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News and Comment February 2021

Index: 20202021

28 February - What a Laffer

TweetJames Cleverly is MP for Braintree and until 2015 was GLA Member for Bexley. He thinks it is a good idea not to make car parking more expensive.

Maybe he should have a word with Bexley Council. I spoke to him in the Council Chamber once; he mistook me for someone else so came across as a bit of a prat.

In Bexley we are about to see 30% increases to car parking charges.

Maybe we should vote Lib Dem too.

 

25 February - It could be worse

There is something to be said for living in a borough that has to watch the pennies and maybe blessed with a little more common sense than some. Newham where I have been today is crippled by plastic barriers which narrow the roads in order to provide more footpath space but you don’t have to be a loony leftie to do silly things.

The left hand picture is from upper crust Beckenham where shops can no longer take deliveries. No unsightly plastic there, nothing but the best but it is still the sort of nonsense one might expect in Greenwich. One long fume filled crawl today from Bugsby Way to the ferry terminal and I wasn’t passed by a single bus. A retired head of Highways from Greenwich once told me that his motivation was “to pee off as many motorists as possible”. He taught his successors well.

I still can’t find any support for Johnson’s tyranny. All I received was this joking message. It is a joke isn’t it?

Beckenham Boris

 

24 February (Part 2) - Second and final Cabinet report

CabinetItem 5 of the Cabinet Agenda was the Medium Term Financial Strategy. The Leader kicked off by confirming that Bexley Council will be looking to raise Council Tax by the maximum permitted amount of 4·99% with Sadiq Khan’s even bigger (9·5%) impost on top.

The Finance Director said the Government has announced what Bexley’s settlement will be for the coming year and the Council will “if necessary use the Capitalisation option going forward”.

“The new year continues to carry financial risks due to the pandemic” and he implored Councillors to read his report, because, presumably they might not otherwise bother. Mr. Thorogood managed to say everything necessary in fewer than four minutes. Cabinet Member David Leaf felt it necessary to drone on for 14.

The Labour Party (I think he meant nationally) “is a disgrace”. He referred to Bexley’s lobbying of Government which had allowed the reallocation of some funds but Labour Councillors “have not once thanked us”.

The Council funding formula which treats Bexley so badly was the Labour government’s fault. The health grant is the worst in London (third worst in the country) and the fault of a former Primary Care Trust.

“We have to work with the reality we live in and the cards we are dealt” and Councillor Leaf went on to explain that he has.

“It has been tough but we have risen to it delivering quality services.” He gave examples of efficiency savings. Housing claims are dealt with in under ten days but Labour used to take six weeks. (Uncharitable individual that I am I always wonder why such efficiencies were not introduced years ago.)

He complained about the misreporting of the Capitalisation Order. It is not an emergency loan or a bail out. The BBC among others have been guilty of “shoddy journalism”. (Councillor Leaf has a point but ‘bail out’ is an easy quick shorthand to give readers a rough idea of what is going on.)

In reminding listeners that he had balanced the budget he returned to his favourite subject. “The naysayers, the doom mongers, the BBC and the Socialist opposition who try their best to talk down our borough. To mislead, to deceive and to frighten and scare monger while they hide behind Social Media while we stand accountable.” (@bexleynews anyone?)

Deputy Leader French had gone off line so Cabinet Member Brad Smith (Adults’ Services) stepped into the gap. He said what he always says. Improved services come from spending less but more wisely.

Cabinet Member Philip Read (Children’s Services) could think of nothing better to say than make a reference to “the doom mongers and their panic stricken warnings of catastrophe” and after a quick mention of a budget gap reduced from £20 million to zero it was back to the “doom mongering hysteria”.

Cabinet Member John Fuller, still struggling with his bathroom acoustic told us how the need for SEN Transport continues to rise significantly. 160 pupils up to 260 since the end of the first lockdown.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer referred to our “year of pain and sorrow and adversity” but “we are a plucky nation and will keep buggering on”. He heaped praise on the vaccination programme. “Where would we be if we had an anti-private sector government where Nanny knows best?” Probably working alongside Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea he suggested.

In a wife pleasing comment Councillor Sawyer (Communities) said that the Police is “not an aggressive arm of the state”.

What any part of his speech had to do with the Medium Term Financial Strategy I have no idea and who has been the biggest advocate of the Nanny State? Our current Government and its predecessors.

Councillor Craske (Environment and Leisure) was proud of the Council’s response to Covid but was another Cabinet Member who had almost forgotten what the subject matter was supposed to be. He spoke only of parks, litter, libraries, allotments, highways maintenance and the cinema before slipping in a claim that “investments are going up”.

Councillor French’s internet had been going off and on and was able to say very little but intriguingly referred to coming to the end of his term with the Cabinet.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Slade Green & North End) referred to Councillor Craske’s extra [highways] expenditure. Wasn’t the expenditure actually less than it was last year he asked.

The Finance Director confirmed that there had been a £400,000 reduction in the revenue budget but the Capital budget is increased. Overall highways is going down by £85,000 and this year was down by £986,000 on last year.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis said that 99% of Councils did not need a Capitalisation Order, not Havering, not Bromley, not Dartford, not Sevenoaks. They all had bad Covid too so why Bexley?

It was to keep the reserves up which probably doesnְ’t answer the kernel of the question. The Finance Director continued to support the Order.

Councillor Leaf demanded the last word and it was to criticise the Labour Leader. “He doesn’t understand budgets.” The diatribe continued for four and a bit minutes but it was the same old bile. He may well have pulled a still living rabbit out of the black hat and some congratulations may be due but why not leave it at that instead of saying “under Labour Council Tax would be twice as high” and going on about Labour wanting to spend even more of the reserves. Instead he constantly demeans himself?

 

24 February (Part 1) - Readers of a feather

It doesn’t seem to matter how far I go towards being deliberately provocative towards Prime Minister Johnson and his cronies to see if anyone comes to his defence, but no one stirs.

All I got yesterday was “I thought vaccination was the way forward but he is scared of his own shadow and his idiotic advisers” and “the cretin needs to be brought down but if you believe the polls he has successfully scared the gullible witless”.

I had to go into some business premises today. The notice on the door said I must have a Track and Trace App on my phone and sanitise my hands on the way in and on the way out. I wore a mask but I had picked up the wrong one and the elastic was all limp, but I didn’t do any of those things.

Half an hour later I picked up my car from its service and they sanitised the key but the car was a dirty as when I took it in, I had told them I didn’t want the complimentary valet.

 

23 February (Part 4) - Cabinet report

CabinetThe Cabinet webcast ran through uninterrupted this time so I am now listening to it for a third time. A number of enlightening figures came out of it.

A hoarse sounding Council Leader reiterated that the Capitalisation Order would only be used “If we really need to” and then handed over to the Finance Director. His report was for the period up to the end of December 2020 but he forecast “an adverse variance of £3·6 million” by the end of March. £612,000 due to Covid and £3 million on regular things. That’s an improvement of £1·6 million overall since his last report, £330k. of it being Covid.

Temporary accommodation remains the biggest problem. £2·7 million out of the 3·6.

The Capital Program will spend only £39 million this year which is a huge £68 million reduction (there are no cuts, honest!) on the original March 2020 budget.

Paul Thorogood was brief and to the point. Cabinet Member David Leaf is usually incapable of such a feat but he did his best.

A minute and a half went by before he said anything even slightly relevant which was that he had been granted £540,000 to help fund leisure centres. As is to be expected he took a little swipe at the previous Labour administration for setting them up in an unnecessarily complicated way. To cut costs recruitment is being curtailed, essential spending only and the issues created by withdrawal from oneSource are being addressed.

After only three minutes he turned off his microphone.

Speaking from his bathroom or maybe a sewer pipe Cabinet Member John Fuller said “I would just like to echo the things said by Councillor Leaf and thank all the staff”. The unintentional pun of the evening. “86 of the borough’s schools have remained open”. Bexley’s schools had so impressed the Department of Education that they came down to take a look.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer spoke about Temporary Accommodation. The numbers in TA have decreased from the peak of 1,600 to just over 1,300 since last September. This may be because “Bexley has been a soft touch” in the past and new Housing Team officers are taking a firmer “more rigourous” line.

Councillor Philip Read’s contribution to budget savings was directed towards reducing Agency Staff and carefully watching the expenditure on “specialist placements”.

Labour Leader Daniel Francis questioned the breakdown between Covid and non-Covid expenditure. He asked about the £2·7 million housing overspend and the £2·2 million transferred to the General Fund. If those problems had not arisen would we have needed the Capitalisation Order for this year? The Finance Director spoke on the subject for very nearly three minutes but eventually said that he would have recommended a Capitalisation Order anyway.

Councillor Leaf wanted the last word. He said that the reserves would have been “far lower if we had followed the policies and recommendations which Labour had put forward”. Very often he says that Labour never put any ideas forward so how he came to that conclusion will remain a mystery.

The Leader then said it was time to move on to Agenda item 5.

 

23 February (Part 3) - Kim Jong-Son

DeadYou know that the Prime Minister is inadequate as a leader when he can only speak when flanked by two unelected officials and he only parrots what they allow him to say.

Two men who freely admit that their motive has to been to scare everyone witless and to display false statistics when it suits their frequently dishonest case.

They have succeeded in dividing the nation irreparably and Johnson must never be forgiven for allowing them to get away with it.

On the very day that they boast that more than 30% of the adult population is vaccinated and even a single dose provides 95% protection against being taken to hospital they insist that we must suffer lockdown restrictions until mid-summer’s day.

Even if you go along with the timetable of lockdowns the individual rules and guidance have made little or no sense.

An elected dictator deigns to tell me that by the middle of May I can drive 145 miles to see my granddaughter so long as I don’t go into my son’s house to have a wee or be given a drink. Then 145 miles back.

However it would be perfectly OK to stop at Membury services for a wee and a coffee mingling with dozens of strangers who may or may not have been careful with their health precautions.

