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News and Comment March 2021

Index: 20202021

31 March (Part 2) - SM. It really may be Sado Masochism after all

As predicted there was no discussion of the nine outstanding complaints at last night’s code of Conduct Committee meeting so there is no advance on my speculation to report. On the other hand there was nothing to suggest I was wide of the mark, in fact one insider considered it to be pretty much spot on.

Bexley Council has compared itself with other boroughs on complaint numbers but the results were inconclusive except that Social Media (SM) complaints were on the rise. Few boroughs thought it worthwhile to respond and as some Councillors were keen to point out, the complaints procedures varied so much that comparisons were close to worthless. Bexley may be on the low side of average.

In what was probably a direct reference to my complaint dated 9th February (not reported here) the Monitoring Officer conceded that complaints against Councillors may have been lost because of the website error noted on 9th March. My first complaint gave no sign of a problem but the reminder a month later bounced. There is no reason to suppose that it was the Monitoring Officer who was at fault so it would not be fair to blame him for it especially as he has today rather belatedly acknowledged my complaint against two Councillors.

I should remind readers that my complaint was at the lowest end on the seriousness scale so I hope it will be accepted or rejected quickly. When it is I will probably let you know what it is about.

Councillor Danny Hackett (Independent. Thamesmead East) asked about politically motivated complaints to which he has been subject several times since going Independent two years ago. The question was a difficult one for the Monitoring Officer who cannot reasonably be political but his “safeguards” appeared to satisfy Councillor Hackett. Chairman Linda Bailey agreed that it was “a difficult one”.

The complaints against Councillor Hackett mostly came from the same source and he wondered whether the ‘vexatious’ rules but the Monitoring Officer said that procedure only applies to Freedom of Information requests.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) was concerned about sticking to the rules on gifts. Up to £100 they need not be declared. Is it £100 per gift or per year etc? A number of devices to get around the limit were discussed. The best course “would be to flag that with myself” said the Monitoring Officer. Councillor Bishop, clearly wishing to avoid transgressing any rules, restated that if someone gave him £99 month after month he would not be breaking the code. The Monitoring Officers said he would look at the situation carefully.

Whilst the £100 gift limit will be retained in Bexley it is higher than in most authorities where £25 is more typical. There was no suggestion that Councillors present were intent on looking for loopholes although there may be a few - loopholes that is, not Councillors.

Prolific Twitterer Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) said the rules demanding Councillors treat people with respect when the organisations they front may deserve none created a dilemma. He received much sympathy from his colleagues but not a lot of advice. He used the siege of Batley Grammar School as an example. (If he condemns that the Conservatives may go up in my estimation but they dare not. Hence my terminal disenchantment with his party.)

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) held similar views to John.

Chairman Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log) admitted that she did not use Social Media which is probably a wise move but with the Monitoring Officer repeating the fact that SM complaints are on the up and up one wonders if that makes her the best choice for Chairman.

Councillor Davey came back with another example of unwittingly causing offence. Most people believe there are only two genders but others think there is a multitude inbetween. Like most people he doesn’t know what can be done about it. Maybe he should follow Councillor Bailey’ lead.

I have been close to doing that several times.

 

31 March (Part 1) - Dead tree comes to life

Dead tree Dead treeThanks to a planning application (21/00856/FUL) that has just appeared on Bexley’s website - and a tip off that it is there - we now know where the new sculpture announced on Lesnes Abbey notice boards will be placed. At least it will be safe from passing lorries and hopefully from vandals and scrap merchants too.

Is it too high up to be noticed? Who is paying for it? “Commissioned by the London Borough of Bexley and Metal” is the official line.

Data tree

Poster in the park.

 

30 March - Jobs for the boys and girls

Lesnes AbbeyToday was far too good a day to play at blogging so after restoring a few old ones from 2013 (†) I found a succession of empty benches in Lesnes Abbey Park on which to bask in the sunshine. Lots of family groups had the same idea.

Close to me at one stage six teenage girls, five black and one white, were enjoying an impromptu picnic. Is that legal now? I think it probably is but if not it jolly well should be. Life is for living especially at their age, something that the Downing Street Doomsters have forgotten. I feel a sense of relief that after a lifetime of considering myself to be conservative I have broken my affinity to the Conservative party. I will never be fooled by those politically extreme and intellectually challenged opportunists ever again.

I had not forgotten the Code of Conduct Committee meeting this evening and wondered what it might reveal. Nothing probably, they really do like their secrecy. Most likely I will have to guess who has said what about whom. I might as well delve into the world of speculation now.


Code of Conduct AgendaWith the proviso that this is almost all pure speculation on my part guided by watching events unfold over the past 12 months, this would be my interpretation of the list of nine alleged misdemeanours.

The first would be some sort of revenge attack by politically motivated mischief makers who had fallen out on a personal level with the Councillor in question. I discovered enough at the time to know it was a hugely one-sided and malicious account of what may have happened between once good friends and if the writers had an ounce of decency they would be withdrawing it now having had the best part of a year to reconsider their dishonesty.

Number Two. I’m not sure who allegedly made a racist post. I have a vague recollection that someone may have objected to one of Councillor Davey’s posts. He’s a comedian not a racist and it is good that the complaint was resolved informally.

The third item must be the one by a Labour activist who twisted the words within one of Councillor Read’s Retweets to make it look just a little bit racist. Philip Read was not racist and entirely innocent of any offence so why he was given advice, goodness knows. The complainant even posted enough evidence to condemn herself.

Of planning, savings and invoices I know nothing but about the bullying (Number Seven) I do know a little because I think I was involved.

I had reacted with annoyance about being called a Brown Shirt and the like on Twitter and Councillor Hackett was accused of putting me up to reacting in the way I did. Balderdash. In happier times I might see Danny every few months and he might occasionally phone me when he had something to say. During the period in question I had gone a couple of months without hearing from him. I remember asking former MP Teresa Pearce if she knew if he was OK.

While he was giving me a wide berth he was also, allegedly, twisting my arm to bully someone. Strange people these political activists. Rightly the complaint was thrown out but it is back for a review. What a waste of money.

Next on the list is my complaint - probably. They should have come back to me a day or two later with the problem fixed or not. Fixed - end of story. Not fixed - Local Government Ombudsman. Either way; money saved.

Finally a Councillor who doesn’t respond to correspondence. I know of one such case but it could be almost any of them so I won’t even speculate.

It seems to me that a minimum of five out of the nine complaints were unjustifiable or trivial and could have been resolved very quickly, but no; we have the Monitoring Officer, his staff, the Independent Person and numerous Councillors all on Microsoft Teams pontificating over nothing much. Meanwhile 300 valuable staff are put on the dole.

† Would you believe that in 2013 it was the Labour Leader who pressed for a reduction in Councillor numbers. Teresa O’Neill refused to allow the matter to be discussed and said freezing their allowances was sufficient action. (Last paragraph.)

 

29 March (Part 2) - The forgotten North

I had no idea what an Easter Egg Hunt was until three years when I was dragged around some country estate looking for clues to where they might be. I still haven’t any real idea what it was all about, I think the ‘eggs’ were painted stones.

This year, a couple of weeks ago, I got Amazon to send a dozen eggs (said to be ideal for egg hunts) to a certain chocoholic. I am told there are still ten left.

Bexley Council cannot be expected to shell out fourteen quid on eggs as I did. You can be sure that they would prefer to cadge the money from someone else.

They claim to be dishing out Easter goodies “all over the borough” which isn’t really true. Or maybe it is if you go along with the usual Council idea that Thamesmead and Abbey Wood don’t really belong; other than a place where they can shovel more people into tower blocks.

I bet Peabody would be good for a few quid if asked, maybe even the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association too.

A dozen eggs Egg Hunt

 

29 March (Part 1) - How small pimples become messy carbuncles

I am not a habitual Council complainer; two reasons, one I have not seen the need for a long time and secondly I learned long ago that it is a waste of time.

In 2012 I complained about Councillor Craske abusing an elderly gentleman at a Council meeting and he was immediately excused. The minutes of the meeting published three months later proved the excuse to be made up nonsense and I appealed the verdict. I was rewarded with a totally different excuse.

A year later Councillor Cheryl Bacon was ill-advised to close a public meeting to every member of the public present because one of them had asked to audio record it. Next day someone should have said “sorry, we made a bit of a mess of that” and the incident would have been forgotten a week later.

Strictly speaking the closure was illegal so Bexley Council felt compelled to make up excuses to cover their backsides for a one-off mistake that no one could ever have been able to do anything about.

Among their various lies was that I had rampaged around the Council Chamber like a loon despite four Councillors (both parties) and six members of the public present providing written evidence that I had said nothing and not moved from my seat.

I complained about my name being blackened by the liar who wrote the Council’s statement about me. (It wasn’t Councillor Bacon.)

Mr. Hollier, now an even bigger shot in the Council than he was then, rejected my complaint and reprimanded me for having the temerity to suggest that any Council Officer would lie. (Presumably a sure route to promotion at Bexley Council.)

Councillor Bacon’s minor error generated so many lies from Council Officers that a year later the police sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service. It’s not the original sin that gets people into trouble, it’s the cover-up that does it.

Direct MessageAnd Bexley Council appears to have learned nothing over the years.

On 9th February, egged on my someone I had better not name, I complained about two Councillors who were in my opinion breaking the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

As I indicated in a Twitter Direct Message to another friend, it was a minor matter and my interest was primarily in seeing what excuses the Council might come up with. (†)

It is looking ever more likely that Bexley Council is incapable of dealing with even the simplest of complaints in a straight forward manner.

My February complaint was not acknowledged and neither was the reminder four weeks later.

Tomorrow the Code of Conduct Committee meets and the Agenda includes an item that could just possibly be mine.

“February 2021. Complaint regarding alleged breach of the Council’s social media policy by Members - re Twitter. Ongoing investigation.” (See below.)

Agenda

Complaints procedureI may be wrong of course, but how can I know when the Monitoring Officer neglects his duties and ignores me?

He says “Receipt of your complaint will be acknowledged and you will be kept informed of the progress of your complaint.” Excuse me if I laugh, there has not been a word from his office.

My complaint was really minor and I did not much care whether it was upheld or not. It could have been defused within 24 hours and there would be no story, but refuse to do so and it makes a blog.

That is the direction in which Bexley Council appears to be going and if so it throws more light on the incompetence of senior Council Officers. Maybe it is special treatment reserved for me; I don’t know, for breaking the seven year complaint moratorium.

It’s an excuse to complain about the Monitoring Officer. That’ll be another blog.

† Words removed because of the very small risk of them offering a clue as to who the friend is.

 

28 March - Lockdown logic and map reading logic

CovidYou will have to excuse me for a moment while I check what the Covid regulations are today, I suspect I am not alone in not being sure. Last weekend a neighbour got into a minor difficulty on a gardening job and when my phone rang I went straight round there to lend him a bit of muscle.

In the police state that Boris Johnson has created we are both due £200 fines.

I have taken to climbing the hills of Lesnes Abbey Park each day to try to shed some of the lockdown weight gain. Exercise is legal, I think you can even exercise with a companion. Just think about it, a Conservative government that dictates how many friends you can see and what you can do together.

Last Wednesday I was caught out in the woods in heavy rain. It didn’t last all that long but I found myself sheltering beneath a tree with a woman wearing binoculars as a necklace so 20 minutes was spent with her in a competition to discover who has had the widest variety of birds in our gardens. We weren’t exercising anything other than our jaws.

I won the competition, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers together on the nut feeder just a few minutes ago. That’s another £400 of fines isn’t it?

The weather yesterday was not too bad and I was out in the park for very nearly two hours but there was not that much walking. I bumped into people I knew and at a decent distance we chatted about this and that but it was fairly clear from looking around that up to three households were gathering together which must be worth a thousand quid’s worth of fines or more.

My guess is that a lot of people have been anticipating tomorrow’s new rules for some time. My sister told me that last Monday she entertained an 80 year old lady in her back garden. I told her that was illegal. She didn’t know but by way of an excuse said the lady entered the garden via the side gate. When it was obvious that I didn’t mind having a criminal sister she admitted that the old lady found the patio table a bit cold so went inside uninvited.

I’ve not seen my granddaughter since last September. Christmas and birthday presents delivered directly by Amazon and Easter Eggs the same way. The Downing Street Dimwit says I can visit her from tomorrow on certain conditions.

They are that I stop for a meal at Membury Services and enjoy the company of a hundred or so lorry drivers, use the toilet alongside a few more and tinker with the electric charging point previously handled by goodness knows who. What I cannot do is travel for another 20 minutes and take tea with my son or go for a wee except behind his garden shed. Presumably I would be allowed to plug in to his home charger.

