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News and Comment November 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

30 November (Part 3) - He’s pulling your leg

Louie FrenchIf it was not for Boris Johnson and his set of useless Cabinet cronies, plus the fact that I do not have a vote in Old Bexley, I would probably be voting Conservative on Thursday, same as I have at every General Election since 1964.

However this photo worthy of the Peter Craske school of politics may have made me think again.

I wonder what Rishi Sunak thinks of Louie stealing his thunder?

Louie’s Bexley Cabinet position last year gave him the responsibility for implementing various business grants schemes and more than one Conservative source who I have learned to trust said he made a fine job of it, but surely this morning’s Tweet implies far more than it should?

In updates to recent blogs the number of MPs to have visited Old Bexley and Sidcup has risen to 58 and Cabinet Member Sue Gower has not been out for Louie French because she is temporarily incapacitated. Some Councillors are more open to questions than others and it is good to correct any disinformation.

Whoops! Five minutes later the number was 59!

It is also pleasing to note that Councillor John Davey is pictured alongside Brandon Lewis MP. He will pop up occasionally on the random banner presentation above. An earlier reference to him not yet being photographed alongside Louie has been removed.

 

30 November (Part 2) - Rubbish collection by CountryStyle

Rubbish bins Rubbish binsHas the new recycling contractor made any difference to your life?

The only change I have noticed is that the collection time has reverted to being very early after Serco allowed it to drift towards mid-morning.

My neighbour has noticed no difference either, his bins are not collected just as often as before.

The big bins across the road suffer the same old trouble, the blue bin is nearly always replaced with its opening slot facing the wall rendering it inaccessible but last Friday CountryStyle’s staff excelled themselves. The blue bin was not only replaced back to front but in front of the plastics bin making access to it difficult.

This is nothing like the pride in the job message that CountryStyle’s management was trying to convey to Councillors two months ago.

 

30 November (Part 1) - Effing nuts

While the by-election campaign has been in progress, the banner heading which had been proclaiming ‘Boris Johnson is Bonkers’ was reverted to the long standing ‘Bexley Council is Bonkers’ so as not to show undue political bias. Not any more.

This morning I will have to find time to buy milk. It is the only thing I need. Even with the perpetually failed Stannah travelator in the local Sainsbury’s I can be in and out within three minutes. If I don’t wear a mask I may be fined £200.

This evening is pub quiz night where the team will attempt to win for the fourth week running. It will be good not to because that is no way to earn popularity! I will be there along with between 40 and 50 contestants from approximately 7 p.m. until around 10:30. No mask required.

Boris Johnson is not just Bonkers, he is stark staring mad and should never have been allowed to become Prime Minister.
Daily Telegraph

The day when the US President was more consistent with his logic than the utter idiot at No. 10.

 

29 November (Part 2) - Councillor Dave Putson

As you should know by now, Belvedere Councillor Dave Putson now represents his ward as an Independent. He has set out his reasons for that being the case in a lengthy but admirably clear Press Statement.

Clearly, just as appears to be the case with the Conservative Party, the local Labour Party is not a happy place. Councillor Danny Hackett showed me all the correspondence that led to his resignation. I thought it was pretty shocking stuff at the time.

I would like to place on record that although Dave will be poles apart from me politically he has always been the most amiable and civil of correspondents.
Vigil organised
Organising a vigil for a lorry driver murdered on his ward is exactly what I might expect Dave to do.

 

29 November (Part 1) - Know who your friends are

A review of the number of Conservative MPs who had Tweeted their own presence - or had a colleague do it - in Sidcup or Welling for the by-election has seen the total increase to 56 and thanks to the generosity of readers the leaflet archive is enhanced. Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and Reform UK have all been busy in recent days.