Yesterday I spoke to two family members, two friends, one Councillor and a local businessman - probably illegally - and every one of them described themselves as - at a minimum - thoroughly fed up with an extended lockdown.

Where are these people who think lockdown should be extended further? The ONS life expectancy calculator says I have about 4,000 days left if NHS neglect does not get me first, so Johnson has stolen about 10% of my life. And to think I prayed for his survival a year ago! What does that make me?

Johnson is a total loon protected from the ravages of his economic disaster, mental health disaster and loneliness while he shacks up with his latest bit of skirt and it doesn’t matter what he achieves in future I could not possibly vote for any Government that includes him or Hancock. And some of his victims are far worse off than me.

 

23 February (Part 2) - Cabinet failure

FailuresToday I expected to fill in the waste of life that is Bloody Boris’s lockdown by reporting on last night’s Public Cabinet meeting but a succession of webcast failures will put that back until this afternoon at best.

I used to make a recording to SD card from the computer’s audio out socket but over the past month have been bypassing the digital to analogue and back to digital stage using software that somehow intercepts the incoming data stream and dumps it as a digital file.

It ‘cleverly’ detects when there is no incoming transmission and stops recording and therein lies the problem. The PC is upstairs but I listen in more comfort down below. Silence causes a run up the stairs to manually restart the software. Sometimes the loss of transmission extended to a handful of minutes.

Thanks to Bexley’s technical cock-up I have five incomplete files.

I am going to download the whole thing again and go back to the SD recording device.

From what I heard from my downstairs seat the meeting consisted of most Cabinet Members spending an awful lot of time slagging off the Labour opposition as if somehow the Tory’s financial melt down was all their fault.

On a more positive note that situation might be less severe than it was a month ago and the emergency arrangement might just possibly not be used at all.

It will come as no surprise that Band D Council Tax will increase by another £90 a year. Whether it is due to local Tory incompetence or national Tory intransigence is open to debate but it cannot be down to a lack of input from the Labour opposition as Cabinet Members were keen to imply. Do they have any idea how pathetic they sound when taking that line?

 

23 February (Part 1) - The Face of Bexley

FriendsI have never liked Facebook. I closed the Bonkers account a couple of years ago but maintain a personal account solely to remain in touch with someone who likes to communicate that way.

About a month ago I deleted the Facebook App from my phone. It was close to impossible to navigate and extraordinarily annoying, not to mention that it is busy tracking your every move and stealing data. And it helps pay Nick Clegg’s salary. What could be worse?

I now only look at Facebook occasionally via a browser but a couple of days ago it delivered a nasty jolt.

Top of the suggestions to choose a friend was this pair. The authors of @bexleynews if I am not mistaken. The ultimate proof that Facebook algorithms collect far too much data and abuse it.

I still don’t know what choosing a Facebook Friend entails and have never clicked on any such suggestion even though occasionally it suggests someone I know very well.

 

22 February (Part 3) - Councils will never listen or change

PetitionI have been asked to provide a link to this petition. I did so once before and my comment today is the same as it was three months ago.

When will readers realise the full extent of the self-serving nature of Councils everywhere?

There was a 2,219 petition on the same subject ten years ago when salaries were actually higher than they are now. Bexley Council refused to debate it.

Our current Chief Executive earns almost twice the average Bexley pay in Golden Goodbyes alone. Her salary is just the icing on the cake, and no I cannot name a single achievement.

The petition is unfortunately a total waste of time.

 

22 February (Part 2) - Boris bollox

It is reported that Johnsonְ֦’s little mutt has chewed on a furniture leg and done a great deal of damage. I’d guess he mauled the top of Johnson’s too and did a great deal more. Our Prime Minister is utterly useless isn’t he except perhaps at bending feeble minds.

Apparently if I dress as an urban spaceman and get tested for a corona virus I can now be trusted to hold an old lady’s hand. Just think what your reaction to that would have been if the plonker had said it a year ago. Brain washing works. Or perhaps not.

It was lovely to see Lesnes Abbey and the adjacent children’s playground mobbed when I was there yesterday lunchtime. People getting on with life after months of it being denied to them. Thank goodness for Prince Charles, if he wants to see his Dad he just does it and so should everyone else - carefully. Johnson. What a bloody cretin.

 

22 February (Part 1) - Bexley. London’s failure magnet

Victoria RoadIt is surprising how far the Bonker’s word can occasionally travel but nothing is ever likely to beat the comment that came from Bexley in New Zealand - a suburb of Christchurch - from a lady with the same uncommon surname my mother was born with. A comparison of family history showed we shared a common ancestor, albeit 170 years ago.

On that basis, yesterday’s messages were a little disappointing. From the eastern extremities of Kent came a reminder of what perhaps I should have remembered myself. Matthew Norwall now Bexley’s ‘Places’ boss (£145k. rising to £170k.) held the same position in Greenwich at £140,000 a year. He left after facing a barrage of criticism over the filthy state of the borough. 853.London has all the details.

I still wince every time I see 853 mentioning Victoria Way as it seems to do quite often. My father was born at Number 82 and his birth certificate says Victoria Road. Further family documents indicate that it was renamed while they were overseas, 1919 to 1932. Royal Greenwich had aspirations to be posh even then. I would argue that the plan has not gone well.

The other similar critical comment came from the west, the middle of Berkshire to be more precise. An employee of the Council there said that Stephen Kitchman ran Reading’s Children’s Services under the title of Brighter Futures for Children and the same leg up the greasy pole culture operates in Reading too. A Brighter Future for Stephen perhaps?

Someone asked me recently how Bexley actually recruits staff, the interview process that is. I was once told that it is dominated by a panel of Councillors and personal axes are sometimes ground, but I really do not know.

 

21 February - Heads will roll?

I doubt I will ever go to a Council meeting again, the webcasts are just about tolerable. When I first became a regular listener I knew who was speaking by the sound of their voices, a product of many years of attending in person but that is something that is getting to be more difficult.

There appears to have been a significant turn over of senior staff. I know nothing about Stephen Kitchman (Children’s Services) even though he was appointed before the pandemic. Matthew Norwall (Places) came on to the scene last October which I suppose explains the recent absence of David Bryce-Smith.

Maybe I am reading too much into it but it would appear that Bryce-Smith and his side-kick Kevin Murphy have both left the Council and both with housing responsibilities. Could it be that the string of housing failures and overspends in Bexley has prompted the CEO to do something about it?

 

20 February - Top talent

Tweet Long ago the weekend Bonkers would be reserved for the light hearted stuff and with more important things to do today and tomorrow it will temporarily return to that theme.

When I first saw this Tweet I fell about laughing at the thought that the Mayor of London was talented at all, let alone be among Labour’s most talented. But I soon stopped laughing.

Standing back and looking at Labour’s national line up I realised that Mr. Chamberlain may have made a valid point.

Kneel Starmer, Emily Thornbury, Jess Philips, Ed Miliband, Angela Rayner, Anneliese Dodds and many more. But be thankful that the list does not include David Lammy, Diane Abacus and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

It’s a dismal thought that the tyranny that actually does run the show is little better.

 

19 February (Part 2) - It’s just bad luck

Room 151Three month ago I promised myself I would look into Rockfire more closely; never did of course but this morning I tried to make amends for it, helped by my Council finance friend.

We didn’t find out an awful lot more apart from confirmation that Bexley did indeed share “due diligence” responsibilities with Newham before putting down our money. (Click image for source Local Government Treasury website.)

Thurrock pumped in far more money, reports say £145 million, so count yourself lucky that Bexley only put up £3 million.

But it was still a mistake by oneSource. oneSource’s Annual Report confirms that their Director of Strategic and Operational Finance at the time the investment was made was Paul Thorogood. He doesn’t have much luck does he?

An undetected £2 million Capita fraud in Barnet, dubious decision making across the river, and a Capitalisation Order in Bexley.

Having said that I think the seeds of Bexley’s reputational calamity were sown before Mr. Thorogood arrived in Bexley.

 

19 February (Part 1) - Excitement over

After the excitement of the last few days with Bexley Council’s financial woes to the fore there won’t be anything of interest until Monday evening’s Cabinet meeting which will deal with nothing but the state of the depleted coffers. The Agenda is full of big figures like £15·285 million for BexleyCo and £3 million to Rockfire, the company that the financial press tells us has gone bust. You can be pretty sure that won’t be mentioned at the meeting.

Will something come to light to excuse the ignominy of being one of the four Councils to seek a Capitalisation Order? Including Unitary Authorities and the like there are 408 ‘Councils’ in GB & NI so there must have been something very different about Bexley. It cannot be the worst Covid affected although it is undeniably badly treated by Central Government. Has something been missed that would make Bexley’s performance a bit better than it looks to be on the surface?

So an uneventful - read boring - weekend ahead. In a family email I said I was beginning to climb the walls as a result of Prime Minister Johnson’s false data led tyranny and found that several of us were all tipping towards the edge at the same time. Some of this Government’s recent actions might be seen as a little extreme even in North Korea and as for the police…

The one good thing to have come out of Covid is that more people now know that some police officers have very little common sense. Power corrupts and all that.

Dictatorial edicts appear to be contagious. The East Ham house insurance reminder came in this week and I took a certain amount of delight in telling Saga (see image below) where they could stick it. If I am unvaccinated I am a menace to myself more than to those around me who have taken the necessary precautions.

A much bigger dilemma will arise if sports venues take the same view. My membership of Surrey Cricket Club was a complete waste of money last year and I am not sure their offer of free beer this year is sufficient compensation as I usually take my own orange juice to drink. If they do a Saga on me my membership will have to cease. Government imposed tyranny is bad enough without me encouraging it with my own money.

See you after the Cabinet meeting probably.
Saga

 

18 February (Part 2) - Wanted. Good home

Trolley BookcaseApologies for this wildly off topic item but a certain old lady has accumulated far too much clutter and a couple of items have been spirited away before her house resembles an overstocked antiques shop.

In normal times a charity shop would probably take furniture in decent enough condition but our lovely Government shows little sign of returning our lives to normality.

