Banner
today rss twitter

News and Comment August 2021

Index: 20202021

31 August (Part 4) - Boris’s Britain. A total basket case

AlpacaObviously I know nothing about Alpacas despite being with three of them only a week ago but I have followed the Geronimo case closely enough to know that its owner thinks it tested positive for TB only because it had been vaccinated against the disease. I am also aware of the reports that when allegedly infected Alpacas have been destroyed previously their post-mortems showed them to be disease free and that Johnson’s dishonest government withheld that fact from the Courts.

Why hadn’t Geronimo become unwell in the four years since the first test?

Johnson and his Commie cabale could have given the third TB test as the Alpaca supporters wanted but they are so stuck up and devoid of any political nous that they would rather be unpopular than admit to a failing.

It would be nothing but hot air if I said that the Conservatives have now lost my vote because that happened quite some while ago. Johnson can get no lower in my estimation and while he and his crooked cronies are in power he can whistle for my support both nationally and locally.

I can think of better candidates for euthanasia right now.

 

31 August (Part 3) - Bonkers in Bowness

Bowness Road Bowness Road Bowness RoadI returned to Bowness Road, scene of Bexley’s biggest highways fiasco for some while because while there on Sunday I forgot to take pictures of the signs and the blindness of the bend was not as obvious as it should have been.

Today I approached from the eastern end and parked in a bay on the ‘wrong’ side of the road just out of sight from Photo 2. There was a constant steam of traffic coming through the ‘one way priority’ section. It was only when I came to leave that I realised just how blind that corner is.

The stream of traffic was relentless and in the end I had to take a chance and go for it. Not the best of timing because an unseen vehicle came to get me necessitating a sharp pull over to the left.

It is hard to believe that Bexley’s Highways Engineer is not in league with a body repair shop. And why the enormous drains? I know Bowness is a watery sort of place but it is 300 miles away.


Just read your article on the Bowness Road "improvement".

We have lived in Long Lane, very close to Bowness Road for more than 40 years and we just cannot see the reasoning behind the "improvement" We use this road every day and have never seen anything that could cause a problem.

There is also the question of why they have built the "overflows". We have never seen any flooding in all these years.

Is it just that the Council has too much money to waste or do they not plan jobs very well. I am sure the residents were never consulted over this unnecessary work!


The answer to the final question is absolutely clear. Bexley’s roads are in the incompetent hands of someone who designed a roundabout that buses could not navigate and was so pleased with the result that he did the same in Ruxley.

 

31 August (Part 2) - Confused of Coptefield Drive

I forgot when the next Council meeting is to take place and, using my mobile phone, clicked one of the menu items at the top of this page. It told me I had missed Public Cabinet. How did that happen? Maybe it didn’t. The webcast page, the last bastion of the old strapline about Listening, told a different story.

So does the Desktop version of the meetings page.
Meetings webcasts

Screen shots taken at 09:30 today.

 

31 August (Part 1) - Cabinet rules

I am beginning to miss the bin strike which created a steady stream of news items because right now there is only Twitter to fall back upon. Fortunately Tony is keeping Bexley Council on their toes.

Tony TweetHe has been asking why it is that Councillor Danny Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead East) is denied any Committee position and he has been told “it’s the rules”.

That may be true but it would be a more complete truth to say that certain Conservatives and probably every Labour Member wanted him out.

Danny and I discussed it on the phone at the time and he named names but I have completely forgotten who was on his side and who was not. I have a vague recollection that Leader Teresa O’Neill backed him but was shouted down by some of her colleagues and went into rapid reverse, however Tony’s question remains. What can a single Independent Councillor do apart from his residents’ case work?

Bexley Council is governed in the same way as the country as a whole, by a Cabinet with a top dog who will always have the final say. That’s Mrs. Johnson in Downing Street and Teresa O’Neill in Bexley.

No one can over-rule the Leader of the Council. She has a Cabinet of six each of whom look after their own portfolios and advise the Leader but she has to be persuaded that their ideas are good. Or maybe they are her ideas anyway and Public Cabinet is a pantomime.

The only Councillors who might influence the Cabinet are members of sub-Committees set up to look into specific problems. Scrutiny Committees are ignored as an independent panel discovered three years ago.


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


Scrutiny Chairman who rock the boat by being assertive are soon shown the door. Where did Councillors Dourmoush and Hall go? To back bench oblivion.

Why did the ambition and capable Councillor Gower accept an invitation to Cabinet? Because it is the only job worth having in Council.

Bexley Council will not be unique but it is effectively a one woman dictatorship.

 

30 August (Part 2) - Style over sideswipe

I said to a Councillor the other day, I conveniently forget which, that if there was no Read or Craske in Bexley Council’s line up there wouldn’t be very much to complain about. Let’s overlook the appalling treatment of residents from years ago for a moment and look at the past month or two; their response to the bin strike. It presented a perfect opportunity to deflect the blame on to Bexley Labour when they had absolutely nothing to do with it. How could they? It wasn’t their contract and they have no power over Serco or like any other minority group, anyone else.

Yes, the Labour Councillors who spoke about it, three I noticed, supported striking for a pay increase and two Councillors on the far left of the party said things they will live to regret. To “love” making the situation worse for residents will not be quickly forgotten.

The blame for the strike can only lie with the Conservatives for driving an unrealistically hard bargain with Serco that did not allow for decent pay rates. They tried to mitigate the situation when their claim to top (in London only) recycling fame went pear-shaped but they must carry the can.

They will want to spin the bad news to their advantage but there are ways of making reasonable points. Cabinet Member Sue Gower has no record of petty spitefulness and therefore has a head start on her colleagues when wishing to make a political point. She politely draws attention to a senior Unite figure joining the picket line dressed for the office and leaves the reader draw their own conclusions.

@bexleynews (Craske and Read) cannot resist pointing the finger directly at Labour almost every time they hit the keyboard. Similarly the Blackfen and Lamorbey account (Craske again).

Will Sue be allowed to show the disreputable old rogues the error of their ways before going the way of Rob Leitch and Louie French, rising stars who were beaten down by the tyranny at the top?

Compare and contrast the differing styles. MBE over Misguided Baiting Expeditions.

Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet

 

30 August (Part 1) - Here we go again!

Blocked Blocked BlockedA new way of blocking my car into the drive has been invented. I have not seen that one before (Photo 1).

Thanks to Bexley Council’s poor planning I doubt it is absolutely illegal.

Then a second car came along and parked alongside it, completely blocking two drives but not mine. (Photo 2.)

No photo because I was being watched too closely. My visitor asked for the first car to be removed. You can see it parked on the footpath in Photo 2.

Not in the same league of pavement parking as Photo 3 of course. (R009 KYX.) It has been there all morning and still is at 12:20. Absolutely safe, you never see a traffic warden in Coptefield Drive. Too many admin costs, much more profitable to install a ridiculous yellow box junction with a camera.

 

29 August (Part 2) - We did what we could

The letter to residents from Council Leader Teresa O’Neill has appeared here and there on local social media groups over the past day or two but the art of using a scanner appears to be a lost one; a photo taken on a mobile phone is rarely adequate. So here it is filed on Bonkers for posterity.

I still hold the not always popular opinion that Bexley Council did all it legally could during the bin dispute and the big failure was 12 years ago and made by whoever signed off the contract. Maybe it was Teresa herself, if not she will presumably deny it and say who did authorise it.
Teresa's letter Teresa's letter
Click either image to expand it or alternatively there is a full size copy here.

 

29 August (Part 1) - Bexley Council. They really do hate you

Bashford CraskeThe bin strike has attracted quite a lot of new readers to Bonkers so maybe it is time to remind everyone of how it came into existence.

In 2009 the B213 Abbey Road through Belvedere was narrowed, not because it was accident prone, but to widen the footpath and make it a shared space for cyclists and pedestrians. I contacted both the people you see here but neither could provide an answer to any safety related question.

Eventually Andrew Bashford (left) fobbed me off with a reference to Transport Research Laboratory reports numbered 641 and 661 and an assurance that he had observed the codes of practice. At the time they cost best part of £200 each - that was me shut up wasn’t it?

What Bashford didn’t know was that my son was a Senior Consultant at TRL and whilst he didn’t write the reports he was in charge of the Department that issued them. On his next visit he gave his opinion on Bexley’s road design skills. Obviously they were not flattering. I made Bexley Council’s lies public and the result was Bonkers.

As my son predicted the rearrangements have caused a good number of accidents since, at least one fatal.

Another source of untruths is Cabinet Member Peter Craske; where does one begin? His misinformation over Abbey Road was far from being a one-off.

How about him standing right next to me at Hall Place telling a fellow member of the public that he didn’t know who I was and that the News Shopper’s report of his arrest for posting obscenities about me and others was not just wrong - it wasn’t - but didn’t even exist?

Back to business.

I took a trip to Bowness Road (see below) this morning to follow up a report.

On the way I stopped off at the top of Knee Hill. At half past eight this morning I only had to wait for the second cycle of the lights to see the two clowns (Photo 4). No excuse for it whatsoever although perhaps the white paint needs a refresh.

As reported two days ago, Bexley Council is planning to scam drivers out of more money when there is no need for it. There is the obvious solution to cut back the south eastern corner (Photos 1 and 2 below); but there are others.

Probably the most sensible is to move the traffic light back to the white line; as it is, it acts as an enticement to go forward and potentially block large vehicles turning into Brampton Road.

Another thing that would help is a phase where drivers could go south while those who have ascended Knee Hill were held for a minute so that vehicles do not get stuck in the middle of the road, occasionally causing 200 yard queues.

The bus problem might go away if Bexley Council eased the two bends on Knee Hill which are undoubtedly a pinch point at present. Knee Hill was TFL’s preferred bus route.

So that is three ways of solving the problem but Bashford and Craske are not interested in solving problems, like the rest of Bexley Council they are only interested in robbing residents.

Knee Hill Knee Hill Knee Hill Knee Hill

If this yellow money box goes ahead it will allow just one right turning vehicle to get across the junction. If it is first in the queue it will be the only one. The queues might extend back to Longleigh Lane or worse.

And now for Bowness Road.


Hi, you may want to take a look at Bowness Road off of Long Lane. The council have put in place a pointless piece or traffic calming for no reason whatsoever. Heading towards the Long Lane junction you have to give priority to traffic coming the other way, but you can’t see around the bend!! And that poor house has pretty much lost the entrance to their driveway. Do these road planners actually drive?


I think a better question would be “Do these planners ever think?” Here’s some pictures. As my correspondent says you have to get over to the wrong side of the road to see around the bend and there is no obvious justification for causing another danger to drivers. I have not seen anything quite as stupid in Bexley for several years.

Bowness Road Bowness Road Bowness Road Bowness Road

There was a large and long white saloon car parked behind the hedge in Photo 4. Whether it is trapped there or can be got in with care when no one is parked opposite I am not sure. What is certain is that if Bexley Council succeeds in driving the resident away, there is no way they will get a removal van in and it is not the first time Bexley Council has willfully made a resident’s life difficult in this way.

How is it that Bexley Council can waste money on such a project when it cannot afford to install promised zebra crossings?

 

28 August (Part 3) - Of pots and kettles

Earlier today some Tweets posted here showed how those fearless keyboard warriors at @bexleynews thought it was well above their dignity threshold to engage in a pointless spat with a left-leaning student. It enhanced their reputation not one jot.

In response someone suggested that @BexleyLabour engages in similar tactics. I am not convinced that they are all that similar but certainly it provoked a row and I find myself trapped by a promise to restore balance. The Tweet that kicked it off is shown alongside.