There is an interesting article on the by-election in today’s Daily Telegraph. It sums up what I am hearing on all fronts. I was at an 80th birthday celebration yesterday and the last time I had seen some of the people there was on the 70th. The anti-Johnson feeling was universal, on Covid, on immigration, on Green issues. He was condemned by everyone. Who are the pollsters finding? What are the small Council by-election voters thinking?
Daily Telegraph Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph 29th November 2021. (Small extract.)

It is more than likely that some Conservative Councillors are having similar thoughts and some have made no secret of it.

It may be possible to deduce a few other things too…

Councillors don’t give much away but over the years I have spoken at length to getting on for ten of them and whilst they are individually close lipped one gradually builds up a picture of how local Conservative politics works.

There is undoubtedly personal animosity and rivalry and the big division is probably between pro and anti-Teresa O’Neill factions. Some have actually said so. It may be a Bexleyheath & Crayford Conservative Association versus Old Bexley & Sidcup division. Again some have said so but where the Erith & Thamesmead Association stands, no one has said.

A study of all the photos of Councillors out in support of candidate Louie French reveals that there are really not very many. Nothing like the 56 MPs. Congratulations to Richard Diment and June Slaughter for getting themselves into almost every photograph.

(Ward sequence below.)

 


Peter Craske (Blackfen)
Cafer Munur (Blackfen)
David Leaf (Blendon)
Christine Catterall (East Wickham)
Caroline Newton (East Wickham)
Nigel Betts (Falconwood)
Andy Dourmoush (Longlands)
Lisa-Jane Moore (Longlands)
Cheryl Bacon (Sidcup)
Richard Diment (Sidcup)
June Slaughter (Sidcup)
John Davey (West Heath)


 

But what about these? Conspicuous by their absence.

 


Brian Bishop (Barnehurst)
Howard Jackson (Barnehurst)
Sue Gower (Bexleyheath) **
Eileen Pallen (Bexleyheath)
Brad Smith (Bexleyheath)
James Hunt (Blackfen)
Nick Oְ’Hare (Blendon)
Adam Wildman (Blendon)
Christine Bishop (Crayford)
Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (Crayford)
Melvin Seymour (Crayford)
Linda Bailey (Crook Log)
Sybil Camsey (Crook Log)
Teresa Oְ’Neill (Crook Log)
Steven Hall (East Wickham)
Val Clark (Falconwood)
John Fuller (Northumberland Heath)
Alan Downing (St. Mary’s)
Alex Sawyer (St. Mary’s)
Philip Read (West Heath)
Peter Reader (West Heath)



A word of caution may be necessary. Many of the Councillors in the second list have been out canvassing for the May 2022 Council elections, the accompanying captions say as much and the leaflet in their hands is not one for Louie French.

Does that not say an awful lot about Councillors who would rather be out looking after their own seats than work for success in Westminster? With friends like that…

Two Councillors, Sue Gower and Peter Reader have their photographs appearing in a montage of photos which promote Louie but the leaflet on show suggest their inclusion is an error - deliberate or otherwise.

As you can see, the lists suggest a Crayford, Erith, Old Bexley constituency divide and it may be that the Blackfen exception is something to do with James Huntְ’s Mayoral responsibilities.

If the above analysis holds water, and a small number of Councillors say it does, it poses one big question. How can a successful Louie French push his local Agenda if he is opposed by a petulant and resentful Teresa O’Neill in Watling Street?

She was almost certainly the reason for Louie French wishing to move on. My sympathies lie with him; pity about the Boris factor.

** Sue Gower is under doctor’s orders to take things easy for the time being. I’d guess from comments elsewhere she would be a Louie supporter.

 

28 November - When the truth may hurt

Just when I thought the election campaign might benefit from a bit of locally inspired mischief making along comes a bunch of interlopers from Yorkshire to throw the cat among the pigeons.
Chargers

Click image to see which ‘record’ is in the spotlight.

 

27 November (Part 4) - 238 Woolwich Road

While many of us are getting over-excited by the Battle of Old Bexley, a planning appeal slipped through almost unnoticed. Mr. Singh has persuaded the planning officers that his ideas are better than theirs.

