Last week’s Joint Adults’ and Children’s Services Scrutiny meeting chaired by
Councillor Cafer Munir was not exactly a scintillating affair, not his fault but
I don’t find the subject matter terribly interesting. Roads, shops, budgets, crime and transport
are more my thing, not mental health problems, I get enough of that on a
daily basis without attending Bexley Council meetings. Maybe I should go to the
equivalent Scrutiny meeting in Newham instead.
Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) is always on the look out for problems affecting school children and she was concerned to hear of a 14 year old threatening suicide who was not helped anything like quickly enough. It was more than a little alarming to hear her quote the internal report forecasting that the number of children in Bexley with mental problems was heading for 11%. “What training was being given to teachers to recognise these problems?”
She was told that suicidal children are usually sent to A&E and the Crisis Team would do a risk assessment on the same day. Councillor Camsey said that within the past two years three of her former male pupils had committed suicide in their very early 20s. “Why weren’t they picked up and helped?”
In fact there were at least five male suicides within the borough in the past year and the reason given was “stresses”. Councillor Camsey asked again what was being done to pick such things up earlier. She was told schools should be doing it.
Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) said the local mental health report included no data for the over 65s and her questioning revealed that young females tended to have emotional problems and boys more behavioural issues. No one would have guessed.
I was not present at the meeting, but I recorded the webcast which is not the right way to feel the atmosphere, neither do I know exactly who was providing answers; with Councillors I recognise voices. However my impression was that those answers lacked confidence to put it politely.
Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) confirmed my view. He was “gravely concerned” about constantly hearing “we will get back to you, I will get a written report, we will come back to you, we don’t have that data and we are not quite sure. You [the Chairman] asked for the information four months ago and it has been on the Agenda for so long and the fact is we can’t seem to get straight answers but surely the data is there and should be collated? This is woefully poor quite frankly and I haven’t got a clue what half of you are talking about. Mr. Chairman, this is terrible.”
The Chairman confirmed that “we asked for the data and for one reason or another we haven’t got it but we will discuss this at the end of the item”. “We will have a lot of work to do then” said James Hunt.
Undeterred Councillor Hunt asked a whole series of questions but generally speaking immediate answers came there none, just promises for them later. In some cases answers were available but only as aggregated figures across three boroughs, not exactly helpful to Bexley Council.
Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) who knows everything that anyone could possibly know about health issues was also critical but Richard is a diplomat and James may not be.
Oh well, there is another meeting scheduled for 13th February 2020. Enough time for another couple of suicides.
is moving in on Lesnes Park Road in Erith. It held a consultation meeting last
July on a Thursday at 4 p.m. which attracted 69 local residents and of the 31
who expressed a firm opinion 15 were against the plan for 17 new houses and
eight apartments and 16 weren’t.
The plans dated 16th October 2019 are now with the Planning Department. The plans are not always as clear as they might be but it looks to me that more than 50 mature trees will be removed. Only yesterday I watched a Bexley Councillor arguing with Extinction Rebellion Bexley that it never removed trees.
Something I should have noticed long ago is the name of BexleyCo’s Director - or maybe I haven’t been asleep. A Council source suggested the date shown here may not be correct.
Anyway; who is Michael Ellsmore?
He used to be Bexley Council’s Director of Finance until he retired at the end of September 2014. Unusually for senior officers of that era he never merited a critical word on Bonkers.
Earlier today I was asked to give publicity to the Bexley Branch of Extinction
Rebellion and in particular their Twitter account @XRBexley which has this
afternoon been doing battle with Councillor John Davey @CllrJohnDavey. As is
often the case I found myself coming down on the side of John Davey.
The name Extinction Rebellion has been forever tarnished by the activities on Westminster Bridge where their members prevented people going about their lawful business and patients from attending St. Thomas’ Hospital. I saw one of their delightful ladies saying that a man trying to get there was stupid for allowing himself to have cancer and it was his own silly fault for not booking in elsewhere. (I know from personal experience that that is simply not possible.)
These people are beyond help and really shouldn’t be let out of the asylums. Mick Barnbrook’s Twitter version of jokey and blokey banter was not all that far from my own view; his friend was me.
At times I have felt that XR should be made a proscribed organisation. Anyone wearing its badge could be heavily fined and those engaged in criminal activity such as punching through armoured glass with a hammer and chisel should get a minimum of five years. They should be whether proscribed or not but the police Oh let’s not go there again.
Maybe aircraft with protestors glued to them should just take off as usual and Jubilee line trains at Canning Town with roof riders should move off into the nearby tunnel. That way lessons might be learned but as we are now these expensive protests are likely to go on for ever.
Last Thursday I looked at the various Canning Town videos several times over and could barely contain my pleasure at the summary retribution. These people deserve no sympathy whatsoever and whilst they might have a point their remedies are totally unrealistic. Back to the stone age by 2025. They are mad.
I thought Ed Milliband’s Climate Change Act in 2008 was very expensive madness which soon killed off much of our heavy industry. Every British aluminium smelter went out of business by 2012. Steel is in much the same boat, other countries have much cheaper electricity. Domestic electricity bills sky rocketed too but despite those obvious drawbacks the Act has pushed the green energy agenda. The UK is now essentially coal free and I suppose the sandwich muncher must be given credit for that.
In 2015 with atmospheric pollution beginning to make its presence felt I attended a meeting on that subject. I went to it slightly sceptical and came out convinced by the rational arguments of a doctor from King’s Hospital who provided hard evidence of what vehicle pollution was doing to children’s lungs. The doctor conveyed his message without the aid of superglue, diesel generators, plastic tents or pink boats. No pregnant lady was forced to publicly pee on a DLR train held up behind another superglued to a moronic hand.
The blog in September of that year was the first time electrically powered vehicles were mentioned here. I kept my eye on EV developments and bought one exactly three years later. I have as you will have noticed become something of an evangelist for them but they are not alone going to solve any perceived climate problem. To do that you’d probably have to sail a pink boat to China which ironically produces more electric vehicles than any other country.
I am not against Extinction Rebellion’s aims but their methods are entirely wrong as is their ludicrous timetable.
I try to do my bit for the planet. I have 4 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof and did not use either gas or grid electricity from late April until today to heat my domestic hot water. I recycle everything I can. In a whole month I filled only one large carrier bag with non-recyclable waste and have never ever used my brown food waste bin. It sits in the under-stairs cupboard full of toilet rolls while the 2002-2006 Labour Council supplied compost bin does its job in the garden.