Johnson is a tyrannical illogical lunatic who should be deposed as soon as possible.


Lesnes VanguardIt is a long time since I have had a little moan about what Bexley Council has done in Lesnes Abbey Park. It is a wonderful resource on my doorstep and is constantly getting better but one thing annoys the hell out of me.

If I stood up and looked out of the window right now I would see Abbey Road in the foreground, the Mulberry Tree in the middle distance and the woods rising towards the skyline. After 34 years the image is imprinted in my mind.

Every map in the woods is displayed the other way around. Looking at those that edge the abbey gardens on the paths that lead into the woods, Abbey Road is behind you but the map shows it to be in front of you. To find your way you have to mentally switch left to right and it doesn’t help that there is no ‘You Are Here’ markings on the maps despite there being one on the legends.

When I used to drive the 1957 vintage Vanguard from Loch Lomond to Hampshire in the early 1970s before the motorways were completed and Sat Navs were not even a distant dream my navigator used to sit with the map on her lap upside down which she said made more sense. I used to think she was mad; now I am not so sure.

On the other hand as I waited to take one of these photos, the couple in front of me couldn’t make head nor tail of the maps either.

Maps Maps Maps Maps

No ‘You are here’ markings.

 

27 March - Making plans

There was an Agenda item on last week’s Resources and Growth Scrutiny Committee Agenda about the forthcoming Local Plan but as it is not due for publication until May with consultation to follow, little could be said about it.

The Chairman of the Planning Committee asked if he should take the plan into consideration immediately, before the Plan is published and consulted upon. He was told he should do from May in the same way as the previous London Plan was observed ‘prematurely’.

The Deputy Council Leader Louie French said he wanted to see full transparency on the matter with Councillors and the Chairman recommended briefings. Councillor Linda Bailey said there already had been meetings with good attendance levels.

And that was that, the next item being the plan to get Bexley’s businesses out of Covid restrictions after dishing out a total of £15,053,121 to support them as of a week ago. Most businesses in Bexley will soon get one-off payments of £2,700 or £4,000 dependent on rateable value to help them restart while some specific sectors will get more, up to £18,000. Hospitality, gyms etc.

The payments will be made automatically to eligible businesses.

Councillor O’Hare said none of the dry cleaners have received any help. They have been open for business but with people being locked up by Boris their trade has dried up. Councillor French said he was looking at how the scheme might be amended to help them and those in a similar situation. It was confirmed that dry cleaners will get a three month rates holiday.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked if the temporary pavement licences would be extended. Despite about ten minutes of chat from Council Officers no answer was forthcoming. Council Leader French called for flexibility. The Chairman noted that Councillor Ferreira’s question had not been answered but was told that the Council will try to be sensible about enforcement if businesses do the same. After more prevarication another Council officer said that some licences expire next month and others in September.

The Chairman said (15 minutes after the question was posed) “we got there in the end”.

 

26 March - Appointments Day

By coincidence both a friend and I had been given a hospital appointment for today, both of us having waited more than a year for it. Mine was by telephone, he attended in person. Both went well enough but there was something I needed to show my Consultant for which the telephone is not ideally suited. The comedian - sorry Consultant - said I should get on to my GP straight away.

I rang the number on my last appointment card and reached an announcement to tell me he had changed his phone number.

I rang the new number and reached an announcement to the effect he is no longer very interested in patient care and referred me to a website. I switched on the computer and sat my bubble friend next to it so that she could marvel at the modern way of medicine while telling me that when she was a kid unwell with quinsy the GP sat with her all night long in case she needed assistance.

The web experience started off OK but my ‘condition’ was not on the menu of things that might kill you or perhaps not. After several dead ends I took a path that might be in the right general direction until it asked me if I was registered at a surgery in Welling. Mine is in Belvedere so I answered No and the website took me back to the Home page from which I had a devil of a job to find how to retrace my steps and answer all the questions again. This time I told a lie on the surgery address page after which things progressed well enough.

The very last question asked was who I was so anyone is at liberty to fiddle about with the site to see if I am a complete duffer with computers or not. My friend who probably typical of a lady of her age said she could not possibly have coped with my GP’s website and said she will continue to visit her surgery when necessary and shout through an opened window which is the preferred consultation procedure there.

Bexley Group Practice

Open for business! A bit of a stretch.

Bexley Group Practice was rated “Needs improvement” in 2015.

 

25 March (Part 2) - Scrabbling around looking for good news. Mainly failed again

Jab delay Carnegie appealAfter this morning’s horrible news we need something to cheer us up. It’s not easy, even the vaccination programme may be faltering. This message (left) arrived yesterday. I thought all second jabs were reserved. Typically there must be a lie somewhere. There has been no new guidance from the government so if there is any it has come from someone more local. (Note this is not a Bexley message.)

Genuine good news is the Carnegie Library appeal. Yesterday afternoon when I checked they were a few hundred short of raising £130,000 and by evening had tipped over the intermediate target.

Maybe another push will get it up to £150,000 and ensure the restoration will never be subject to Bexley Council cuts.

In personal good news a friend who has been unwell since December 2019 and neglected due to the NHS close down of most essential services is going to be taken into hospital tomorrow to try to avert heart failure. (King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.)


Daily MailIn more good news the Daily Mail reports that the Metropolitan Police look as though they may be exposed as the corrupt, murdering cover-up merchants that they are.

I am hoping that the role Cressida Dick played at the beginning of the enquiry as well as more recently will be fully exposed but my daughter says she thinks it is unlikely as it is relatively minor stuff compared to what her predecessors got up to.

It should be remembered that the Daniel Morgan Panel exists only because of Home Secretary Theresa May. All her predecessors were intent on burying police corruption out of sight. Maybe that is why the police seem to hate her.

Incidentally, the Mail says “the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel was headed by Baroness Nuala O’Loan”. That is true but it was not always so. It was at first headed by a retired judge. He left early on “for personal reasons”. As far as I know it was reported only in a Welsh regional newspaper. (Daniel Morgan had lived for most of his life in Wales.)

I know the circumstances of his replacement by the Baroness and I leave you to speculate on how bad the reasons might be. Whatever you come up with it won’t be far wrong.


JohnsonIn more good news it is 2025 and Johnson, Hancock, Whitty and Vallance have all been sentenced to life imprisonment for Crimes against Humanity. A passport to go to a pub from the man who was against Labour’s Identity Card proposals? God help us; Johnson is totally insane.

I don’t personally care if I never see the inside of a pub ever again but unlike Boris Johnson I still believe in British values and public houses are a big part of British life, not to mention the hundreds of thousands who rely on the employment it provides and the millions who enjoy the services on offer.

This government has completely lost the plot, following focus groups made up of wet blankets hiding behind their sofas. I have just watched a neighbour emerge from her front door and put on a mask for no other reason than to visit the dustbin in her own front garden. Total madness. There was absolutely no one in our quiet little cul-de-sac at the time.

 

25 March (Part 1) - Absolutely tragic

Go fund meI woke up this morning to the most shocking news. The family killed by a fire in a Lewisham flat on 6th March was the daughter and grandchildren of Esther Amaning the Councillor for Thamesmead East and Lesnes Abbey before that ward was abolished.

There is a Go Fund Me page to assist with the unexpected triple funeral costs.

 

24 March (Part 2) - Useless bunch

TweetMeeting reporting is still being a little handicapped by Bexley Council’s failure to fix their webserver. It takes a minute or two to find documents and if my week old Tweet is any guide, they really don’t care.

No response whatsoever.

My 70+ megabit connection may not be anything special these days but only Bexley’s document server gives it a problem

Par for the course I suppose. It is more than six weeks since I sent one of my rare emails to Bexley Council. Still no response.

All will be revealed in due course.

Slow server

 

24 March (Part 1) - BexleyCo

The first item discussed at Councillor Dourmoush’s Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting yesterday was BexleyCo which has until now soaked up vast quantities of taxpayers’ money but is at long last approaching the time when It may sell its first house.

Graham Ward the Managing Director of BexleyCo was available to answer questions.

Old FarmThe former Cabinet Member for Growth Linda Bailey said it was “lovely to see Old Farm Park [built on], the pictures look very impressive.” She queried the reference to awaiting Council funding in the report.

Mr. Ward said he hoped to have homes ready for occupation by Summer and early Autumn but he rapidly switched to talking about West Street and Lesney Park sites. They both have planning consent and after “due diligence” BexleyCo will draw down the loan agreement. Apart from a Public Right of Way to be maintained at West Street and some negotiations to be completed with the NHS at Lesney Park there are no obstacles in the way of building. There are no financial issues to resolve.

Councillor Bailey said it would be “nice to see some money coming back into the coffers of the Council”. The Chairman agreed, “that’s what it is all about”.

Councillor Ferreira (Labour, Erith) moved the focus to Sidcup Library and the Walnut Tree Depot. Lesney Park was delayed a year, what about those two? “Can anything be done to speed up the processes?” The delays affect the dividends that come back to the Council.

Mr. Ward indicated that the lockdown had slowed the building industry. He was confident if planning permission was obtained this year or early next then “we can hit the dates, starting to develop out in 2023/24”. The Finance Director said that everything was “timetabled in line with agreed timescales”. He “doesn’t foresee any significant hold ups. Everything is in place”.

The development of Old Farm Park had cost £22 million and the expected sale price of 58 houses is £26 million.


Felixstowe RoadCouncillor Francis (Labour Leader, Belvedere) said that 21 houses at Old Farm Park would be affordable but was it correct that there will be none on the Sidcup Library site. It was. The same is true of Felixstowe Road in Abbey Wood scheduled for completion in 2026 and forecast to raise £90 million. (See picture.)

All the planned developments may be inspected here. (PDF.)

 

23 March (Part 3) - Don’t fall for it

ScamOn Saturday with not a lot to report I mentioned the Royal Mail scam texted to my phone in the hope that it would warn off anyone who might be taken in by it.

Unfortunately not everyone reads Bonkers with the dreadful result that may be read below or on Twitter.

Scam result

 

23 March (Part 2) - Your life in their hands

I suppose I ought to follow up on the blog (last Thursday) about the medical neglect imposed on me by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. I had failed, and not for the first time, to get through to the Urology Department at QEH. On one occasion last year I was passed from pillar to post and eventually ended up on an announcement that said “this phone does not accept incoming calls”.

The Trust reacted quite quickly to my concerns which they registered as a complaint while all I wanted was a call from the appropriate department. However via complaints that call did come through at 15:21 the following day, the day after the blog went on line.

The call lasted eight minutes and thirteen seconds - it’s amazing how much data modern technology provides - and a very pleasant lady told me that I had been put on the system for a blood test before going on to tell me where she lived (within Bexley but I will spare you the details) and roughly how old she was. She also told me how the refuse collection service was appalling at her address and that a letter had already been posted to me confirming my telephone appointment with a Consultant next Friday.

That prompted some critical comment about the postal service and that the letter might be delayed before reconfirming that the trip to phlebotomy was all set up. I told the lady that my refuse collection was near perfect and my postman had been brilliant throughout the pandemic. She was envious but had no idea how I had fallen off the hospital appointments system.

Yesterday I took myself to QEH arriving just before 4 p.m. only to find they had no knowledge of my need for a blood test. I wandered off to Urology and was told that all the doctors had gone home so there was not a lot they could do. Would that mean another year of struggling with QEH’s phone system?

Fortunately one of the nurses remembered where a doctor might be hanging out so I was able to get a blood test after a wait of around 20 minutes. I was lucky, by the time I left, the waiting room was a lot nearer to being full.

This morning (Tuesday) the postman delivered the promised letter. It was dated the day before the lady phoned me on Friday so maybe she was right about that but someone forgot to put me on the blood list. Someone forgot to post the letter too, it wasn’t sent out until yesterday. Once again the Royal Mail did a good job.

Postmark

My daughter noticed my complaining Tweet and told me she had had exactly the same problem with her local hospital (central London) and a procedure was six months overdue. In her case it was not only phone calls ignored but unlike Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust hers had dragged itself into the 21st century by adopting email and were ignoring that too. She said she might resort to Twitter. I hope she does; she has 40 times as many followers as I do.

 

23 March (Part 1) - The Tory take on TfL

Tory leafletIn recent days there has been a gaggle of suspicious looking people circulating around roads local to me. I have not seen it close up but they were at the far end of my road yesterday at 1 p.m. My suspicion was that it was Councillor John Davey and/or his mates.