There was also an allegation that a young Conservative had been touring Labour boroughs in London to photograph their piles of rubbish to maybe mitigate those in Bexley.

Speaking personally I see nothing wrong with that, it’s what I would do if there was a need to “prove” a point; but things escalated.
Twitter Twitter
Labour’s adversary is a teenager and he felt threatened. “You’re being extremely creepy, now leave me alone.” It may have started in all innocence but it would have been better if it hadn’t started at all. It barely merits a mention here but a promise is a promise.

 

28 August (Part 2) - Attendance records

TwitterTony of Sidcup has done another of his analyses, this time on which Councillors bother to turn up at meetings.

It is not for me to come to the rescue of Teresa O’Neill but her position does not merit attendance at Scrutiny meetings. As the word scrutiny implies, such meetings exist so that run of the mill Councillors can examine the proposals put forward by the relevant Cabinet Member.

The Leader does not directly champion anything so the need to defend or explain it at a Scrutiny meeting does not arise.

Tony says elsewhere that his chart is of theoretical rather than actual attendances. Most of the time Cabinet Members do show up at relevant Scrutiny meetings. The same goes for Cabinet meeting; loads of Councillors put in an appearance but they are not counted by the chart.

As a relative newcomer to Bexley politics Tony may not have noticed any of that but I find it more difficult to make excuses for a leading member and former candidate of Bexley Labour.

Maybe it is just mischief making.

Twitter

 

28 August (Part 1) - Two overgrown school boys pick a fight with a real one - and lose

TwitterThe two scribes behind @bexleynews are well known Councillors, everyone knows it, one or two of their colleagues confirm it but one half of Tweedledum and Tweedledee denies it as well he might; there is much to be ashamed of.

Here they are arguing over the bin strike with a Labour supporter who is just about to go to University; the very same people who tell us that they have been spending all their time and a great deal of effort on bringing Serco and Unite together.

Pathetic isn’t it? If this is the standard of their debate with ACAS etc. it explains a lot. Blackfen and Lamorbey voters in particular should remember this when voting next May.

Twitter Twitter

Rather late in the day, below is a short audio clip of LBC Radio’s visit to Bexley last Thursday.

Nick Ferrari on stinky Bexley.

 

27 August (Part 2) - Wendy says Orbit is far from Perfect but the odds are that L&Q is worse

Labour TweetThe bin strike has demonstrated rather too well that Bexley Council’s preferred modus operandi is to dump their responsibilities on someone else and if possible wash their hands of it. They’ve done the same with domiciliary care and of course housing which is an unmitigated disaster in the borough

Councillor Wendy Perfect (Northumberland Heath) has highlighted how poor housing provider Orbit is and I have been doing the same with L&Q for several years. The first report was made in October 2017 and there have been several since. If I find the time over the weekend I will create an Index and Photo Feature aimed at shaming them as much as possible.

The fundamental problem is that L&Q simply do not care how much they cause their own houses to deteriorate through bodged repairs. I was called over by the lady occupier to take another look and visited yesterday.

A continuing problem is damp and at strategic points common salt acts as a slug and snail deterrent.

The new problem yesterday was door security.

The deterioration, maybe the damp, had caused the bedroom door to get stuck in the closed position. The lady occupant who is not in the best of health did not have the strength to open it and was unable to leave her bedroom.

A telephone call to L&Q brought them round to assist. There is a number lock on the front door but the security chain had to be broken for access.

The bedroom door was forced open and the frame wrecked in the process as can be seen below. Several weeks later nothing has changed and the door can only be kept closed with the aid of the large heavy mirror pictured. Without it the draughts ensure the door swings open.

Slug deterrent Broken chain Split frame No lock

The lady has already been seriously assaulted in her own home and is still a little traumatised by it. Needless to say the police and the Crown Prosecution Service were not at all interested even though the culprit was known to everyone.

As I left I bumped into the neighbour. “Have you been in there and seen the state of it?” I asked. Yes she replied but it is not as bad as mine.

L&Q seems not to care, Bexley Council certainly doesn’t. I am going to have to find someone with whom to discuss the lady’s medical condition. I have not seen her since April 2020 and I have not seen her looking that unwell before. There is no family living within the UK.

 

27 August (Part 1) - Another Yellow Peril

Knee HillEveryone who drives to the north of the borough will be familiar with the traffic lights at the top of Knee Hill. In the photograph Brampton Road is to the south and starts where the bus is.

Large vehicles coming from the East (left) cannot turn left if someone pulls up to and stops at the Brampton Road traffic lights and for that reason the white line is set well back.

The sensible solution would be to ease the bend on the South Eastern corner by cutting into the grass verge, there is plenty of room, but this is Bexley where common sense is rarely seen inside the borough boundary.

Yesterday I drove to Blackfen, more of which anon. There are gas works under the flyover in Abbey Road which are best avoided so I ascended New Road and came in from the left at the aforesaid junction. The turning left into Brampton Road was difficult as a large van had plonked itself right up against the lights.

Fortunately the B11 bus behind me was caught by a red light or there would be more serious fun and games.

At around 07:45 this morning I drove the same route en-route to the Hyundai dealer for a service and MOT. A large black Mercedes was where it shouldn’t be and there was no way the 301 in front of me could turn left.

At 13:15 I was a passenger taking the same route to pick up my own car. Another bus blockage! That’s three in a row and perhaps a bit unusual but the problem is not uncommon. This time there were two yellow jacketed people there videoing events. I lowered the window and said “it was the same this morning” and was informed that Bexley Council was surveying in anticipation of yet another yellow money box.

It is hard to disagree that something should be done but that something should be easing the bend but there is no money in that and motorists must be fleeced at every opportunity. The costs of a CCTV monitored yellow box will far exceed a bit of tarmac but as already stated, common sense is not to be found in the Civic Offices, least of all in the Highways Manager’s head.

It will be a tricky one to negotiate because you get red light jumpers on Woolwich Road who can cause an unexpected stop and those ascending Knee Hill who sometimes decide to turn right without warning are another source of chaos.

But if there are coffers to be filled what’s a bit of specially engineered road chaos to a Council as incompetent as Bexley’s? Simple low cost solutions are best avoided.

 

26 August (Part 2) - Bexley Council. Making Money from Misery

Scamming againThere have been two days of moans and it’s about time BiB returned to Bexley matters. Here’s a gentle transition from one to the other.

Following a tip off I diverted on my way home from QEH along Powis Street Woolwich to WH Smith’s to buy the current issue of Private Eye. After checking that it did indeed feature Bexley’s latest misdeed I went to the cash desk at the exit. There wasn’t one only a self-service machine where a woman was clearly having some difficulty.

I wandered towards the rear of the shop where a Post Office worker said there was no other way of paying.

At the front of the shop the lady was still struggling with the self-service machine with another would-be customer in the queue behind her.

At that moment the first customer crashed the machine and it started flashing red. She walked out and I contemplated following her.

The second customer pressed a few buttons to no avail and wandered off to find help making appropriate comment about Smith’s and noting that the shop was near empty.

A minute later someone came to reset the machine and I made my purchase without difficulty. I saw nowhere to place cash or get change although the software display provide that option; I used a card easily enough.

Shops like that deserve to fail don’t they?

I know nothing more of Bexley Council’s latest financial scam than can be read here. Who is going to use the FOI Act to find out how much money has to be returned?

 

26 August (Part 1) - BT and the NHS are still a joke. Probably always will be

I am not sure whether I should be disappointed or relieved that a self-indulgent rant provoked more comment than more serious pieces.

BT
I received helpful advice about Voice Over Internet Protocol telephony from a reader and a reminder that it will be the only choice in a few more years, so why not do it now?

It made me think about the wiring situation as wi-fi phones may give the sort of problem one hears too often while listening to talk radio phone-ins. I have one or two phone sockets in five different rooms all wired in series, one for each number. That’s no good for VOIP even if the telephone cable can act as a cheap and cheerful CAT5.

I have multiple LAN sockets in four rooms but not all ideally placed for a phone. Correcting that was a job I started a couple of years ago and cables already run from the network switch with a coil left in the roof but enthusiasm waned. Looks like some awkward crawling in the roof with a big drill is on the horizon. I am totally sick of BT.

After wasting an hour on Chat yesterday getting them to fix the constantly ringing phone it did it again this morning; no one cares any more, which brings me to…

The NHS
Scruffy noticeSomeone who uses the same GP surgery as I do has had a different experience to me. The receptionists are good and it is the doctors who are rotten he says. I plead ignorance, I was refused access to a doctor and only saw a nurse who was very good indeed.

To the contrary another reader related how his wife managed to jump through the NHS hoops and see her Bexley GP within 24 hours. He doesn’t name the doctor which is probably a wise decision because we might all sign up.

My nurse sent me to Imaging at QEH where I showed up at 10:00 this morning. It’s a walk-in service. Imaging Reception sent me to a single X-ray facility at the far end of the hospital. There were nine people in front of me and half an hour later when a patient emerged from the X-Ray room four or five people rounded on the radiologist accusing him of taking people in in the wrong order.

It was only then that I realised there was a near illegible pencil note on the wall and a crude ticket dispenser.

Another half hour passed and someone else came out. I calculated that I would be there for another four hours at least. After listening to a scaffolder relating how a four storey scaffold collapsed and killed his workmate leaving him with shattered bones, it was past eleven o’clock and he had been patiently waiting since just after 8:30. I decided that I had had enough.

I walked back to the main Imaging Reception and asked for my referral letter to be returned. I related my story and was told to go over there; straight into an empty X-ray facility. In and out in five minutes.

I tried to make a complaint to PALS but was told that due to Covid no one was working. It just about sums up the National Health Service.

Another of yesterday’s messages said that the sender was due a blood test before a medical procedure today. However when he got to phlebotomy he was sent away because their computer was down. When I have had blood tests it was done with a needle not with a computer mouse. What? Only one computer and no back up! That’s NHS management for you.

A waste of £350
Someone brave enough to read to the end of yesterday’s blog recommended separate glasses for driving. He too had wasted money on varifocal glasses that were rapidly discarded. No one asked which Bexleyheath optician dispensed the glasses but whatever the problem is they seem determined to get to the bottom of it. if the problem is eventually resolved - or not - maybe I wil let the cat out of the bag.

 

25 August (Part 2) - Nothing but moaning

It’s a day for moaning, you may wish to look away now.

BT
When I first worked for that outfit if your line had a fault you dialled ENG and an engineer on the Test Desk situated at the far end of the equipment room would put down his pack of playing cards and plug his headset into the jack socket to answer the call. Dependent on the nature of the fault he might wander along the equipment racks, hammer or whatever in hand, to identify the incoming line and wiggle or clean the relay contacts and with any luck the fault would be fixed. Easy; I did it myself more than once even though it wasn’t my job.

Yesterday a friend told me that every once in a while his phone bell rings continuously (not the usual ring ring sequence) and the only way to stop it is to unplug the phone and hope. Often it would ring again when plugged back in but if it was left long enough the ringing would stop.

Regardless of the fact that I never worked on a digital exchange I’m asked what is wrong. Probably an exchange fault.

On to bt.com I go but it rejects the friend’s password. I set up a new one only to find that there doesn’t seem to be a way of reporting a landline fault apart from a chargeable text message from a mobile. The Chat facility reports Busy.

I go round BT’s web loop several times cursing as I do so while looking for alternative options but always returning to the same place. Then I notice that Chat has become free.