The shelf unit on the left is solid wood and runs on casters. It is 86 centimetres high, 83 wide and 48 deep. No internal shelf.

The bookcase is chipboard veneered with mahogany. Two adjustable shelves and glass sliding doors. 87 high, 80 wide and 30 centimetres deep.

Sorry for poor photos, as you can see, I have no room for them and they are a bit too dark for my taste.

 

18 February (Part 1) - Was the Leader right to blame only Covid and Government funding for Bexley’s financial woes?

The Radio London interview proved to be a little divisive. Only a little; just one Twitter user backed the Leader’s excuses.

GrantsCan it be true that Bexley’s woes are purely down to Covid and poor levels of Government funding making the borough a unique case (the Council Leader’s defence) or were the finances heading towards the rocks anyway as suggested by the interviewer?

Does Bexley really get the worst deal in London from Government grants? You won’t find the truth on Bexley’s website, for that you have to keep an eye elsewhere.

The graphic shown here (click for a more detailed version) comes from Bromley and shows Havering, Kingston-upon-Thames, Bromley and Richmond all having a worse per capita deal than Bexley.

It is true that Greenwich gets three times as much money as Bexley but our Council knows that, they have been complaining about it for the last decade at least and it cannot be a financial surprise. The Council budgets for it, or at least they should. It isn’t fair and it is what causes Bexley’s Council Tax rate to be higher than most.

The Conservative Government has done nothing to dig their Bexley friends out of trouble.

Vanessa Feltz suggested that Bexley’s problems predated Covid which is what the Council Leader is so very anxious to deny.

The fact is that year on year Bexley has raided its reserves to the extent that a year ago they were second lowest in London.

See below.

Reserves

Second lowest reserves in London. (From Greenwich’s website)

But it gets worse. As a percentage of expenditure Bexley occupies bottom place

Reserves

Lowest % reserves in London. (From Greenwich’s website)

So what was Bexley itself saying a year ago, before Covid struck?
Statement

Budget statement 25th February 2020. (Click image to see it all.)

Above, the Finance Director’s cry for help! Below, his warning.
Warning

 

17 February - They never stop spinning, this time to oblivion

I guess if you go on BBC radio with a half baked story and face an experienced interviewer backed up by a research team you should expect to come off worst.

Bexley Council Leader Teresa O’Neill on the BBC yesterday morning. Oh dear!

“What makes Bexley’s Covid situation worse than any other?” and satisfactory answer came there none.

 

See also…

Blog for 11th February 2021 (Part 1)
Blog for 11th February 2021 (Part 3)
Blog for 12th February 2021 (Part 2)
Blog for 13th February 2021
Blog for 14th February 2021 (Part 2)
Blog for 16th February 2021 (Part 1)
Blog for 16th February 2021 (Part 2)


It is true that Bexley gets a poor grant settlement from the Government but it has been that way for years so the Council budgets for it - or not as the case may be.

 

16 February (Part 2) - Bigger lies

TweetI was just on the point of abandoning the idea of a Part 2 for today when along comes @bexleynews with another Tweet, this time referring me to their website which debunks a few myths while adding a few of their own.

David Leaf, the office manager who oversees Bexley’s financial strategy is correct to say that some people who should know better have been inexact in their description of where Bexley will be getting its £9 million from and that the Council balanced the budget several months ago but from there he begins to go downhill.

As you might expect the Tories blame Covid and ignore what the auditor said about their March 2020 financial situation.

It continues…

“As the Government has made clear, the London Borough of Bexley has been given this permission solely because of the pressures Covid has had on our Borough.”

That is simply a lie. The Government carefully avoided saying that the Capitalisation Order was in respect of Covid, they left it delightfully vague, not clear. Some Orders were in respect of Covid and some due to “very poor management”.

The Conservative blog refers to “an anonymous website which does not give any information about who writes it made a false statement claiming Bexley had received a £9 million bail out”.

I too noticed that the language on one of the local websites may have been a little careless but if I have guessed which one correctly the suggestion that the Tories do not know who writes it or funds it is calculated to point at some malign political activist. I could answer both questions and cannot be alone in that.

Even the BBC, see panel below, were a little slipshod in their reporting.

“And Bexley is one of many Councils being given permission to do this too, in recognition that local councils across the country and political spectrum have had to deal with an unprecedented pandemic and unprecedented costs.”

That’s not true either. Although several Councils thought of applying for a Capitalisation Order only four (not “many”) found themselves with no alternative.


Poor managementThe Conservatives go on about how individual Councillors delivered food and medicine to the vulnerable and there is no doubt whatsoever that some went to considerable lengths and at no small risk to themselves to help out. The Mayor himself did outstanding work.

But Bexley Council was headed towards a financial crisis long before Covid reared its ugly head. Their auditor said so and the Financial Director eventually owned up to the problem too.

 

16 February (Part 1) - Little lies

TweetBlog restoration has now crept forward into September 2013, a period of peak lying for Bexley Council which led to the police sending a file to the Crown Prosecution Service. I may edit a few to reflect the fact that statements attributed to Councillors, one in particular, were almost certainly forgeries produced by Bexley’s legal department. They were all unsigned and undated and the supposed author of one assured me he had never seen it before when I showed him a copy.

Unfortunately lying is still a way of life in Bexley, no longer serious enough to require reference to the police but constant and insidious none the less.

Like this morning’s Tweet.

I have no idea how many hot meals Bexley delivered and there is no way of checking. It may be true, it might not be.

I only know one couple who received one of Bexley’s food deliveries. It consisted of a loaf of white bread, a pack of digestive biscuits, a handful of tea bags, a few coffee sachets, soya milk, a tin of baked beans, a tin of tuna, a tin of fruit and a packet of dried pasta. Two people for a week! Presumably Bexley Council upped their game later.

Ditto the PPE but we do know that the parking claim is not really true.

After other boroughs began to address the parking issues Bexley Council arranged an exemption for carers but only if they went through the rigmarole of applying for a permit.

Elsewhere Council’s were more magnanimous. In Newham there was no need to apply for an exemption certificate and they went further. Anyone with business there could park for free. They introduced the scheme quickly; it was even mentioned in the Daily Telegraph within a week of the first lockdown being imposed. Barnet Council was several days in front of Bexley in taking action on parking.

Bexley was not the first London borough to create a parking exemption but it was the least generous requiring an application process. It did absolutely nothing for residents who usually took their car to work each day but were compelled to stay at home with no £100 permit.

And which Council ran out of money? It wasn’t Newham and it wasn֦t Barnet. Bexley’s final comment throws doubt on all of their Tweeted claims.

 

15 February (Part 3) - Time travelling

Abbey Wood StationThere was a stabbing on Abbey Wood station last night, I think it is the first the area has seen this year.

News has been hard to come by, next to nothing on Facebook so far and the News Shopper is a fat lot of good.

Just where did they find their picture of Abbey Wood station? There is any number available on the web and here.

The station shown on their report (two pictures) was demolished at the beginning of 2015. (See it come down here.)

Why doesn’t the News Shopper quietly disappear and leave local reporting to someone who knows the area? Me and Murky Depth perhaps.

 

15 February (Part 2) - Bexleyְ’s Bonkers Bunker becomes permanent

Singh 1
238 Woolwich Road 238 Woolwich Road 238 Woolwich RoadRemember this? If you don’t you may remind yourself here.

In summary a gigantic hole was dug in the garden of 238 Woolwich Road, Abbey Wood and filled with tons of concrete. Many trees were removed and the structure appeared to encroach slightly on Lesnes Abbey Woods.

All without planning permission.

When Bexley Council eventually caught up with the rogue digger - more quickly than when they turned a blind eye to the demolition of Ye Olde Leather Bottle - they issued an enforcement notice.


Kulvinder SinghInstead of complying the developer made a retrospective planning application. 19/00194/FUL. It was refused after the biggest public backlash ever seen by the planners. Typical of the UK’s version of justice the next door neighbours who lost trees were made to pay for retrospective permission to remove them.

After yet another planning application the Bunker Builder saw it thrown out by Bexley’s Planning Committee. Good for them.

Last week without further publicity Bexley’s Planning Department quietly gave permission for the Bunker to stay. Once again we see that taking planning law into your own hands eventually pays dividends and Bexley Council does not listen to its residents.

There are conditions but Bexley Council has not seen fit to make them publicly available.

The developer is a well connected individual, a web search will find his name on the same webpage as a Bexley Councillor and MP James Brokenshire.

The News Shopper shows him with two more MPs and the Council Leader.


Singh 2
The first indication that BexleyCo was less than competent came in March 2018 when their application to build on the little park off Wilde Road was found to fall foul of Bexley’s own planning guidance and it was referred back to BexleyCo to be improved.

When the improved version was submitted it was thrown out for being even worse. Following that BexleyCo retired to doing what it does best, holding out the begging bowl for a few more millions of Council Tax money.

An application was made in September 2019 (19/02229/FUL) to build six houses on the adjacent Bronte Close but not by BexleyCo. The applicant was the strangely named Mr. Dhallwal from Buckinghamshire and his application wasn’t fully approved until December 2020. Despite the name on the application form, Bexley Council has been corresponding with the owner of the building company that has pushed through the application, another Mr. Singh.

So this Mr. Singh has followed all the correct planning regulations and been rewarded with planning permission to do what BexleyCo failed to do just around the corner.

Councillor Read was probably right when he forecast that a company like BexleyCo was much more likely to be a failure than a private enterprise equivalent.

 

15 February (Part 1) - Bexley isn’t broke but…

…staff didn’t get paid on time this morning

 

14 February (Part 3) - Bexley’s LEDs are dim but not as dim as the driver of WF67 HDN

WF67 HDN WF67 HDN WF67 HDN WF67 HDN

Half a second hand held and after 11 p.m!

I was supposed to go to East Ham this evening but fortunately the need evaporated. Just as well, I was blocked in all night.