I doubt it was coincidence that a Mayoral election leaflet popped through my letter box. It was not extolling the virtues of the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey as did last year’s leaflet, this time it aimed to tell us what a useless individual Sadiq Khan is. It therefore changed my mind about Shaun and Sadiq not one bit.

People who are not aware of the TfL statistics already and the arguments that surround them are hardly likely to want to read about them now.

Where my vote will go come 6th May I have no idea. I have been a Conservative supporter since 1959 when I was chucked out of the Labour hustings for heckling. I wavered in 1992 when Michael Heseltine scrapped the Poll Tax (†) and I resigned my party membership never to return. From 1997 I have voted Conservative only because the other lot looked to be worse. They still do but I will not vote Conservative again until it rids itself of the tyrants who are ruining so many lives right now. I have been reading of the number of 20 year olds committing suicide because they see no point in carrying on.

For many at present there appears not to be and Johnson is to blame for it with his constant goal post moving to suit his latest power trip. If I take a trip to the end of the Piccdilly line he now proposes a £5,000 fine.

Conservatism used to be about freedom of choice, freedom to better oneself, freedom to enjoy a family life and do more or less anything that did not impinge adversely on fellow citizens. All of that has gone backed by frequently false statistics.

No I will not vote Conservative again while that banning barsteward is anywhere near the levers of power.

The mayoral leaflet has been added to my collection of political leaflets. I particularly liked this passage taken from the latest one. Swap the initials TfL for Bexley Council and it pretty much covers the local bailout.

Irony

† I was working in Glasgow on and off in the late 1980s and acquired a few friends there, visited them in their houses etc. They were incensed about the level of their Council Rates. From memory about £1,500 a year for a modest detached house and the newspapers were full of complaints about it too. They were pleading with Maggie Thatcher to do something about the Rates and she did by bringing forward the Poll Tax introduction in Scotland by a year.

I have only once heard that truth told subsequently and it was a long time ago. There was a BBC Radio 4 documentary tracing the history of the Poll Tax and it made it absolutely clear that the Scots wanted it sooner rather than later.

Since then the Media have only lied about it, something we are having to get used to. With a few more exceptions the Poll Tax could have been made to work but a weak Conservative government chose to give in to rioters instead.

Council Tax in Bexley is now seven times as high as it was per person under the Poll Tax.

 

22 March - That was not a protest

I spent three weeks in Bristol in 1963 because it and the surrounding villages had examples of every weird telephone exchange system known to man. It was a great city and me and some fellow GPO trainees got drunk most nights on the local tipple. Sherry. Strange times!

I have been back several times and my daughter-in-law is a Bristolian hence my continued interest in what goes on there and so for reasons half forgotten I found myself watching a YouTube live stream from about 7 p.m. last night of large crowds gathering outside a Bristol police station. I phoned my sister before 8 a.m. to tell her about it when the situation deteriorated to the point that police vehicles were being set on fire. She said there was nothing on TV about it.

Before that the rioting, because that is what it became, was confined to graffiti and chanting “Kill the Bill”. Quite a large number of rioters had climbed on to a police station roof daubing the walls with paint while police officers stood looking from their window but not obviously doing anything about it. The windows were then smashed. Still no police resistance.

Bristol riotSoon afterwards someone set fire to a police vehicles’ front nearside tyre. There were several police officers grouped around the front offside headlight. They did nothing about the arson until the tyre was well alight when one of them found a fire extinguisher. No attempt to arrest the arsonist who moved on to the next police van and tried again.

The next tyre burned reluctantly despite what looked like a plastic tray being added to the conflagration, or maybe it was to be used to fan the flames. The arsonist or someone like him moved on to a third police van which had been heavily daubed with slogans and there were several attempts to topple it over with no police activity whatsoever. There were none in sight.

Eventually someone managed to get the dashboard area to burn and after five minutes or so the fire suddenly spread and the van was no more. Still no police in evidence.

The YouTube cameraman thought it wise to withdraw to the top of a multi-storey car park from which the view may not have been the most useful. (See below.)

A line of policemen in shields blocked the road and were frequently taunted by hooligans and the police retreated 20 feet or so but I never saw them challenge anyone. The situation I saw, I have no television so you may have seen something different, was that not once did I see any police officer take the sort of aggressive action that was seen the day before in Hyde Park.

It is the same police force that stood by while another angry Bristolian mob threw a statue into the dock. Maybe the hooligans took their cue from that, and of course the knee bending.

The news media this morning is reporting five arrests. I would guess that 55 should have been a minimum. There is no evidence on the YouTube video of the police’s claim broadcast this morning that police officers were inside the vans targeted by arsonists. They quite clearly were not in the three vans I saw attacked. Presumably there were others (†).

The video I watched may be found by searching YouTube for ‘News Gone Bananas Bristol live stream’. There are several to be found.
Bristol riot Bristol riot Bristol riot Bristol riot

† Councillor Hackett found me this short video. The arsonist really needs to be removed from the gene pool. Whatever cause he had, he’s destroyed it.

 

21 March (Part 2) - Covid in Bexley

Probably the most interesting part of Thursday's Communities Scrutiny meeting was the report on the Covid situation in Bexley and it must be summarised here before the statistics go out of date.

Scrutiny meeting The main speaker was Doctor Anjan Ghosh, Bexley’s Director of Public Health.

Chairman Councillor Alan Downing asked the doctor to be “very very brief bearing in mind that Councillors get right up to date stuff on our emails”. Clearly he had forgotten that it was a public meeting. He is not very good at this Chairman lark is he?

Doctor Ghosh said that his was “a good news story”.

The case rate across London “stands between 16·5 and 78·5 [per 100,000] and Bexley is consistently among the least affected boroughs. A big improvement on “10th January’s 1,319 cases and the current figure is 32·2”.

There was a slight increase in cases when the schools reopened “because of the really high volume of testing going on in schools which includes their families and bubbles, staff and their bubbles etc.”.

“There have been 57 [positive] cases in the last seven days. 14 schools have one of more positive cases.”

Some Council wards have really low rates and some no cases. (See image. Lightest best.)

Everything is “in the same ball park as neighbouring boroughs” including Dartford but Doctor Ghosh expected to see an increase around Easter.

Smoking, hypertension, obesity, mental health and alcohol have all proved to be risk factors for Covid. Waste water is being tested as it accurately indicates the direction in which infections within the general population are going.

The doctor frequently referred to presentation slides which included figures which he did not repeat. The slides are little better than a blur when webcast. Useless. If only Councillor Downing had remembered that it was a public meeting and allowed Doctor Ghosh to speak freely.

The Director of Adult Care took over…

He said that Bexley and Bromley were vying for top spot as the vaccination programme progresses. 94% of 80+ year olds vaccinated in Bexley, best in SE London. 93·6% of 75 to 79 year olds, best again. 92·8 for over 70s; best. Extremely vulnerable 86%, second best in SE London. Health and Social Care workers 74·7%, second best again. 65 to 69, 89·4%; best. 60 to 64 year olds 83·2%, best and ‘at risk’ under 65s 64·6%, second best.

As already noted “second doses are already put aside so anyone expecting a second dose will get it”. Mr. Rowbotham said he was “on tenterhooks” about the supply position. As the vaccination programme was ahead of schedule the shortage was unlikely to affect plans.

An almost inaudible Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) asked about low take up among the ethnic minorities. The Director said he was concerned about “take up in those groups which are the most hesitant and who happen to be the groups predominately at risk from Covid and well represented in lower socio-demographic groupings including care workers. We have a whole programme to tackle hesitancy. £200,000 has been allocated to support hesitancy work”.

Dr. Ghosh said that in Bexley the younger you go the more ethnically diverse the population becomes and they are in Slade Green, Erith, Belvedere and Thamesmead East. The reasons for hesitancy are varied and there is a team actively pursuing the problem. Unfortunately, he said, some will reject vaccination whatever is done but there will be an Outreach Bus accompanied by “Door Knockers”. Some refuse on the basis of the loss of income while away at the vaccination centre.

 

21 March (Part 1) - Police threaten, police retreat

My plan for yesterday was to listen again to Thursday’s Scrutiny meeting but I am afraid I became hooked on watching a YouTube live stream of the lock down protest in London. I should probably say straight away that the screenshot shown below is a massive zoom taken from the steps of the Victoria Memorial at the gates of Buckingham Palace. The Freedom Fighters were for the most part pretty well separated.

Lockdown protest PoliceWhat I saw is what was selected by one man with a phone and a big battery but until the protest officially ended at 4 p.m. everything looked to be remarkably civilised. Drivers of vehicles trying to pass were giving the thumbs up, bus drivers too.

Late in the day, just as the crowds were beginning to thin, the police turned up in dozens of vans. Goodness knows why, there had been little evidence of their presence earlier but presumably some idiot draped in gold braid decided that people should be helped on their way home with a show of force.

There was no apparent need for it, the crowd was just hanging around, but the police donned helmets, shields, batons and face shields.

Voices in the crowd warned that the police were planning to charge and by 6 p.m. there was a tense stand off in Hyde Park with tempers beginning to fray. Some in the crowd were shouting at the police and a few rude words were in evidence.

I heard one police officer speaking politely to a protestor but rather more were being their usual thuggish selves snatching people from the crowd for no obvious reason. Their victims were all female but maybe that was the cameraman’s preference.

There were far more protestors than police and around 7 p.m. the police decided to retreat into their vans and soon afterwards drove off. A handful was left behind and had to run after the vans chased by the crowd exercising their limited vocabulary. The crowd could easily have caught them but fortunately were not intent on doing so. I saw one protestor pick up a stone from a flower bed which, language apart, was the only obvious crowd misbehaviour I saw.

It is reported this morning that 36 people were arrested and bottles were being thrown, presumably the YouTube cameraman would want to distance himself from that sort of thing, but if a policeman dressed in riot and face shields and a helmet far superior to that worn by my grandfather on the Somme runs away one wonders how they would cope with a real riot.

In further reports it is being said that only “hundreds” (BBC) were on the streets but the police were “forced” (Talk Radio) into their retreat. How can both be true? Neither were.

Note: The smaller image above was grabbed from video and seconds later the police were kicking the woman as she lay on the ground. A still image cannot accurately portray kicking. The police can be mindless thugs.

 

20 March (Part 2) - Beware of scams

I receive remarkably little spam email, almost none in fact and that is because I am able to take precautions and protect the various addresses I use. It’s the same with the landline, no nuisance calls get through to me but it seems to be impossible to protect a mobile number.

I used not to give the number to anyone but the banks and some retailers now demand it; and they must leak it and so the number spreads around. I have never actually been involved in a road accident but my phone tells me I have every week or two.

Last week the following messages arrived and the first was momentarily concerning because I was due a first ever package from HMV - they were cheaper than Amazon. Then I remembered that my excellent postman had handed me the parcel earlier in the day.

As for PayPal, I am not even absolutely sure what it is. I have never used it and certainly wouldn’t open an account with them.
Royal Mail scam PayPal scam

 

20 March (Part 1) - One more push!

Library appeal Slowly does it, but not too slow please.

The Carnegie Library appeal inches towards its target.

 

19 March (Part 4) - Where is Bexley’s three million?

I don’t really understand the situation with Bexley Council’s Rockfire investment. If you search the websites of Thurrock, Havering or oneSource for clues bits and pieces show up but in Bexley one draws a blank. Rockfire was a solar panel company that went bust.

Press reports said that Thurrock Council stood to lose £450 million but Havering and Bexley only put in £3 million each. The interest rate of 4% was just too much to resist. (If something looks too good to be true it probably is.)

But Havering got their money back with interest while Bexley has not said a word about the Rockfire money.

It’s all a little odd given that the man who sorted things out in Havering is now here in Bexley. Is he still a oneSource man? I thought Bexley had paid up on its penalty clause and pulled out.

What a shambles!

First three document extracts from Havering Council’s website.
Investment

Edited extract from the full list of Havering’s investments.

Author
Money back
LinkedIn

Where is Bexley’s £3 million?

 

19 March (Part 3) - Video stars

It can only be coincidence but three video links have been submitted by readers over the past 48 hours. Pressure on web space limits those that can be made available within BiB but overhauling old blogs has revealed rather too many YouTube videos are deleted and cause links to be broken.

From crimebodge Mark ChartersThe first suggestion was to link to the latest entry on the anti-corruption website Crimebodge which aims to reveal the dreadful levels of idiocy and corruption that permeates British police forces. It provides an interesting commentary into police wrong doing with which I am all to familiar.

Don’t forget to read the comments on YouTube.

Another submission relates to the musical ambitions of one time Director at Bexley Council, Mark Charters.