No food has ever been dumped where it shouldn’t and I am living testament to the fact that a sealed pack of bacon kept in the fresh meat section of the fridge is perfectly usable more than a month after its best by date. And that is by no means a one-off event, no pun intended.
Am I a bit of a secret greenie? Definitely not, I just do what pleases me.
There is however one notable difference between me and Councillor Davey. He appears to have a closed mind and refuses to attend the rebellious group’s meeting on 30th October. 7 p.m. in The Exchange. (†) The old library building in Erith.
I don’t see how they can do anything that would cause me to forget the damage they have already wrought on the city but listening costs nothing. I think I might go. At least we will see which of our Councillors is willing to learn.
There is an annoying clash with the Transport Users’ Committee meeting which John Davey and I like to attend.
Falling back on a perhaps overused expression, Teresa Pearce the excellent
constituency MP for Erith & Thamesmead who is standing down at what must surely
be the imminent General Election, will be a very hard act to follow. As I
understand it a number of people have put their names forward for the selection
process including Momentum backed Commies - well at least that is what I was
told. We really don’t want that sort of nonsense around here.
I only recognise two of the long listed names both of whom have Councillor experience in Bexley. One is Mabel Ogundayo currently representing Thamesmead East.
Mabel came to my notice very early on in her Councillor career when she was singled out by a number of Conservative Councillors and criticised for her youth, her alleged lack of education and her alleged failure to recognise that the Children’s Care Services in Bexley were no longer as abysmal as they used to be.
Whilst the more reasonable Tories soon gave up on attacking youthfulness the frequently obnoxious Philip Read (West Heath) continued with his attempts to humiliate; he never really gave up on his mission to insult Mabel Ogundayo. Mabel has risen above his misogyny.
In one respect at least Councillor Ogundayo is following in Teresa Pearce’s footsteps who also began her political career in Bexley’s Council Chamber but given the pressure and stress that MPs suffer these days I have some misgivings about encouraging such a path. On the other hand history suggests I need the support of a good MP to keep me out of jail; Teresa is still battling injustices on my behalf, so I must wish Mabel all the best with her ambitions.
She has made a very nice little promotional video. For ten years post-retirement I became involved in video production and I can tell you that this one is head and shoulders above the crap (sorry) we usually see from politicians.
Mabel Ogundayo, long listed by Labour for the MP vacancy in Erith & Thamesmead constituency.
How is this for something you’d never guess? All my recent correspondence
with Belvedere Councillor Sally Hinkley has been about steam engines.
It all started when she showed me some pictures she had taken this year while on holiday in Dymchurch which boasts a 92 year old, 14 mile, 15 inch gauge railway. In return I sent her a picture I took in the middle 1950s of the same steam engine in the same place.
From there, I have no idea why, the conversation moved to Bexley’s Autumn issue Magazine and I told her that no one I know of in my road received it and by no means for the first time.
Last night a copy flopped on to my door mat. I went to the door in time to see Sally’s elderly diesel Mercedes (†) disappearing into the distance. I sat down to read it. It was a bit disappointing to be honest.
A bit about wi-fi in the bigger shopping centres - how come Bexley Village qualifies and not Belvedere? (I think we know.)
The Alcock & Brown Centenary, the delayed bins and a load of stuff aimed at old people and getting married, neither of which apply to me obviously.
And then there is the half baked plan to install a pathetic number of Electric Vehicle charging points.
The 13 least popular parking bays in the borough will each get a single dual headed charging post capable of delivering twice the power of a 13 amp socket.
Why the least popular places? If Bexley Council was truly keen to encourage electric car ownership they would provide the most popular destinations with charging points; that is what every other Council does.
Thirteen is less than half of what can be found in just one car park in Greenwich.
Some Councils provide discounted residents’ parking permits for EVs but Bexley Council is only about money, money, money.
There should be charging points at Hall Place but the new plans for charging entrance fees say nothing about attracting the new generation of cars.
There should be charging points alongside Lesnes Abbey. Bexley says they have the most popular and best parks in the world but no charging points which practically every other Council is using as a selling point.
Hampshire County Council has gone further. It has notified all its residents that it is entirely lawful to run a cable across pavements when houses have no off street parking so long as certain precautions are observed.
The cable should not cross a roadway and should be certified for external use. It should not be strung across the footpath at high level but placed on the ground and protected with a cover if at all possible.
Isn’t it about time that Bexley Council got serious and stopped messing around? The only chargers it has installed so far are in the Councillors’ private car park. Typical!
None whatsoever in public car parks. Don’t they realise that bays reserved for electric car charging are a revenue raiser? There are plenty of companies who will install them free of charge and pay for the privilege and then there are the PCNs that can be handed out to all the fossil fuel drivers who illegally park in them.
Incidentally, the hand delivered magazine is not the only act of generosity from Sally; she does it all the time and believe me, a free magazine is by comparison a very minor one.
† Sally says it is an Audi and only 14 years old, so it’s “still in its prime”.
I have said here before
that I believe the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to be a thoroughly
dishonest woman. Corrupt is not too strong a word; but that is just my opinion.
A more reliable one might be that of the brother of Daniel Morgan who was
murdered by police and/or their hired hands in 1987. Alastair Morgan, my
daughter’s partner for nearly 30 years, has been studying police corruption for
more than 30 years and has written books and made broadcasts on the subject.
I have heard him say that Cressida Dick and every Met. Commissioner bar one since 1987 has been attempting to cover up their force’s crime and is now trying to subvert the Home Office investigation. A Chief Constable of Hampshire should be included in that list too.
Yesterday he put the following statement into the public domain.
Cressida Dick is a person of interest to me, to use police-speak. She and I have what I would describe as an unfortunate relationship. I won’t bore anyone with a detailed history but my conclusions are:
1) That she has shown sub-zero willingness to cooperate with the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel.
2) She is not a progressive Commissioner of Police in my experience. All of her actions say that she is doing her utmost to prevent and/or delay public insight into what I would describe as some very, very perverted and disturbing policing and its multiple nasty spin-offs.
3) In other words, she is acting like ‘a copper’s copper’ as Lord ‘Swifty’ Stevens (a deeply unpleasant chap, in my view) liked to style himself. When it comes to the public looking into some of the Yard’s more nasty, dirty closets where their ‘relationship’ with some of the dirtiest elements of organised crime and the Murdoch press are involved, and how its leadership has lied to or knowingly misled my family, MPs, ministers, the public and even parliament I also strongly suspect high-level perjury at the Leveson Inquiry.