After an interminable rigmarole of questions I am told the line has been reset and all will be well now. No it isn’t, any confidence I may once have had in BT being a customer focused company has gone. I am very pleased that one of my lines is being ported across to VOIP. Any more of that nonsense from BT and I will port the other one too.

The NHS
I waited ten minutes or so for today’s appointment and was seen by a lovely lady who called herself a nurse physician. She checked my blood pressure and said it was very good although it was the highest I had ever seen. After various other tests she pronounced me very fit and unlikely to die in the immediate future but nevertheless sent me off to QEH’s imaging department to be checked out.

She was truly excellent; not so the receptionists, at least as far as I could see.

Throughout the ten minutes wait a phone was ringing, it may have been two calls in quick succession but it was still ringing when I came out of the nurse’s surgery. Two people could have answered. Probably a third call, at least I hope so.

More concerning was the young woman in the waiting room with toddler in tow who was speaking to him in a foreign tongue. When she was summoned to the desk it became apparent that her command of English was not good. As Eric Morecambe may have said, all the right words but in the wrong order.

She was asking for a doctor’s appointment for her “baby” which may have been one at home because the toddler was happily running around ripping notices about the two metre rule off the wall, a lad of some intelligence obviously.

Mother was told to go away and use eConsult which is difficult even for the computer literate English speaker. Mum had tried to use it before without success so a minor dispute followed. Mother was eventually and without a shred of compassion given the requested doctor’s appointment. For 17th September. With luck the baby won’t be dead by then.

When the nurse came out to give me the imaging request form I asked her if the NHS would ever get back to normal. I really liked her but not what she said. The doctors have decided not to resume a traditional health service or words to that effect. What did Hippocrates say? Something about “to treat the unwell to the best of one’s ability, to do no harm and preserve a patient’s privacy while teaching the secrets of medicine to the next generation”.

Pity the old fellow was not asked to pontificate between the relative levels of harm between a consultation and an ill-designed web page.

Telegraph letter Telegraph letter

The disaster that is e-Consult.

A waste of £350?
I needed an eye test. Years ago I discovered an independent had swindled me after I paid for new glasses which weren’t as good as I had hoped. He couldn’t understand why because “they are exactly the same prescription as last time”!

I used Spec Savers for several years but the Bexleyheath branch never answered the phone and this year were Covid phobic to the extent of passing glasses to customers through the door. I walked away.

Vision Express had a big cut out of Gary Lineker in the window which was another turn off for me. He earns far too much already and I don’t want to augment his salary.

I found another optician and had my eyes tested. I was then persuaded to have the more expensive lenses for a wider corrected view plus whatever it is that makes them go dark as a “protection against cataracts”. Believe it if you like.

Two weeks later I collected the new specs and promptly walked into a wall - I exaggerate only a little - and had to quickly grab the handrail when I went half way up the stairs and changed my mind and swung round. Stepping off a bus became more of a danger than it should have been. I have worn bifocals for more than 25 years so it should not have been a question of getting used to them.

Back I went to the optician who was very sympathetic and bent the frames around a little bit. It made no difference.

One evening I turned on the TV to watch a borrowed DVD and noticed the menus were not sharp. By a lucky chance I covered my right eye and was rewarded with a crisp screen. Covered the left lens and it was all a bit fuzzy. Inclining my head and wiggling the lenses around showed that no part of the right hand lens provided a sharp image.

The cricket scoreboards were the same. I could read them with my left eye but not the right and the same went for the Department of Transport number plate test. Everything beyond eight or ten feet away was fuzzy. I reverted to my 2017 vintage glasses after that. Problem solved

Back I went to the optician. This time they somehow measured the lenses and then sent me home to fetch the two year old glasses because I had only taken the 2017 pair.

Loads more measuring and then another two week wait for another eye test. It came up with exactly the same result as the first one.

The verdict then was that somehow the extra special lenses didn’t suit me. Now I am not an optician but I did study optics for A Level Physics and passed with top marks but some of what I was being told simply didn’t make logical sense to me.

If the extra special lenses didn’t suit me how was it that the left lens was really good?

The new glasses duly arrived and guess what? The same problem as before, well not quite the same. If I look at the unsharp TV menus and tilt my head down the very top part of the lens provides a sharp image. Impractical but it did. Unfortunately I found I couldn’t confidently drive with them at all. The old 2019 pair saves the day.

So I am not only in danger of losing my £350 but I have used up my free eye test quota which prevents easily starting again. On the other hand the test fee is probably insignificant compared to the £350. Poundland might be attractive in future.

 

25 August (Part 1) - The NHS is a joke, a very bad one

I have a doctor’s appointment this morning. I am being made to travel half way across the borough (two buses) for it instead of walking to the local surgery. What a useless bunch doctors have become.

The good news - I think - is that I have only waited two weeks for the appointment and that is because the telephone only doctor thought that there is a possibility that the Astra Zeneca vaccine has caused a blood clot which is potentially serious. Worrying that that is one of the first things a doctor thinks of when the symptoms are described and tell them it was first noticed soon after the injection. Maybe the many reports of the Clot Shot proving fatal are the tip of an iceberg?

Anyway, I am lucky. By coincidence an occasional Bonkers correspondent tried to make an appointment with the Barnard Medical Centre in Sidcup on the very same day as I did and the wait there is rather longer than two weeks.


Rang the above today, earliest appointment 10th September. GPs now hiding behind Covid, NHS is a joke.


I’ve just remembered, I am not booked in with a doctor I can only see a nurse. Maybe Bexley Group Practice is as poorly run as the Barnard Centre, in fact we know it is, it keeps coming to the attention of the Clinical Care Commissioning Group.

I still think I was right four months ago when I said that doctors topped the list of professionals who had shown their true colours over Covid and had given up any right to respect in future.

It is no use reporting their failures to Bexley’s Director of Public Health, Doctor Anjan Ghosh because he will ignore you. Another of Bexley Council’s thoroughly useless individuals.
Bad doctors Bad doctors

Bad doctors

Bad doctors Bad doctors

From yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. Doctors - “a once respected profession”. Not any more.

 

24 August (Part 3) - It may be good news

Craske's hopeI awoke this morning to a tip off that the bin strike would be suspended today.

Whispers are that this is true. Stand by for Peter Craske to go on National TV News! 😁

Kent On line for more news.

The deal includes a one-off £750 payment for 19 staff, contract changes that will reduce pay disparities and steps to prevent the “weaponization” of the drug and alcohol policy.

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “We are pleased that a provisional deal has been reached following an improved offer from Serco.

“While the deal is being ratified, which we expect to happen by the end of the week, our members will go back to work and bin collections in Bexley will resume.

“Until this deal is enacted in full, however, strikes are being suspended not cancelled, and our members retain the option to return to the picket line if they need to do so.”


Today’s Council Statement.

 

24 August (Part 2) - Bexley’s housing crisis solved in Darlington. Another brilliant idea from a dead wood Cabinet

Leaf's decisionYou’d think after the debacle that is bins Bexley Council may not be so keen to dump more of their responsibilities on to utility companies - and dump on their own staff in the process.

You’d be wrong.

Alongside is an extract from the Cabinet Member for Resources’ decision taken last week to offload part of Accounting on to Capita. The company that somehow sold its software to Bexley and with it a packet of trouble. You may see the latest error of judgment in its entirety here.

This will lead to yet more redundancies, three I have been told, and the remaining staff are just as unhappy as their colleagues in Finance.

One of them emailed to say it all came as a big surprise because the talks had been held in secret before the like it or lump it choice was given to move to Darlington or Chichester.

Quoting the email; “We have lost many staff while facing a massive housing crisis with more and more coming to the council for accommodation. It’s a crisis. It’s a disaster. But they are keeping things quiet. We fear for our futures”.

From Ames to Serco, outsourcing has not been an overwhelming success in Bexley and it is deeply unpopular with residents right now but for the current Cabinet it’s heads down, blinkers on and charge!

I fear for the homeless but everybody’s favourite Borella Basher can have no such scruples.

 

24 August (Part 1) - Let’s play Fantasy Cabinet

Cabinet I imagine there are very few Bexley residents who wouldn’t be as happy as pigs in their kitchen waste bin to see the back of Bexley’s Cabinet. Not strictly accurate, I don’t have to imagine anything, just spend 20 minutes on Facebook.

I suspect there is not a lot of support among Councillors either for putting their reelection prospects in jeopardy. Peter Craske has made a mess of the PR while doing what he can for a sceptical public.

After years of deceptions - “we do not have a £4 million contract with Parsons Brinkerhoff”, no he had two £2 million contracts - people eventually get tired of that sort of nonsense from the Cabinet Member for Places, Profanity and Prestidigitation.

The Leader has been ruling the roost since 2009 and was Deputy to Credit Card Clement before that. Where has that got us? A worse quality of life and an address in Carey Street!

She has to go.

John Fuller has mainly avoided a disaster in the Education Department but maybe with so many Academies that is not too difficult to do even as a part timer. The day job keeps him away from meetings too often. Thanks John, your time is up.

Is the office manager David Leaf suited to running a £400 million business? Probably not, maybe if he was as good at it as he is with opposition baiting…

But he isn’t.

Philip Read has dragged Children’s Services up from its nadir of OFSTED’s Inadequate rating. He did it quickly but how much money has he flung at it?

He says I am a cretin, I think he is one. Out!

Brad Smith preached the opposite, that spending less gets you more. E…v…e…r…y   S…i…n…g…l…e   T…i…m…e he rises from his seat to make the same old speech. Rumour has it that it is written by a Council Officer bored with his job.

Sue Gower is new to the Cabinet. I get the impression she may be a rare good ’un who has wormed her way into the Leader’s confidence and one day intellect will meet dullness head on. And bang! But I may be wrong.

Who have we left? One Cafer Munur who the Leader regards as a temporary appointment. What else can it be when no one even notices the omission of his title (Regeneration and Growth) from the Council’s website? (See above.) There is nothing particularly negative to be said about Cafer Munur but he has been chosen by Teresa O’Neill so one has to make the obvious assumptions. Is that harsh? Possibly, but I have noted nothing particularly positive either so it is bye bye Cafer, it has been nice to know you.

Who can we have in their place? That is when it is forcibly brought home that there is so little talent among Bexley’s Tories.

I’ll go with Alex Sawyer for Leader. He made a mess of housing and he can be two faced over the attacks on motorists “They are hard done by” followed by “let’s have some more yellow money boxes”.

As Leader he will not be directly responsible for anything apart from setting the direction the borough takes. Hopefully no more lies, some transparency (his record there is better than most) and old Conservative values. Alex may be the only Thatcherite left on the Council. At least we will know where we are going if we vote Conservative in future. There will be none of the LibDem Greenery tinged with Communism we see from Boris.

Who have we got who can run a £400 million business? There is only one possible answer; Andy Dourmoush set up his chicken processing factory in Erith and made it into a success sending his delivery vans far and wide. Surely Andy must know a thing or two about managing money; more than an office manager anyway.

Now things become more difficult. There has to be a place for Richard Diment who quite obviously studies his subject matter, speaks eloquently on it and asks awkward questions (and the occasional creepy one. No one is perfect). Shall we give him Communities? He already chairs the Scrutiny Committee.


Sue Gower can switch over to Education. Someone with MBE JP MA PGCE QTLS GDPRP FCIM behind her name must know a thing or two about learning.

Not an eclairThis Cabinet making is getting to be as sticky as a chocolate éclair on a hot day which brings the name James Hunt to the fore. He has spent his life nurturing young people whether it be in the theatre, scouts or cadets. And eating rolls as big as himself. Sorry James, you are getting Children.

