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News and Comment April 2020

Index: 20202021

14 April - Bexley-was-Bonkers

The earliest reference I can find to recognising that Bexley Council is not what it used to be was just over two years ago. There was a time when Bexley Council was unbelievably dishonest, constantly bending the law to the extent that the Chief Executive was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service by the Police. The CPS apparently lost the file after twelve months of wondering what to do with it by which time the investigating police officer had retired and all enquiries fell on deaf ears.

At the lower end of the scale a Mayor told a Cabinet Member that he need not use his microphone during a Full Council meeting if he didn’t want to and thereby disabled the Hearing Loop system. When a deaf member of the public protested the Mayor told him “tough”, his deafness was his problem and not the Council’s.

A complaint to the Code of Conduct Committee went nowhere, the Mayor’s actions were condoned. Unbelievable!

There were many such things before 2015 but very few since and I cannot believe that anything like that would happen again. Webcasts, Social Media and maybe Bonkers have forced Bexley Council into cleaning up its act.

A consequence of there being no scandals to report is a drop in the number of visitors to barely 20% of the level that used to be seen regularly and almost no one bothers with links to other relevant pages. People don’t want to read about a Council that functions reasonably well.

The belief that things were much improved led to a big purge of old blogs in the Spring of 2018 and there was another in the Spring of 2019.

Bonkers is comprised of around 40,000 files and very nearly 100,000 internal links so finding and weeding stuff is no easy task. A couple of months ago I found a file that was supposed to have disappeared a year earlier and aware that it might not be the only one, the simple option was for blogs to be taken off line for a day or so. This provoked a lot of adverse comment so steps were taken to restore them progressively to a new URL, thereby defeating Google, and reviewing each as I worked through them.

More than two months later that job is not quite half done, there are just too many blogs.

The review showed a number of things; some disgraceful behaviour by certain individuals, that some stories, e.g. the obscene blog and false criminal charges brought against another local blogger, are so interwoven into many hundreds of blogs it is simply not possible to eradicate all the references. On the other hand some blogs have become so dated that they can now only be seen as irrelevant trivia and not worth retaining. However removal is not an easy option as it would cause too many error reports.

Last week I made a conference call to all those who had taken a close interest in the blog over the years to seek their opinion. Mine was that Bonkers should be closed down even though every time I publicly suggest as much I get many messages pleading for it to be kept alive. One from New York only last week. There was a range of views including using the material to write a book on how bad a Council could be but that would not be consistent with my current view that bygones should be regarded as ancient history.

Another two months work reviewing old blogs is not an attractive proposition especially when a lot of it was never going to valued again and a simpler solution has been implemented.

May 2018 is significant for two reasons. There was a new 45 Member Council instead of 63 and they have been relatively well behaved since then. The other was that Bonkers was made Mobile friendly at the very same time. Some of the earlier pages still don’t display properly on a Smartphone and it is too big a job to revise them all.

The adopted solution is to archive everything earlier that May 2018. That way all the old scandals are consigned to history and the Mobile incompatible pages go the same way. The only thing that doesn’t work for the time being are the little used backward links. Those linking back to pre-May 2018 blogs will not currently work but that is fairly easily fixed. One example appears in the first sentence above.

Linked back blogs will almost by definition not be trivia, another plus point for the new system.

I have heard of people using Bonkers for political research. Any blog can be restored on request.


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