19/02706/FULMIN

 

27 November (Part 3) - The voluble muted

Elwyn Bryant and James BrokenshireMy friend Elwyn pictured here is disappointed that not a single electioneering canvasser has knocked on his door and he is not very impressed by the leaflets he has collected and studied.

He decided that he was being ignored and would have to go and find the three main candidates and speak to them. He wrapped up warm and took the bus to Sidcup.

The Labour Party had set out their stall near McDonalds and Richard Tice went by non-stop on his bus but of the Conservatives there was no sign. He wandered off towards their office.

Once there a young man told him that everyone was out but that wasn’t strictly true; a Councillor made his presence known and introduced himself as David Leaf.

Councillor Leaf as every regular reader will know is a man who cannot usually stop talking to the extent that his colleagues sometimes make jokes about it. He is also the Councillor who was overseeing Council finances while they bumped along the bottom.

Councillor Leaf asked what Elwyn wanted which was basically being able to question Louie French on national policies. Like most of us he has heard all anyone needs to know about the Conservative candidate’s local ambitions.

“Name?” said Councillor Leaf ready to take a note of the request and that was very abruptly the end of that. Elwyn’s parents should have given him a less distinctive name.

“Sorry, if you are not a campaigner [supporter?] I must ask you to leave.”

Friendly bunch aren’t they? Well one of them anyway.

 

27 November (Part 2) - Bold ambition

One of the ambitions of the Conservative candidate in Old Bexley & Sidcup is that he will be championing the installation of electric vehicle charging points in that constituency. With fully electric vehicles now hitting 16% of new sales each month they are definitely needed.

Two years ago Bexley Council, that is Cabinet Member Craske, was boasting about the installation of 26 charging points in Bexley claiming that he was “investing in Bexleyְ’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure”.

He wasn’t of course, a private company did that for him.
Chargers

Dozens? After two years it is barely two dozen.

Peter Craske has recently claimed to have surreptitiously increased the number to 41 but the national database of EV chargers does not show them and everyone knows Councillor Craske’s reputation where the absolute truth is concerned.

The chargers so far installed in Bexley’s parking bays are not especially useful. Optimistically they might put 25 miles of Winter motoring into a car every hour.

Fortunately our next man in Parliament - possibly - has plans to fix that.
Louie French
Quite how an MP will magic up all the extra infrastructure and persuade Bexley Council to get off its backside is not explained but one can’t fault the ambition.

Bexley has a long way to go compared to more progressive Councils.
Hammersmith

Click image for source web page.

 

27 November (Part 1) - All hands to the pumps

Below is the known tally of MPs who have so far made their way to Old Bexley & Sidcup to support Conservative by-election candidate Louie French. Impressive eh?

98 MPs
These names are taken from the MP’s Twitter accounts and from the signatures on Louie French’s large office posters, many more of which cannot be deciphered.