Another Councillor who can ask probing or awkward questions is the largely unsung Cheryl Bacon. I think we can forgive her the ill-advised outburst against recording Council meetings after a blameless interval of eight years so I will lumber her with Adults’ Services.

I doubt he would appreciate the gesture but surely someone who knows Planning inside out can do Places. Step forward Peter Reader.

And now we really have run out of talent. The names Newton, Hall and Seymour come to mind but little is known about them except that there might be some sort of tenuous link between a painter and decorator and Regeneration and Growth. Unfortunately I still remember that infamous appearance in Court in 2012. I can forgive Cheryl mistakenly following instructions but not… oh well, let’s leave that one unsaid right now.

Where do we go for Regeneration and Growth? Maybe Alex will go on a recruitment drive and look at the only Bexley Councillor who may be as right wing as he is. The man who has worked closely with Peabody and really can organise a piss up in a brewery (the Welling Beer Festival) and regenerate the Danson Festival (BexFest) with determination and the help of a few volunteers. There will be Fireworks from the Conservative back benches but he organised Bexley’s last display too. It can only be Danny Hackett the Independent Councillor for Thamesmead East.

Let’s get Bexley back on track before it disappears under attack from mutant maggots and rats. Can’t be long now.

Note: From an idea encouraged by a mischievous Councillor. No names were suggested.

 

23 August (Part 3) - Jab jabber

Leading the wayThey are still at it; fibbing and exaggerating that is. @bexleynews has been Re-tweeting their false claim that Bexley is the Covid leader in London.

It is not. That honour goes to Bromley.

Second doses of the vaccine in Bromley are 43% higher than in Bexley and all the other stats are in their favour too.

Then they wonder why no one believes the bin spin.

 

23 August (Part 2) - Few in Bexley are happy

Fortunately there was not a lot in the weekend email requiring a catch up.

Irony
There was a reference to Councillor Philip Read asking a Facebook contributor to make it clear that he was (or had been) a union official, and therefore biased on bins, while not making it clear that he was a Bexley Councillor and maybe equally biased. Councillor Read does however come clean on his Profile page.

The alleged union man never denied Philip’s implication. Draw your own conclusions.
Facebook Facebook
Exactly what am I doing supporting Councillor Read?

A victim of its own success
A resident took advantage of one of Councillor Craske’s car park recycling centres only to to be turned away along with everyone else who had driven or wheeled their bins there. He didn’t say which car park or if Serco was giving a reason, only that it was about 12:15 Saturday.

Trucks full up presumably.

BexFest
Bexfest is a charitable enterprise organised by Welling Round Table. An email (and some Facebook posts) suggests it is being confused with the long gone Danson Festival which was run by Bexley Council, sponsored by Cory Environmental and came with free entry. The Festival was a victim of the Councilְ’s innumerable cuts. At first it was said the ground was too wet but when they realised that might not be a good excuse every year another had to be invented.

In 2014 the excuse switched to the park’s underlying geology, an excuse few believed at the time and no one should do so now. When someone offers to hire the park the problem evaporates. Funny that!

Another complaint about BexFest is the price. Up to £15 per person (with discount offers available) to get in and another £5 for parking. Fun fair rides all £5 a go or more is a far cry from 6d for the dodgems when I was a lad. My father was not especially well paid in the 1950s (a lowly draughtsman) and would have taken around 15 minutes to earn that much and today it would be half an hour for someone on minimum pay. Why the increase?

You can be pretty sure it will be due to outrageous fees charged by Bexley Council and the exponential growth in petty regulations which have taken a strangle hold on the whole country to the detriment of most things.

Maybe the complainers will be happy to know that parking was £6 in in 2013. Now that was a real rip off with Bexley Council wholly to blame.

 

23 August (Part 1) - A couple of goats

Goats GoatsMy time in Malmesbury was split between photographing a baby goat which my granddaughter has ‘adopted’ and keeping an eye on the bin situation in Bexley. Facebook was still full of residents complaining about Bexley Council and Councillors alike. On the one hand they complain that Councillors have done nothing to help get the bins emptied while some were refusing to use Peter Craske’s ‘pop up’ recycling centres on the grounds that they had already paid him to do the job properly.

I do not know what the average IQ is in Bexley is but I am beginning to think it might be somewhat under 100. Some of the Facebook regulars appear not to engage brains before indulging their ill-informed rage.

Three Councillors were responding to the ranting; Philip Read, Sue Gower and once or twice, James Hunt. I think they are on what is called a Hiding to Nothing. After years of @bexleynews peddling deceptions they are not widely believed.

I remain of the opinion that the reason the Council’s hands are tied is directly connected with the law of the land and the twelve year old Serco contract. Occasionally a Councillor will suggest the same but who, as I asked once before, signed on the dotted line?

There have been many favourable references here over the years to Bexley’s recycling arrangements. Introduced in Labour’s time and extended under a new contract in 2009 by Conservative Cabinet Member, as he was then, Gareth Bacon. Gareth Bacon showed himself several times to be one of the more reasonable and thoughtful Councillors but the weekend’s enquiries suggest he may have dropped a time bomb into the trash bin with the Serco contract.

Serco are not big players in the waste disposal business, they may have been keen to put a foot into the market even if the returns were less than attractive. Probably they didn’t bargain for Bexley Council coming back later and shaving another £2·4 million off the price.

All the information points to the Serco contract being signed off by Cabinet Member Bacon and the newly appointed Leader Teresa O’Neill. It was an era when Bexley Council took delight in screwing contractors into the ground if they could, domiciliary care workers in particular were given a hard time with the lowest pay in London, the responsible Cabinet Member was rather proud of his achievement.

In Committee the Labour Group opposed the extension of Serco’s contract which the Director said was inevitable but their sole representative, Councillor Borella, was easily outvoted. The Director has since left the Council. There aren’t many people left who can carry the can.

It would appear that the residents who say that Bexley Conservatives are responsible for the mess the borough is in today are correct, it could hardly be any other way but they are wrong when they say that Cabinet Member Craske (and others) is not doing all he can to retrieve the situation.

Gareth Bacon has gone and Teflon Teresa should go as soon as possible. Whatever the calamity, criminality and cock-up she always manages to be not quite at the scene of the crime but who is it cracking the whip and setting the direction of travel?

“Old, past it and dead wood” was how the Cabinet was described to me not so long ago. Maybe it is about time that more talented Councillors got rid of them all. Probably not possible in the middle of the civic year but an alternative solution becomes a possibility next May.

 

22 August - Mask madness

I am of the opinion that the flimsy blue mask I wear only when the idiotic Khan says I should is about as much use as chicken wire against a machine gun nest. My nurse neighbour agrees with me although she is less enthusiastic about using the same one for 16 months.

On Friday I was at The Oval for most of the day and didn’t get home until past eleven o’clock as there were no trains due to an incident at Abbey Wood. Seven ambulances, four police cars, two fire engines plus Network Rail emergency response vehicles. There is still no definitive news as to why.

The Oval was close to capacity so probably 25,000 people. I only saw one mask. My companions said the queue for the bar was long and the Gent’s toilet was crowded as we diverted there on our way out. No masks.

Two of us decided to get the 133 bus to London Bridge and Liverpool Street with masks on. My friend who had been mingling all day with thousands of maskless people decided to pick an argument with the lady sitting behind us who wasn’t wearing a mask. I moved and pretended he was nothing to do with me.

Proof positive that the mask zealots are mad?

Very nearly four hours to drive back from Malmesbury tonight. Motorways closed in three places so it was a meandering cross country route. Back to bins in the morning.

 

20 August (Part 2) - They predicted doom and they were right

Throughout 2019 and much of last year I received a series of anonymous messages from people claiming to be working in or just retired from Bexley’s Finance Department. They all said that the then fairly new Finance Director, Paul Thorogood, was leading them to some sort of unspecified disaster. Sour grapes that Bexley had not promoted from within? It could have been.

Their complaint was that Barnet, a Conservative Council that outsourced almost everything to Capita in 2013 and employed Mr. Thorogood, introduced financial software tools known as Axiom Integra. It got Barnet into trouble in part because it failed to spot a big fraud and Bexley, now under the same management was in danger of running a similarly lax show. Reports vary as to whether Barnet Council still uses the same software.

Such systems can cost a lot of money; a Barnet blogger reported that in the years before Capita, adopting and adapting to a new system cost Barnet Council £21 million.

Mr. Thorogood must have liked the Capita software because when he slipped across to the oneSource consortium (Newham, Havering, Bexley) he persuaded them to adopt the same system. (One of several blogs on the same subject.)

The anonymous finance men claimed that oneSource soon became disenchanted with Integra Axiom and scrapped it in favour of a cloud based system at considerable cost. As last year’s informants said, Mr. Thorogood’s relationship with oneSource turned sour but luckily for him no one in Bexley asked probing questions and he was appointed to be Finance Director here just two years before the borough flirted with bankruptcy. Maybe not a good move for Paul’s reputation.

No sooner does he arrive on these shores than Bexley ditches oneSource and pays the contract exit penalty and goes it alone with a new financial software system. It’s Capita’s Axiom again! Why? They market it but don’t even use it themselves.

But if it works OK in Bexley does it matter? I asked one of the few people who still work in the Civic Offices for an update.


We are not doing too well with integra. Nothing much is happening with orders or invoices, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare made worse by redundancies among support staff.

The system is owned by Capita and as you know it was chosen by the Finance Director who used to work for Capita a few years ago and even they know it is not a lot of good and don’t even use it themselves. They use SAP. I couldn’t believe that at first but here is the proof.

Would the owner of Apple have an Android phone? https://uk.linkedin.com/in/philip-lewis-5b0b851a.


The words are changed here and there to protect the source and unless you are registered with LinkedIn you cannot read what is said there.

Is Bexley Council totally incompetent? Their Serco contract has proved to be totally inadequate and they recruit senior staff with a track record of backing the wrong horse and despite everything continue to put their, sorry, our money on the same old nag.

Where has that reputation for financial prudence gone? Did it ever exist?

I have not heard from the dispirited finance men for a long time. Probably they were put on the scrap heap along with anyone else who had the foresight to see the train crash ahead.

 

20 August (Part 1) - For reliability buy nothing but Ford

Abandoned van Abandoned vanThe rusty heap that adorned next door’s drive and never moved in seven years has gone. I was sure that some calamity would befall it if it moved an inch; an axle would come adrift or something but I was wrong.

A man came along at the beginning of the week and inflated all the tyres. Tyres that showed very obvious cracks from years of disuse but all but one stayed up overnight and luckily the exception was a rear one of the offside pair. Then someone washed the algae from the front and secured the junk stored inside. Then what?

The battery was charged but the ignition lock had seized. Another day’s delay but when the starter button was pressed the engine came into life and sounded good as it drove down the road.

No front number plate, illegal tyres, no tax, no MOT, no nothing.

I can tell you now without being too much of a snitch because it is already on a boat to Africa, final destination Lagos. Unless of course it was caught by an ANPR camera and is in a police pound in which case the owner will already be in enough trouble and this report can do no further harm.

 

19 August (Part 2) - Four out of five workers are not striking. Can that be true?

I was asked earlier today if I felt sorry for Cabinet Member Peter Harold Craske to which the honest answer must be just a bit, not all that much, but a little bit.

He has very often been the bruiser with the difficult job. Parking, park closures and bins have all been his over the years which does not endear him to the public. Certainly his reputation for vindictive behaviour, an aversion to the absolute truth and his penchant for unwarranted attacks on the Labour opposition does not endear him to me but with bins he should be cut a little bit of slack. Only a little bit mind. It was his predecessors who drew up the wretched Serco contract twelve years ago and created a situation from which there is no legal way out for Bexley Council.