Charters’ singing prowess was put on show here once before but I am not sure I want to do it again so here’s a YouTube link of him enjoying his retirement instead.


Finally we have Gareth Bacon MP and Bexley Councillor with another of his excellent speeches in Parliament.

Not everyone has a high opinion of Gareth Bacon as illustrated by this message received at 2 a.m. this morning.


https://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/18107250.new-mps-quit-london-assembly-next-years-election/ [15 months old news article.]

A while ago Gareth Bacon decided not to eat from so many troughs and give up as a London assembly member and councillor for Bexley. Well he is still here and the elections are due in May. Can someone ask him when he intends to dedicate his life to the residents of Orpington. I for one will not vote for him.


It seems to me that that is more than a little unfair. If Gareth had resigned his Bexley seat in December 2019 it would have have caused a very expensive by-election and a new Councillor for maybe fewer than three months. Presumably the same would be true of his GLA seat. He and his Bexley colleagues wisely chose to defer the resignation.

Unknown to him and everyone else the country it was about to go into extreme panic mode and democracy was deferred for a year. Blame Gareth Bacon for a crystal ball failure if you like but as excuses go his is a pretty good one.

Orpington Man should count himself lucky he has an MP who sticks up for everyone. My constituency of Erith & Thamesmead appears to have degenerated into Ethics and Tabithas.

 

19 March (Part 2) - Jabs reserved for you

Last night’s Scrutiny meeting in Bexley will most likely be reported over the weekend. The Covid report was comprehensive and suffice to say that Bexley is in the top two London boroughs with its vaccination programme dependent on which statistic is measured. Readers may wish to know that although the vaccine supply problem will hit Bexley all the second doses have been reserved and will be administered on time.

 

19 March (Part 1) - An inconvenient truth

News Shopper The first time I heard the Council Leader say she wanted to reduce the number of Councillors in Bexley was in 2010, it even got a brief mention in the News Shopper. (It was in their paper copy too.)

The changes were made in 2018, a reduction from 63 Councillors to 45 and a saving of allowances close to £200,000 a year with more in terms of support costs.

Delayed the changes might have been but it was the right thing to do and yet another that @bexleynews likes to crow about. However like most things from that propaganda machine an element of deception has to be introduced.

Last Wednesday they contrasted their reduction with what is going on in Greenwich. At first sight it might seem to be a reasonable comparison but it takes no heed of population numbers, a point not missed by Labour Leader Daniel Francis.

Bexley’s 45 Councillors and Greenwich’s proposed 51 to 55 increase provides an almost exact match for the Councillor to population ratio in each borough. For the record the Tory Tweet attracted five comments all of which were critical. The propaganda doesn’t seem to be working.

Bexley Tory Tweet Bexley Labour Tweet

 

18 March (Part 2) - Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. Little but a killing machine

QEHTomorrow marks the first anniversary of my first Covid related appointment cancellation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital since when I have not heard a single word from them. 18 months ago the consultant said my situation was deteriorating but still some way short of being dangerous but required more frequent check ups.

If you phone Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s main phone number - they have not yet mastered email - you will typically wait 15 minutes for an answer and the receptionist will put you on hold for a further 15 minutes while she tries to wake the Urology Department from their slumbers - and fails to do so.

It happened again this morning and there is no way around it.

The receptionist apologised and gave me a fall back appointment but that is a full three months away and last time that happened it too was cancelled.

Our utterly useless Health Secretary has said that the NHS is open for business as usual but like a lot of what comes from his mouth, it is a lie.

I have two friends who are probably in a worse place than I am, one diagnosed with heart failure in December 2019 and the other in the middle of last year. Both still waiting for scans. Neither of them Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust although in Cambridge a cousin with a heart problem is being seen within the month.

Maybe it is just in London where the NHS has failed.

 

18 March (Part 1) - Roads and trains and the 469 bus

CommitteeThe Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting started in the same way as Places the night before, with a minute’s silence for the School Crossing Patrol man killed while cycling to school.

At the last Transport meeting there was a request for a pedestrian crossing on Hook Lane and Mr. Bashford (in charge of highways) offered up several reasons why that might be difficult but he volunteered to take another look. As he had forecast there was no room for central refuges because there were so many dropped kerbs and the sightlines together with parked vehicles make the use of volunteer operated speed guns (Community Road Watch) problematical. However there is one possible site which will be considered.

The Chairman, Councillor Val Clark, repeated her assertion that parked cars tend to reduce traffic speeds - and my information from the family expert (†) is that she is right.

It was reported that in addition to the tragic loss of the Crossing Patrol man last week there has been a further resignation; this time at Belmont Primary School. Funding of patrols comes from TfL and their decision on its continuation has been “imminent for the last five or six weeks”. if the money is not forthcoming crossing patrols might cease at the 15 sites (soon to be 12 due to resignations) where the service is still maintained.


Police report Police reportThe police reported a pretty good situation on the buses. School children are almost universally observing the corona virus rules and crime levels remain low and the threats to remove travel passes are few and far between.

Low crime is not no crime. In the first two months of the year there has been one theft and one robbery in February, none in January. Two cases of criminal damage, only one incidence of violence, public order (including swearing!) four in February and two in February and two sexual offences (exposure).

Councillor Stefano Borella complimented the rail representative for the improvement work done at Slade Green station but mentioned things that still needed to be done there. “The bridge is in an appalling state.”

He also asked what Southeastern’s timetable plans were for when the lockdown is lifted. He was told that currently 70% of services were running for 20% of normal passenger load. In May capacity will be raised nearer to 80% mainly due to longer trains. Reliability has been very high and the aim is to maintain the improved level.

Network Rail was not available to answer the bridge question. There was no news available from Southeastern about electric vehicle charging in station car parks.


469 route revisionsTwo months ago the 469 bus was said to be imminently rerouted along New Road and there was some debate about the need to do so before the Elizabeth Line opens.

At last night’s meeting the TfL man blamed the confusion on someone posting misinformation on Facebook. This may well be so but it was TfL that  put out the original incorrect announcement. See image alongside. The news soon spread.

The 469 continues to run on the established route along Abbey Road and from today TfL hopes to clarify that situation on the Bexley page of its website.

The cycling rep. Mr. Heywood asked about the cycling fatality, not even the precise location or direction of travel is known, he said. Cabinet Member Craske had not been informed either.

Mr. Bashford believed the cyclist was heading south along Bourne Road when he “fell into the road” a little to the North of the Bexley Village library” and was hit by a passing car or van. That is as much as I know”.

Some interesting statistics on Covid non-compliance were provided; all mid-June 2020 to the present day. 436 police operations around bus movements in Bexleyheath. Just under 4,000 engagements about no masks or improperly worn masks. 95 claimed exemption. 325 people refused entry to buses for refusing to wear a mask and 146 people already on a bus thrown off. The number of Fixed Penalty Notices is unknown because the figure has been lost. Reading between the lines it was very few.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) said the plastic barriers around school entrances were frequently knocked down and asked that the issue be given some attention. He was told that a contractor was supposed to maintain them twice weekly.

Chairman Val Clarke reported that the last of the Safety Team members “who had been holding the fort on her own” will leave the Council at the end of the month and wished her well in her new job.

† Former European Union transport safety committee chairman.

 

17 March - One short meeting. Rubbish and road safety

Scrutiny meetingThe Places Scrutiny meeting last night was a short one. It was supposed to be a Public meeting but after an hour it went into private session for the potentially interesting debate on commercial waste charges. Some years ago it was reported that Bexley’s commercial waste was being collected by Bromley Council because they were so much cheaper.

The meeting began with a tribute to the Lollypop man Gordon Jeffery who was killed last week in Bourne Road while cycling to his job at the school.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) thought that over the past year Places Scrutiny had not done a very good job citing the lack of debate on libraries and input from the Community Library groups and a failure to properly debate the 30% parking charge hike. The Chairman Councillor Seymour “was not unsympathetic to that view.”

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was similarly critical. She “felt very strongly that the Joint Scrutiny arrangements were not good. Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) took the same view. “Just two or three items on an Agenda” is not good enough.

For no very obvious reason Cabinet Member Craske chipped in to praise the distribution of the new bins and library changes.

Councillor Slaughter addressed the Committee about food waste which is proving to be a very expensive disposal service. Recycling levels have fallen year on year to only 37%, it is going into the wrong bin and incinerated. Incineration costs are £117 per tonne while composting costs nothing. “An important cost to get across to our residents.” The theory was that the old bins were not fox proof and unpopular. Missed bins are not helping the situation either, such people give up on food recycling.

Councillor Slaughter said there were reports that the bin men mix recycled food with general waste too. If people see that happening they too give up. She also said residents are wasting up to £70’s worth of food a month. (I’m not sure I even spend that much!)

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) made a short report on road safety and it was not especially good news. Safety team staff have been leaving and there is no TfL budget to pay for them. The last of them is just about to leave. Understandably she was not happy with the way things were going although “more optimistic now than a couple of weeks ago”.

From Councillor Betts also Falconwood & Welling, “the posts are being deleted.”

Councillors Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) and Borella were similarly concerned. Stefano hoped that PCN revenue could be made to help the situation.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) was on the receiving end of about four Fix My Streets reports every week and asked if the system could be more automated. He was critical of pot hole repairing because he had noted that the same hole is reported every six months or so.

He was told that different reports are handled in different ways; some, like failed street lights go directly to the contractor bypassing the Council.

And with that dealt with the Chairman decreed that the Scrutiny meeting was no longer a public one.

This report has been slightly handicapped by the Council website being incapable of delivering documents all day today or occasionally even the list of meetings.

Web error

 

16 March (Part 4) - How to spend two million without really trying

Downing Street TV StudioI try to take an even handed approach to political reporting, I like to think that scattering comment to both left and right confuses any Councillors who might be reading this - a few admit to doing so.

I read the extremities of opinion; political lefties whose opinions I struggle to understand and avid police supporters who believe they can do no wrong, so now I am going to add to the confusion by putting in a good word for Boris Johnson in connection with his Downing Street TV studio.

Just over 20 years ago I got dragged into TV production in quite a big way. I made a few showreels for people who have become familiar faces on the TV and made a digital copy of an unreleased Star Wars film; from what I have forgotten. Super VHS tape I think.

As a result I received a few invitations to interesting places; Pinewood two or three times, 3 Mills studios several times, BAFTA twice, Sony Broadcast HQ twice and ITV’s HQ, then on the South Bank, once.

It was an era when the video and film industry was moving towards a digital future.

While on the South Bank I enviously eyed up the equipment they had there. It was nearly all Sony with just a tiny bit of JVC, No Panasonic because I was told their support services were useless.

Digital equipment was in relatively short supply and it was being wheeled on trolleys from one studio to another. A quick bit of arithmetic provoked my “Wow, you have a million quid’s worth of gear on that trolley”. Back came the response “more than £900,000”.

I don’t know what the cost of professional broadcast gear is in 2021 but I suspect £2·6 million doesn’t go very far in that sort of game.

£37 billion for Test and Trace? No way can that be excused.

 

16 March (Part 3) - Throwing police officers under a bus

There are no police officers in my family although my closest friend has one and you should have heard what she was saying about the police in general yesterday. Anecdotes on a par with mine and then there is my daughter who has had meetings with, it may be three - not sure, Home Secretaries because of police corruption.

I do know two ex-police officers, one Mick Barnbrook who can keep you amused (or not) with a whole load of stories about incompetent and probably corrupt senior officers. The other is a local resident still occasionally in the public eye and I forget exactly why he resigned but his reasons were definitely not at all complimentary. I seem to remember lazy and work shy came into it somewhere.

There are a few good cops around, Over the years I have received two emails from low ranking serving officers in support of battles with unsavoury Councillors.

The aforesaid vulnerable persons visit today clarified some of my Priti Patel and Cressida Dick questions too. Watch this space!

Mick Barnbrook has referred me to a devastating statement by a serving officer. A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

Web extract
The bill that is going through Parliament right now is not going to help at all. The current Home Secretary may yet prove to be the worst ever in a crowded field. Once the police start to arrest people with megaphones at Speaker’s Corner it will be the police’s reputation that takes a dive, not an inadequate failure of a Home Secretary.

I have saved the text from the linked website in case it disappears. Trust no one!

 

16 March (Part 2) - Rebellious or senseless?

I had to make another ‘assisting a vulnerable person’ trip today. Openreach fixed the mistaken number change problem this morning and the internet sprung back into life but the telephone on an extension socket no longer worked. The fiddling around had fractured one of the conductors inside the insulated cable. Replaced the lot and all is well again.