Bim Afolami
Nickie Aiken
Stuart Andrew
Victoria Atkins
Gareth Bacon
Duncan Baker
Aaron Bell
Crispin Blunt
Andrew Bowie
Paul Bristow
Sara Britcliffe
Anthony Browne
Felicity Buchan
Rob Butler
Simon Clark
Theo Clark
Chris Clarkson
James Cleverly
Therese Coffey
Elliot Colburn
Damian Collins
Alberto Costa
Nadine Dorries
Steve Double
Oliver Dowden
Jackie Doyle-Price
Iain Duncan Smith
Luke Evans
David Evennett
Laura Farris
Katherine Fletcher
Liam Fox
Michael Gove
Chris Grayling
Andrew Griffiths
Luke Hall
Matt Hancock
Greg Hands
Sally Ann Hart
Darren Henry
Anthony Higginbotham
Paul Holmes
Paul Howell
Nigel Huddleston
Eddie Hughes
Andrea Jenkyns
Robert Jenrick
Boris Johnson
Caroline Johnson
Gareth Johnson
Fay Jones
Kwasi Kwarteng
John Lamont
Brandon Lewis
Marco Longhi
Julia Lopez
Craig Mackinlay
Cherilyn Macrory
Alan Mak
Kit Malthouse
Jill Martin
Theresa May
Jerome Mayhew
Amanda Milling
Gagan Mohindra
Robbie Moore
Joy Morrissey
Jill Mortimer
Bob Neill
Guy Opperman
Tom Pannell
Priti Patel †
Victoria Prentis
Will Quince
Dominic Raab
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Nicola Richards
Angela Richardson
Gary Sambrook
Selaine Saxby
Paul Scully
Grant Shapps
David Simmonds
Chloe Smith
Royston Smith
Amanda Solloway
Ben Spencer
Bob Stewart
Graham Stuart
Rishi Sunak
Justin Tomlinson
Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Liz Truss
Robin Walker
Helen Whately
Heather Wheeler
James Wild
Nadhim Zahawi



And that’s not all. In a variation of party members and election candidates masquerading as Members of the Public at Council meetings the faces appearing on election leaflets may not be as impartial as implied.

Conor Noon is Parliamentary Researcher to Tracey Crouch MP and John Ormes signed James Brokenshire’s nomination papers in 2019. In politics, nothing is as it seems.
Conor Noon John Ormes

The list of visiting MPs is updated daily until 1st December.

† Priti Patel’s presence was reported at an internal Louie French support meeting. There is no evidence that she went door stepping.
List updated from 27th November through to 1st December.

 

26 November (Part 2) - Exit stage left

Dave PutsonMost by-election comment has been about the Conservative campaign but one unstated thought has been where is the Labour support.

It comes from MPs and it comes from local activists including those whose hobby has been making mischievous and sometimes untruthful complaints about Councillors (and me!) but it does not appear to have come from Bexley Labour Councillors.

I have seen Stef and Nicola on the doorsteps but where has Sally, Brenda, Mabel, Esther and Dave been?

Some have full time jobs that might not be easy to get away from and possibly I have missed one or two of the publicity photos but the situation with Dave Putson is now explained.

He isn’t Labour any more.

Note: Shortly after this report was posted Twitter revealed that Sally Hinkley has been door knocking for Labour today.

 

26 November (Part 1) - Old school politicians versus the starry eyed

John Davey TweetIf feed back is to be believed, yesterday’s blog didn’t accurately convey my thoughts on the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election. I don’t really care who wins, my interest lies in the shock value of the numbers.

The most likely result is that Louie French will succeed James Brokenshire and maintain the massive Conservative majority but him losing the seat would certainly shake the foundations of Downing Street. I suspect that a very obviously reduced vote would have a similar effect. James succeeded in 2019 on a 64·5% share of the vote; how low can it go this time around?

I have no issues with Louie French, I have every reason to assume that he walked away from his Cabinet Member job in Bexley for the same reason as his predecessor. It isn’t possible to change Bexley Council for the better while Teresa O’Neill is its Leader.

The issues I have with the Conservative Party start at the top but do not descend down to back benchers or Bexley Councillors. The problem is that Boris Johnson and his allies are not recognisable as Conservatives.

John Davey Tweet John Davey Tweet

Frazer Brooks TweetCouncillor John Davey (see the three very recent Tweets above) says things far more succinctly that I ever could. He recognises that the Government has lost sight of Conservative policies and John is not afraid to say so.

Like me he calls for a wake-up call, not perhaps as big a one as I would like to see but the two of us are in the same ball park. Some of his colleagues have similar thoughts but not as willing to go public with them.

John is ֹ‘old school’ְ like me but younger Conservatives take a different view. Frazer Brooks who is a Parliamentary researcher and Falconwood hopeful believes that “we’re electing our local representative” which is of course true but the reality is that until the greasy pole is climbed their influence is very much limited. The term voting fodder comes to mind.