In other words, a highly regrettable state of affairs. I can sympathise with Ms. Dick insofar as why would any Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis relish being shown (some of) the absolute dirtiest dregs of the policing on her watch. It’s just that personal interests and preferences and politicised policing don’t really cut the mustard for me in these circumstances. So, so far so bad in my opinion.
She won’t succeed, I hasten to add. I’ve become almost totally inured to dealing with crap from the British police. It’s become ‘normalised’ like so much other discreditable, nasty stuff in our public life. I now regard this as ‘normal’ police behaviour, sadly.
The plans for today included writing the report on the most recent of
Bexley’s Scrutiny meetings but doing so involves listening to it all over again
and therein lies the snag. I am half ashamed to admit that I am glued to the live
broadcasts from Westminster just as in 1982 when the Falkland Islands and I had a close relationship. (†)
I cannot listen to both at the same time added to which the Democracy section of Bexley Council’s website is dead today so I cannot even get a copy of the Agenda which I failed to keep last Wednesday.
It’s the best excuse for laziness that I can muster and the DLR is not running from Woolwich Arsenal all weekend so East Ham is being given a miss.
Incidentally, how are treacherous bastards like Oliver Letwin able to live with themselves? I cannot even begin to get my mind around how such an individual can bear to show himself in public.
† I was in charge of all telecoms to the Falklands and had observed the Argentinian invasion closely, monitoring their phone calls to Buenos Aires and talking to Cable & Wireless phone operators in Stanley working with machine guns held against their backs.
this week I have had to get up in the early hours of the morning and drive to
East Ham and twice it has been tricky getting the car on to the road due to poorly parked vehicles.
This afternoon I was only planning on going to Bexley Village so the alternative of a bus was a possibility but I was completely blocked in. The silver car was close to my drive exit and not parked closely to the kerb. The red one (which may be seen behind the hedge in Photo 1) was a long way from the footpath and overhanging the sloping part of the dropped kerbs both fore and aft. Had that happened at night I would not have been able to respond to the all too frequent emergencies.
I have had enough if it. From now on all repeat occurrences will be photographed and reported immediately and without warning to Bexley’s parking enforcement team. (020 8301 6317 between 8.30 am and 9.30 pm Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm Sunday.
Every single house and flat in my road has its own dedicated off street parking for one or two cars. The original 1980s planning permission said the area shown was for vehicle turning only but such is Bexley Council’s poor road design that I can be blocked in by two vehicles both of which are legally parked.
There is another flaw in my plan. I only once before reported an illegally parked vehicle outside my house and it took three days for Bexley Council to respond and only then after my then Councillor Danny Hackett came to my assistance.
I have today registered my dropped kerb for enforcement.
P.S. Bexley Council said I cannot register my dropped kerb because I haven’t got one. Resolved with photo evidence and Google Street View. Why couldn’t they have looked at Street View themselves?
These was a Communities Scrutiny Committee meeting in Bexley last night, I
arrived home just in time to catch the webcast. It was Chaired by Councillor Alan Downing and
began at the unusual time of 7 p.m. The subject was NHS Urgent Care
Centres. The one in Erith can only be described as a mess and the next nearest
is run by Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group (C.C.G.) and the
Chairman was in favour of his Committee forming some sort of alliance with them.
He wanted to hear “substantial reasons for being part of a Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee”.
Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) wanted to be sure it “doesn’t have any detrimental effect on services within Bexley”. Councillor James Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) was “not convinced by the data that had come from the C.C.G.” and that it would be best if the Chairman himself made the decision. Despite a total lack of “substantial reasons” the Chairman remained in favour of the Joint Scrutiny Committee and asked for two delegates to attend it.
Councillor Hunt volunteered but no one else did so immediately.
The meeting ended at 7:09 p.m.
these Pound Shop Beatles celebrate the installation of a Zebra Crossing on a
minor road in Blackfen the same Council is apparently content to see no
authorised pedestrian crossing for more than a mile north of Abbey Wood station.
Harrow Manorway is the major, indeed only, thoroughfare between Thamesmead and Abbey Wood but after leaving the station you have to go almost to the riverbank to find another crossing point.
And still Bexley Conservatives say that they don’t neglect their Northern outpost.
Bexley Council appears to have given up on village centre parking enforcement too. A car identical to this one was in the same place when I returned from East Ham last night and its just the same mid-morning today.
There may be no yellow lines and no signs but I thought pavement parking was an open and shut offence.
Six trips to East Ham in four days. I think that is a record. The DLR (West Ham to Woolwich Arsenal) is
constantly standing room only but normally I can stand for the 16 minute journey easily enough
after being barged away from the only remaining seat by a child or a woman and it is
not a huge problem. However after being on the nightshift an old man could
sometimes do with a seat. After years of travelling to East Ham via the DLR I
can tell you there is only one way you will get one. You need to be spotted by
an Indian gentleman or a white man wearing a suit and aged about 40. All other
varieties of human will ignore you.
If that is racist then tough, it is a fact.
So what’s been going on in Bexley? Probably lots but the only thing I have noticed is the continued road chaos in Abbey Wood.
Felixstowe Road remains closed a week after it was supposed to reopen and this week footpath diversions have caused the shops to lose their passing trade. There is currently no provision for deliveries and I saw a truck driver struggling with his load from a lorry out of sight and around the bend on the far side of the flyover.
Please don’t run away with the idea that that is a temporary inconvenience, the clowns in charge of Bexley’s Highways Department have banned parking (Taxis and Disabled only) on any part of the road currently closed.
In another piece of apparent idiocy the newly resurfaced Harrow Manorway flyover has been dug up and two way traffic lights are in use accompanied by the inevitable long traffic queues. Bexley Council’s sole ambition would appear to be wrecking the local economy.
As usual no provision whatever has been made for pedestrians who might wish to cross the road.
More photos of the work on Harrow Manorway and Felixstowe Road may be seen here.
When I was planning to buy a new car eight years ago I naturally asked my son
who acts as consultant to many major manufacturers for his advice. One of the things I remember
him saying was “Don’t buy a hybrid”. One of his reasons was that most of the
time you are lugging around a great lump of copper and iron which is doing
nothing and for a little of the time you will be lugging around a great lump of
iron and aluminium that’s doing nothing.
In the intervening eight years technology has moved on a bit but official records show that the batteries in most plug in hybrids are never charged, hence the government rightly removing the subsidy on them.
Toyota in particular has made no investment in electric cars and has instead invested in expensive advertisements for perpetual motion machines which it calls self-charging hybrids evidently oblivious to the fact that every bit of energy it consumes comes from petrol. In most of Europe the adverts have been banned but not in the UK.
The technology is no different to that in the original Prius 22 years ago.