The journey was Abbey Wood by Thameslink to London Bridge and Northern Line to Old Street. Exactly the same coming back. Four perfect connections too!

On the way out I saw three adults on trains not wearing masks and on the way back twelve. I didn’t bother counting people on platforms or in passageways.

The strangest incident was two unmasked females with three small children as we approached Abbey Wood. The latter were being lectured on the danger of touching the handrails.

Personally I doubt masks do an awful lot of good but it is hard to argue they do real harm to most of us and on a half full tube train mine gave me a small amount of confidence that all would be well.

The fifteen had two things in common, with one exception they all looked to be well under 30 years old and they were all…

Well I will leave you to guess, but maybe it explains some of the recent fatality statistics.

 

16 March (Part 1) - Two libraries to open, one closed!

Except for a handful of issues in 2018/19 when my Bexley Magazine delivery consistently failed I think I have a full set going back to the time this website was launched in September 2009. It may even be complete after my Belvedere Councillor Sally Hinkley kindly filled in some of the gaps. There was a time when the Magazine provided rich pickings of deceptions and distortions of the truth but generally speaking that has not been the case for some years.

A few days ago an email referred to what was called a pre-election propaganda sheet and asked me to spot the lies in the budget message. In my view it is not so much a case of lies but of selective memories. As far as I could see there was no mention of the Capitilisation Order colloquially known as the ‘Bail Out’.

Not wanting to get that wrong I visited Bexley’s website to download a PDF copy to search and be sure I had not missed anything. There wasn’t one. Last time I looked there was an extensive back issue library available for download. (Please let me know if the back catalogue is merely hidden.)

Why is that? Can’t afford the web hosting fees or a need to suppress history?

BraggingIn the current issue the Leader says nothing about the budget but on Page 4 the Cabinet Member for Resources lists a few plus points. Libraries, schools, social care and “an investment in temporary accommodation”. I’m not sure how that is an investment when the expenditure is due to Bexley’s mismanagement of the whole housing issue. Have you seen Murky Depths recent comment which rates Bexley as worst in London?

Covid, it is said, “has had a dramatic impact on the Council’s finances” without mentioning that it is responsible for only 16.8% of the damage. And not a single word about the bail out that I can find.

Covid debt

Most of Bexley Council’s financial failings stem from their housing policies.

 

15 March (Part 2) - The excuses don’t wash

Police Commissioner Cressida Dick is still clinging to her job and various people are spinning the line that the Clapham Common vigil was an illegal protest and that provides the excuse for her doing whatever she pleases.

If we ignore the fact that a judge had encouraged reaching an agreement between the vigil organisers and the police and the latter refused to play ball and if you take the view that the police were only enforcing government regulations, it still doesn’t excuse what the uniformed thugs were prepared to do. Like shoving a woman with her hands up in a surrender gesture while looking for her glasses that had fallen to the ground. The push was so violent that the old woman was thrown forward on to her face.

It doesn’t matter that a mere slip of a girl might be a political activist, the correct course may have been to simply issue a £200 fine, which the thugs did 20 minutes later after handcuffing the woman and dragging her face down into the mud.

She was no threat. Out of control police are the threat to civilised society.

I heard former Chief Constable of Manchester Sir Peter Fahy on the radio at about 17:30 this evening saying that Cressida Dick was a woman of the highest integrity and should not resign.

If what Alastair Morgan said about her a year ago reaches the final draft of the report into his brother’s murder we will see just how truthful that plaudit may be. What do you think the chances of that are?

 

15 March (Part 1) - Stretching the rules

Like everyone I know I am seriously fed up with being imprisoned by a year long lockdown while in other parts of the UK things are beginning to open up. I regard my sister’s friends with their refusal to eat from other people’s dinner plates and their insistence on sanitising their own tooth brush handles as insane. They are entitled to their views but should hide themselves in a dungeon if they wish to feel safe and not attempt to impose that nonsense on me.

Johnson’s various idiocies have now had a very direct effect on my family. A lady in a care home with dementia no longer recognises her permitted visitor after too long an isolation. Something else a callous uncaring Johnson must never be forgiven for.

Saturday was such a boring day that I seized the opportunity to stretch the lockdown boundaries yesterday. I accepted an invitation to assist in moving furniture to facilitate a house sale. Last time I checked everything to do with moving house is an exempt activity.

Today I did it again. My disabled daughter working from home and reliant on on-line food deliveries lost her internet connection on Friday morning. As far as I could tell from a distance her equipment was working fine, the router showed a solid connection, so I rang the ISP. (It helps that the Technical Director is a personal friend.)

His tests suggested there was a problem in BT’s exchange, certainly not at his end. Late on Friday he reported the fault to the upstream carrier who did not appear to do anything through the weekend.

This morning they said that the ISP was not authenticating their connection which I was assured by my friend was BS.

It was then that I decided that helping a vulnerable person included fixing the Internet connection of someone unable to leave her flat. It was a reasonable excuse to get on a train with a complete set of spare parts, cable tester etc.

I’ll skip the testing procedure, suffice to say I found nothing wrong, the router told me it could see the exchange but there was no internet.

As I was about to leave my daughter said her phone had a ‘funny’ dialling tone and sure enough it wasn’t the familiar BT tone. I smelt a rat. Long story short, her 020 7608 number has been changed to 020 7689 0080.

Some clown (contractor?) must have swapped line cards or rejumpered the main frame so the router synced up on someone else’s net connection but would not have had the correct log in, so no go!

Despite Openreach being informed they have still not corrected the mistake.

 

14 March - Women protesting violence by men subjected to violence by men. Dick must go

TweetI spent much of yesterday wondering whether a comment on the appalling abduction and murder of Sarah Everard would come across as an unwarranted excuse to expose the police as uniformed thugs which since coming to live in London I discovered they are.

After dithering all day the news from Clapham Common came through to convince me that something should be said, especially if a local ink could be woven in.

In 1993, maybe 94, I opened my front door and was immediately and without warning punched in the face by a uniformed police officer looking for the wife beater who lived opposite at the time. The police managed to lose my VHS tape of the incident.

The Tweet shown here still annoys me. An innocent at large who thinks that the police can do no wrong. How blinkered can one get?

The police absolutely have arranged killings and I decided I must illustrate any new blog with an example other than them arranging the murder of my distant relative Daniel Morgan.


Untouchables UntouchablesI have three books cataloguing police corruption and one example of their murderous intent stuck in my mind. I correctly guessed which book to search but it is 544 pages long and took most of a long boring day - thanks Boris, I will remember you in May - to find the relevant passage.

Unfortunately the story is spread across several pages (from page 142 of the 2004 publication, ‘Untouchables’ - co-author pictured on the book launch bus) so a simple image placed here is not an option.

Allow me to summarise. The police in East Dulwich received a tip off that a drug dealer was in residence nearby and they raided his house where £200,000 in cash was found. Ten detectives decided to split it equally among themselves. One generous soul split his share with his girlfriend, a fellow detective who was not part of the raid.

Hearing about her £10,000 windfall, nine officers considered the girlfriend to be a weak link who must be bumped off. Another officer got wind of the plot and reported it to CIB (Complaints). A named CIB officer went to tell the nine that their plot had been rumbled and were warned off. Where the £200,000 went is not recorded but the ten officers continued with their corrupt ways.

Police Officers mainly plotted in pubs and Thamesmead, Bexleyheath and Erith pubs are all mentioned in the book. There was a near identical police raid planned in the Prince of Wales in Belvedere differing only in that the sum was only £70,000 and no one was set up as a murder victim.


ThugsBy the time I found those book passages it was late afternoon and I lazily concluded that a police corruption blog could be given a miss. Soon afterwards Clapham Common changed my mind.

Women protesting against violence by men are subjected to violence by men. You couldn’t make it up. The police even thought it acceptable to trample the floral tributes.

Sickening scenes authorised by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the same woman named by the brother of Daniel Morgan as being instrumental in obstructing the enquiry into her force’s corruption in respect of that murder.

Make no mistake, the police are perfectly capable of murder and of covering up murder. There is not a shred of decency in Cressida Dick who lied about her presence on Westminster Bridge last May and combined with a hateful Home Secretary who plans to ban protests of even one person if it makes a noise, the country could hardly be in a worse state.

Under a tyrannical Conservative Government!

Guardian

 

12 March - Is someone preparing for rebellion?

PatelThe President of the Erith & Thamesmead Conservative Association is a very dangerous woman. I think we knew that before she was elected in 2006, then had it confirmed on maybe the only Question Time I ever watched. She has since denied it.

Fortunately confirmation is still available - see below.

Advocating the death penalty when the police are corrupt is outrageous. How long ago is it that a police officer said he would make something up to justify an arrest?

My ex-CPS boss proudly told me that that is what the police sometimes does.

Maybe that suits the Home Secretary just fine, any sense of proportion appears to be lacking. Her latest wheeze is cracking down on protests and many will think that is a good thing after witnessing the violence displayed by Black Lives Matter supporters and the total idiocy - largely unpunished - of the Extinction Rebellion anarchists.

But Patel doesn’t know when to stop.


Daily Mail Legislation Her new bill due to pass into law next week will give police the power to stop almost any protest on the flimsiest of pretexts, like making too much noise. The “serious disruption” criterion has gone. Patel aims to curtail all protest and has appropriated the power to change the rules without recourse to Parliament.

We have elected a totalitarian regime and we should have seen it coming.

Read more here.

 

 

11 March (Part 1) - On this day again…

It is exactly one year since I drove to Bletchley Park to look at the code breaking museum there. I have not really been out since.

Certain Corona virus precautions were in evidence even then. The cash desk was unapproachable behind a barricade but they still managed to sell me tickets which allowed free visits at any time during the following twelve months. False pretences?

The guided tours were restricted by the Social Distance rules and the restaurant was only doing tea and cake. Like today, it was bitterly cold.

A whole year of life since wasted largely because we have a government that takes delight in scaring the gullible with frequently false statistics. (My sister has just complained to me about being lectured again by one of her friends using a sanitised telephone from behind the sofa.)

BexleyWho would have believed a year ago that Bexley Council would be issuing notices telling residents who they could lawfully meet up with?

What was the point of being vaccinated? Where is the evidence that I who have been nowhere is a health hazard to anyone?

I ventured out today for some exercise as my weight has crept up to what I regard as an absolute maximum but was beaten back home by a hailstorm. I was not alone, a flying duck came down beside me and decided to walk instead. I left it in a bus shelter. It was not even nice weather for a duck but at least he isn’t living in a dystopian dictatorship.


WickesI considered driving to the Atlas Trade Park in Erith with a camera to see if a story from a friend was justified. Laziness took over and I relied on Street View instead and I am not convinced the image proves quite as much hypocrisy as he led me to believe. I think the two small wheels and the tow bar provide the escape clause.

I was reminded that Lidl wanted to build a store there but Bexley Council refused the application on the grounds that they don’t want food to be sold on the site.

Those who know the area well will recognise that this little kiosk is on the Wickes site.

And who owns the Wickes site? That’ll be Bexley Council poking its nose where it isn’t needed. How much did that expense contribute to ‘the bail out’?

Lidl application Lidl refusal

 

10 March (Part 2) - Shortest ever Scrutiny meeting report

ScrutinyI half listened live to last night’s Children’s and Adults’ Services Scrutiny Committee meeting and didn’t note a single thing that I considered to be of interest to readers so I listened intently again this afternoon.

There were two things maybe worthy of comment.

Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) asked how much is being spent on domiciliary care. Answer about £18 million a year. Then she reported residents with relatives in care homes no longer being able to read the notes made by care staff following the imposition of Covid restrictions and the transfer of the records to a digital format.

No satisfactory answer was forthcoming but in Newham where the same problem arose I complained about it and was given full access to the digital records. It was not as convenient as reading the notebook and I wasn’t especially happy that the system never asked for my password but it worked and provided all the information I needed.

 

10 March (Part 1) - On this day…

On the 34th anniversary of my rather distant family member being murdered in Sydenham with almost certain police involvement a serving Metropolitan Police Officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder - but not charged.

Daniel Morgan had announced his intention to spill the beans on the corruption prevalent in the SE London force at the time.
Book Book
In 2021 it would appear to be the case that the police are a lot less likely to cover up for their Black Sheep than they were in the nineties and early 2000s but numerous very senior officers have stood in the way of justice.

The Investigating Panel set up by Home Secretary Theresa May is due to report in just a few months time, eight years late due in large part to police feet dragging.

I await the whitewash.

Amazon link.