I am sure Labour will continue to advocate an in-house service but that is not on the agenda for at least ten more years. Craske can’t do much now while Serco or Unite make mischief but he is at least worried about the situation, not only worried for his votes but the voters themselves some of whom are enduring hardships he may not realise as he introduces stop-gap remedies. Should I admit to having a completely empty Green bin a week after the last collection?

Cllr TaylorThe Labour opposition have not shown any concern for residents at all. Quiet on Social Media, not quite as quiet on the picket lines where one at least admitted to “loving” the chaos heaped on residents and hoping that more trucks were stuck in the depot. It will be amazing if that doesn’t come back to haunt Labour next May.

Where I do question what Peter and his boss Teresa are saying is that four out of five dust people are said to be working but if that is the case why are only two bins out of five being emptied? Teresa provided a figure of 17% strikers when reporting to Council three weeks ago which makes the arithmetic even worse. High proportion of drivers maybe?

The duo’s latest statement is here.

 

19 August (Part 1) - I don’t really care…

Peter CraskeCabinet Member Peter Craske was on BBC TV last night attempting to defend Bexley Council’s bin predicament, a fairly hopeless task and he didn’t do too well. I suspect he regrets saying “I don’t really care” as it will be taken out of context as it is in the headline above.

I am still inclined to think that the Council is doing all it can to mediate in the strike but given the outsourcing and the allegedly awful twelve year old contract that isn’t a lot. They cannot insist that Serco pays more or whatever the Union demand might be today. The thought of the Conservatives losing seats next May will be providing every incentive to get the strike over and done with quickly.

It is puzzling that apart from a couple of hotheads, Labour Members are keeping a low profile. I began by thinking that was wise; why comment while ‘the enemy’ is so spectacularly failing to get its message across to a disbelieving public?

Maybe there is another reason. Given their Leader’s reluctance to follow in Craske’s footsteps and lie his socks off when the need arises maybe he is unable to overtly repeat the Union’s message. What if Serco is being truthful and Stefano Borella knows it? If so he would have to bite his tongue.

Union representative at 13 seconds. Peter Craske interview starts at 33.

Maybe Serco is prolonging the strike to electorally punish the Conservatives for taking their contract away. The way things are now there is not much of an incentive for Serco to settle early. Conspiracy theories now…

 

18 August (Part 2) - The not so great divide?

FacebookThere is a lot of information about the bin strike floating around on Social Media but despite much searching it is not obvious to me where the truth lies. Now I am caught out because I promised a political friend that I would make up my mind and report it, one way or the other, by the end of today and in an unambiguous fashion.

For reasons unknown, newly appointed Cabinet Member Sue Gower is to the forefront of defending Bexley Council’s position. A bit odd on two counts; it is not her portfolio and the strike is between Serco and the Unite Union which means that Bexley Council can offer little but mediation which appears to have begun and ended with ACAS. If you outsource that is the deal you sign up to.

For reasons that I won’t go into now I knew of Sue Gower before she was elected Councillor but not so well that she told me of her membership of the Conservative Party or of her decision to stand for election. I have never spoken to her since, however it would come as no surprise if she was the most accomplished and capable Member of the Cabinet and I would be amazed if she would indulge in the large scale fibbing for which one or two of her colleagues are renowned. I am similarly amazed that Teresa O’Neill allowed her to become a Cabinet Member in Bexley. A potential rival who is climbing upwards without owning a cupboard full of skeletons.

Opposing her from time to time is new Labour Leader Stefano Borella, someone I have spoken to several times since Sue was elected. Always friendly and accessible and in different contexts always ready to see the other point of view and not fall out with anyone.

As has been said before, no Labour Councillor in Bexley has ever been found fibbing by me. I sometimes wonder about their strategy for countering Tory excesses but the integrity of the Leadership has never been in doubt.

So if we have two truth tellers at loggerheads it must be because they are either interpreting the same facts differently or they are being fed different facts.

Logically it will be Unite feeding information to Stef and Serco to Sue. or a Council confidante.

Can you trust Serco? Probably not. Can you trust the Union? I have my doubts, it has picked several similar fights recently, but it briefly won my sympathy when I learned their picket had been abused by the Institutionally Corrupt Metropolitan Police.

The fact that Union officials were jointly threatened by Bexley Police and the Council shows the two to be just as closely aligned as when they tried to stitch up Crayford resident John Kerlen over a Tweet he didn’t actually send. (I still have the original police file which contains the Tweet John posted and the rather different text he was alleged to have posted.)

And who can forget the Police and Bexley Council conniving to get Peter Craske off the hook on which he had hung himself?

This blog has got to the point when I very much regret promising the aforesaid friend to come to a conclusion on who has right on their side in the bin strike. Should I hit the Delete button?

I am still of the opinion that Bexley Council signed a rubbish contract and screwed Serco into the ground with the price, just as they did when engaging with care providers. They knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.

And I don’t think I am so naive as to discount the possibility that Unite is making mischief and a mountain out of the small financial molehill said to divide them.

Councillor Sue Gower has said she understands the only remaining sticking point is back pay for around 20 people. If so someone is being incredibly stubborn but who’s at fault? In my time in industrial relations I probably knew as many idiot managers as I did anarchist union officials.

Tweets Facebook

 

18 August (Part 1) - The pros and cons of in-house operations

The current recycling arrangements were debated in October 2018 as can be seen from the two images extracted from the the official slide presentation. The options were Serco, another contractor, in-house or a BexleyCo on wheels and with smells.

The decision was to look for a new contract and extend Serco’s by 18 months while the job was being undertaken. My recollection is that a Council Officer said that the cheapest option was in-house but sadly if it was said it has gone unrecorded. Labour has long preferred such an option but Bexley Council for reasons best known to themselves is set against it.

It is not an absolute party divide, Conservative Hillingdon Council (far left of map) has an in-house operation whilst Labour Southwark and Lambeth outsource.

Recycling options Borough arrangements
Even Bexley is not entirely against in-house, it took Hall Place away from its custodians and as a reader reminds me they did the same with Amey which had the contract for such mundane Council tasks as cleaning toilets, providing doormen and watering the pot plants.

Message

Why is it that so many messages from unhappy Council staff refer to Graham Ward?

What this contributor says is of course true. At the time of the initial decision Leader O’Neill thought it was a wonderful idea that would save money while Labour Councillors were not so sure. Bexley Council hired Amey anyway and quickly found it was a big mistake.

I used to speak to the doormen when going to Council meetings and they couldn’t wait for Amey to be shown the door or retire themselves.

Labour Councillors favoured bins being taken in-house too, maybe the Conservatives pay them more attention.


The usual warning applies to old linked blogs. They may not be fully mobile compatible and links within them may fail. Updating the pre-May 2019 site is not progressing quickly.

 

17 August - Where’s Jackie Belton? Why is she still in a job?

PicketThe bin strike is still eroding what reputation for good management Bexley Council might once have had, or maybe thought it had. Rather too many chickens have had the annoying habit of returning to the borough roost recently. The anti-transport infrastructure policy resulted in no river crossing which in turn led to less investment than could have been the case and to which the lack of affordable homes may be related. The latter has helped the finances to run dry and to which calamity we can now add the bin strike.

I may have some sympathy with the Council’s predicament but there is no getting away from the fact that it was them, or their Conservative predecessors, who drew up the shoddy contract with Serco. O’NEILL is now in no position to “SORT YOUR TRASH“ (Photo 1) and we know how reluctant she is to get rid of Cabinet Member Craske.

Some aspects of his bin policies have always been difficult to understand. If the bin lid is slightly up his instructions are to leave it behind yet I have heard him plead with residents to put out as much recycling stuff as possible, specifically asking that they don’t forget the toilet roll centres. He does it because it makes money so why not collect it all?

It’s the same with recycling banks. If he wants as much as possible to be collected why does Craske fine people who do what he asks?

The man simply fails to think ahead as I found out when he posted homophobic references to me and others and was arrested for it after the police traced the source to his IP address. With brains like that in charge it is no wonder Bexley is in the mess it is.

Only a week ago Bexley Council had to remove a three piece suite dumped close to home and yesterday another one appeared. Clearly Peter Craske has got his waste policies wrong. Charging £38 to have large items removed from home is asking for trouble.

Dumped

A tip off said that BBC Radio London was going to feature Bexley’s bins this morning and I had to grit my teeth and tune into the BBC for the first time since Teresa O’Neill graced its airways. Three whole hours on and off of relentless criticism of Bexley Council. Anyone who doesn’t know about the situation would be 100% sure that the problems were entirely of Bexley’s making which is only nearly right. Thanks to their contract, some might say their outsourcing decision, they can do little other than tell residents that they are frustrated too, a statement ridiculed by programme presenter Vanessa Feltz several times.

A reporter live from the scruffy streets of Bexley said that he could see rats running wild and the whole place was stinking.

I am not sure why that should be because until this week general rubbish and food waste was being collected at the regular interval, mine certainly was, and why should paper, tin cans, glass and plastic smell? Mine all go into the used washing up water before being binned. Maybe posher people with dish washing machines cannot do that.

If Bexley smells now it will surely get worse. Craske’s latest madcap idea is to resume the collection of plastics and abandon food waste collecting. It must now go in general waste and be picked up fortnightly. A recipe for more rats and maggots.

The SERCO Union representative came over well and without any counter-argument is likely to be believed even though the odd statement was questionable but someone somewhere in our beleaguered Council had decided to keep schtum. Why? Don’t they have an argument to put forward? Why do we pay Jackie Belton £213,000 a year if she is incapable of speaking up for the Council?

Introduction. Resident speaks and another emails. Peter Craske’s statement read out.

Reporter sees rats.

Frustration and anger. Richard spells it out.

Crayford stinks to high heaven.

The Union makes its case but Bexley Council has no response.

Bexley is an expensive tip says Gaynor.

Mediocre services and phones not answered.

The final verdict. Terrible communications and no empathy.

 

16 August (Part 2) - Blinkered thinking

I don’t think it is actually written in statute that only left leaning people are allowed to write blogs but somewhere there must be hidden an unwritten rule. How else does one explain that I nearly always disagree with on-line opinion pieces written by amateur hacks? Nowhere are the differences more apparent than in the realm of transport policy. Few seem to realise that transport infrastructure is a main driver of prosperity. We knew it in the 1960s when motorway construction got into its stride but it has been long forgotten.

The Conservative Government unforgivably funded Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in 2020 and Councils everywhere took advantage of their new found freedom to Jack Boot over those affected without consultation. Academia has found a ready source of income by advocating 20 m.p.h. speed limits, narrowed roads and cycle lanes and writing reports eagerly lapped up by Councils looking for new ways of exerting power and extracting money. Counter arguments from traditional transport researchers are ignored because their particular science is no longer fashionable.
TRL report

Extract from Transport Research Laboratory report on bus lanes.

Locally the media has suddenly woken up to driverless cars in Greenwich, a project announced in 2014 and now heading into its final phase. Criticism is tinged with misinformation.

The responsible company, DG Cities based at the University in Penrose Way is closely linked to Greenwich Council and employs eight people with a Councillor on its board. A limited company listed at Companies House. I suspect that Greenwich Council is claiming more credit for the autonomous car project than it deserves. Greenwich was one of four towns chosen for the trials and primarily because the relatively empty roads surrounding the O2 were seen as a useful test bed. Greenwich Council readily agreed and cooperated fully.