The well advertised C-HR model can be seen on YouTube travelling up to a mile at no more than 30 miles per hour on battery power before the petrol engine kicks in.
The larger Camry uses a 245 volt 1.6 kilowatt hour Nickel Metal Hydride battery, a battery technology which gave way to Lithium Ion 20 years ago because basically they are not very good. The motor is only 88 kilowatts (118 horsepower) to push along a gross weight of 2,100 kilograms. More than 25% heavier than my own car with 58% of the electric power and just over half the torque.
In theory a heavy footed driver could flatten that battery in 66 seconds although that is a very unfair calculation. On the same basis mine will only keep going for 73 minutes when in practice I have driven it for more than five hours before nearly flattening the battery.
Who would recommend the purchase of a hybrid Toyota?
Err Bexley Council Leader Teresa O’Neill perhaps?
The only justification would be if journeys were always restricted to just a couple of miles; maybe they will be.
I try to restrict my Twitterings to the announcement of new blogs and
sometimes not even then. Getting in too deeply can lead to arguments that I
would prefer to do without but no one is perfect and sometimes the temptation is too great.
I was more than tempted yesterday. A Mr. Charlie Davis - no I’d never heard of him either - Tweeted “I’ve campaigned to improve signage for the shops on Wilton Rd. Today it was great to see these now installed after working with @LT_FRENCH and @bexleynews”. (Bexley Council’s Deputy Leader and the Conservatives’ official source of frequently false propaganda respectively.)
I responded “that is the most outrageous lie”.
Mr. Davis was adopted as the Conservative GLA candidate for Lewisham and Greenwich last March and provision of the new signage was in hand long before that. It perhaps wasn’t so much a lie as a gross deception. Any campaign by Mr. Davis was worthless as the signs were a done deal before he came on the scene and to claim the credit is shameful.
Please allow me to explain.
There is a Traders’ Association for Wilton Road (AWTA) and the surrounding area and I have attended every one of their meetings bar one. Bexley Council apparently sought my exclusion from meetings, I am tempted to say that they feared the truth might leak out if I was there, but they were over-ruled by the Association’s Committee.
I write the minutes of the meetings and audio record them all. That’s 38 meetings.
Except for the inaugural meeting no Greenwich Councillor has ever attended a meeting. Danny Hackett when a Lesnes Abbey ward (Bexley) Councillor attended when invited but Sally Hinkley who took his place in the newly created Belvedere (Bexley) ward has been a little more forceful. She actively seeks invitations.
The Minutes for the 9th January meeting record that
Sally took away the problems relating to ASB, the lack of signage directing potential customers to the shops, the overflowing litter bins and the reduced number of parking spaces available since the Crossrail works began in 2013 and the extension of double yellow lines.
Councillor Hinkley got busy the very next day and received a positive response. On 3rd February she requested an update and on 6th February was able to report back to the Traders’ Association as follows
Bexley Council has agreed to provide additional signage to the shops and has already surveyed and consulted the AWTA Chairman about where best to place them. The existing station signage would be improved once the rail authorities had given their permission.
Another site meeting was arranged with the AWTA Chairman, it took place a whole month before Mr. Davis came on to the scene.
The final design of the signs and their location was approved by the AWTA Chairman in June this year. The July minutes record Councillor Hinkley close liaison with all concerned. A graphic of the proposed sign was provided and included in the July minutes.
As of yesterday no active AWTA member had heard of Mr. Davis.
Mr. Davis claims to have spoken to a trader, one who has attended only one of the 38 meetings but who will have received copies of the minutes. He may well have remembered Sally’s promise in January but must have forgotten the February minutes that recorded that signs were already in hand.
Mr. Davis has sought the assistance of Deputy Council Leader Louie French to deflect criticism of his claim to have been instrumental in the provision of signs and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that neither knew of Councillor Hinkley’s success when they decided to take action - assuming they did.
But it still doesn’t make sense.
Somewhere down the line must be the man who designs or approves signs. We know he was not only involved, he had agreed the new signage as long ago as February. Someone had been out to do a site survey in February. It is inconceivable that word did not get back to the Conservative pair that the job was already done.
Despite that they went ahead and attempted to claim credit for the signs was theirs. It is a pretty much an exact repeat of Councillor Wendy Perfect arranging for bus stop removal in Northumberland Heath and the Tories stepping in with their photo opportunities and less than honest Press Releases to marginalise here.
I couldn’t care less about the morals of an insignificant politician from Eltham but it is a matter of concern that Bexley’s Deputy Leader may have gone along with the deception. We already have a pair of Bexley Councillors who have perfected that technique and we really don’t need another. Maybe his ignorance was genuine, I would like to think so, but it puts him in the same position as another Cabinet Member under the spotlight.
The claim bears the hallmarks of Councillor Philip Read. Can it be coincidence that he was present when the video (below) was made?
The uselessness of Sadiq Khan and his lack of interest in Abbey Wood does not go unnoticed at AWTA meetings. Water fountain excepted, no one at the GLA has given it any attention since Boris Johnson was in charge; whatever happened to him?
Here is Mr. Davis’s address to the people of Abbey Wood. We need someone to take an interest in Abbey Wood after years of neglect but we also need absolute honesty from our politicians.
Someone who presumably hangs his TV on the wall in portrait mode.
It looked bad when Labour Leader Daniel Francis revealed some of the
caused by Bexley’s money pinching approach to SEN transport. His criticisms
were confirmed by
the Local Government Ombudsman but in reality it was even worse than first thought.
It wasn't just £250 compensation to a couple of families, it added up to more than £13,000 and if Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller was not told what was going on as seems likely some management heads definitely need to be rolled.
The Conservatives’ only response was to obfuscate on Twitter. The Chief Executive Jackie Belton took two and a half months to respond to Councillor Francisְ’ initial enquiry.
The initial estimates were that only 47 people would be
affected and squeezing them would save £18,000; so including administrative
costs that will all be well and truly down the compensation drain, not to mention the reputational cost.
The Labour Group has issued a Press Release.
is it with all these Labourites complaining about the proposal for compulsory
identification when voting?
What do they fear? It’s not as if it is going to cost anything if by chance one of their supporters has no bank account, no driving licence and pays no utility bills. I think we know what they fear don’t we?
I’ve still got my childhood Identity Card, and my mother’s and my father’s. Mine records four addresses through 1945 to 1949. London E10, then E11, then E10 again and finally Farnborough in Hampshire.
It records that it is a reissued card, the original having been incinerated by a German Doodlebug.