 

9 March (Part 4) - Bexley Council. Couldn’t run a whelk stall

Complaints addressI re-sent my complaint to Bexley Council this afternoon. I cut and pasted the email address detailed on Bexley’s website; same as I did a month ago.

Last month the complaint disappeared into the ether and wasn’t seen again. Today, 40 minutes later, it was. Bexley’s incompetence knows no bounds.
Rejection
The message was copied to the regular Council complaints address so failing to maintain the recommended email address shouldn’t have any effect.

 

9 March (Part 3) - Confusing or what?

Electric charging pointI had a phone call today from someone who received a PCN for parking in an electric car charging bay in Blackfen at 18:32 on Saturday evening.

The driver asked me what could be done about it. She had correctly displayed the Blue Badge and said she was in Tesco for just under five minutes.

Assuming the bay was for EVs only I said that nothing could be done, best pay the discounted £55 as soon as possible.

Since then I took a look at the signage via Google Street View.

Probably it is deliberate but I had to read Bexley’s confusing sign a couple of times before I think I understood.

I’m not sure but my interpretation is that it says Monday to Saturday, 8 until 6:30 it is an ordinary parking bay but outside those hours it is for electric cars only.

Presumably that is a reaction to the fact that Bexley’s EV bays rob shoppers of parking bays but to no good effect. Chargers are internet connected so I logged into that one to see how often it is used. Not at all in the past seven days.

The sign doesn’t say anything about Blue Badge use but if the time of the ticket is after 8 a.m. I cannot see why it wasn’t free to park and an entirely valid use. Unless charging bays are an exception, Bexley never charges Blue Badge holders.

Any experts out there? The car is Motability and the owner is on benefits.

I am not surprised that Bexley’s car charging points have proved to be unused white elephants. Electricity over priced and parking fee on top. Another 30% extra in three weeks time.

Note: The expert in these matters reverts to my original assumption that the bay is for EVs only who must additionally pay for parking within the stated hours. Not surprising that EV drivers boycott it.

 

9 March (Part 2) - Power corrupts. It already has

I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate that no member of my family or circle of friends has had their brain addled by the psychologists of SAGE; those doom mongers of fear and flawed Excel spreadsheets who have ruined the lives of so many people, many of whom are still cowering behind their sofas. Not once have I had to bite my tongue while speaking to any of them.

My sister is not so fortunate and is surrounded by one time friends who are now scared out of their pathetic little lives.

A retired police sergeant, married to sister’s lifelong friend, is not going to leave his house until no one anywhere is dying of Covid while he smothers his internet shopping orders with Dettol.

Another couple living some 50 miles away has announced that their occasional shared meals in a half way house will never happen again because it will always be unsafe to eat from a plate used by someone else.

Text messageThis is madness on a colossal scale and encouraged by Johnson and his crazed cronies. The same mad cronies who have wrecked childhoods across the land - aided and abetted by extreme left teaching unions of course.

The short text exchange shown here must have been repeated right across the country yesterday.

There will be worse to come. Hancock, Johnson et al show every sign that absolute power has corrupted them absolutely.

We are seeing the end of cash. I have had the same thirty quid in my coat pocket since before Christmas and we will be tracked as far as is technologically possible. I am perfectly happy to have had the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine but the tracking app never saw the inside of my phone nor will any Chinese Communist style vaccine passport be used.

I may go along with it this year but not any longer. I have already cancelled business with a company demanding vaccinations and if it means not going to any sports event again, so be it. I have gone 18 months without seeing the inside of The Oval and a year not seeing a rugby match. I can probably do without either and save in excess of £200 a year. (I only see rugby on freebie tickets!)

We have already seen how far too many police officers are relishing the idea of a good punch up on any pretext they can summon up and if no one resists Johnson’s ambitions then we are lost.

You can see the signs already. Best vaccination programme in Europe but tightest lockdown supported by false statistics. Johnson always was a liar and the leopard will never change his spots.

 

9 March (Part 1) - Going downhill

There might have been more but I can only remember two Councillors who received a serious sanction following a complaint by a member of the public. Probably most people know it is a waste of time.

When I was young and naive about the ways of Bexley Council I made a complaint about a Cabinet Member - before webcasts of course - who had gone out of his way to abuse and belittle a member of the public asking a question at Full Council before an audience of 20, nine of whom I tracked down as witnesses.

I received a reply and a set of excuses that was very far from the truth. Fortunately, when the Minutes of the meeting were published, it proved the reply to be a lie. I resubmitted the complaint and was given a different set of lies. I gave up but at least I received a reply.

Late in 2013 (the blog is currently off line but some correspondence is available) I made a complaint about a Council officer who put on record and had it sent to the local newspapers that I had been rampaging around the Council chamber. I hadn’t moved or opened my mouth and had nine witness statements (four from Councillors of both parties) to that effect.

The complaint was dismissed, partly because to accuse a Council officer of lying was considered to be offensive. So there was no proper answer to complaint number 2.

Michael Barnbrook took that complaint to the police who sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service because they considered the lying to be so extreme that it was Misconduct in Public Office. Everyone up to Director level at Bexley Council said no one anywhere had done anything wrong.

ComplaintsAfter an interval of more than seven years and four weeks ago today I made another complaint. It was that two Councillors appeared to be in clear breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.

There has not been so much as an acknowledgement. A lying response, a written refusal to look into the complaint and now absolutely nothing.

Looks like Bexley Council is not improving after all.

 

8 March - Success!

Carnegie targetProbably coincidence but both times that Bonkers gave publicity to the Carnegie Library restoration fund the money raised shot up over the following 24 hours. Yesterday The Maggot Sandwich gave it a boost too which would have helped.

Probably as a result of lockdown boredom factor Bonkers visitors are at nearly three times the level of nine months ago. Some way to go before it reaches the heights of 2014 and earlier. For that Bexley Council needs to generate more scandals. No one wants to see a repeat but jailing or contributing to a death used to do the trick!

How has the odd seven quid crept into the total? Wasn’t me!

 

7 March - Recycling old rubbish

RecyclingThe refuse collection service in my road is pretty good. It is very rare to find litter dropped in the street and quite often my bin is returned to its hiding place 20 feet or so from the road.

I have always thought it odd that that my green bin is emptied on a Friday and on the other side of the road their collection is made on Thursday but why should I worry about that?

The service is good but best recycling rate in London for 16 years? Not so sure, and doesn’t that credit Labour for introducing the basics of the present scheme at the end of their time in power?

Last time I looked into the claim to be London’s best recycler I found it wasn’t true and there was an element of creative accounting behind the annual calculation.

Ten years ago Harrow was best for composting. Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kingston, Sutton, Kensington and Chelsea and Richmond all beat Bexley for dry waste. However because we were such keen gardeners producing much more green waste than any other borough, Bexley’s overall recycling tonnage per capita managed to edge it into third place. No. 8 for dry recycling and No. 2 for compost resulted in a third place in London.

It may well be that it is the green waste service that still swings Bexley into a position at or near the top.

Some statistics were published here at the time, cribbed from the London Councils website.

Bexley Council offers a pretty good recycling service but what no one should ever do is assume that @bexleynews tells the truth. Most of the time they do not.

 

6 March (Part 2) - Close together but so very far apart

In some respects Bexley Council’s Councillor Allowance ‘scandal’ might be seen as a bit of a storm in a teacup but there may be a lucrative principle at stake.

There is no doubt that Cabinet Member David Leaf made an announcement - pulled a publicity stunt if you prefer - at December’s Cabinet meeting when he said that no Conservative would accept a pay rise.

David Leaf at Cabinet. 15th December 2012.

Tweet@bexleynews posted the news on Twitter immediately afterwards and a couple of hours later the Independent Councillor for Thamesmead East, Danny Hackett, confirmed (via Twitter, see yesterday’s blog and Tweet below) he would join them.

Here you are going to have to forgive me because I have mislaid my notification that Labour Councillors had done the same thing. It was noted in the BiB Cabinet report and if anyone is doubtful I would suggest a Freedom of Information request for the letter Labour Leader Daniel Francis sent to a Council Officer in December 2020.

One could therefore argue that all Bexley Councillors were singing from the same hymn sheet on Wednesday evening but things are never that simple if there is a political advantage to be spun.

In May 2020 before Bexley’s ruling party was taking their impending financial predicament seriously they agreed to take an increased allowance in line with the staff pay rises due to be paid in the October of that year.

Somehow or other the increase was not applied in either October or November and the Conservatives made their announcement at the next public meeting which you may think was a generous gesture. In politics there is always a sting in the tail and I know that it was a Conservative attempt to do the dirty on Daniel Francis. (I would rather not tell you exactly how I came to know that but there is a clue in one of Councillor Hackett’s tweets at the end of this blog.)

The May 2020 decision has never been rescinded.

On Wednesday of this week the situation was that the allowances had been increased by another 3% (more than what most staff were given) and the money to pay for it reserved. No Councillor had taken the 3% and every one of them knew that.

Councillor Hackett thought that the money should no longer be left doing nothing but spent on something more useful. The Labour Group was very specific and wanted the £42,452 to be handed over to the Community Libraries. The Conservatives wanted to keep it in the pot.

Since Wednesday the Conservatives have been assuring anyone who will listen that not one of them will ever take the money but as the finance people in Bexley have confirmed, any Councillor is free to ask for it to be paid out if they want it.

The Conservatives are alone in not wanting the money to permanently slip from their grasp.


TweetMy theory is that the Conservatives are looking to the future. Because the payment increase dates appear not to coincide with either the financial year or the municipal year it is not easy to say exactly what the annual allowance is at any one time but I will take £9,600 as a reasonable example for a reference point.

It would have gone up by 2·75% to £9,864 two years ago but the increase was not taken.

It went up by another 3% more recently making it £10,160 and again it wasn’t taken. Another 3% would raise basic allowances to £10,465.

Suppose that Councillors voted for another 3% rise the following year and decided to take it because the financial pressures were reduced. They would walk off with £10,779. An increase of £1,179 overall.

However if Councillor Hackett had his way and the allowances were frozen instead of simply not being taken the increase would be £288. (All example figures.)

Maybe I have misunderstood how it works but when I asked Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) about it there was no answer apart from the pretence that Labour might be taking the increase.

If the amendment to reallocate the allowance money to something more worthy had been accepted the Conservatives would be smelling of roses but their base instincts to spin have backfired spectacularly in this case. Not very clever when there may not be anything much keeping them apart. Except for the prospect of an extra thousand a year some way down the line!

While the Conservatives are content to leave £43k, hanging around doing nothing their motives will always look suspect.

Meanwhile the acrimony continues.
Tweet Tweet
And if you care to look for yourself there is worse.

 

6 March (Part 1) - Junk mail

Throughout this pandemic my postman has done a fantastic job with local deliveries, I have seen a relief postman on the round once or twice but he has come to my door pretty much every day. Second class post delivered next day several times too, once from Milngavie, north of Glasgow.

ExchangeThis week he delivered two booklets on the same day. One from The Exchange about their Community Share Offer which prompted another look at their website.

It was pleasing to note that the money raised had doubled over the past four weeks after resting in the doldrums for a couple of weeks last month.

Invest here.

The second booklet came from Mayoral hopeful Shaun Bailey and I’m struggling to find an extract worthy of illustrating this morning’s comment.

There is a page devoted to his wife Ellie which I found slightly interesting but only because my pub quizzing friend (do you remember what they were?) in north London mentioned her as a good friend a couple of times.

I think Sadiq Khan is by far the most useless Mayor London has ever seen, probably the worst politician south of Hadrian’s Wall but I have become tired of voting for people solely on the grounds that the alternative is even worse. Ignoring local elections, I have done that at every election this millennium. And look where that has got us.
Shaun Bailey

 

5 March (Part 3) - It’s a cock-up

It is generally wise to assume cock-up over conspiracy and I am inclined to think that can be applied to the Councillor allowance issue too.

TweetI have listened again to the recording of the mid-December Cabinet meeting and it confirms the @bexleynews claim that they announced at the meeting that Conservative Councillors would forgo their 2021/22 increased allowance. I have also been shown some internal messaging which proves beyond doubt that was their intention.

If anything it makes last Wednesday’s events even more puzzling.

Croydon Conservatives agreed to do the same on the same day but not their Labour colleagues. Maybe it was a more general Conservative edict.

Danny Hackett made the same promise as you can see in the Tweet alongside. It rather conflicts with a message received this morning which said he had not done so.

“Danny is actually the only person not on record until now to say he wouldn’t take the money.”

Mistakes and misunderstandings are widespread over recent days. Cock-ups everywhere.