Not a car belonging to a resident so almost certainly a lockdown offender too. Lucky for the driver that Bexley’s parking enforcement team is far too slow to respond.

 

14 February (Part 2) - Bexley Tories. Still lying after all these years

TweetWait for it; but most of this message from Bexley’s very own Goebbels Machine is true. Bexley Council has been given permission to borrow up to £9 million over two years and according to the Council’s Finance Director there is a decent chance that they won’t need it all. By cutting staff, libraries and probably things not yet fully revealed, next year’s budget is balanced. Well done Bexley Council for evading bankruptcy.

However to blame their problem on Covid alone is fanciful. Every Council in the country has been hit by Covid and some have been hit harder than others. Luton with their airport and Eastbourne with no holiday makers were featured yesterday. Bexley on the other hand is a run of the mill ordinary and recently “poorly managed” Council.

If Covid was the sole budget wrecker that Bexley Tories make it out to be why is Bexley almost alone in the country in needing the borrowing facility?

Bexley’s auditor made it very clear last October that Bexley was in trouble before Covid struck. <quote> “At the end of the year 1920 (sic) you did not have sufficient arrangements in place to close the gap and have sufficient plans to have financial resilience at that point”.

There it is; the auditor said that by March 2020 Bexley Council was already in trouble.

When Labour Leader Daniel Francis asked if Bexley’s problems would have happened without Covid, the shifty Tories had no answer for him. There have been mistakes galore, the cost of falling out with oneSource cost nearly £2 million. If oneSource was such a bad idea what sort of incompetent Council joins it? How many millions were lost by investing in the Erith Distribution Centre? How much was loaned to the unprofitable BexleyCo? Questions, questions!

Last November Bexley’s Finance Director said that Covid related costs amounted to £3·5 million…
Covid costs
… but two weeks ago referred to the receipt of additional non-ring fenced grants which had taken the pressure off things. On its website Bexley Council admits that Covid costs exceeded £6 million and confirmed the extra grants from Government to pay for them.

Click for Bexley Council’s report referenced in the featured Tweet. (It does not blame Covid for the crisis.)

The Murky Depths report also referenced in the Tweet. I am not sure it is correct to say that “Bexley have blamed COVID”. The Council appears to have studiously avoided saying that presumably because it would be very hard to justify in the face of what is already on the public record. The political propaganda machine masquerading as a news provider knows no such restriction and relies on false statements and poor memories.

 

14 February (Part 1) - The Carnegie Library appeal gathers momentum

Carnegie Library Carnegie Library

Click image to buy shares.

The Story So Far
The Old Library was opened in 1906 thanks to a grant for its construction from Scottish-American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie who provided funds for over 2,600 similar buildings around the world, but mostly in the USA, Britain and Ireland.

Carnegie’s money went to an Erith architect, local builders and makers who provided the skills and labour, but funding was only provided if the community chipped in too, paying 10% of the construction cost each year to run the library. So, from the very beginning, the building’s only been here because the people of Erith made a commitment to make it happen.

In the 1930s, the Erith museum opened celebrating our town’s history and the people who live here. However, by 2009, years of under-maintenance were catching up with the building, and it became too expensive to maintain, so library services in Erith moved out, and the Old Library closed down.

But back in 2016, some local residents began imagining how it could be used to do something amazing, promoting the town’s bright future as a place where people can get inventive and creative. The Exchange was born as an idea and since then, the building has been transformed thanks to the funding The Exchange have brought in to complete the renovation.


From the share offer website.

 

13 February (Part 3) - The accountable and the unaccountable

The Local Government Chronicle is reporting (†) that Croydon Council has taken action against their senior staff who may have pushed that borough into bankruptcy. The Labour Party has suspended the Council Leader and the Cabinet Member for Finance and four over-paid Directors have suffered a similar fate. Croydon Council itself refuses to confirm or deny the story.

It is not something you are likely to see repeated in Bexley where failure is so frequently rewarded. The previous Chief Executive who achieved nothing except dividing members of the public from the Council was given 54 years’ worth of Band D Council Tax money to get out of town as quickly as possible.

Not as outrageous as her replacement who was given twice as much for leaving Newham.
Gravy_train
BBC TweetFortunately for the present incumbent the government has gone against a two year old promise and allowed unlimited Golden Goodbyes funded by Council Taxpayers. Unfortunately for the Chief Executive Bexley Council has run out of money but maybe they have a library or two they could close.

On a similar note, if Bexley Council had accepted Elwyn Bryant’s petition on salary reductions ten years ago a quick calculation shows that Bexley Council would not have needed £4 million this year to balance the budget - the Finance Director’s latest estimate. A million would have been enough to bale them out.

† The LGC only allows one free access per month. The solution is to clear cookies or run a different web browser. Alternatively try the My London website.

 

13 February (Part 2) - It’s pretty much official. Bexley Council suffers “very poor management”

Having made a slightly tongue in cheek comment on Bexley’s financial calamity perhaps a more serious analysis is needed as a follow up.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick - he of Isle of Dogs unlawful development fame - said that he had come to the rescue of four Councils which were victims of the pandemic or of “very poor management”.

Council Leader Teresa O’Neill was quick off the mark with her statement. (Right.)

Ministerial comment Council excuses

Click right hand image to view Council’s statement in full.

How did it come to this?

If one turns one’s attention to the financial expertise - or lack of it - among those who make the decisions and go back ten years, the Cabinet Member was Councillor Colin Campbell. He clearly made a good living from his business activities even though I could refer you to some that looked more than a little suspect complete with critical letters from business associates who considered themselves his victims. It was a period that saw Bexley Council rightly or wrongly freezing Council Tax.

Campbell left in May 2014 to be replaced by Councillor Massey. His only business venture that came to notice locally was as director of a domiciliary care company endorsed by James Brokenshire MP which disappeared without trace a year later.

It was a period during which the seeds of Bexley Council’s financial downfall may have been sown but was it Jenrick’s “very poor management” that inexorably led them to the cliff edge or the pandemic?

Massey went only to be replaced with Home Secretary Priti Patel’s office manager. Nuff said!

Bexley is a fairly ordinary sort of borough which might be compared with neighbouring Dartford or Bromley, Bexley Council itself likes to do that. At one time Bexley had the lowest Covid infection rate in London but very soon afterwards it was among the very worst. It later blamed the mutated Kent strain but no Kent Council has fallen into that particular financial plague pit. Why is Bexley unique?

Luton may have an excuse; the many travel bans and the effective closure of their airport will have wreaked havoc with finances. I think Luton may safely be placed in Jenrick’s Pandemic Victim category. Its Council Leader certainly thinks so.

Eastbourne can probably claim a similar excuse. A holiday resort would have felt the financial squeeze big time. Its Council said Covid dealt it a crushing financial blow. That leaves Peterborough and Bexley vying for the ’Very Poor Management” award.

Ship wreckPeterborough like Bexley is spinning the situation for all it is worth..“A windfall of almost £23 million will be used to revitalise the city.”

So two Councils out of four blame Covid for their problems and offer more than plausible excuses. Two Councils both with more Conservative Councillors than from any other party can only spin about a bale out being a way out of trouble.

Bexley Council has to submit to an independent review of its financial affairs. I think we can guess which Councils Robert Jenrick had in mind when referencing “very poor management” and Bexley would seem to be top of his list.

Note: Usual warning applies, old blogs referenced above may contain broken links.

 

13 February (Part 1) - A worthy cause

Carnegie Library Sarah BattenIn 2017 Bexley Council said they had secured the future of Erith’s Carnegie Library and issued a Press Release. £1·6 million was to be spent on restoration work and when I went for a look around in February 2019 it was coming along in an impressive fashion. Stupidly I did not take my camera.

Maybe things have slowed down since, certainly money must have become more of a problem, because I was surprised to receive an appeal this week from the project’s Director Sarah Batten (pictured with Erith blogger Hugh Neal) for more cash. Anyone got a spare £130,000 hanging around? Bexley Council very obviously has little to spare although it has funded the project alongside the Lottery Heritage Fund up until now.

On the face if it it looks to be quite an attractive offer for anyone willing to risk a small sum to support a local cultural enterprise. Donations are not being sought but instead Cultural Shares are on offer from £20 upwards with £100 and more holding out the prospect of tax relief and 3% interest on the money.

There is a whole load of information, pictures and video, on what you and the community will get for your money on the web or alternatively look at the appeal here which contains all the necessary links.

 

12 February (Part 2) - Unbelievable spin

SpinDear Bexley resident,
In recent years we have made a bit of a mess of our budgeting. It may have started to go a bit pear-shaped when the old Finance Director retired towards the end of 2014 and his replacement introduced more modern ideas such as building our own houses for sale. Unfortunately that wheeze has cost us quite a lot of money and we are yet to sell one.

When the new Finance Director fled to Southend we recruited another who may not have done the most brilliant job in Barnet and Newham. Newham (oneSource) was criticised by their auditor for an alarming lack of financial controls.

Unfortunately again, we thought things were going quite well until February last year. We knew there might be a small problem in 2021/22 but 20/21 was OK. Unfortunately - sorry; that word again! - a few months later our auditor said we were in dire straits by the end of March. Something had gone seriously wrong within two months or maybe we were asleep on the job.

We sold off what we could, made more than 200 people redundant and slashed library opening hours but it wasn’t enough, we were up the creek to the tune of £15 million.

Since then the Government has been generous with its grants but we still need more money.

We are going to have to borrow £8 million to avoid being another Croydon and you, I am afraid, are eventually going to have to pay it back.

We are really really sorry but we hope you will believe that borrowing £8 million is a very good thing and will forgive us the mess we have created.

Rest assured that no Finance Directors have been harmed in the making of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Teresa

 

12 February (Part 1) - True colours

TweetThere have been several last straw moments for this life long Conservative voter during the past year while I have watched our Government make almost every wrong Covid related decision possible.