If Louie found himself at odds with Government policy because it would adversely affect Bexley his Parliamentary career would go on hold for years to come.

Best to listen to the voice of experience, the voice of John Davey. “Getting back to proper Conservative policies” is all that critics like John and me are asking. Johnson is ignoring us and if it continues then one way or another he will have to go.

There is no sign of that right now as the Conservative HQ organised Old Bexley campaign shows. Already half the Cabinet has been in Bexley. Who next? Nadhim Zahawi, Sajid Javid or Michael Gove will pretty much complete the set.

Note: Yesterday’s blog has been modified to hopefully address some misunderstandings.

 

25 November - Bexley needs an MP whose ambition goes beyond planting trees

Reform UKThe by-election leaflet archive is steadily growing. The Rejoin the European Union Party is trying its luck in a borough that voted 63% to leave and Conservative candidate Louie French has run out of ideas. His leaflet picked up today repeats the same headlines and in some cases the same photos as the one collected a week ago.

The theme is unrelentingly local. As the pictures below indicate, it’s local parks, local businesses, local roads, local police, local education, local community groups and Sidcup library and cinema. A CCHQ decision presumably, with around 30 MPs visiting it seems to be obvious now that tactics are decided nationally.

If Louie French wanted to help out locally why did he resign from the job where he could directly influence local policy? Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Growth, but that perhaps underestimates the difficulty of working alongside the Leader.

Louie actually says in his latest leaflet that he will attract investment to local high streets, the Cabinet Member job he walked away from, albeit several months before the Parliamentary opportunity became available.

When Teresa Pearce was my MP in Erith and Thamesmead and helped me and others with various matters not once was she able to tackle Bexley Council on my behalf. The same was true in Old Bexley and Sidcup where my friend Elwyn was told by James Brokenshire that it “would be inappropriate” to help him when he was criminally wronged by Bexley Council. Politicians, even the better ones, help each other before they help you and me. We saw that in spades when the Prime Minister changed the rules in order to dig Owen Paterson MP out of a hole.

No one should believe that Louie French or for that matter Daniel Francis or Richard Tice (Reform UK) will be able to change the direction of Bexley Council if elected to Parliament. Both Louie and Daniel will have to toe the party line if they value their new careers. Neither will be able to influence policy either national or local as back benchers.

The one man willing to talk about the problems that affect us all is Richard Tice. His leaflets indicate that he wants to be an MP to tackle the problems that are headline news daily. Pot holes, thank goodness, are not his priority.

As a one man band he will be powerless too but his election might affect future Conservative policy in the way Nigel Farage and UKIP did in Cameron’s day, all without a single elected MP.

Louie French Louie French Louie French Louie French

Louie French Louie French Louie French Louie French

Corruption, Covid hypocrisy, an over-hasty move to green energy, the doubling of gas and electricity prices, excessive levels of taxation, immigration and wokery are Richard Tice’s interests..

As a lifelong traditional Conservative voter who would prefer to see that party survive rather than be destroyed by the current leadership I firmly believe that Boris Johnson needs a very severe electoral shock. If he is not deflected from his current headlong rush towards a position some way to the left of Tony Blair the party will inevitable die or split. We already have two Socialist parties, Labour and Green and there is no need for a third with added lies and backhanders for their mates.

If you are a left leaning Tory, Daniel Francis may be your man but if you are old enough to remember when Conservatism meant freedom in all things, a belief in Britain and its defence, low taxation and encouragement of entrepreneurs, then the nearest there is at present is Reform UK. I am not sure it matters very much which you vote for, the Conservative majority will remain close to 80 but a much reduced Conservative majority in Old Bexley & Sidcup next Thursday may ensure the continuation of the Conservative Party beyond its 190th birthday.

Right now a Tory victory will be seen as acceptance of two years of almost 100% political failure. And did I mention the widespread lies and corruption?