Leader Teresa O’Neill must have known what Councillor Hackett had planned for Wednesday evening, certainly Council staff did because the budget amendment had gone to the Finance Officer and someone in Committee Services (Kevin Fox?) prepared the presentation that went on line. It is inconceivable that the Leader did not know about the budget amendment to freeze, not temporarily put on hold, the increased allowances.

She and others are now correctly saying that all Councillors (apart from Danny Hackett in some cases) had agreed to forego the increase. With so little between them surely someone who claims to successfully lobby Government could have made a deal with Danny?

Claiming that the increased allowance was never going to be implemented but instructing all the voting-fodder to reject the amendment which would make it ‘law’ will probably never be explained and one can only assume that someone failed to foresee the consequences.


TweetMost residents who know anything of this farce will now assume that the Independent Councillor for Thamesmead East is someone who cares and Conservatives are people don’t care as much and reserve the right to renege on their promises.

I do not know if Councillor Hackett planned to outwit the Council Leader but if he did it was she who unnecessarily placed herself in front of the spotlight.

It has been suggested (not by Danny Hackett) that I should screenshot the various Tweets and Facebook posts from Conservative Councillors which say they have no intention of taking the pay rise - against the day they renege on the promise presumably. I see no need for that but it may indicate the extent of resident distrust. Lying has been a way of life within Bexley Council but it is confined to a small minority.

One Councillor reported me to the police for quoting what someone else had published knowing full well who made the innocuous comment. A total of three Councillors have reported residents to the police using evidence that they must have known was false. One Councillor told a resident that he didn’t know who I was while I was standing alongside both him and the resident. That takes a really accomplished liar.

A legal officer and a press officer made up a whole series of lies about several residents despite several Councillors certifying it was all nonsense.

And there I run out of anecdotes. @bexleynews is a special case but the real liars are few and far between.

When Councillors go public stating that they are not taking the pay increase then I have no doubt that that is what will happen. But I took the screenshots just to be sure!

 

5 March (Part 2) - Budget. The final words

Wednesday’s Full Council meeting dragged on for two hours and forty minutes and reporting so far has taken us only to the one hour mark. The remainder of the time was taken up with too many Conservative Councillors (the Mayor said he had 15 on his list at the outset but finished up with 24) telling his/her Leader how wonderful she was for presiding over such an excellent balanced budget. You will be pleased to learn that I do not propose to give anything like a verbatim account, for that the original webcast is available.

However if any Councillor said anything remotely interesting beyond being a bid for reselection next year, it will be noted below…

• Councillor Cafer Munir (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey). Bexley drives efficiency, immensely disadvantaged by funding formulas but punches well above its weight.
• Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup). We met our legal obligations. It is distressing that staff have been lost.
• Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath). Welcomed the increase in services the budget provides. Administration should be congratulated. A sensible and prudent budget. (Followed by sustained criticism of “hypocritical” Labour. Council Tax is lower now in real terms than in 2006 etc. Note: It is.)
• Councillor Sue Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath). An emphasis on volunteer groups but nothing budget related.
• Councillor Ahmet Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands). A theme based on consultation, transparency and scrutiny. Labour provided “zero” ideas.
• Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath). Nothing budget related.
• Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup). Reference to poor funding and the need to spend wisely. Proud of investment in parks.
• Councillor Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill). The budget invests in key front line services and BexleyCo. Extended criticism of Labour, especially their housing policy.
• Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham). Focus on savings and efficiencies within the Education Team.
• Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford). Accepted but regretted that the libraries had suffered funding cuts but Bexley still has the third highest per capita library provision in London.
• Councillor Christine Catterall (Conservative, East Wickham). Nothing budget related.
• Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst). Investment in front line services praised along with highways, libraries, parks and BexleyCo. Brief criticism of Labour.
• Councillor Steven Hall (Conservative, East Wickham). Praised the amount of budget consultations and scrutiny etc. A budget success despite Covid.
• Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath). Economists worldwide recommend no tax increases but Bexley Council has taxed above inflation every year since she was elected. Covid is not the main cause of Bexley Council’s financial failings.
• Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End). Criticised massive fee increases and cuts to library funding. Thamesmead library was in Labour’s 2005 Capital budget and Conservatives voted against it. Sidcup is funded by the regeneration budget and is not coming from the revenue budget as the Conservatives make out. Pot hole budgets going up is a nonsense.
• Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere). The budget identifies £140,000 of cuts to staff dealing with road safety. A team of four road safety officers is reduced to one. Instead we get more CCTV enforcement as a means of generating income. RTAs are the main cause of premature death among children.
• Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East). She has warned before that budgets adversely affect housing and this one is no exception. A proposal to reduce housing staff by 17 posts while the need for them increases. The Communities Team is reduced to three. The Public Health Team has gone, ditto the last CCTV post. “It is no longer #doitforbexley but #doittobexley.”
• Councillor Linda Bailey (Conservative, Crook Log). We replenished the reserves and had the Freedom Pass costs reduced. Occasional minor criticism of Labour Councillors. We will Build Back Better.
• Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James). A transparent budget that invests in front line services. The Capitalisation Order is “a wonderful arrangement that will not cost a penny”. The Mayor’s 9·5% increase is outrageous costing Band D residents £1,846.72 a year. (That is what he said but the total Bexley Council Tax take is only £1,744.64.)
• Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst). The budget is sound and prudent use of residents’ money. Bexley is a high performance borough. The usual criticism of Labour followed.
• Councillor Philip Read (Conservative, West Heath). The longest of the budget endorsements but little apart from criticism of Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect. Labour advocates “the economics of the mad house”. Labour are “superficial Johnnie come latelys”. A new Children’s Centre consultation is coming.
• Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere). Housing overspent by £6·5 million which is £1·5 million above the Capitalisation Order and the auditors said there were weaknesses in financial planning. There were no such warnings when Labour was in power. Band D Tax is to go up by £102.08 and £70.49 is due to Bexley. Within the GLA there are real investments, in Bexley there are cuts. The Conservatives have merged the Capital and Revenue budgets so that they can falsely claim that Labour opposes everything. The party opposite once opposed parking charge increases of 10 pence and now imposes a £2.30 increase.
• Councillor Alex Sawyer (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James.) Nothing but anti-Labour rhetoric. “Their hypocrisy beggars belief. You can fit the party opposite into a phone box and have room for a dining table. Labour is a party of placards and protest not trusted by Bexley residents.” We are not cutting 17 housing posts. “Socialism never ever works.”
• Councillor Teresa O’Neill (Conservative, Crook Log). “We will Build Back Better” (twice) and Conservative Councillors are “fantastic”.

Note: The above is a very much compressed summary and is only verbatim where indicated.

 

5 March (Part 1) - Whatever were they thinking of? Themselves?

If you are confused by the Councillor allowance situation; you will not be alone.

We know that every Bexley Councillor voluntarily didn’t take last year’s 2·75% increase. None have broken ranks so far but they could do so at any time in future and because they could the money has to be kept in a separate pot never to be used.

Councillor Hackett’s proposal was to give up that increase and the coming year’s 3% and set it in stone via the budget. That way the money could be spent on something more worthy. Labour suggested the Community Libraries.

The Conservatives were having none of it and rejected the budget amendment. Totally giving up the chance of £42,452 did not appeal to them.

Council Leader Teresa O’Neill commented on last year’s gesture but rejected a repeat for 2021/22. Overnight the enormity of what the Conservatives had done appeared to strike home.

The two parties plus Danny Hackett fired off Press Releases to explain their position but the News Shopper only used Councillor Hackett’s. (The News Shopper amended their report later in the day.)

The Tory propaganda machine @bexleynews Tweeted that their Councillors had already agreed not to take the increase for this year despite the money being allocated in the budget but their Leader had apparently forgotten about their generosity or surely it would have been part of her riposte to Councillor Hackett on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t.

Given the news source some will think it may have been one of many things that are simply made up. But it wasn’t.

As yesterday wore on both Mayor James Hunt and Councillor John Davey were active on Social Media saying that Councillors from both parties weren’t going to take the extra money. Both credible and honest in my experience but neither said anything about it on Wednesday evening. Back then the Conservative line, clearly stated by their Leader, was that they had given up the money for 2020/21 but rejected the idea for 2021/22.

So the Tories had misgivings overnight about their inadequate presentational skills but they are still not in the same ball park as Councillor Hackett - or Labour for that matter. If the Tories mean what they are now saying it still doesn’t release the money to good causes. It must remain in the reserved pot in case one of them falls on hard times and needs the money.

It is a silly plan and sooner or later the Conservatives will realise that Councillor Hackett talks rather more sense than they do.

 

4 March (Part 5) - A slightly alternative budget

Unfortunately the image of Labour’s budget amendment (below) was not readable when put up on screen last night and the copy below has gone through an amount of Photoshopping. Maybe that is proof that the Conservatives didn’t read it.

It is similar to Councillor Hackett’s in that it asks Councillors to forego their 3% increase to allowances but additionally rubs salt into the Capitalisation Order wound. It says that 16·8% of the overspend (about £450k.) was Covid related and 74·4% was due to budgeting inadequacies. Where the missing 10% went is not explained.

The amendment looks to redirecting the allowances allocation (£42,542) to community libraries, direct CIL funds to affordable housing and to reduce the highways maintenance budget by less than is planned. (The budget that @bexleynews claims has been increased.)

If that was not pushing their luck too far already they thought that the Council should also apologise to residents for their service cuts and job losses.

Councillor Borella’s speech in favour of the amendment was largely ignored. His reminder that Labour’s ideas for service improvements, dealing with the housing crisis (which were voted down) and how it was Labour that first put Bexley at the top of the recycling league, all fell on stony ground.

He reeled off a long list of Council cuts and price increases. Reduced library opening hours, scrapping the three mobile libraries, £2·5 million cut to waste and street services, less grass cutting and highways maintenance, increases to parking charges (up 30% next month), garden waste up 25%, 16% staff cuts. (264 posts.)

In a statement of the obvious he said that Bexley Council was attempting to blame all its financial ills on Covid. He quoted Robert Jenrick the government minister’s comment about “very poor management”. In Bromley, he said, their David Leaf equivalent spoke of the incompetence on display in Bexley.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith) seconded the motion. In a reference to the allowance issue he said that “we are asking our staff to make the harshest of the savings and it is only right that we do our part too”.

Labour leader Daniel Francis gave a brief history of how the auditor, the Finance Director and himself had all issued warnings about the impending financial calamity.

Council Leader Teresa O'Neill referred to Councillors not taking the increased allowance in 2020/21 but contrary to @bexleynews contention earlier today, nothing whatsoever about 2021/22. Looks like their Tweet is mischievous; but you knew that anyway.

Almost needless to say Cabinet Members Craske and Leaf had to have their say with the latter referring to Labour’s “rank hypocrisy and “gimmickry” and said that when Labour gained power all their Councillors received various special responsibility allowances.

By contrast Cabinet Member Louie French was logical and restrained in his criticism of the amendment.

Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) tried to bring the debate back on topic with her comment that one party wants to increase expenditure on libraries and one wants to reduce it.

Despite Councillor Ferreira saying “the money is available” his follow up plea for common decency and fairness was rejected.
Budget amendment

Labour’s budget amendment.

 

4 March (Part 4) - Not such bad guys after all

I have a confession to make, Councillor Hackett told me a week ago of his proposed budget amendment and then went quiet as is his wont. I did a Boris Johnson and wrote two blogs one assuming that Danny would gain support and the other that he wouldn’t. As a result I was able to post his news within a minute or two of it happening.

But maybe too clever by half because just a few minutes later it became clear why the Labour Councillors weren’t keen on his idea, they had their own plans for the £42,542.

They wanted it handed to the voluntary library groups.

The upshot of it all is that Councillor Hackett comes across as the good guy, the Conservatives the bad guys and Labour the not so bad guys after all.
Budget amendment

Click image to see Labour’s Press Release.

 

4 March (Part 3) - Back pedalling

WebcastThe next Full Council meeting item was Councillor Hackett’s budget amendment hurriedly reported yesterday evening. Since then the Tory pot has been calling the Labour kettle black. (Are we still allowed to say that?)

As you might expect the Conservatives are back pedalling furiously.

It may not have been clear from yesterday’s report but Bexley did not freeze Councillor allowances last year, they rose in line with inflation. There was however a gentleman’s agreement (am I allowed to say that any more?) among all Councillors not to claim the increase. They could do so at any time but none have so the money accumulates in some sort of suspense account.

When the gentleman’s agreement ceases they pick up an enhanced allowance. If it was frozen they wouldn’t.