The UK is attempting to take a leading role in the development of self-driving vehicles and testing is proceeding in Bristol and Milton Keynes as well as in Greenwich. It is why some privately owned vehicles will be allowed to go hands-free in limited circumstances in just a few months time. The Government’s ambition is to attract global players, something that is surely well beyond the ambit of Greenwich Council. It must be sheer nonsense to think that Greenwich Council and its pen pushers have the expertise to have run this project. It is the Transport Research Laboratory, insurance companies and vehicle manufacturers which are involved with driverless vehicle development not a Council with a reputation for transport ineptitude.

“DG Cities reports directly to the [Council} Chief Executive.” Can that be more than a courtesy call? What does he know about the science of autonomous cars that TRL and Ford doesn’t know? My information is that Greenwich has a publicity and marketing involvement.

Driverless cars will be safer or they will not be licensed after the testing phase. They will not be driven by the sort of loons who were infesting the roads of Greenwich at one o’clock this morning. Enraged by bus lanes and 20 m.p.h. restrictions and me doing well under 30, every roundabout however small became an opportunity for those wary of the bus lanes to overtake law abiding motorists. The same happens on Gravel Hill, Bexleyheath where the same standard of road design is favoured.
My London

If people are frightened of autonomous cars what will they think of the autonomous bus on test in London or the lorries on test elsewhere. Will the Luddites get the better of them too?

 

16 August (Part 1) - Outsourcing not going well?

Bin strikes in Bexley, maybe Croydon and now Sandwell in the West Midlands but there it is the GMB Union fighting complaints against Serco pretty much the same as those of Unite in Bexley. What does that say about Serco or are all unions as bad as each other?

Maybe outsourcing is not a good idea at all. Nearer to home in Barnet the Council went overboard with outsourcing and handed the whole borough to Capita on a plate ten years ago. It seems not to have gone well.

Should planning applications be handled by a private company? Planning always provokes thoughts of back handers but if staff are jumping back and forth between property companies one of which takes the planning application fees; what next?

Socialist Worker Sandwell strike

Unite Union Halesowen News

 

15 August - Weekend waffle

The only news is bins and you are probably as fed up with that subject as I am. It will have to be weekend waffle time and better still there is a BBQ invitation for this afternoon.

Abena's TweetI am not sure why Abena has put out this Tweet, not that there is anything wrong with it; but she seems to be following her boss’s lead who did the same an hour earlier.

I’m just not sure why the number 76 is special; but it was the occasion for a bloody good party. So I am told. My memories of 1945 are far from clear. Drinking out of tin cans, bathing in a zinc plated tub in front of an open fire and Jack Frost on the inside of windows the following winter.

Pop up dump

Where’s Wally?

Adolph DubbsEvery time Afghanistan gets into the news I am reminded of the idiocy of politicians. Just five weeks after I became the manager of London’s International Telephone Exchange at a time when what is now BT was a government owned company I was given instructions to cut the circuit to Kabul. Not reduce the number of lines because of a lack of business but cut the UK’s telephone links with Afghanistan entirely. I argued for a couple of days but on the morning of Valentine’s Day 1979 the line was chopped. Finito! Gone for all time.

By afternoon news came through that the US Ambassador in Kabul had been assassinated. Every news editor in Fleet Street was calling me an idiot. I had to go cap in hand to my counterpart in Paris to beg a circuit or two. Politicians have got little right since. I feel the whole lot of them should be deposed; starting in Downing Street.

Today I did what I promised myself I would do months ago. Make a Freedom of Information Request for the calculations that prove the odd/even dates restrictions applied to recycling centres make statistical sense. If it proves to be something the management dreamed up while sitting Archimedes-like in the bath while racing rubber ducks we will know that Bexley Councillors really have recruited a bunch of idiots. Maybe the same ones as those who drew up the Serco contract.

 

14 August - Pop up recycling. Not such a daft idea after all

Pop up dump, Nuxley RoadDespite the usual Social Media suspects who immediately condemned Peter Craske’s idea for temporary white bin dump facilities in Welling and Belvedere announced only yesterday afternoon it was proving to be very popular at 09:30 this morning. No significant queues but a constant stream of vehicles and local residents making good use of the wheels on their bins.

The popular view was that the new Saturday only facility was not exactly ideal but it is far better than nothing.

No Councillors to be seen, all in Welling apparently.

After an hour long walk up and down the hill I returned to find a neighbour emptying his bin into a black sack to take to Nuxley Road by car. The news appears to have spread far and wide and welcomed.

Pop up dump Pop up dump Pop up dump Pop up dump

Comment Commen

Typical Twitter comment.

 

13 August (Part 2) - The proof that Bexley’s bin strike is politically motivated?

I am in a minority of one among my friends because I find it impossible to believe that Bexley Councillors will not be doing everything legally possible to reduce the impact of the Serco/Unite strike. They may well have struck an idiotic deal with Serco twelve years ago and the fact that Councillors are not allowed sight of it probably confirms it but the signatories will have long since taken their fat pensions leaving our Conservative Councillors almost impotent and staring at the impending electoral disaster.

However Councillor Craske appears to be pulling out all the stops to save his seat as his notice posted at 10:52 this morning must surely confirm. Quite how residents are expected to get their white bins to Westwood Lane or Nuxley Road is not clear but if you can manage it then it represents a chance of emptying a bin. For the record my green bin was emptied on time this morning and the white one is not yet full.

Craske Craske

At long last comes evidence that Labour Councillors, some of them anyway, actually do support a maggot infested Bexley.

Picket lines and trying to stop those still at work going about their lawful business is of course something to be expected during a strike…

Picket line Leaf

… but not putting possible resolutions to the membership more or less proves the political nature of this strike.

Incomprehensible is the support offered by Erith Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor. Being far left Labour and a likely strike supporter is something that informed voters presumably know about when casting a vote but publicly posting such a comment as that here shows total idiocy.

If a Councillor shows more loyalty to her Union paymasters than residents, kick him or her out! There can be no alternative. That foolish statement will be used by the Tories over and over again and who can blame them?

Bexley Conservatives statement in full.

 

13 August (Part 1) - They’ve lied for years and now no one believes them

It is possible that the bin strike will be settled soon but don’t count on it. There have been reports that Serco and Unite reached an agreement a week ago but it was not put to the membership.

Meanwhile the Tories are still trying to put as much blame for the mess on Labour as they hope they might get away with. See the Tweet below right which implies that all the Labour Councillors agreed with extending Serco’s contract. The fact is that the Council was told by their responsible Director that there was no alternative to extending the contract by eighteen months.

The meeting to which the Conservative propagandists refer was the Waste Commissioning Sub-Group which was held at an inaccessible time, not webcast and partly in secret. Only four Councillors were invited, Nigel Betts, Melvin Seymour and June Slaughter for the Conservatives and Stefano Borella for Labour. Probably he voted for the extension as the expert advice was that there was no practical alternative, his preference for running the service in-house having been thrown out.

The Conservatives’ constant deceptions are coming home to roost now.

Serco Tweet
Long term readers will remember that I used to attend Council meetings with Messrs Barnbrook, Bryant and Watson. They gave up going before I did but yesterday afternoon we met up for a beer. They did not believe a word I have been saying recently in defence of Bexley Council. Only a mug believes what Bexley Conservatives say was the general theme and after spending years lying to us Bexley’s leadership probably does not deserve to be believed.

It’s a variant of the old story of the boy shepherd who kept crying “wolf”. Teresa O’Neil and Peter Craske have done untold damage to the Council’s reputation over the years and it is well past the time when honest Conservatives should depose them.

 

12 August - Talking rubbish

I hope I am not finding myself on the wrong side of history by nailing my colours to Bexley’s mast over the bin dispute and should probably admit to a little bit of bias. Firstly I have not yet filled my bins so not much personal inconvenience as yet. The garden waste keeps sinking in its bin providing a little more space each day and the buddleia which has gone berserk as it always does at this time of the year can be chopped back later than usual. It and other shrubs may even provide some value from the promised extended brown bin contract.

Secondly there is my own somewhat ancient experience with union officials. I made friends with some and still correspond occasionally but too many were simply agitators, saboteurs and anarchists with no interest in their membership at all.

And there is another reason…

There is a small handful of Councillors who defy their instructions and talk to me fairly regularly using email, text message, WhatsApp and Twitter. They have at least a couple of things in common. None are the biggest fans of the Leadership and all are Conservatives. There is no similar relationship with Labour Councillors, at least not for a very long time.

All of these Councillors who I have learned to trust are saying the same thing. That what Leader Teresa O’Neill and Cabinet Member for Bins Peter Craske are saying is true. Conservative friends have convinced me that Peter Craske who has denied that I even exist is telling the truth. Whatever next!

In case you haven’t had the time to follow the arguments on Social Media, below is a small selection. The anti-Council voices are excluded; they are the vast majority and not difficult to find,

Willie Howard is a Unite union man who I doubt I would keep on my Christmas card list. Google Willie Howard SERCO or similar. Philip Read is a Bexley Cabinet Member with a record of insulting residents and to whom I have never spoken ever. He blocks me on Twitter contrary to the Council’s Code of Conduct. However I am assured by someone who shows residents more respect than he does and will even apologise for his behaviour occasionally, that what Councillor Read said yesterday is true.

Simon Collins and Kazzy Sykes I do not know but I would guess have direct or indirect associations with refuse collections locally. Dave Putson was elected as Labour Councillor for Belvedere in 2018 and clearly the most left leaning member of his party locally.

Tony is a Sidcup resident who takes an interest in local politics and questions Bexley Council. He is Twitter blocked by more Councillors than I am and Sue Gower is Councillor for Bexleyheath. A Cabinet Member who is backing the same line as I am hearing from other sources.

So there you are; it looks like Unite may well be running rings round a powerless Council and Bexley’s newsletters may not be inspiring confidence in a sceptical population but just for once I see no reason not to believe what they are saying. I think I know my few Council contacts well enough to know that they are not propagandists and spin merchants.

Facebook Twitter

 

11 August (Part 2) - Little fibs but far too many of them

It is not only nationally that false claims are made, in Bexley it is almost the norm. The age old one is that Bexley has been London’s top recycler for 16 years. It is close but it is not absolutely strictly true. At various times in various categories Bexley has been beaten by Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kingston, Sutton, Kensington and Chelsea and Richmond. In some ways it is a statistical fluke that favours the borough and compared nationally the whole of London is poor with Bexley lucky when it gets to 50th place.

It’s only a small fib but there are so many of them. Covid has thrown up another. “Leading the way” is the new dubious claim.

Tweet Tweet
What is the truth of the matter? Beaten by Bromley again!

Bexley

Bexley. Beaten by Bromley.

Bromley

Bromley. Bigger population, 50% more vaccinations.

 

11 August (Part 1) - Waste. Everywhere you look there is waste

The oft heard claim that some British public service or other is best in the world has always been cringeworthy; recently it has become official that the police can be Institutionally Corrupt and the National Health Service has spent the past 18 months demonstrating that it most certainly isn’t best at anything. I am fortunate to have known no one who died of Covid, in fact I have not encountered anyone who even claims to have had it, but I do know of people who have been taken to the brink of death because health care professionals have been impossible to find.

Three people I know have died from strokes soon after being AZ vaccinated which may or may not be coincidence; they were all over 70 years old but believed themselves to be in reasonably good shape. The NHS is indisputably hugely wasteful and inefficient. I was due a hospital appointment in June but informed by letter that it was deferred until 8th October. On Monday I received another letter; it said that my appointment has been deferred from 8th October at 10:20 to 8th October at 10:20.