My opinion of them was just beginning to improve when along comes Matt Hancock, the joke of a Minister hell bent on eradicating death entirely and, without seeking so much as a word of advice from the Justice Minister, imposed a ten year prison sentence on anyone desperate to avoid paying £1,750 plus vaccination costs for ten days in a sixty quid a night Travelodge.

But someone well into the Priti Patel Hang ’em High school of retribution thinks it is entirely fair because it might “possibly cause people to die”.

By that measure Hancock should be offered a last fag and a blindfold for he has surely caused more deaths than any rogue traveller. I am now a full year late (last one September 2019) with my six monthly cancer check up and my closest friend is still grieving the suicide of her niece for which lockdown was wholly responsible.

But one Bexley Councillor, little black moustache optional, is entirely happy with what is happening. If he is a Conservative, maybe I am not.

 

11 February (Part 3) - Bexley Conservatives’s 40% moment

The early years of this millennium are a world away from 2021 when Bexley’s Labour Council, only one of whom remains among the present opposition, set themselves up for a situation that made a 40% Council Tax increase over four years look to be a reasonable course of action.

The Conservatives who followed criticised them but never found a way of returning the money; indeed since then they have increased taxes at a greater rate than other London Councils and have steadily fallen down the league table.

Despite that and at every opportunity the Conservatives have rubbed salt into Labour’s 15 year old wound. At election time they claim that Bexley is a low tax borough hoping to deceive the gullible.

Following yesterday’s events Labour has an equivalent stick to beat them with. At least Labour saw their problem coming, in Bexley recently everything was said to be hunky-dory only two months before disaster struck.

This is Bexley Labour’s first salvo. (PDF version.) Press Release

 

11 February (Part 2) - Budget Scrutiny concluded

There are just a few oddments from the Budget Scrutiny meeting remaining that may be worthy of comment.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) said it was interesting to note that the budget report said it was in balance but gave no clue as to “how we got here because at our last meeting we were not near to balance”. She was also surprised to see that the pursuit of a new refuse contract being labelled “a possibility when in actual fact it is an actuality”. (Agendas are not what they used to be.) The Chairman said he too was not happy with Agendas “with no narrative”.

After the Finance Director offered explanations for several minutes, Councillor Seymour attempted to inject some common sense into the discussion. He said that “the key to all this is how we actually monitor performance and service delivery. We get emails from residents and they are the conduit by which we judge what we do. They criticise our services and it is very easy to be quite insular in the world of politics. The only people who matter are the residents out there.”

He was critical of the Council’s tendency to “set targets artificially low” so that it can be claimed that performance is above target. Councillor Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) is clearly not Cabinet Member material.

Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) was another Councillor critical of the lack of details in reports, she wanted to know how Covid had affected SEN transport. Was the need for it and the costs reduced, and have drivers gone away to find more lucrative work. She was told there was “pressure” on transport but “it is cost effective”. Requests for transport had risen by 8% over the past year. The Councillor requested a proper answer in writing which means that a public meeting becomes anything but unless the FOI route is taken.

Councillor Borella had a question on libraries. “Why did the Chairman refuse the request to bring someone from community managed libraries to this meeting?”

The Chairman said this was a Budget Scrutiny meeting and libraries fall within the Places Scrutiny Committee’s remit and Councillor Borella had asked the same question at Public Cabinet. “This is not the forum to discuss the library situation.”

Councillor Borella (Labour, Slade Green) thought “it’s a very strange answer֨ and went on to cast doubt on the whole concept of Budget Scrutiny if the Committee was not going “to listen to people who are going to be impacted”.

The Chairman continued to say that he “felt it was inappropriate that we should have outside organisations come in to represent, specifically, the Slade Green library group that you are talking about…” The sentence tailed off but the meaning was already clear.

Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) suggested that Councillor Borella was simply intent on “making political points out of it”.

Councillor Borella responded that he didn֦’t know and nobody knew what the impact of £90,000 of cuts over two years would have on community libraries. “It is not in the report.” (£427,000 on libraries overall, this year alone.)

Cabinet Member Craske said the Community Libraries are “content” with the cuts.

Councillor Borella shifted his focus to the £400,000 cut to the highways budget. It has been hidden in an impact assessment and not shown in budget papers. Councillor Craske said that the figure came about from swapping expenditure from Reactive to Capital budgets so nothing much changes. He said it had been in the papers previously, Councillor Borella said it hasn’t been and went on to complain that there is no “impact analysis” following staff cuts either. There have been losses in both highways and parks yet no one knows what those cuts to those teams will mean. “It begs the question again what is this Committee for if we don’t look at these things in more detail.”

The Chairman said that the next Budget Scrutiny meeting had been moved to July so that it can measure “the full impact of the proposals that are going on right now.”

Councillor Ferreira (Labour, Erith) sprung a surprise by suggesting that with five Directors Bexley only needs five Cabinet Members and maybe fewer Scrutiny Committees “It would save forty or fifty thousand pounds.”

Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill thought it was “a proposal worthy of consideration” and an excuse to brag about the reduction of Councillor numbers from 63 to 45 first mooted in October 2010 and introduced in 2018. She said that at one time there were ten Cabinet Members and seven Scrutiny Committees and scored several political points along the way. (Labour raise allowances, Conservatives freeze them etc.)

A Master Class in not really saying anything. The Chairman said that the idea had been noted.

 

11 February (Part 1) - Oliver Twist comes to Bexley

BBC commentNews broke at the tail end of last night that Bexley Council had been granted its Capitalisation Order of up to £15 million which will avert bankruptcy. Earlier this week the Finance Director suggested he may be able to make do with as little as £4 million. That’s only twice the amount that disappeared from Barnet Council when they failed to spot a fraud while he worked there. Chickenfeed then!

The facility is presumably similar to that granted by Bexley Council to its own property developer BexleyCo; you know the one, it’s the outfit that has seen a succession of rejected planning applications, wrecked one park with another waiting in the wings and not yet raised a penny for taxpayers.

BexleyCo has been given a £120 million loan facility by Bexley Council and lost £3·68 million last year alone. Remarkably close to the minimum sum that Bexley Council now desperately needs for this year.

(Later: The Capitalisation Order allows £3·87 million this year and £5·125 million next year.)


BexleyCo no longer looks like a good idea, in fact a Cabinet Member said as much.


History showed that governments national and local have decided they know better how to run a commercial operation than private enterprise. From the disasters of postwar nationalisation through to Tony Benn’s determination to subsidise Leyland Motors and beyond we can see the consequences of that misplaced optimism.

Government intervention in markets leads to inefficiencies, a bloated bureaucracy and unjustly highly paid leadership and often notwithstanding any original philanthropic intent ends up with businesses being run by the staff for its staff and customers just an unfortunate irritant.

Unlike private enterprise, government owned businesses seldom have either the expertise necessary to achieve genuine commercial success or the crucial financial discipline that markets inevitably impose on privately funded businesses. No matter what the initial good intentions government run businesses often cease to be competitive and then instead of addressing their cost base they emulate Oliver Twist by going cap in hand to their owners, the tax payers of this country, demanding more money.

Unless you are a banker that is not an option generally open to private enterprise and thus places any Government owned business in a potentially dominant market position and that is certainly not good for the taxpayer. So I have those concerns about both the principle of any government national or local running any business.


That Councillor was Philip Read speaking at a Cabinet meeting held in 2017. He claimed to have spoken against the idea before. So he’s the one guy with foresight?

Maybe, but the prospect of losing his five figure Cabinet Member’s allowance triumphed over integrity. He voted in favour of establishing BexleyCo.

 

10 February (Part 2) - Wandering free at Hall Place

BudgetA Councillor friend who knew I planned to record last night’s Scrutiny meeting and listen to it today mischievously texted me this morning to suggest I didn’t bother. He described it as dire but dry might be a more accurate description.

It has always been a dilemma when reporting meetings that the ‘dry’ stuff (which to me includes Finance) can be very important but it attracts very few readers, hence car parking and yellow box junctions so often making an appearance here. Spare a thought for the Chairman who has to get on top of both ends of Scrutiny’s ‘dire’ spectrum.

There was the smallest suggestion of a ‘scandal” last night. Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) said the meeting had “been in the diary for some considerable time now and look at Page 2. Just ticks with absolutely no narrative. It to me looks like a document cobbled together at the last minute with no due respect to the Scrutiny process. I find it somewhat disappointing.”

Referring to a document that I have been unable to find he said “it clearly shows the charges for Hall Place but I was under the impression and given an assurance that those charges would not take place and we had no plans whatsoever to make charges for Hall Place. I would like a yes or no whether we are going to charge or not going to charge and if we are not why are they in the papers? If not it gives rise to rumour which we could do without.”

Councillor Craske said “there are no plans, the proposals we had which we published a long time ago were scrapped quite a long time ago and I have said that at several meetings. We are not doing the playground and the only thing that is going to change in the next couple of months is the arrival of the model steam train. There are no charges coming in at all.” (It was all systems go for charges in October 2019 but when the idea was abandoned no one seems to know.)

I am not sure if Cabinet Member Craske made the announcement several times but he definitely did last December.

The confusion has arisen because the House will continue to attract an entrance fee of £8 as it has done for many years. Councillor Seymour and others had been obviously referring to the proposed garden access charges although did not actually say so.

Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) asked about the numbers of staff to be made redundant and was told that the names and posts would be circulated to Members “tomorrow”. That is today.

Councillor Perfect tried to ask her Children’s Centre question again. She was told that if the savings are not forthcoming following the consultation the funding will come from “budget contingency”. Why couldn’t Cabinet Member Read say that when asked the same question instead of dodging it?

Councillor Ferreira asked his favourite question which is about the request to Government for Capitalisation of £15 million which is due for announcement last year, last month, this month, sometime never! It is only 15 working days from budget setting so things are being cut fine. “Some local authorities withdrew their applications, how many are left with a Capitalisation Order?” Cabinet Member Leaf came up with the same old answer. The announcement is “imminent. Sit tight!”.