And what about David Blunkett (Labour Home Secretary) and his plan that we should all carry ID at all times like they do across Europe.
I think I detect the usual biased lunacy going on.
It’s not the first time it’s
happened but Bexley Council seems to be totally unable to work out where its western boundary is. It’s only three months since
placed parking restrictions on Abbey Wood Road a good 100 metres beyond the
boundary, Now they are warning about Blue Badge misuse on the Greenwich side of Wilton Road.
There is no equivalent notice by the disabled parking bays on the Bexley side of the road.
Beneath the new notice are the tattered remains of a temporary notice that Bexley Council put there three years ago. Maybe it is an acknowledgement of the fact that the road works it warned of are still a very long way from being finished.
anonymous messaging facility has paid dividends again. It informs me that the
absentee Bexley Director Paul Moore is due to speak in Westminster on the
subject of Crossrail 2 in December.
That's the Projected North/South Crossrail isn't it, not the extension to Ebbsfleet that Bexley Council is backing?
Click the image below to look at the source website.
I try to keep up with what goes on in Barnet where the Conservative run Council can at best be said to be in disarray
and has resorted to all sorts of undemocratic processes aimed at hiding their various failures. Ten years ago Bexley
would have been proud of their ingenuity. Indeed many of Barnet’s restrictions on public
engagement at meetings bear marked similarities to the bad old days in Bexley.
Have they resorted to web publishing the names and addresses of all questioners and
insisting on their presence when asking it yet as Bexley did? It was only one
step away from notifying the burgling fraternity directly.
I read earlier this week that Barnet ‘fulfilled’ its legal obligation to provide Agendas to attendees by providing just two copies per meeting. A photograph suggested that may have been one for every twenty members of the public.
In Bexley they do it better. Printing too many copies is a waste of money so the numbers required are reasonably accurately estimated. Last Thursday the lady on the top table shown below had saved a copy specially for me. How nice was that?
One of the subjects up for discussion at that meeting was charging for admission to Hall Place gardens, an idea that has been kicked around all year.
Former Councillor Howard Marriner was there to represent Bexley Civic Society which is adversely affected by the new rearrangements. The Art Gallery space will be insufficient and the hire charges are increasing. If that isn’t enough the Council proposes to restrict the time allowed to set up exhibitions. The net result is that Hall Place will become “unsuitable for the Society’s annual exhibition”. The same might apply to the History Fair. “Were there any other publicly accessible sites with parking facilities to enable such popular and well attended events to continue?”
Mr. Marriner also queried the practicality of a Bexley family having to turn up with possibly four sets of identification documents to gain admission at a reasonable price.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske responded by saying the booking fee for the History Fair would be £2,700 but next year it was to be kept at £1,400 with the implication it was the same as for this year. There had been several meetings with the Society since March to look for alternatives but none have yet been found.
Charges would be part of the Planning Application expected “before Christmas”.
Identification processes “would be the same as if you are going to a tip”.
Deputy Director for Communities Toni Ainge said there is “a need to generate additional income”. The shop would be rearranged to ensure that “pencil sharpeners” etc. caught the eyes of children on the way out.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was “concerned” for the future of the art exhibitions and the available space being “far less”. It would be “sad” to see the exhibitions and fairs discontinued.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) accepted the need for charges but wanted to see Hall Place advertised more widely as a tourist destination. She too was concerned about the practicalities of the discount processes for Bexley residents. The peripheral borough post codes are not always a good guide.
She was told that a Driving Licence would be sufficient ID but beyond that there were accessible databases which would interrogate electoral rolls, bank accounts and credit histories to indicate whether someone was likely to be living at the given address.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) felt there were far too many charging options. (See below.)
Councillor Davey also organises art exhibitions at Hall Place and thought it was going to be “very difficult” in future.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) made a statement of the fairly obvious; if Bexley residents are messed around when visiting they won’t come back adding that Councillor Craske keeps Twittering about the investments being made in Hall Place but never a word about the charges.
The only helpful comment offered to Howard Marriner’s Civic Society came from Labour Councillor Sally Hinkley who suggested that the restored Carnegie Building in Erith might provide a better venue. Councillor Hinkley also pointed out that the Carer’s discount promised at an earlier meeting did not appear in the current schedule of charges. She was told it would do.
The Chairman Councillor Melvin Seymour made clear his own misgivings about the charges and he knew people who simply would not go in future.
The Contact page was temporarily withdrawn last month after it attracted
too many abusive messages but it was too valuable a facility to lose especially its optional anonymity.
I had knocked up the code myself many years ago from bits nicked off the web and it was far from perfect, those CAPTCHA spam filters are nothing but a pain; so I paid for better Contact code. The new page can do CAPTCHA but includes alternative security code. So far it appears to be working well without CAPTCHA and there have been more messages delivered that way since its introduction; nearly all of them anonymous.
One of the new facilities is the inclusion of attached files and the first of them arrived overnight.
It continues with the Bexley bullying theme and in particular whatever happened to long serving Director Paul Moore. Another message asks where the hell is the new Chief Executive Jackie Belton whose low profile has been mentioned already. I have no idea whether there is any justification for that report, perhaps she believes in holing up in her Civic Office bunker.
The Paul Moore submission is a little more substantive and says that a letter is circulating among staff that may shed a little light on his mysterious disappearance.
The attachment is not a proper scan but looks to me as though it was quickly snapped on a mobile. It is to be honest not as clear as it might be and disappointingly fails to include either a date or a signature, but it appears to be genuine enough in that I cannot imagine it was written by anyone other than Paul Moore.
From the bits that I am able to read I would say it is far too personal to be reproduced here but it is clearly written from the heart and a heart that someone appears to have broken.
I will leave you with this small extract. Someone at Bexley Council has been extraordinarily cruel towards Paul Moore. We had our very occasional differences but I could also refer you to incidents which would show him to be kind and caring. That might in itself explain why he is no longer welcome in Bexley, if that is indeed the case.
It seems longer than two and a bit months ago that Labour Leader Daniel Francis revealed how Bexley had been
severely criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman
for breaking the rules on the provision of SEN transport.
Bexley Council doesn’t take kindly to criticism as I learned many years ago when it reported me to the police for the crime of “criticising Councillors”. This time they stopped short of that. Bexley Council went to war with Councillor Francis on Twitter instead.
The Conservative Twitter account did what it was set up for. It lied big time. Councillor Francis was accused of “peddling made up stories” and it demanded an apology for his “false claim that the Cabinet Member for Education had misled the Council”.
I listened carefully several times to the recording of what Councillor Francis had said but failed to find serious fault with it.
