of Highways.

This was Gayton Road right next to the station at 08:30 this morning. It is still all barriers and holes in the ground.

Look below for what Bexley Council said would happen last October. All done by February!

Even that notice went up way behind schedule. Further down this page you may see what they originally claimed. All done by June last year.


Gayton Road
Gayton Road
The rebuilding of both Gayton and Felixstowe Roads is currently 13 months behind schedule. How’s Felixstowe Road getting along? Not even half done I would say.

How’s Harrow Manorway down to Eastern Way doing? About three quarters done at a guess. Work started in May 2017 and should have finished well over six months ago.
Harrow Manorway
Bexley Council will offer uncooperative utility companies as their excuse.

 

8 July - Councillor Alan Downing fights your corner on health issues

I probably should have gone to last Tuesday’s Communities Scrutiny meeting if only to see new Chairman Councillor Alan Downing in action but you cannot be in two places at once. The fact that it dragged on for three hours made me a little bit glad I was unable to be present. Thank goodness for webcasting.

CommitteeProbably the most newsworthy subject was health, a subject on which Councillor Downing has done his fair share of plain speaking in the past. Would he curb his usual inclinations when in the Chair?

Changes are due for Erith Hospital and Richard Diment, another Councillor who knows his way around health issues, said he was “somewhat baffled” by them. He had been told nine months earlier following a discussion with a previous CCG Managing Director that there was “an urgent crisis to be addressed and here we are eight or nine months on and I haven’t heard what is to be done to improve the patient experience”.

“There are anecdotal stories of patients attending mid-morning and finding the doors closed.” Bexley Health Watch has reported similarly. “What has been done since those discussions nearly a year ago to improve those conditions?”

The answer was “reviews and consultations” and the space available will be better utilised in future and refurbished. It was acknowledged that there have been temporary closures.

Chairman Alan Downing said that “things seem to drag on and on and are not fit for purpose and it has not been fit for purpose for many many years. At the last meeting in November we were told exactly the same things. If I was living in the North of the borough I would be wondering what is going on. We will have 4,000 new residents there within the next couple of years and we can’t offer them any Health Centre at all. It really is very very bad”.

“There has been ample time for the Trust to get organised and sort something out and you talk about making more space but we are talking about one room and Oxleas haven’t even put in a tender for the decorating. We can’t have this.”

“Discussions about the new stroke unit went on for four years! I want action taken very very soon and quicker than you are offering. No one seems to know what is going on. The staff are not consulted, the morale is actually dreadful, and everything is one big mish mash.”

“All we are getting is a nice new waiting room. We have to do better than this.”

Councillor Caroline Newton agreed “and was a little disappointed”.

Councillor Dave Putson, who lives in the North of the borough, was unable to get an appointment with his own GP because of “staffing issues” and they referred him to the Erith Urgent Care Centre. “It was embarrassing. It was overcrowded and I could hear what was going on in the consulting room. It was not fit for purpose.

Councillor Putson was told that “it would require a full rebuild to meet that [problem]”. He went on to say “we used to have a 24/7 A&E Department and now we have Erith eight until eight and the long term plan is 31,000 new residents. We need a hospital.”

Councillor Alex Sawyer took a similar view and criticised the lack of communication. “We are hearing about changes that might be coming but it does diddly squat for now. Residents are being short changed.”

The discussion went on in similar vein for another hour. Councillor Downing said that “I will leave here tonight not happy and not convinced. I would hope that the Health Sub-Group will really really make it very unpleasant for the Trust to get something done. It is really annoying that we represent residents and we can’t offer them anything. Nobody knows”.

 

7 July - Still Bonkers after all these years

Many of us who live in the neglected North West of the borough are only too well aware that far more people than one might imagine don’t know where the borough boundary lies, and not just the newcomers. I have occasionally seen Greenwich’s rare traffic wardens stray beyond the border. Over the weekend the police have issued two separate Section 60 notices in and around Thamesmead both of them displaying woeful ignorance of where the ward boundaries are, I never expect anything other than incompetence from the police but you would expect Bexley Council to know better.

To speed the demise of the Wilton Road traders Bexley Council is taking away more parking bays tomorrow in order to promote the betting shop on the Greenwich side of Wilton Road.

Wilton Road traders have said that Paddy Power will be filming an advert. (Subsequently confirmed by the film crew.)

Photo 1 shows the parking restrictions on the Bexley side of Wilton Road and an identical warning (Photo 2) has been posted on the other side. Everyone with local knowledge will recognise where it is; bang outside Paddy Power.

Did Bexley Council make another of their trademark little mistakes? Well yes probably but it is made far worse by two more signs around the corner in Abbey Wood Road. Abbey Wood Road is well and truly part of Greenwich, every yard of it lies inside the Greenwich boundary. The No Parking signs (Photos 3 & 4) are around 80 yards beyond Bexley’s jurisdiction and include the Bexley logo, not the Royal Borough’s.

Just what to they think they are doing threatening drivers who park on the Royal Borough’s terrain? Where is their Traffic Order and Public Notice?