QE letter

I read it several times over to see what was going on, eventually the penny dropped. The name of the medic who will call me has changed. Do I care and how much did that nonsense cost the taxpayer?

I was told a few months ago that someone at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust refused to allow the use of email or text message. That will be another £100k. or more on bad management.

In better news the three piece suite pictured on Monday was taken away this morning. The man with the open topped truck told me that he was contracted by Bexley Council to take it away “and it will cost them plenty”. Maybe the Council shouldn’t be charging residents £38 an item to take large items away - but logic is something Councils have always lacked, Bexley more than most.

In even better news a scrap dealer wants to remove the abandoned van.

 

10 August - A housing crisis

Windows open Garage There is nothing right about the housing situation in this country; not enough of it for the rapidly increasing population and too expensive. I bought my first house after being at work, starting on £403 a year, for only four years; but who would help out by being a landlord now?

My neighbour of eight years moved to Basildon, Kent (sic) last week. He had literally never ever attended to his front garden - I cut his lawn and trimmed his hedge or I’d have to look at the eyesore daily - and the jungle at the back was cut down only once a year.

Now he has gone and every window has been left open through which one can see a dilapidated kitchen. The garage door is broken and hanging off its hinges and behind it is a mountain of old toot.

Probably worse is the van he left behind. It has stood outside his house rendering his neighbour’s drive virtually unusable since 2014. Removing it will be a very expensive job. It will need six new tyres, a new battery, insurance, VED and an MOT which it will never get. The landlord lives abroad, he is in for a shock.

Abandoned van Abandoned van Abandoned van Abandoned van

Abandoned van Abandoned van Abandoned van Abandoned van

Illegal

 

9 August - Bexley Council at its finest

In the few minutes spare before before catching a train to Kennington I thought I would check if Hugh Neal had published his Sunday blog early; and he had.

I was confronted with this nonsense from Bexley Council.
Maggot Sandwich

Click image to link to the Maggot Sandwich.

A Council through its own poor management skills at some point in the distant past has reaped its reward with a month long bin strike and residents who resist the temptation to dump their rubbish on the steps of the Civic Offices are fined £150 as Bexley attempts to live up to the News Shopper’s timeless 2009 assertion that it is made up of a coterie of dishonest, vindictive and criminal people; to which one might add brainless.

May I suggest that Hugh’s reader dump his rubbish here (see below) in future because my experience is that even after supplying clear photos and video of a flytipper in action nothing will be done about it.
Flytip

Photographed today.

Bexley Council is getting a pounding on Social Media; the emptying of bins is the only element of politics that many residents care about and the ignorance of some of them is astounding.

People are looking for refunds of Council Tax and garden waste fees. Nice idea but it would probably cost £25 to administer handing back a fiver. Bin emptying is not a significant expense compared to Adults’ and Children’s Care and temporary accommodation.

Others are calling for the refuse service to be taken back in house as advocated by Labour Councillors in 2019. Sounds OK perhaps but there are reasons why it isn’t. Should a restaurant owner take over a windmill to ensure a steady supply of flour or a small farm to make sure no supplier ever jeopardises his supply of milk and eggs?

Unite has given the Labour Party more than £20 million in the past three years or so (†) which may or may not buy influence but some things are best done - and cheaper - by a specialist. Just make sure you find a good one and write a tight contract.

TextThe Social Media experts are critical of a Council that allegedly sits on its backside doing nothing and here perhaps Councillors are their own worst enemy. When I make enquiries of a few friendly contacts the responses do nothing to change that view. (See brief note alongside.)

SM users, not Councillors, harp on about low pay rates and back pay but those issues have been resolved (†).

Another popular subject is staff (truck drivers?) being randomly tested for alcohol and drugs. It may not be a legal requirement but it is not a procedure unique to Serco (†). It is routine for train drivers but maybe a pay rate up to three times that of a rubbish truck driver smooths the way.

Sat at the Oval yesterday to watch a cricket match delayed for five hours by ten minutes of rain just before it was due to start - how does the sport expect to attract new patrons with stupidity of that magnitude? - there was plenty of time to scour the cesspit known as Facebook.

There were one or two apparently sensible posts which suggested that both the Council Leader and the responsible Cabinet Member had been instrumental in drawing the strikers and Serco to the Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). ACAS has existed in its present form since 1974 although similar agencies had existed since the late 1890s. I remember it coming to the fore in the seventies because I was at the sharp end of industrial relations from 1969 until 1984. By 1975 I was entrusted to deal with the unions at national level with some degree of success.

In 1980 or maybe 1981 ACAS officials came to see me to ask if I would do lectures and make speeches to managers working for other companies. I declined on the basis that delivering lectures was not my scene at all, but there was another reason. I couldn’t admit to the successful formula.

I had promised the union officials that if they ever caught me out lying or otherwise leading them up the garden path I would resign my position and gradually won their trust. Far too many managers were liars intent only on cutting the number of jobs. Fair enough but it had to be done honestly. If I scratched my nose at a meeting the unions knew someone was bending the truth or worse.

My information is that both Council Leader Teresa O’Neill and Cabinet Member Peter Craske have been personally involved in negotiations (†); present but probably not taking a lead role. Their reputation in the realm of truth telling might be an impediment to trust.

But don’t run away with the idea that the Unite union officials will be blameless innocents. Union officials were far from being that in the late seventies until the time I moved to pastures new in 1984. Their main motivation was not higher pay and better working conditions, it was beer, intravenous Jameson’s (whisky), to seek their own re-election to well paid positions, humiliation of management and if possible bring down governments. Many were absolute bastards and working with the reasonable ones while resisting the outrageous demands of the others was a stressful tightrope job. If that is still the case no Bexley Cabinet Member is likely to be up to the job. Union officials always made monkeys of managers who didn’t know working practices inside out.

I crossed a good number of picket lines in my time but the gentlemen’s agreement was always to stand them down and return to work once ACAS became involved. The Unite union in Bexley has seen no need to do that (†). Humiliating managers and bringing down governments (Councils) is still a priority presumably.

Bexley Council is virtually powerless to intervene. It is Serco’s strike and Bexley cannot break it in the way the Facebook warriors might wish. Legally they are stuck especially as the twelve year old contract was drawn up by inadequates with no experience of the rough and tumble of real business. All of them having long since legged it from Bexley.

One suggestion is that the contract is so poor that it doesn’t even stipulate the need to deal with missed bins (†). There is of course an informal procedure in place but what if the contract doesn’t even cover compensation for no service at all? Bexley’s ability to write sensible contracts has always been suspect. Who remembers the sale of the Civic Offices site to Tesco and the inability to cash in when it was sold on not once but twice?

Bexley Council’s leadership may not be smelling of roses right now but they are hamstrung by their predecessors. It is possible that Teresa O’Neill was Deputy Leader when the original Serco contract was drawn up but the Leader was a strong willed postman if I remember correctly.

My conclusion is that Bexley Councillors are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances; why wouldn’t they with an election nine months away? They are hamstrung by their predecessors and a union that may be hell-bent on mayhem. Thurrock, then Bexley now Croydon and soon Lambeth in their sights. Maybe I am a cynic who is too much drawn to experiences from 40 years ago, who knows?

Bexley’s Leadership will admit to nothing, it is counter-productive but it has always been their modus operandii and not sensible. But if they changed their spots, such is their reputation, would anyone believe them? @bexleynews has a lot to answer for. However in this case maybe we should believe the anonymous propaganda channel.

You will have noticed a few † symbols littering this essay. No one in a position of power will actually tell me anything useful but I put the marked assumptions/statements to a certain someone and asked for a denial. I didn’t get one. Confirmation more like.

Usually poor Danny Hackett gets the blame for leaks but I repeat, I have heard nothing from my young friend for two whole months.

Meanwhile I think we should cut Bexley Council a bit of slack. They are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Judge them on the new recycling contract. Top brass discarded from Croydon, Newham, Lambeth, Barnet, Sussex and Cornwall do not inspire confidence but we must live in hope that they have learned from twelve year old mistakes.

How many business brains which have survived in a cut-throat business world have we got on Bexley Council? Discounting those who ended up in a certain smelly creek it might be three. Politics in the UK, certainly local politics, is the preserve of amateurs, mainly incompetent egotistical amateurs and we pay a heavy price. Unfortunately there is no alternative right now to accepting that there is little the amateurs can do to get the bins emptied again. What is legal has been done and reasonable requests have largely fallen on uncooperative ears the owners of which are fighting a different sort of election from which ordinary residents are excluded.

 

8 August - Howard Marriner. R.I.P.

Howard Marriner I was a little bit shocked yesterday to hear that former Councillor and Mayor Howard Marriner had died. Several former Councillors have died in recent years but the only death that made an impact on me was Mike Slaughter’s and that may have been because he had promised to dig some dirt on the Leadership and never got around to it. Worse was that I always had a soft spot for Councillor June Slaughter, his wife, whose decency usually manages to rise to the top despite the pressures the whip might place on her.

Howard Marriner was another Councillor who was a fundamentally decent human being - sorry, but some simply aren’t. He would speak to me, I learned his age, he spoke of his wife and said he read Bonkers daily. When I reminded him that Conservatives claimed not to read it he in effect said they were liars.

I searched Bonkers for references to ‘Marriner’ and there were more than I would have guessed. His name crops up in 63 pages but many are no more than a listing of his presence. One reference is slightly negative, most weren’t.

• “Howard Marriner will engage in civil conversation when the opportunity arises.”
• “Howard Marriner sat next to me. This is probably no way to gain admittance to Teresa O’Neill’s select inner circle.”
• “Councillor Howard Marriner who always seems to be far too decent a chap to be a Bexley councillor agreed with him. That’s his promotion prospects screwed then.”
• “Howard Marriner admitted that the Scrutiny and Overview provisions at Bexley Council are just a rubber stamping exercise. When members vote they do so knowing the decision has already been made and little or no time is provided for discussion and meaningful amendments.”
• “Councillor Slaughter asked for the microphones to be switched on and in a glowing example of how this sort of thing should be handled the offending councillor – Howard Marriner - could not switch his on fast enough and apologised profusely.”
• “A thoughtful Councillor Marriner had similar concerns and by the look of his marked copy of the Agenda must have actually read it beforehand.”
• “Councillor Howard Marriner was not impressed by the downgrading of the road width and expected objections.”
• “I almost felt sorry for Mayor Howard Marriner. He tries so hard to be fair to all but faced with the baying mob which is his own party members, his task is a hopeless one.”
• “A few words exchanged with former Mayor Howard Marriner suggested, and not for the first time, that he might be a nice bloke when taken out of a political environment.”

So what was the negative point? He barricaded a door when Councillor Cheryl Bacon was ill-advised to exclude the public entirely from a public meeting.

 

7 August (Part 2) - A political stink?

FacebookI am pretty sure that the bin strike is being seen by Bexley Conservatives as a serious threat to their reputation given that there is an election due next May. Facebook
I say that because this morning’s comment on the bin strike has been seized upon by three of them (so far) as support for their position. I am not convinced it was wholly in their favour because it is an inescapable fact that it was their decision to extend the Serco contact by 18 months at a time when their reputation was already questionable.

Nevertheless the strike may be politically motivated given the union’s evident glee at the prospect of moving on to Croydon next and every resident should be wholly against political strikes.

I appreciate that a party with Labour in its name will want to be seen to support workers despite it being controlled by multi-millionaires in Islington but the tittle-tattle is that in Bexley the Party Leader has felt it necessary to deliver a supportive speech to the strikers. Depending on what was said that may be wholly reasonable but it is also alleged that Councillor Putson is not the only one to congratulate a picket line on preventing trucks from leaving the depot. Some of the 2018 intake have quite far left views.