The Finance Director said that the financial situation now is very different to what it was last Autumn due to generous non-ring-fenced government grants. He no longer sees it as “a significant issue if the full Capitalisation Order was not agreed”. He might get by on as little as £4 million.

To be continued…

P.S. Only minutes after this blog went on line the BBC reported that Bexley Council had been granted its £15 million Capitalisation Order. How much money has been thrown at BexleyCo so far with no return? A loan in principle of £120 million. Finance Director Alison Griffin’s parting gift to Bexley. It is worth reading what Councillor Philip Read had to say about BexleyCo.

“Government intervention in markets leads to inefficiencies, a bloated bureaucracy and unjustly highly paid leadership and often notwithstanding any original philanthropic intent ends up with businesses being run by the staff for its staff and customers just an unfortunate irritant.”

And more in similar vein. Maybe Councillor Read should have had the courage of his convictions and voted against BexleyCo. He didn’t.

 

10 February (Part 1) - No parking

Councillor Dourmoush must be a soft touch, he was lumbered with Chairing the Budget Scrutiny meeting last night, the second in a matter of days. Personally I would prefer Councillor Downing to be in charge which might make for a more exciting two hours. Perhaps shambolic would be a better word.

It is getting to be a bit of a tradition but Labour Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith) was the first to ask a question. It was about car parking revenue.

Actually that is not quite true, Councillor Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) asked a question about the future of Children’s Centres. Basically, how would the budget be balanced if the Consultation comes out against the current proposals. (A £369k cut.)

The Cabinet Member had an easy answer for that; he fell back upon one of his own traditions and refused to answer the question. Councillor Perfect was of the opinion that the Cabinet Member had already made up his mind about the Consultation.

Car Park Car ParkCouncillor Ferreira said he was “concerned about the [budget] modelling and the impact of Covid. It will take longer to be felt. What new modelling has there been on the car parking revenue target?”

Cabinet Member Leaf said that “for the time being we are sticking with the existing base line”. The Government is providing some relief until at least the first quarter of 2022. “The medium and longer term trends are being monitored closely.”

Councillor Ferreira asked “what the driver is for the new charges; income generation or adapting to the new normal”. Because of internet connection problems the question was asked twice and perhaps for the same reason it was never answered.

The Chairman’s interest in car parking charges was on behalf of staff. He thought lower paid staff should pay less. Cabinet Member Leaf said a banding system would be “too complex”. Deputy Director Mr. Hollier said it would add to administration costs. The intention was to charge all staff the same but introduce the higher charges over three years.


Station car parkPictured above at 13:40 this afternoon is the Gayton Road car park alongside Abbey Wood station. A near identical car park the other side of the fly over was closed in August 2013 and the station car park was closed by Network Rail on 18th November that year. Neither were reopened yet the demand for car parking is down to half a dozen vehicles a day or fewer.

Bexley Council has not yet remodelled its proposal to charge more than £1,700 a year to park in Abbey Wood and the Deputy Director has already confirmed that the present modelling is “inaccurate”. Nothing will ever be the same again.

 

9 February - Just when I thought…

…it may one day be possible for me to return to being a Conservative Party supporter along comes Matt Windsock with a ten year prison sentence for lying. My one hope now is that when he gets booted out of his current job he takes over at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Plenty of lying to be looked at from there if he has the stomach for it. Where does one start? How about this old one I stumbled across this morning?

LieAfter lying to the press that I had been rampaging around the Council Chamber shouting and waving papers - four Councillors provided statements to the police that I had neither moved nor opened my mouth - Bexley Council followed up with a statement that said that disruptions to Council meetings were “deliberate and planned”. (†)

A Freedom of Information request revealed that no member of the public had ever been warned for disruptive behaviour. None were issued following that non-incident either, presumably the Council knew that four Councillors might rise up against their dishonesty.

Bexley Council 2013. Simply liars.

FOI response

Freedom of Information response.

† A member of the public, following guidance from the Communities Department took a non functioning Dictaphone into the Council chamber and pretended to use it. To justify the unlawful exclusion of every member of the public from the meeting Bexley Council had to justify it by whatever means they could invent. Unfortunately the police did not support the Council’s version of events and a year later they had to be leaned upon to change their tune; but that is another story of endemic lying.

And now the biggest complaint that can be found is not accepting questions at Council meetings. Bad but not 2013 bad.

 

8 February - Going forward; but to little effect

On the Agenda of last week’s Resources and Growth Scrutiny meeting was an item entitled ‘Social Value Statement’, one of many items that the Council likes to look at and cross their fingers that they may be able to influence events. Apparently there is even a Social Value Act to be followed. These days you cannot move for laws that have slipped in unnoticed.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) was the first to speak and asked how long the Draft Strategy on Social Value would take before it became the real thing. About a year apparently.

Part of the Strategy is for the Council to buy locally. Procure is the buzz word and a ‘Commissioning Board’ will oversee the application of Social Value to procurement”. A ‘Procurement Team’ will “oversee the development of Social Value”. (It’s little wonder that Council Tax rises at well above the rate of inflation and Bexley levies close to the highest Council Tax in London.)

Councillor O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) battled with a failing internet connection to refer to “ethnic minorities and women” being “less economically active and paid less”. 35% of workers in Bexley are paid less than the London Living wage, almost the worst in London. (2018 figures.) He asked “how we could get the ethnic minorities to work together with the Council”.

Finance Director Paul Thorogood accepted that Bexley was not in a good place but “the Council has an Equalities Action Plan coming through”.

The Chairman advocated “reaching out to places of worship. We need to bring those communities on board.” Cabinet Member Leaf said it would not be easy and ethnic communities are not all the same. “They are not one big block” and “white working class boys are under-achievers as well.”

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) said that there is “a problem with authority figures. A lot of the ethnic minorities do not trust the police or the Council because we have not listened or helped them. A problem we have at the moment is breaking through that issue.”

The Chairman was “very very disappointed” to hear that the Council and the police were not trusted.

When will both realise that they reap what they sow? One unfair parking PCN Appeal or Covid fine for sitting on a bench and trust is instantly lost; probably for all time. It doesn’t have to be police rewriting a crime report a year after the event in order to untruthfully demonstrate support for Bexley Council to cast all trust aside, little things can be just as corrosive.

 

7 February - That֦’s the way the money goes

Last week’s Resources Scrutiny meeting spent a few minutes discussing the Financial Improvement Plan.

Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham) queried the large number of its component parts which were marked “not yet started or amber”. The Finance Department’s excuse was that the plan presented to the Committee in early February had been written before Christmas and “things had moved on quite considerably”. (What use is it for Councillors to be scrutinising old stuff?)

Councillor Hall asked for an up to date copy.

He also asked if there had been any survey into staff morale and why half a million pounds had been allocated towards augmenting the Finance Team. Half a million!

Apparently it stems from the decision to pull out of oneSource. (The Havering/Newham consortium that was supposed to save money.) More job opportunities in Barnet perhaps? Staff morale has not been studied.

Councillor Hall taking his scrutiny role more seriously than most asked about the “interim roles” referenced in the Agenda. The Deputy to the Finance Director said “there were quite a lot of interim roles”. Once again, oneSource was the excuse given. “Support is needed to implement the whole Improvement Plan.”

The Councillor’s question on costs went unanswered but the additional roles will likely be in place until August. (It’s only your money.)

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour Leader, Belvedere) asked if finance team leaders taking on extra roles were likely to get into the same sort of mess that the housing team did - although rather more politely than that. “It will not have a material impact.”

Councillor Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked where things stood with the £15 million Government Capitalisation Order. Cabinet Member Leaf said “an announcement will be made public in the very near imminent future”. Councillor Ferreira said “it was due by the end of December, then the end of January so it might come soon enough”.

Councillor Francis, referring to the downturn on the High Streets, asked what impact there will be on Council owned shopping centres. Similarly the parking revenues. Cabinet Member Leaf said there will need to be an analysis of both. “It is crystal ball territory at the moment.”

A financial stream not yet tapped is a fine on Councillors and staff who drop the words “Going Forward” into every statement.

 

6 February - Erith grinds to a halt

No, nothing to do with bad road design but it’s the regeneration project and Covid is getting the blame.

The Carnegie Library restoration is running only a couple of weeks late but beyond that things are not so happy. The High Street and Pier Road regeneration projects are six months late and Riverside Garden two months longer than that.

The plans for a cafe at 66/68 Pier Road are at a standstill and “the Council is not resourced” to continue with the Pier Festival.

Cabinet Member Louie French supported the idea of pop-up markets around the borough once Covid restrictions begin to be lifted.

70 Pier Road is paused because Covid has thrown doubt on whether there will be a need for extra office space in Erith. It is not impossible that the scheme will change to being residential.

Capita will not be moving their operation to the offices above Farm Foods. All due to Covid.
Capita

Extract from Scrutiny meeting Agenda dated 3rd February 2021 and published by Bexley Council .

in related news Covid pushed the construction of Sidcup’s Cinema/Library over budget and corners will now have to be cut to avoid an overspend. Completion is deferred to early next year.

 

5 February - Jabber, jabber jab

ScrutinyCouncillor Andy Dourmoush’s Resources Scrutiny Committee received a twenty minute presentation on Covid from their Medic-in-Chief Dr. Anjan Ghosh. Interesting stuff.

“Things had changed a lot since we last met. We came out of Lockdown two with a case rate higher than when we went in.” Bexley was “out of sync with the rest of London” and this was due to “the Home Counties effect”. Bexley was following Kent.

In the run up to Christmas and immediately afterwards the R rate increased "very significantly” and a case rate of “more than 1,300 per 100,000 population by the first week of January and 2nd worst affected borough in London”.

However “now we are in the ten least affected boroughs” and “London rates generally have dropped”. Even so the current case rate (278/100k.) is still considered to be high.

“We do not have that many outbreaks in schools or care homes but there are single case situations. Really low numbers right now and the trend is continually downward.” The trend includes the numbers of patients in hospital. “It is below the crisis point threshold.”

The release from lockdown will be “phased and cautious”.