Greenwich Councillors have been asked for comment but they know nothing about it.

Is Bexley Council crimlnally exceeding their authority again? Is Bexley Council fraudulently extracting filming fees to which they have no right? No one who follows Bexley Council closely would be surprised by anything at all.

No parking No parking No parking No parking
Filming

Two of the roads roads listed in the letter above are in Bexley and one is shared. The Green Space? Not sure. Do they mean Manorside Close?

The Association of British Bookmakers’ Head of Press Relations is Bexley Cabinet Member Peter Craske. Hmmm. I wonder.

 

5 July - When they were young

A probably mischievous Labour activist sent in these photos a couple of months ago for use during the next quiet patch; it’s not so much quiet at the moment as simply not enough spare time in the day. I’m at least two Council meeting reports behind and there are some meeting minutes to be written. Don’t even mention Newham!

The black and white photos are 30 years old, the date of the others is uncertain, obviously newer.

What they show is that once elected in Bexley it is pretty much impossible to get rid of the blighters. Apart from the two that went off to be MPs they are all still here!

Bacon Bailey Bailey Betts
Betts Bacon Johnson O'Hare
O'Neill Pearce Potter

 

2 July - For some it will be no new bins until Christmas

It’s all change for dust bins in Bexley this year but not as soon as the Council said it would be.

The Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee met last week to discuss various issues and the following is a summary of what was said. PlacesMr. Bryce-Smith the man in charge kicked off by saying his written report “was significantly out of date” and that “the service roll out due to take place during July is now expected to start from the beginning of September for a period of 14 weeks”.

The bin procurement exercise had been a cock up, “several relatively minor ones”, he said, leaving the Council open “to potential future challenge”. The procurement exercise has been started all over again - so not minor consequences.

Mr. Bryce Smith’s side-kick Steven Didsbury said that 24,000 residents had asked for non-standard issue bin sizes and that the delay had the advantage of fewer people being on holiday during the bin issuing and old box collecting exercise; I think it is known as clutching at straws.

The plan was to issue new bins on a normal refuse collection day and for them to be used on the following collection day. About ten residents have refused the bins “for aesthetic reasons” but most people at the road shows had shown enthusiasm for them.

Cabinet Member Craske said that a total of “160,000 bins had been ordered”. (I thought they said that they had only just gone out for tender again, not ordered.)

Councillor Gareth Bacon became a little agitated - but rightly so - about the meeting Agenda, a Public Document, being anti-Brexit in tone. “The language is lacking in a number of areas.” He said the out-of-datedness could not be explained by the ten day Agenda printing timetable. The Agenda has “been put together sloppily.”

The anti-Brexit stance including reference to an undefined hard Brexit “has no place in this report at all”. “Officers should not use politically loaded terminology.”

The Deputy Director duly grovelled on both issues.

Councillor Bacon also complained about bins being left all over the street instead of being put back where they were found and expected to see improvements.

Councillor Val Clark was concerned about the high levels of food waste put out with the unrecyclable rubbish, “it really surprised us”. She went on to say that many people including her friends do not have or use the kitchen waste bin. She thought there should be “re-education”. A better fox-proof bin is available on request.

The official figures show that about 8,000 tonnes of food go into the brown waste bin each year but around 11,000 tonnes into general waste.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon said the delay was “very disappointing” and that announcing “late summer was pushing it a bit”. Has the delay cost anything, she asked. “A slight impact” was what she was told “but there are off-setting ones” because the recycling level will remain higher for longer. What is that all about? Is the new system going to reduce the recycling rate?

Councillor Stefano Borella asked if the borough could go even greener by buying some electrically powered refuse vehicles. He was told that the problem right now is that only small all electric vehicles are available - which is true - but some with electrically powered hoists may be purchased soon. What is the point of that if the battery is charged by the diesel engine? Quieter when operating perhaps but the exhaust fumes still end up in Bexley’s atmosphere.

All the vehicles will have to be electric by 2025 because of government regulations combined with their ten year life cycle.

Councillor Borella thought that more details of where Bexley’s waste ends up should be available but it had fallen victim to the Council’s policy of pruning its website to a bare minimum.

Councillor June Slaughter thought “a clamp down” for persistent failure to recycle properly should be considered but Mr. Bryce-Smith said the law makes fixed penalties virtually impossible to implement and “persuasion and education” was preferred.

Finally it was revealed that around 2,000 properties are unsuitable for wheelie bins and will keep their boxes and the total expenditure on new bins will be in the region of two and a half to three million pounds not including new vehicles.

 

1 July (Part 3) - Desk hopping their ways to a personal fortune

The plan for today was to write about how some senior Council staff play the transfer game shuffling from one well paid job to another while being paid handsome Golden Goodbyes. Generally such people are well known failures and are part of the same self-promoting clique.

Unfortunately a serious problem has arisen, some documents sent anonymously detailing the history of Bexley’s new Chief Executive Jackie Belton have simply disappeared. No idea why, I don’t delete emails and I have many folders of them going back to the last century. I have searched high and low and can only think I may have misfiled something which would certainly make it very difficult to find.