Social media however is not 100% against Bexley Council if you search it carefully. Maybe the Tory’s position is not entirely lost yet. I have no idea who they are but this pair (below) is beginning to smell a rat as I think I do myself. “Craske correct” might be a step too far but I am rather looking forward to his excuses for Bexley being deposed from their position at the top of the recycling table.

Facebook Facebook

 

7 August (Part 1) - A Summer of Stink

It has been ages since there was any sort of tip off from a friendly Councillor. I haven’t a clue of the outcome of the complaint against Councillor Danny Hackett after he was on the receiving end of a totally false allegation by a Labour activist. She said he had been colluding with me last August or thereabouts to publish blogs critical of said Labour activist. Not true because I hadn’t heard from Danny all Summer and everything written about the troublemaker had been gleaned from publicly available Twitter posts.

It is the same this year. Danny gets busy with his charitable works and the last time I heard from him was on 9th June when he enquired about the health of a mutual friend. Then, yesterday I received the shortest of messages from a Councillor - not Danny - which said there was a “significant amount” of good work being done behind the scenes aimed at ending the bin strike. Tantalisingly there was no clue as to what it might be and residents are so used to the lies emanating from Bexley Council and @bexleynews in particular that even if the details had been forthcoming would anyone believe them? Does Bexley still use the fatuous slogan ‘Trusted by Bexley Residents’.

More useful was the suggestion that I trawl Facebook for bin comments; so I did.

FacebookThere are suggestions that the strike has been made worse by the economically catastrophic pingdemic favoured by the “spineless twat” (†) but on balance I was drawn towards Paul Webber’s theory that the Unite union is on a mission to end outsourcing.

Their stated mission to give Bexley residents A Summer of Stink amply demonstrates that Unite is not on the residents’ side while Councillors just might be - the pathetic political posturing of @bexleynews notwithstanding.

There will be a lot of people who think that the end of outsourcing might be a good idea but if that is Unite’s aim it makes theirs a political strike.

In Bexley the complaint has been about pay and working conditions. Random drug tests have been mentioned more than once but how true that might be is unknown.

There has been similar industrial action in Thurrock but the Council there negotiated a return to work. The union has now turned their attention to Croydon.
Facebook

Click this image to read the whole post and the Croydon reference.

If Unite’s motive really is to reduce the level of outsourcing they may be fighting a losing battle. Lambeth Council has just signed up with Serco despite the experience in Bexley. Good luck to them.
Lambeth

Click for source web page.

† I spent yet another rainy day with a cousin at The Oval last week. He had given Guest tickets to fellow members of his choir so a lot of new faces. Filling in the gaps between play I soon discovered that the “spineless twat” opinion is even more widespread. This will spell trouble and I am inclined to blame his missus for BJ’s inevitable downfall.

 

6 August - Rubbish collection. Rubbish redistribution

Rubbish RubbishI heard the peep peep peep of a reversing refuse lorry so stuck my head out of the upstairs window to see if we had struck lucky.

Not really.

One man and his van had showed up to empty the communal paper bin behind the flats opposite. My admiration for one man doing his job alone sunk a little when I saw what he had done.

One tenant moved out this week and been more than a little careless with what he decided to leave behind. All the bin tops were piled high with rubbish. Now the paper bin is clear, but not the surrounding area.

He left the derelict van (Photo 2) behind too. It has not moved since 2014. Free scrap metal anyone?

Photos taken less than a minute after the binman had departed.

 

5 August - ‘Delivering for Bexley’ - Nothing but shamless propaganda

It is often said of Councils, especially by those who try to extend the message of their constant failures to the wider population, that the only thing residents care about is that the bins get emptied - and in Bexley they don’t. Not this year, not in the Spring of last year either.

Bexley Conservatives are therefore desperately fighting a rearguard action to show it is not their fault, but it is.

The contract with Serco dates from the same era as when the Cabinet Member for Adultsְ’ Services boasted that Bexley had negotiated the lowest pay in London for care workers. Do the same with the refuse contract and the result is likely to be the same.

LiesBexley Council has the responsibility in law to empty dustbins but having handed the job to someone else they are powerless. The Leader is being disingenuous when she implies that the strike is purely over current rates of pay. It is also about unpaid back pay and unacceptable working conditions.

@bexleynews, the propaganda wing of Bexley Council, is trying to lie its way into the voters’ confidence. They blame Labour Councillors for the strike and shamelessly changed their name to ‘Bexley News - delivering for Bexley’. Since when have they done that?

Earlier this week @bexleynews said that last year Labour was in favour of a Serco contract extension. At the relevant Council meeting Labour Councillors advocated bringing the service ‘in-house’. It was a Council Officer since retired who said the Serco contract would have to be extended by 18 months and the Tories went along with him.

I challenged @bexleynews for the evidence of their apparently false assertion but reply came there none.

@bexleynews has been at it again. Today they are back with more half truths and outright lies. Labour Councillors are supporting the strikers they say. One undoubtedly has but to suggest that all of them are manning the picket lines oversteps the mark. Sympathetic to the strikers’ poor working conditions they may be; but not loving the suffering of residents. Had their ideas been adopted two and a half years ago, Bexley Council would not be where it is today.

As you can see below, I am not alone in challenging the worst Tory lies but once again the question goes unanswered.

Message Tory lies
May I ask another question? If it is such a small minority of workers striking, why is it that of the five bins Bexley residents endure, only the green lidded bin is being emptied fortnightly, the food waste occasionally and the others neglected?

 

4 August - Alternative housing options in Bexley

OptionsSocial housing in Bexley is one of several Council services that are poor if not totally inadequate and the waiting list rules are to be revised again. (They were in 2014 after it grew to 20 years and Armed Forces personnel were given priority.)

In 2012 there were 10,000 people on the housing waiting list and 8,000 two years later.

To start with, the waiting list will be suspended while everyone on the list is reassessed and maybe have their priority status changed. There will be an emphasis on the homeless sorting themselves out in part by not making themselves homeless in the first place.

“There is a high national demand for affordable housing and a reduced turnover of tenants in Council housing stock”, Bexley’s Cabinet has been told. “Those approaching [housing associations] are also encouraged to explore alternative options”.

“Intentional homelessness decisions remain part of the Council’s approach. It is an increasingly important tool. It is a common practice across neighbouring boroughs.”

The response to a ‘Survey Monkey’ consultation (a meagre 81 responses) is said to be “positive”, a dubious claim, see below, and an FAQ would be provided to those seeking housing with a view to help them make benefit claims etc.

Cabinet Member Cafer Munur said the new proposal “is another string to the Council’s bow”. A similar approach “had worked so well in Children’s and Adults’ Services. Self-help brings financial savings and it is the right thing to do.”

Cabinet Member David Leaf welcomed the new policy “focusing on those most in need”.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) drew attention to the dishonest use of statistics. 41·97% of survey respondents were said to approve of the changes, a modest figure achieved by combining the number of ‘strong agreements’ with those who only ‘somewhat agreed’.

Had the same combination technique been applied to disagreements they would have totalled 51·85% and not the 35·8% recorded.

After contrasting Bexley’s poor housing performance with other boroughs she said “they actually build homes that residents can afford. We need to start building houses” but was told in regard to allocation policy “we are completely in line with what other authorities are doing.”

Cabinet Member Sue Gower disputed Councillor Taylor’s claim that housing was being offered in a very poor state.

The policy approved by 41% of 81 respondents was approved by 100% of Cabinet Members.

The newly approved rules…
Changes

There is a complex scoring system underlying these rules.

 

3 August - Tonys beware!

Newspaper headline And about time too. I have been debating with myself if Boris Johnson has been the worst Prime Minister of my lifetime. Probably not but it is alarming that it is even a question.

Nearly all of his decisions on Covid have been wrong, currently the pingdemic, the traffic light travel restrictions, passports and vaccination bribes; all illogical and tyrannical in their various ways.

During lockdown with the variety of contacts necessarily reduced I found no one with a good word to say about Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis, but the sample was small, just family and local friends and Birds of a Feather etc. may well have been a factor.

However this month the circle has widened considerably, a talkative cabbie and his family sitting next to me for half the day at the Oval, different members for the old pub quiz team, the first meeting for nearly two years of the electric vehicle early adopters club I was dragged into and at the low key end of the scale a spontaneous discussion in a medical waiting room.

Everyone seems to hold the same view; to quote one of the EV owners, Johnson is a “spineless twat”, a sentiment which was disputed by no one.

One of his more recent brainwaves is the vaccination booster jab. With one exception everyone I know has been double jabbed, the exception is a medical man who is concerned about the number of blood clot related problems being reported. He may have struck a chord with me because until jab number two I never suffered headaches and now I do. Coincidence? Who knows?

Here’s another coincidence - or not.

Until the beginning of June 2021 I had never known anyone who suffered a stroke. No matter how wide I drew the circle, not a soul.

I cannot say that any more. In only seven weeks I have been told of four. A second cousin’s spouse, an old neighbour, the brother of a friend and someone my children both knew well. Three out of the four fatal. Can it be coincidence? It is in some respects; all male, all double Astra Zeneca vaccinated, all over 70 years old and three of the four named Tony.

Right now I am not inclined to take a third jab. The risks from Covid are low and the risk from the vaccine is very low. One or two jabs may be a no-brainer but three? How many empty chambers are there in that revolver? And if Johnson thinks it is a good idea maybe that is a no-brainer too.

 

2 August - Old News

Tweets While I was at the Oval this evening, Bexley Tories were making mischief with the news that Councillor Dave Putson was no longer a Labour Councillor and attempting to pin the blame on Leader Stefano Borella. I am not sure where the evidence for that comes from. Stefano announced his Leadership on the 27th May and the following message reached me earlier than that.
Message
It was followed up with hints that Councillor Putson had left the Labour Party but without confirmation it couldn’t be published here. It should perhaps be said Councillor Putson was a very long way to the Left of me but in a surprisingly large number of emails he was always very polite and respectful of different views. There is absolutely nothing that could be portrayed as negative.

As @bexleynews asserts, almost correctly, Bexley Labour has lost two Councillors in two years, one a long way to my Left and the other who is inclined to be a little to my Right. I doubt we are going to see an alliance any time soon.

 

1 August - Oliver Twist planning

Old Police station Old Police stationGoing back to ask for more appears to be an increasingly common feature of the planning processes in Bexley. Probably the extreme example of it is building without planning permission and wrecking the neighbourhood is 238 Woolwich Road. Put enough pressure on Bexley Council and they eventually cave in and grant retrospective permission.

On the same road but half a mile to the east there is what must surely be the ugliest and most overbearing new building in the borough. It has grown an extra floor.

The reason is not hard to find. Bexley Council is desperate for extra CIL and Council Tax income after it and the Conservative government has run the borough’s finances into the ground.

Bexley Council is notorious for having no social housing, allowing very few affordable homes and overspending on its temporary accommodation budget.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) remarked on it earlier this week.
Councillor Francis on Twitter Councillor Francis on Twitter
A little to the west of Erith’s Horse Roundabout, yet another application is being revised to lose the original 24 affordable homes totally. Down from 24 to zero in exchange for a £700k. donation. That’s going to put another £8,000 on the price of each flat.

It would appear that Council owned BexleyCo has been exempted from the provision of affordable homes with the inevitable consequence that private developers will march through the same loophole.

CIL. Community Infrastructure Levy.

 

News and Comment August 2021

Index: 20202021

Return to the top of this page