“The number one priority now is vaccination and second is test and trace.” New testing sites have been opened at the Community Christian Church in Welling and and in a car park near to Welling railway station.


Book jabVaccinations are being master minded by Bexley Council under Director Stuart Rowbotham and a mass vaccination site is to be established in the Civic Offices with a target date of March 1st.

Councillor questions provoked a few more comments from the Doctor. Both vaccines are effective against the dominant Kent variant. There has been no wastage in Bexley because of the secondary list system.

Councillor O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) thought it would be sensible to vaccinate couples together even if one was a little below the age threshold. He was told that there was flexibility to allow that but vaccine supply might be a factor.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere) initiated comment on self-isolation failings in Bexley. Age group twenty to twenty nine went shopping and ate out and among tens to nineteens infection escalation was “rampant until schools broke”.

The Doctor believed the 12 week vaccination interval was a good thing.

Link for vaccination. it’s really easy to do.

 

4 February (Part 2) - Back in the USSR

A local resident picked up on the implication of yesterday’s blog that senior officers within Bexley Council may have no qualifications for the job. Not true of all of them of course but a view I am slightly inclined towards after their road designer claimed to be more of an expert than one who gets hired by foreign governments. (Enough of that old story much as I enjoy rubbing it in.)

The resident extends the theme to Councillors and in particular Cabinet Members who, at the risk of me putting words into his mouth, he thinks may know very little about their portfolios, at least in the professional qualifications sense.

SawyerDoes Councillor Craske know anything about anything beyond gambling and blogging? Is Councillor Leaf a banker in real life or John Fuller a school teacher? Is Philip Read an expert in anything other than Twitter or Alex Sawyer a lighting expert? I think the answer is no in every case.

Rightly or wrongly local government in the UK is dominated by amateurs and one can argue either that it should be or that is why we are often in a dire state. Matt Hancock has the same medical qualifications as I do and relies entirely on experts who may be as blinkered as the one responsible for the roundabout outside the Civic Offices or another who failed to see Bexley’s financial crisis only two months before it landed in his lap.

The resident sent me a copy of a letter that a Cabinet Member sent him which explained the situation and was as polite and patient as he could be but by omitting any reference to his own qualifications one can safely assume he has none.

It’s the way things are in the UK, bumbling amateurs but probably better than an unelected dictatorship.

I hope that this goes some way towards explaining the position to the resident and enough clues have been dropped for the Cabinet Member to identify himself.

 

4 February (Part 1) - History has repeated itself

Way back in 2012 Bexley Council hit the headlines when it was revealed that it employed the sixth highest paid Chief Executive in the country. Will Tuckley, imported from Croydon to replace his predecessor who pulled a fast one (†) on the Bexley Council Leader who was by then a convicted criminal. (Not Councillor Teresa O’Neill obviously, the one who went before her.)

A group of concerned residents organised a door to door petition (on-line petitions were not around back then) to have the salary reduced and gained 2,219 signatures. Bexley Council deep into their “we can do what we like and we don’t care phase” refused to accept it.

(Should I link to the video that has them saying that they can do what they like? Oh, maybe not.)

TuckleyEventually, while under investigation for Misconduct in a Public Office, Tuckley was appointed to sort out the even more suspect Tower Hamlets Council. The Police sent their Misconduct file to the Crown Prosecution Service and it was never heard of again. Well not quite true; the investigating officer met me privately after his retirement and said he had never seen the like of it before.

While at Tower Hamlets Will Tuckley didn’t notice a £2 million bribe of his staff and when it was brought to his attention waited six months before tipping off the police. The hallmark presumably of a good Council Chief Executive.

And he has reaped his reward. Once again Will Tuckley receives top honours on the Taxpayers’ Alliance Rich List.

Not quite the highest paid in London - that is Wandsworth with a Council Tax rate only a third of that of Bexley’s - but well done that man nevertheless.

He negotiated a £300,000 pay off and a pension, reported to be £50,000 a year, on medical retirement terms and walked into an equivalent job with Fulham and Hammersmith Council a few weeks later. Bexley taxpayers are still paying him.

 

3 February - Is history about to repeat itself?

The following comment must be prefixed with the usual health warning about broken links. It will refer back to events which fall within the (currently) six and a half year wide blog black hole. A gap which came about following an injudicious global rename a year ago doing considerable damage to the site structure which went unnoticed until the error log overflowed and killed it.

To support what follows a small number of three and four year old pages have been restored but they may contain link errors. probably best not to go beyond reading the text. So what is this all about?

It arises following yesterday’s report on the malicious complaint against Councillor Danny Hackett. A reader asked why it was handled by a Council Officer and not Councillors while I noticed that the HR Manager was no longer calling himself the HR Manager and Interim Monitoring Officer.

The first question was easy to answer. It is not reasonable to go to the trouble and expense of convening the Code of Conduct Committee for every trivial, vindictive, mischievous, spiteful or utterly ridiculous complaint every time the irrationally obsessed runs amok with a bottle of green ink. The Labour inspired complaint met pretty well all of those criteria so it was metaphorically binned.

ManagementMy own question is more complicated. When I searched the web at the weekend because of the Covid test centre revelations Bexley’s website confirmed my view that Mr. Hollier was the Interim Monitoring Officer. It also said his title had changed from Head of HR to Deputy Director Corporate Services and HR was in the hands of an underling. At a time of job cuts and pay freezes Council management requires promotions to ensure ends meet. The title change didn’t warrant a mention here, Nick Hollier was still responsible for HR but perhaps not so directly as before.

The recent complaint against Danny Hackett revealed that contrary to what is still on Bexley’s website today, Nick Hollier is no longer Interim Monitoring Officer. If there is an appeal it will go up a level to the Monitoring Officer.

It is probably necessary to explain the history of Monitoring Officers in Bexley. The first I remember was a Ms. Hogan who became embroiled in Bexley Council’s decision not to prosecute their former Leader for dipping his hands into the till. Whether she left because she was too honest for Bexley or something else I have no idea but there were reports that she gave up on being a solicitor at around the same time.

If you trawl through those links to even older blogs you will see that Bexley Council refused to disclose if there had been a pay off even after the Information Commissioner instructed them to do so. You will also see that a Mr. Akin Alabi was appointed Monitoring Officer in Ms. Hogan’s place.

Mr. Alabi was obstructive at times but it will be part of his job to protect Bexley Council from prying eyes so that is to be expected.

Several years went by before my legal contact John Watson noticed that Mr. Alabi’s name wasn’t showing up on the Law Society’s members’ list and an FOI revealed that being either a solicitor or a barrister was a requirement of his job in Bexley. A written enquiry to both the Law Society and the Bar Council for confirmation of registration drew a blank on both.

It was not impossible that Bexley Council had accepted an overseas qualification but they refused an FOI on the subject. the decision was challenged and rejected. The case went to the Information Commissioner.

It is here that the true colours of Bexley Council in 2016 came to the fore. Instead of being truthful and either saying that Mr. Alabi had the qualifications or he had not and they didn’t care, they banned John Watson from contacting the Council for six months because he was causing “distress and embarrassment”.

In 2016 there were six residents monitoring Bexley Council’s activities and one of them managed all their FOIs. Michael Barnbrook was the FOI man and by that time had submitted just over one hundred on various subjects over about eight years.

The Information Commissioner rejected Mick Barnbrook’s complaint about the FOI which Bexley Council had refused to answer on the grounds he was vexatious. It was his third FOI each asking about very different aspects of the same subject which means that in law he was not vexatious. To be vexatious one must be repetitive.

The ICO decision was taken under the auspices of their Group Manager who doubled up as Leader of Stockport Council. How incestuous can these quangos get?

Mick sent a fat file to the ICO to make his case; they told him they were not going to answer because he was a racist intent on making trouble for a black man which Mr. Alabi is. The ICO reinforced their decision by saying that Bexley Council had submitted a confidential file on Mick and the rascism allegations could only have come from them.


Mick BarnbrookFor the record Mick Barnbrook was a member of Bexley Council for Racial Equality while a serving police officer and a member of the Greenwich equivalent when working for that Council following retirement. As a police Inspector he was Sports Mentor to the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence and gave evidence in support of the Lawrence family at the Public Enquiry.

As if that was not enough Mick stepped in to support a black police officer who was subject to racial abuse from senior officers and was able to save his job at a disciplinary hearing.

But it suited Bexley Council to label Mick a racist because of his one time membership of the BNP.

Whilst Bexley Council refused to talk about the Alabi situation as befits a Council that thrived on opaqueness and dishonesty they did make changes. Mr. Alabi no longer showed up at Council meetings as Monitoring Officer and his title disappeared from official documents.

A couple of months later a replacement Monitoring Officer appeared on the scene, one Terry Osborne but she didn’t last long. HR manager Nick Hollier took her place and appeared uneventfully at Council meetings.


Monitoring OfficerAnd so it continued or so I thought; but wrongly. The Danny Hackett complaint was thrown out by the one time HR Manager now Deputy Director of Corporate Services. No mention of Monitoring Officer.

Further enquiries revealed that Mr. Alabi has been reappointed to the Monitoring Officer job. He will either have acquired the requisite qualifications or Bexley Council has dropped their requirement of legal qualifications. Bexley Council can appoint whoever they like so there cannot be any law breaking as such but the question will be have they learned the lessons of the past and now realise that lying and covering up is not a sensible course?

As yet Mr. Alabi is not showing on the Law Society’s list but he may have requested the omission and it could, who knows, be time to offer congratulations.

My main concern is that my conclusion over the past couple of years that Bexley Council has cleaned up its act is mistaken. What if it is only a case of no one has been looking beneath the requisite stones?

This blog is far too long already but in for a penny etc.

I was once accused of racism. While at BT I became suspicious that International telephone calls were not finding their way on to bills. Long story short, I connected a computer to the telephone network and cross referenced the billing system. The machine gradually worked out where the leak was and pinpointed the sources of the naughtiness.