He was critical of the Cabinet Member for Education for not making any reference to the LGO verdicts when
reporting formally on the situation only a few days earlier
but if that was unfair it could only be because the Cabinet Member had been kept in ignorance of it.
I’m not sure that makes the omission completely justifiable but the Tories continued to demand an apology.
For reasons best known to himself Councillor Francis apparently gave one, presumably confident that the truth would eventually come out.
It just has.
The LGO report issued yesterday makes it absolutely clear that Bexley Council was wholly at fault when dealing with several cases just as Councillor Francis had tried to tell us.
It has been made to pay parents financial compensation of £250 each plus £10 a day for every day each one of them was adversely affected by Bexley Council’s incompetence, assuming that that is all it was.
It has also confirmed what many of us knew already. Bexley Council is not “transparent”.
I had hoped that
the forty plus ugly poles that had sprouted up within spitting distance of Abbey
Wood station - the unpleasant phrase is probably excusable in Abbey Wood - might have some redeeming
feature, like Bexley Council using them for flower baskets, but I should have
known better. Most are to be used to tell residents what to do.
Photo 1 is a nice one, the bridge height limit cannot be seen behind the road width sign but what would you expect from Bexley’s Highways Department? It may have had less potential for catastrophic damage if they were placed the other way around.
You would be nuts to take the indicated route to The Thames Innovations Centre too. You may also note that we are past the predicted Felixstowe Road reopening date. Everything runs late.
Right next to the station which one might have hoped would be a drop off point, stopping is Taxis Only. Black Licensed Cabs only if what the Traders’ Association was told is true.
And those poor Felixstowe Road shop owners. They have endured years of Crossrail inflicted hell and now Bexley Council decrees that no one can stop outside their shops without showing a Blue Badge.
The camera Exif data shows that Photos 5 and 8 were taken only a minute apart - they are not displayed in chronological sequence. During that time I was approached by two beggars asking for fifty pence and separately an abusive man and his dog demanding to see my Street Photography Licence, whatever that may be. I almost never go into Abbey Wood with cash in my pocket, it is not a very nice place to be at the best of times. Avoid it if you can.
It was going to be new wheelie bins by July
but that didn’t happen; Bexley Council messed up the tendering process and delivery was deferred until
September but September has come and gone with no signs of new bins anywhere.
However at a Council meeting yesterday evening the powers that be were
absolutely confident. The first of the 160,000 new wheelie bins will definitely hit the
streets on 4th November without a shadow of doubt and totally without fail. Nothing can go wrong now.
Delivery will be strung out over 14 weeks ending in the middle of next February. No deliveries over Christmas and New Year but twice as many in the preceding week.
Contingency plans have been made for bad weather, snow in particular, and as long as it was not exceptional weather should not cause a delay.
Councillors did not have an awful lot to say and perhaps the most thoughtful question came from Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) who pointed out that 24,000 residents had changed their preferred size of bin away from the Council's default choice way back in May and many people will have moved house by next February. The likelihood is that new occupants would have chosen differently and the Council had said there could be no going back on the original choice and that would be potentially inconvenient to say the least.
The responsible Council Officer thought the rule would be relaxed once the main distribution was completed.
From the middle of this month residents will be able to enter their address into a Council web form and be provided with their bin distribution date. There will be a big publicity campaign across the borough.
Councillor Borella pressed the Deputy Director for the real reason for the four months delayed distribution but his request for information was refused.
Council Officers are shortly to go on a jolly to Telford to see bins coming off the manufacturer’s production line.
There was a Cabinet meeting yesterday. I arranged my day to give a free
evening; I charged my recorder batteries, I packed the camera and then I looked at the Agenda.
Obesity and Preparing SEN Pupils for Adulthood.
Ten years experience of reporting Council meetings told me that neither subject, laudable though they might be, were going to attract many readers. The rain and the usual difficulties finding a place to park near the Civic Offices all pointed to a webcast viewing being good enough.
Up to a point I was right, a necessary discussion no doubt, but somewhat tedious stuff and then it all went wrong. 55 minutes after it began the webcast failed and soon afterwards a message popped up to say it would resume shortly. It never did. Eventually I turned off my desktop PC but ten minutes later my laptop reported that the meeting had ended.
It is very obvious to anyone walking the streets of Bexley that the borough has an obesity problem and the Council’s resident doctor has developed a plan to deal with it. His report included the names of 100 people who had assisted him. This is one very big and expensive plan.
It includes improving diets with fruit and vegetables and reducing the number of takeaways. Hiding high fat, sugar and salt products. Increasing breastfeeding and giving parents of children under four vouchers for healthy foods. Providing more free drinking water, encouraging physical activity including walking and cycling. Maximising the use of parks and outdoor play.
Doctor Ghosh described the Obesity Strategy as “ambitious and far reaching” and if successful “will have a massive transformational impact”. He hoped it would equalise health between the wealthy and poorer parts of the borough and add five years to life.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said that the Strategy was the culmination of a great deal of work by Dr. Ghosh and his team. He said it “was the most detailed Strategy he had seen in many years and required to tackle one of Bexley’s health related time bombs”.
Cabinet Member John Fuller told how he had given encouragement to school heads and pushed for more Physical Education.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith trod his usual path of “you cannot judge a service by the amount of money you pour into it, its the outcomes that are important.”
Councillor David Leaf concluded for the Cabinet with a story about the relatively low price of apples in supermarkets and said that the Strategy “was all gain” and Bexley was leading the way for other boroughs to catch up.
Labour Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) has a professional interest in healthy food but said that often the amount is just as important. Some GPs do not understand diet and whilst that may be outside the Council’s remit, it was important. He did however think that Environmental Health Officers could offer advice especially to takeaways on how minor menu changes could have big benefits. He was given assurance that Environment Health Officers are involved with exactly.
He welcomed the Obesity Strategy but regretted that it contained no reference to food banks where people may have little interest in healthy eating, only satisfying hunger. He was told that although food banks are not mentioned in the Strategy they are included in the Action Plan
Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if available budgets were sufficient to ensure the Strategy’s success. Dr. Ghosh was “confident”.
After just 20 minutes the Strategy was adopted and the discussion moved on to helping SEN children into adulthood. OFSTED had reported that Bexley Council had not been discharging its responsibilities well; hence the plan.
Cabinet Member Read who should perhaps be helped into Adulthood himself, welcomed the plan.
He confirmed that “the results of the 2016 inspection was disappointing but we learnt from that” and “Adults’ Services are [now] involved in the processes at a much earlier date meaning closer working between the two services. It is one of the key strands of this Strategy”.