If the anonymous sender could possibly send the email again it would be much appreciated. Meanwhile let’s make the best of a less than ideal situation.

Bexley’s last Chief Executive, Gill Steward, achieved nothing very obvious and left a trail of unflattering public comment in West Sussex but more particularly in Cornwall before her arrival in Bexley but despite her chequered history and recent ejection she immediately stepped into a job in Kingston-upon-Thames. My counterpart there said she was on a daily rate of £1,000 and according to his report her predecessor in Kingston went out the door with a nice £340,000 in the back pocket.

How much did Gill Steward get for her Bexley failure? Tom Bull, the News Shopper, reporter put in an FOI but I told him he had no chance of getting an honest answer out of Bexley Council, and I was right. However he persevered and last week obtained his scoop. Ms. Steward went off with £94,000 of taxpayers’ hard earned cash in her handbag.

The new Monitoring Officer disappeared at much the same time and £54,00 better off. She had been described as “reprehensible” at an Employment Tribunal. One of the judges said her actions were racially motivated. One must wonder who is responsible for Bexley’s recruitment.

Can I top Tom’s scoop? I will try.

Steward was so divisive that there was a danger that other senior managers might resign rather than work with her. I have it on good authority that one did. Someone well known who has been with Bexley Council for a very long time and a fine upstanding citizen in his own right. If he couldn’t work with Steward then you can be sure that her management style was poor to put it in the mildest of terms. He was in very many ways an indispensible asset to Bexley Council and sure enough, once Steward had left they twisted his arm to come back - which he did.

BeltonNow we have Jackie Belton who has been at both Lambeth and Newham Councils in recent years gradually climbing up the greasy pole.

As I said earlier the documents relating to her various Golden Goodbyes have been lost - for now anyway but this is what she was paid in Newham.

Bexley Council has not yet updated its website with details of their new Chief Executive but if she gets the same pay as her predecessor (£192,000) it is not enormously more than what Newham paid her for a Directorship some years ago.

Perhaps Bexley doesn’t pay as well as Newham or perhaps they will accept second raters, they certainly did back in 2016.

What the itinerant Senior Council Management is good at is doing not a lot and drawing up watertight contracts for the day they are dismissed.

None of them we have seen so far in Bexley have been worth anything like the amount of pay doled out so generously on our behalf.

 

1 July (Part 2) - On this day in 1969

I’m told that on this day 50 years ago Prince Charles became Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle which makes me feel very old again.

I was on holiday in a village somewhere in Pembrokeshire the name of which I have long forgotten. The locals were getting very excited about the Investiture and a party had been arranged in the village hall. Men were at the top of the church tower rigging an aerial for the new fangled UHF TV transmissions which had only found their way westwards as far as Cardiff. I assume the ceremony must have been shown on BBC2 only. Why would the BBC punish the Welsh like that?

The excitement was contagious and for some reason I decided to drive northwards in my Standard Vanguard to take a look. Checking the map today shows it to be the sort of journey that only the young and foolish would undertake on a whim. I remember two things about it; being held up by sheep and for the only time in my life being pulled over by a policeman several miles short of our destination.

He explained that the elderly couple in the house over there had missed the only bus of the day into town and would I give them a lift so that they didn’t miss the momentous event. Not something that would ever happen in today’s distrusting environment.

Anyway I stood by the road and took this snap of Charles as he was whisked away. By chance I saw him again a couple of days later as he made some sort of tour of the Principality. Not seen him since although I did once bump into his Mum at Waterloo station. The Royal Train was sitting in my platform and I was late home. I was not impressed.
Prince Charles

 

1 July (Part 1) - Proud to be Catholic

Lesnes Abbey hosts several events in the summer months, next weekend there is some sort of Music Festival, I hope that the organisers remember that with impeccable timing, Bexley Council has closed Abbey Road today and it will remain closed for two weeks.

Yesterday a religious ceremony brought forth umpteen Catholics. As is the case every year, they are God awful inconsiderate parkers. This year maybe worse than ever.

Had I needed to get to East Ham in a hurry it would have been difficult. I let a neighbour who runs a tiny car park up my drive because there was no room for her elsewhere. My own car is a bit broad in the beam and would be a struggle to get out.

I notified Bexley’s parking enforcement office to tell them there was a fortune to be made if they came quickly. The lady on the end of the phone dealt with my call swiftly and politely.

Walking around I found four local residents inconvenienced to some extent and two of them said they had notified the Council.

Two CEOs showed up, it seemed like we waited ages but the camera suggests it was no more than 20 minutes and most of the cars pictured below were ticketed. If they had showed up 15 minutes before the Exodus started they would have caught more.

One of my immigrant neighbours shouted some sort of abuse at me in an unfamiliar tongue. I didn’t understand a word of it. Maybe his own car had been illegally parked because access to the residents’ parking area had been completely blocked.

Let us pray that the Catholics have learned their lesson and won’t block everyone in next year.

Will the concert goers be any better next week?
Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking Bad parking

The cavalry showed up just in time. The Tesco delivery driver couldn’t get anywhere near to his customers.

 

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