Out of 103 people implicated 102 were not native British. For programming a colour blind computer which took more than a year to come up with its answer which was totally unpredictable and during which time I had moved on to another job, I was labelled a racist.

So being labelled a coward by an anonymous Tweeter when I do not hide my identity is not really a big deal.

 

2 February (Part 3) - The vindictive and the insane

How times change. A few years ago each Wednesday morning would find me looking for the on-line version of the News Shopper and by mid-afternoon a copy would flop on to my doormat. I still get their daily email update and if a subject catches my eye I may click on the link but at the first sign of a screen obscuring advert or questionnaire I am off. I am not that interested in lost dogs in Sutton.

The Shopper is too often a scurrilous rag peddling unfounded rumour which is a reference to their report last year on my friend Councillor Danny Hackett. I’d not be surprised if there was a connection to his falling out with the Labour Party. Danny has shown me the text message trail which led to his name being dragged through the mud and they convinced me that I am right to keep my mobile number out of the public domain. That way it cannot be used by what in my youth were known as slags and village bikes who make late night pleas for their desires to be satisfied and become the ultimate in women scorned when turned down.

Not the only adversaries intent on Danny’s downfall of course but no one, not even Danny, dictates what appears on Bonkers. Danny phoned yesterday to say my speculative blog was pretty much correct.

TweetI returned to Twitter on 26th September last year to draw attention to police violence in Trafalgar Square and I was referred to the police, not once but four times, for not being enthusiastic about head bashing. Danny has been reported to Bexley Council again.

Sheer madness.

I returned to Twitter on an impulse and Danny had been AWOL for some time. But there you are. The Left can be totally irrational.

Danny let me see an email yesterday; he said I was OK to publish it if I wanted to but I don’t really see the need unless you don’t trust me.

The complaint against Danny was that his actions (i.e. none) had the complainer to suffer abuse on Twitter from both @bexleynews (the Conservative propaganda machine) and Bexley-is-Bonkers. Danny was said to have encouraged me and others to publish details of publicly available posts so that people who were blocked could see them. This is highly convoluted stuff. Danny (who had done sweet FA) was guilty of bullying and harassment and he had brought the Council into disrepute.

There is so much insanity embodied in that short paragraph that it is hard to know where to begin. For a start Danny was nowhere to be seen over the period in question and I had been asking Teresa Pearce if she knew where he had gone. And why be so ashamed of your own Tweets that you are upset if blocked people read them? Juvenile behaviour but trusted to run, so Danny advises, to be in charge of an official Labour account. Hard to believe.

It takes a lot of factual contortion to unite @bexleynews, Danny and me but if factual contortions are your thing you can become a leading light on the outer fringes of politics. Left or right, take your pick.

The complaint was thrown out on first examination by the Head of Bexley’s Human Resources, one Nick Hollier. Not all bad as you can see.

I am looking forward to the appeal.

 

2 February (Part 2) - Honesty has not been welcomed in Bexley

The Human Resources Manager is a popular bloke isn’t he? I keep getting ‘love letters’ about him and yes I had heard he can call on medical expertise any time he likes without nipping into the Covid test centre. Everyone with aspirations to success in Bexley Council needs to be able to sweet talk and occasionally lie his way to the top. A quick look back to any number of older blogs will provide a flavour of it. Here and here and here for example.

Yesterday I reminded Danny Hackett that I told him before becoming Bexley’s youngest Councillor that he would never get anywhere there because he was too damned honest and so it may have proved. Not wanted by Labour and yet to be accepted by the Conservative top brass for whom deception is a way of life.

 

2 February (Part 1) - A sheltered life

Councillor John Davey was my Councillor In Lesnes Abbey before Bonkers started. I voted for him but we did not get on very well. The parking arrangements in Abbey Road were changed, lines were painted and drivers ticketed before the Traffic Order was published. Bexley Council answered my question by saying that it wasn’t practical to paint the lines on the day an Order was published and if the lines were painted afterwards they would lose PCN revenue. Instead they preferred to break the law. Councillor Davey wouldn’t talk to me about it.

When Abbey Road was narrowed and I argued that it would be dangerous he became what might be described as ‘shifty’. Eventually I joined the late Brian Barnett in being added to the list of residents to be ignored. What I didn’t know at the time because I was not a student of Council politics is that John was Vice Chairman of the Transport Committee while Councillor Craske was Cabinet Member for Road Wrecking.

Councillor Davey was caught between a rock and a hard place but to his credit he described one of Bexley’s road schemes as Bonkers, hence the name of this website.

It took some years for relations to thaw. I was occasionally a bit rude about John’s performance at Council meetings but when our paths crossed in 2014 he shook me by the hand and was as friendly as anyone could expect. A bit different to the only time I ever met Craske in public. He said he had never seen me before and had no idea who I was. A man who obscenely blogged about me and had his collar felt for it had no idea who I was after attending every Council meeting over several years.

I doubt he noticed but John Davey was not reported unfavourably again and when he handed me a Brexit leaflet while standing outside the Abbey Arms he became one the good guys, well better guys at least.

Twitter gamesJohn can be witty on Twitter and last Sunday we batted a certain ball back and forth between ourselves. The exchange pictured here was addressed to newcomer @tonyofsidcup and John responded to it by saying he had never met anyone in Bexley Council who was either dishonest or corrupt.

Presumably he never saw the letter which called the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Bexley Council together to see how they could come to an arrangement that might get an arrested Councillor off the hook.

Maybe he has forgotten the Abbey Road incident in which I was told in writing that it was to be reconstructed entirely in accordance with Transport Research Laboratory guidance and I brought the author of that guidance to the site and he said that no effort whatsoever had been made towards implementing the guidance. “Your Council has not even tried”, he said.

Bexley Council responded by promoting the man who lied to me.

A weekly series of blogs to convince John Davey that he had led too sheltered a Council life looked like being fun. Examples of Bexley Council dishonesty are almost unlimited but I have decided against it. John may not yet have entirely lived down his bonkers comment which led to this website’s creation and I wouldn’t like him to carry the can for me raking up the past again.

I can do that on my own initiative now and again when news runs short.

Note: One of the link backs above is to the 2014 to 2019 period which is for the most part off line. For that reason it may not display entirely correctly and the link backs within such blogs for the most part do not work.

 

1 February (Part 2) - Oh no. Not again!

Around this time last year I was close to abandoning BiB. Following the Councillor departures of 2014 and 2018 Bexley Council looked to be more honest than before and my interest in blogging waned. Part of the planned backtracking was getting rid of Google analytics and a little later, search engine tracking, making Bonkers a Cookie-free zone.

I no longer cared whether anyone read it; it became a lockdown pastime. Something to keep dementia away perhaps. I went several months without a single Tweet advertising its presence and the follower count fell. Despite that I gained the impression that site visitors might be up, certainly comment by email increased. For one month ending yesterday, curiosity got the better of me and analytics was reinstated. I should get a report in a day or two.

Whatever the case I know that Bonkers is read beyond Bexley’s boundaries which is a mixed blessing. An email received yesterday came from Croydon and it was another allegation of nepotism. Clearly people are not terribly impressed by it and my more relaxed position looks to be a minority view.

Like the alleged perpetrator I prefer rugby to football and I have an attractive daughter with a university degree. Mine getting hers 30 years ago before mortar boards became ten a penny.

Susan Hollier Nick HollierTime to stop the waffle.

If I looked around, I was told, I might find that Bexley’s Human Resources Manager has form for getting his daughter a job. Maybe he has. My father got me mine though only by making me fill in an application form.

The daughter worked in a rugby club bar for two and a half years where her father has a management role.

It reminds me of my time in management in the late 1980s when I got it in the neck from the company’s HR department who said that my junior staff appeared to be recruiting their friends and family to unadvertised posts and if that was proved I would be in trouble with the employment law of that era.

Maybe the law has been relaxed. Maybe posts have been advertised. Perhaps someone will find one.

Lucky Bexley though, we have someone in charge of the Covid test centre who knows something about cleanliness.

Note: Bonkers is once again a Cookie-free zone.

 

1 February (Part 1) - A guessing game but quite likely a good one

Following up on my reference yesterday to political friends always being very kind to a poor old blogger I am not sure if I ever related how Councillor Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead East) delivered all my supplies weekly during the first lockdown and I certainly didn’t mention another who immediately offered to pop round with paracetamol after she heard I was unwell yesterday. Fortunately I had nicked two packs of 100 from East Ham where a certain GP chucks them around like confetti.

They are not the only ones to be regularly in touch via phone calls and text messages. I suspect none of them have worked out yet whether my politics are right or left and to some of them it clearly doesn’t matter. Proper friends. Only one still tries to get me into trouble if an uncomfortable truth leaks out.

Danny Hackett, I assume, has interests beyond helping out pensioners older than his father because after playing at being Mr. Ocado for a few months he simply disappeared. No contact with me nor some of his other old friends. Then out of the blue came a phone call and over an hour or more we caught up with each other’s news. I heard that another complaint had been made against him. Twitter was involved. Isn’t it always?

It’s a while ago now but to the best of my recollection he had been accused of feeding me information and encouraging blogs supporting whichever of his campaigns might be current. Fortunately I faced no such dilemma because there had been no contact with Danny from July through to October.

We have spoken a few times since but he has been strangely reticent about the complaint. I picked up a few snippets here and there but I began to think that silence meant he was in trouble. I no longer believe that to be the case.

There is an element of speculation in what follows but I think that his adversary who twisted Councillor Read’s innocuous words in order to make a complaint against him has accused Danny of feeding me information about the complaint. That Danny had put me up to critical blogs or something like that.

If that is so nothing could be further from the truth. As one well known political name could confirm I had been trying to get in touch with my young friend for ages.

Danny still won’t give me any details except an assurance that the complaint was flung out at the first stage. Maybe Bexley Council is learning, they should have flung out the case against Philip Read too.

Why does the Labour Party allow its reputation to be trashed through association with such people?

 

News and Comment February 2021

Index: 20202021

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