The improvements have seen complaints fall from 25 two years ago to zero in 2019.
Cabinet Member Brad Smith reported in very similar vein. Things are “hugely” improved.
Cabinet Member John Fuller provided various examples of how vulnerable young people are being helped into the adult world. Everything from changing a light bulb to cooking.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske was left with little to say apart from the Strategy being “very good and “really excellent”.
Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect also thought the Strategy was “an excellent piece of work”.
A succession of Councillors continued to heap praise on the new Strategy which was adopted without a word of criticism.
Bexley Council has issued a Press Release about health issues.
The image above may require a page refresh to reduce it to the intended size.
A recent email which was not anonymous asks why I have not given added
publicity to the absolutely appalling Metropolitan Police investigation into the
ridiculous allegations by Carl Beech against a variety of high profile
individuals supported by the equally ridiculous Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson.
I am referred to a Daily Mail article on the subject on the grounds it will make me laugh. An unfortunate choice of words possibly but the emailer has a point. It ridicules all the police officers concerned whose incompetence has earned them promotions, large pensions and Lordships.
Would I expect anything else of people who are fundamentally corrupt?
I suppose the writer thinks my own brushes with police corruption is reason to provide a link to the Daily Mail article and an excuse to mention the pinnacle of police corruption which is the unsolved Daniel Morgan murder.
The enquiry into his murder authorised by Theresa May while Home Secretary is now into its seventh year and anything I may have learned from it cannot be repeated here but I see no reason why very recent informal family conversations have to be secret. It’s only informal opinion and it may be wrong.
“Cressida Dick has totally f***ed the panel enquiry. She wants nothing but delay and she does that by withholding information and using legal procedures to prevent [name redacted] from giving evidence.” That person knows more about the murder than anyone other than those who wielded the axe. Several of us think that Cressida Dick has caused around a year of very expensive delay and is behind police procrastination and non-cooperation with the Home Office’s enquiries.
I have little doubt personally that Cressida Dick is as bent as the proverbial nine bob note - that dates me doesn’t it? - but aren’t all police officers?
Even my friend Michael Barnbrook had to turn a blind eye to it. While an Inspector in Bexleyheath he reported a much more senior officer at another station for criminal misconduct. He was told that if he continued with his complaint the senior officer would be reprimanded and maybe even lose a rank but he (Michael) could expect to be transferred to a North London police station which would compel him to move and sell his house and find new schools for his children.
Michael allowed his own superior officer to screw up the complaint and throw it into the nearest waste bin.
All police officers are corrupt, it comes with the job.
See also Daily Mail article by a judge about the absolutely not Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Note: Daniel Morgan was the brother of my daughter’s long term partner.
is renowned for its dilapidated and ineffective street bollards. Bexley is
aiming to get the award for dangerous roadside metal posts of indeterminate use.
Over the past week or two around 40 have appeared as part of the 15 months late
and counting Harrow Manorway regeneration.
Not finished it might be but unsightly and dangerous it is already. The photo alongside shows how pedestrians are currently directed into the road. I wasn’t alone in being caught out by that one this morning.
When the inevitable road accident happens there is a pretty high chance that someone will wrap themselves around a metal pole. Good ’ol Bexley.
So here you are, choose your favourite from Bexley’s selection of new poles.
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More names for Bexley Council leavers were provided overnight, not juniors
either but as before victims must remain anonymous here for now at least. There
was an overlap with the subject of another anonymous message. BexleyCo.
Exactly what has BexleyCo achieved? Absolutely nothing worthwhile that I can find. It has borrowed money from Bexley Council and it has wasted loads on failed Planning Applications.
When I attended Brian Barnett’s funeral last November along with a handful of local politicians there was talk of BexleyCo’s top man which I will discreetly say was less than flattering but I think he may have left soon afterwards - not sure. Now another one is heading for the door.
Is there a toxic atmosphere within Bexley Council? Maybe; too many jobs are being
extinguished and some of those remaining are rebelling against it.
Four months ago I was sent information that resulted in the following comment. The source was impeccable and named names, nevertheless it seemed wise to not go into too much detail and with Gill Steward’s expensive departure I assumed the bullying problem was an isolated one-off.
But apparently not.
Bullying is horrible and I was fortunate to only see it once during my own employment and only during the final year. Among the tricks employed by an incompetent called Colin Sutton was summoning all of his staff to his small office, 15 feet by eight maybe, for several hours and smoking cigars throughout to the point we could barely see or breathe. I called in the City of London Environmental Health Department and it was daggers drawn thereafter. My doctor gave me three weeks off work because my breathing was so bad. All a long time ago and I was lucky enough to get a redundancy package.
If current tittle tattle is correct staff at Bexley Council who are subject to bullying bosses do not have that option. They are leaving instead.
Details are hard to come by but the following is typical of the cries for help.
“I have been to three leaving presentations in the last month and three more lined up in the next month.”
I think that is the biggest and most telling extract of the latest email I dare place here. If the victims of the Bexley Bullies are not subject to Gagging Orders maybe they can offer corroboration?
Paul Moore seems to have gone too. How widespread is the mismanagement within Bexley Council?
Bexley Council has been busy on the Press Release front. Nothing sensational but perhaps like
me they are finding it difficult to find things worth talking about.
Yesterday their favoured subject was their success in stopping the conversion of industrial premises in Erith to housing without any permission. Why do some people think they can get away with such things? Maybe it is because a man called Singh is allowed to. When they do act against him he takes little or no notice.
Today’s Press Release is also about doing things without permission. A protected sycamore tree was felled in Sidcup.
Naughty I know but personally I think that anyone without an enormous garden is very silly to allow a tree to grow in it. Sooner or later it will cost an equally enormous sum to keep it in check.
I know someone in Bromley who has a gigantic oak growing only a couple of feet beyond her rear boundary in an access road that serves a line of houses. The tree is therefore jointly owned but it is behind her garden and it is her light that is curtailed and it is her greenhouse that is smashed when there is a gale.
It is a nice enough tree if only it was somewhere else and every few years she has to spend more than a few hundred pounds keeping it in check.
I once cut down a tree in my garden because it grew through my bathroom window (I kid you not) and the local Council went berserk about it even though they admitted they had failed to tell me about a Tree Preservation Order. Fortunately I had already sought the advice of the County Arborilogical Officer who inspected the tree and certified that it had been diseased for years and was dying long before the TPO was imposed which made it invalid. He told the District Council but it still took a lot of arguments to shut them up.