Danny Hackett’s amendment proposed that the agreement should be extended for another year which would have put £42,542 into the suspense pot. The total of both years.

The Conservatives are now claiming that Labour is making up the claim that Councillor allowances are going up despite the fact that they have allocated £22,484 to do exactly that.

Furthermore they remind us that they committed to refusing to accept the increase in allowances as long ago as last December. Freezing allowances and voluntarily not taking an increase are very different things. One is for all time and the other isn’t.

Councillor Hackett wanted to make forgoing the increase mandatory. If it was a redundant amendment why did no one tell him? If the Conservatives had pre-empted him why did they refuse to support him?

It looks as though some untruthfulness may lie at the heart of the matter.

Today December

The reference to not increasing allowances for eight years is curious. Why no mention of the 2019/20 agreement not to take the increase? One could be forgiven for thinking that the December announcement was a reference to last year. That would explain their failure to support Danny Hackett last night. The cut referred to is almost three years old and took eight years from its first mention to implementation.

 

4 March (Part 2) - A new Leaf

WebcastThe next speaker was the irrepressible Cabinet Member David Leaf. Fortunately the Mayor told him he could speak for only five minutes. Councillor Leaf said “this is a budget which has shaped by Covid but it is a shining light of hope. It is a budget to Build Back Better. Before the pandemic struck we knew we faced a challenge and tough choices. We took early action because we knew there was a substantial gap to fill.” He too referred to the review of the local government funding formula being deferred due to Covid.

“We put forward proposals for consultation and have given due regard to the thousands of responses.” (If you read through those responses you will find a wide spectrum of views. It is not difficult to choose those which suit the Council best.)

“We made provision for extra headroom should we need it and we went through many Scrutiny and Cabinet meetings with our plans encouraging all Member engagement. It has been a difficult process because of the uncertainty but we did not give in to pessimism and we did not surrender to difficulty. We stand on the side of residents and businesses at this time of need. This budget invests over £200 million in a multi-year capital programme. We choose to Invest in the Public Realm and BexleyCo and new libraries. We choose to invest £177 million in revenue spending; the vital services, adults, children and people with disabilities. Our budget will stand the test of time. It will Build Back Better.”

Three seconds under five minutes and no criticism of the Labour Group. Surely a first?

A careful choice of words half succeeded in concealing the propaganda message that ‘investment’ would amount to £248 million. As noted earlier, most of it is just bog standard spending.
Spending

 

4 March (Part 1) - Leading off

RecordingQuite often I only lend half an ear to live Council webcasts and record them for later but last night I hung on to every word. I listened in vain for the magic £248 million of investment to be identified but the figure remained elusive.

Fortunately the Agenda identifies that investment and reveals it to be only £71 million to go on “infrastructure, development and facilities to deliver benefits to residents”. The rest of it goes on day to day things like emptying the bins which most people will not identify as investment.

All meetings start with declarations of interest and as the Mayor James Hunt remarked it might be easier to ask which Councillors have not got financial interests in the Council. The list of those who have given themselves or family members paid jobs is not a short one.

Overall I felt it was an interesting meeting and the Leadership did a good job of passing the financial buck to inadequate Government grant formulas and the Opposition Members did a good job of exposing Council deception of the type so beloved of the Tory propaganda machine @bexleynews.

Leader Teresa O’Neill referred to Covid creating “a whirlwind but residents have been put first. The budget we set last year changed dramatically and Covid impacted our services and changed the way the Council spent its money”.

“Thankfully we received grants from Government as well as compensation towards lost income which has helped.”

“We consulted on all our proposals with over 4,000 responses and we took our balanced budget to Public Cabinet before Christmas.”

“Members will recall that we were advised of a late overspend to the 2019/20 accounts after the end of that financial year of about £2·5 million, reduced to £2·1 million when an underspend was uncovered. £1·6 million was housing related. The £2·1 million was taken from our General Fund Reserve reducing it to £10 million but restored by a schools grant during 2020/21. It was only £5·6 million in 2006.” (The year Labour left office.)

The talks on a Capitalisation Order began in late Summer 2020. It was for “headroom to be used only if absolutely necessary. We are no Croydon. It is prudent management. We spend the second lowest amount on Social Care in London and we are recognised as being a low spending authority.”

“We need a fair funding review. Ours is £39·973 million, Greenwich’s is £109·2 despite their affluence which does not exist in Bexley. Lewisham’s is £123·3 and Southwark’s is £152·5. What could we do with more than £100 million more? The formula is outdated and sets an unfair playing ground.”

“The same formula is used for Covid grants compounding the problem. Our Public Health grant is the lowest in London. If it was to be the average of South London boroughs we would get an extra £8 million. £14·5 million extra if raised to the level of Lambeth. It impacts the Council Tax rise we are having to set.”

“We have a big job to do next year. We owe it to those who have suffered to Build Back Better.”

 

3 March (Part 2) - Greedy burghers

During this evening’s Full Council meeting in Bexley the independent Councillor for Thamesmead East threw a surprise, or maybe I should say spanner into the works. Danny Hackett suggested a budget amendment: that Councillors should forego their annual pay rise - 3% this year - in recognition of the collective mess they have made of the borough’s finances.

When he spoke my first thought was that he would get backing from the Tories at least as not to do so could only look bad, very bad indeed. In Councillor Hackett’s own words “contemptible”.

However even after twelve years of reporting on Council meetings I still haven’t got my head around what motivates Councillors. Danny not only got no support from his former Labour party colleagues which was to be expected but he got absolutely zero support from the Conservatives too.

The staff who have lost their jobs due to Council ineptitude are sure to be thrilled for them.
Amendment

Councillor Hackett’s unsupported amendment.

 

3 March (Part 1) - Muck raking

While we wait for the Conservative's justification of their £248 million investment claim a random search through some intriguing old files…

Despite occasional set backs I still believe that Bexley Council has become better in most respects over the past ten years; from a pretty low starting point perhaps especially in respect of Children’s Services. To the best of my knowledge no children have died under Bexley Council’s nose since Rhys Lawrie and Ndingeko Kunene.

However maybe child care in the borough - then provided by the LCC - was worse long before Bexley took over. Back in the days when Bonkers was actively seeking news I received a disturbing message from a reader which led to the following tale from an inmate of a long closed children’s home in Carlton Road, Sidcup.


I remember we always seemed to be moving around and there were lots of uncles involved. We used to have to sit with mum and recite the address of where we were living in case we got lost. I remember Redhill, Kingston, Richmond, Leatherhead, Surbiton we never seemed to be anywhere for long. The upshot is that Shaz and I ended up in foster homes and then Hoblands, a children’s home in Sidcup.

The man who ran the home lived there with his family, his little boy (who we weren’t allowed to talk to) had a huge shiny blue pedal car that was kept in the area below the main staircase. It wasn’t in a cupboard or anything, just sitting there being all shiny and blue and pedally. I so wanted to have a go.

At night I was split from Shaz and I was only four or five I guess. I hated it because that was when one of the staff used to go round deciding which boy he was going to have that night. We used to hear him walking up the corridor and pretend to be asleep hoping he was going to go straight past us to another room or better still, just go back downstairs to his own. His name was Stan, we used to call him Stan the Man.

I was reading the BBC News website about 15 years ago and I saw that Stan the Man had been arrested for child sexual abuse going back years so that turned out alright for him didn’t it? Hopefully he had his bollocks ripped off when he was inside.

Mum eventually came to get us and we got out of Hoblands and went to live in Orchard Villas in Foots Cray, Kent.


I tried to find out more at the time and the search led me to The National Archives but it was not especially helpful. The report on Hoblands was sealed for 75 years. Is that an indication of a cover-up by the authorities? Intriguing, but maybe not much of a story without the back up evidence.

When I rediscovered the old papers I looked at the Archives again. To my surprise the 75 year restriction had been changed to 50 years and once the Archives are open again anyone of a nosy disposition who fancies a cheap day out can check up on Bexley’s predecessors.

Meanwhile the web reveals that the offender was Stanley Sinkins who was jailed for a year in 1995 for the Sidcup offences. Maybe if a Council somewhere had not thought it appropriate to hide the report justice would have prevailed much earlier and further children saved from their ordeal.

Six years later he was jailed for ten years after being accused of 41 offences against children several of who refused to attend court. As a result he was convicted of offences against only eleven children (ten boys) in both Sidcup and on Merseyside. Maybe still not much of a story but such things are thankfully gone from Bexley.

 

2 March - Plucking figures from the air

One of the problems that comes from Tweeting so many deceptions is that readers cannot be sure if the occasional one might be truthful or not.

Below we have Bexley Conservatives promising to spend an extra half a million on highway maintenance (Image 1) just a couple of days after the Finance Director admitted that expenditure would go down by £85,000 in the coming financial year after plummeting by £986,000 in the current one.

And where does the £248 million investment come from? (Image 2.) Are your favourite spin doctors merely saying that your Council Tax payments will all get spent? How does £248 million compare with last year? One might expect to see a broadly similar figure among last year’s statistics; (Image 3) but there doesn’t appear to be one.
Tweet Tweet

Budget
One can only assume that someone somewhere is spinning again. Apart from on Adult Care and Public Health Bexley planned to spend less in the current year than they did the year before.

 

1 March - Royal Greenwich comes a c(r)opper

FrameAround a year ago the author of the Murky Depths news website asked me if I knew anything about Abbey Wood’s telephone exchange (BT with scant regard for geography refers to it as Thamesmead) being closed down and sold off for housing development because that was what Greenwich Council appeared to be saying in its plans for the future.

The story was given some credence because photos of equipment being removed circulated at the same time. (See below.)

My telephone exchange days were mainly analogue and don’t relate to present day circumstances. I was slightly involved in the experimental ‘electronic’ conversion of ROYal exchange circa 1966 and all I can tell you about that is that it didn’t work well under peak hour load.

However with the proviso that my telephony skills are more than a little rusty I told Mr. Murky that I saw no way of closing an established telephone exchange because the copper cables (Abbey Wood serves more than 23,000 customers) are extremely bulky and have to be terminated on a block of connectors (see main photo) which may be a 100 feet or more long. Possibly several of them. The cables are stuck in the ground and a fixture.

Google found not a single example of a bog standard telephone exchange being closed in London. Switching Centres have gone but that is easy to arrange. Lay in trunk cables to a new site and cut off the old ones at leisure. No customers disturbed.

In a further sign of a wasted life I noted that the switching centre I played a very small part in designing, Keybridge House in Vauxhall, was long since gone.

From the casual observations of a connected customer, Abbey Wood exchange appeared to be carrying on as usual just as I would expect.

Last week ‘From The Murky Depths’ returned to Greenwich Council’s plans and was even less impressed than he was last time. Greenwich Council is quoted saying “The building is surplus to requirements as a telephone exchange. The site is currently in use in association with Crossrail works; this use is expected to cease by the end of 2019.”

Nonsense followed by an irrelevance. Crossrail had dumped some oddments of building materials on a small section of the exchange car park and has not been back to clear up their mess.

In the meantime I tried to discover a little more about what was going on inside Abbey Wood’s telephone exchange. The following is based on an ‘interview’ with just one telephone engineer who works there.


Telephone exchangeHe confirmed my 30 year old thoughts on telephone exchanges and the cabling in particular. It is totally impractical to move an exchange because the cables coming in from the streets cannot be moved and the terminations are bulky. A move is only possible when an exchange area is fully fibred and the copper becomes redundant. Abbey Wood and the surrounding area is a long way short of that.

Erith, my interviewee said, is pretty much done and the likelihood is that customers will be given five years to switch to fibre before the copper is cut. The incoming fibre can be terminated underground and routed to wherever BT decides the digital hub exchange will be. The old exchange building above will become redundant.

This suggests that even if Abbey Wood was fully fibred now it would have to exist for at least another five years but it is not even next on the local conversion list. That honour will probably go to Bexleyheath and Woolwich.

Could the Abbey Wood exchange be sold off for housing I asked. My interviewee was not party to the details but he suggested two snags to such a plan. One was that all BT’s exchanges were sold off to bankers when it needed the money to get into the mobile telephony game which it stupidly exited in 2003. Secondly it could not be discounted that the site might be chosen to be a digital hub through which all the local exchanges - not that they will exist any more - will be routed. In which case Abbey Wood will live for ever and Greenwich Council’s plans will be well and truly scuppered. Don’t they check anything or are they simply more Bonkers than Bexley?

Please note that the foregoing is not an official BT news item. It is the expectation of one employee but it has the ring of common sense and logic about it.

 

News and Comment March 2021

Index: 20202021

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