Trade is down
Ever since Abbey Wood’s Crossrail station opened in October 2017 and especially since the flyover footpaths were opened, the nearby shops have suffered a loss of trade. Far from “sitting on goldmines” as Bexley Council told the Traders’ Association, business has not picked up at all from the low points during the construction work. They have been featured on TV twice about it and on radio.
Most station traffic used to go via Wilton Road and now there is a variety of alternative routes. An appeal to Transport for London for a ‘To the shops’ sign on the station concourse was declined but Bexley Council was sympathetic after a Belvedere Councillor made representations following her attendance at the Traders’ January 2019 meeting.
The following month she returned to say that Bexley Council had £10,000 left in the pot and was willing to look into the lack of signage.
Council wheels move slowly but the signs have just appeared. Not a lot of use I would have thought but maybe I too often look on the black side.
The first of the three Photos show the location of a sign at the north eastern end of the flyover. It is on a lamp post on the flyover beyond the Sainsbury’s pedestrian crossing where very few people need to go.
I spotted the sign outside the station while walking towards it on the eastern footpath but when I crossed the road to take a photograph I couldn’t find the damned thing.
After wandering around like a lost soul for longer than I would like to admit I discovered why I couldn’t see the sign. It is because I am not twelve feet tall.
The signs are tiny, not even 18 inches long I would think.
How come a couple of small signs can cost ten thousand pounds? Maybe they didn’t but that was the implication. Surveyors, draughtsmen, Conway’s hole diggers, a metal pole, sign manufacture. Yes one can see how Bexley residents are taxed to the hilt.
At least Councillor Hinkley did her best to assist the traders, her opposite numbers in Greenwich have perhaps wisely kept well clear of Traders’ meeting.
Attacking motorists. By some measures Bexley is a failure
Every year Bexley Council publishes its Parking Report and every year the number of PCNs issued is the lowest in London. That was always “blamed” on Bexley being one of the few London Boroughs which did not monitor Moving Traffic Offences. That changed two years ago when it began its blitz on yellow box junctions and in several cases I know of showed that it had no idea of what the law had to say on the subject.
Maybe they have learned; more likely Bexley’s drivers have learned. The number of Moving Traffic PCNs issued in Bexley has fallen by 10%.
Click image for Source.
A number of people have been telling Transport for London
nearly all year that what should be one of their major bus stops in the area has an
incorrect list of buses stopping there on display and is marked with the wrong
location. It says Lensbury Way and not Abbey Wood station. To the list some have
added no ‘Next bus due’ display.
The comments have either been either ignored or been met with the sort of answers one might expect from an imbecile.
To the list is now added the failure of the shelter lighting. How long will we wait for that to be fixed?
Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill has been on the radio singing Bexley’s
praises. I confess I have not had time to listen to it all but I didn’t pick up
any significant fibs, maybe a few awkward moments.
I doubt Teresa Pearce will be happy to have Erith & Thamesmead named as a Conservative constituency but that was the BBC’s fault. It was possibly a bit naughty to say that Bexley to the BBC’s studio would be an hour and five minutes quicker by Crossrail. Obviously one was measured from the Leader’s home address and the other from Abbey Wood station, but not bad overall. What do you think?
I am informed that former Bexley Councillor Katie Perrior was interviewed on Radio 4 earlier yesterday but I’m afraid that Radio 4 has gone from being on all day in my house three or more years ago to being my last choice for talk radio now.
Housing was another topic on the Resources Scrutiny Meeting Agenda, it
included a full report on the subject. In Bexley those living in temporary accommodation had
risen by more than 150% in five years to very nearly 1,400.
Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) had three questions.
He said “the new NPPF report is out” and “the Council is taking a more robust approach to viability”, a question that was somewhat mysterious to anyone not in the know because nowhere did the Agenda or its report explain any of those terms. (Google says the initials stand for National Planning Policy Framework.) Councillor Jackson asked what ‘more robust’ meant.
The next question was “why do we have to wait until 2021 to see the benefits?” Thirdly, if developers do not meet the requirements for affordable housing “what are we doing to make them explain to us?”
The Head of Planning, Robert Lancaster, said that robust meant more “early and late stage reviews”. Consultants would be hired too and the reviews would be made public.
NPPF was moving from a local individual basis to the wider area plan and Bexley’s local plan is not ready yet. There is also “uncertainty” over the London Plan “which is still six weeks or so” away from completion, hence the delay.
Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log) said that “Planning Members feel they have their hands up their back with applications for affordable housing when we have to look at viability but we cannot refuse an application [because of affordable housing] because it is not a valid planning reason. It really does need to be looked at”.
She asked about the Community Infrastructure Levy which has been in use for the past five years but never been increased “and it is probably time it was looked at. Is it being looked at?”
“Developers in the north had complained that their land costs were so low that they could not afford the CIL but as you all know it has all gone up round there, so is it being reviewed so that would be more of an income coming in?”
The Head of Planning said that “the CIL charging schedule is being looked at but if you look for more CIL it clearly provides challenges for affordable housing. There are trade offs to be made between competing pressures but the CIL charging schedule is on the list”.
Assistant Chief Executive Jane Richardson reminded Councillors developers had employed Savilles to try to get a zero rate. In Dartford there is a zero rate. All the big housing providers, the Orbits of this world, even Peabody are facing challenges. The market is extremely difficult”.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said that government policies are leading to a decline in the supply of privately rented houses and provided several reasons why she believed that to be the case. She asked if CIL money had played a part in the provision of affordable housing. She was told that CIL can only be used for infrastructure like health and not affordable housing, “only to mitigate the impact on local people and services”.
“Developers ask to increase the height of schemes and reduce the amount of parking to deliver more affordable [housing] but we take a balanced view. Of course we are pushing for affordable housing but we are looking at multiple different issues at once. It’s a balance.”
Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked what happened if BexleyCo put forward schemes that are deemed “unviable or not in line with policy. Do they employ their own viability consultant and would we be independently reviewing that advice?” He had heard rumours that they were about to bring forward an unviable scheme.
Mr. Lancaster said a BexleyCo planning application would be treated in the same way as any other. He would publish the applicant’s viability report “and our own”.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) who sits on the Planning Committee said “I always, and perhaps irrationally, feel I am being had over by the developer”. A late stage review would make him feel “a lot happier”.
Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, West Heath) who is Chairman of the Planning Committee said "Members are so frustrated by the number of applications that come before us, the number of times that it comes with a viability assessment which purports to demonstrate that we can’t afford any affordable housing”.
“Members must have the knowledge to challenge it and we don’t get the viability reports soon enough. We mustn’t just sit on our hands and vote the thing through.”