And another thing…

If having 25+ Conservative MPs visiting Bexley is due to them being anxious to please the whips as part of their climb up the greasy political pole; which is what one local Councillor told me, why has Boris Johnson, Theresa May, James Cleverly, Theresa Coffey, Oliver Dowden, Chris Grayling, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak all visited?. Aren’t they all successful pole climbers already?

No; it’s blind panic at CCHQ.

 

22 November (Part 2) - An alternative to Boris

Raving Loony Party Raving Loony Party

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party in Bexley Village

 

22 November (Part 1) - Mock outrage

Councillor Lisa-Jane MooreOh dear. It seems that the Labour team in Old Bexley & Sidcup accidentally sent one of their leaflets to the address of its deceased former MP. Not good but it is only one or two notches up from poking leaflets through the letterbox of a political rival. That happens all the time and no one is petty enough to complain.

I don’t believe for one moment that the Brokenshire family immediately got on the phone to the Daily Mail in an act of political mischief making; no, this can only be the work of the Dirty Tricks Department at CCHQ’s Press Office. Just a repeat of their lame attempt to label Daniel Francis an ardent EU Remainer. (Show me a Labour man who wasn’t a Remainer in 2016.)

The incident reflects badly on several Conservative Councillors and would-be Councillors (who Retweeted with added comment) apparently in favour of using - in the worst possible meaning of the word - the Brokenshire family. Just look at the leaflet they pumped out on the day of James Brokenshire’s funeral. Respectful? No. Opportunist electioneering.

The Conservatives too often show themselves to be despicable people no better than the Labour activists who reported me to the police four times for republishing their own Tweets and then when I ignored them wasted their money on a solicitor’s letter accusing me of various imaginary things accompanied by a further threat of police action.

It is because of people like that who are prominent in the local Labour Party that I wouldn’t be able to vote Labour on 2nd December despite there being no Conservatives left in Government. It is a blessing that I don’t have to make that decision for real yet but if I had to I would be leaning towards one of the minor parties. I have nothing against Louie French but I am not aware that he left much of a mark in the Council Chamber. His problem now is that he is asking traditional Conservatives to support a Government that isn’t and shows every sign of being corrupt to its core.

 

21 November (Part 2) - What do they stand for?

There are quite a lot of Old Bexley & Sidcup election leaflets available in the Archive and the two big parties are still pushing the local Agenda. I suppose they know what they are doing but for me it is a turn off. OB&S is electing an MP not a Councillor.

An analysis of leaflets collected so far reveals the following stated interests…

 

Brexit
Christian People’s Alliance, UKIP
Celebrate Britain
Heritage Party

Cleaner Streets
Conservative Party, Labour Party
Covid: Lock Downs/Passports
Christian People’s Alliance, Heritage Party. Lib Dems, Reform UK

Education
Conservative Party, Reform UK
EV Charge Points
Conservative Party

Free Speech/Cancel Culture
Heritage Party, Reform UK
Fuel - Shortages/Price
Labour Party, Lib Dems, Reform UK

Green Spaces
Conservative Party, Heritage Party
Health & GP Care
Conservative Party, Reform UK

Housing
UKIP
Immigration
Heritage Party, Reform UK, UKIP

Litter
Conservative Party
Local Transport
Conservative Party

Marriage breakdown
Christian People’s Alliance
Net Zero (Heat Pumps etc.)
Heritage Party, Reform UK, UKIP

Outer London Road Tax
Conservative Party
Pet Theft
Conservative Party

Police & Crime
Conservative Party, Labour Party, Reform UK
Potholes
Conservative Party, Labour Party

Puberty Blockers
Christian People’s Alliance
Public Services
Reform UK, UKIP

Safety of Women
UKIP
Taxation
Heritage Party, Lib Dems, Reform UK, UKIP

Universal Credit
Liberal Dems



OB&S links…
Christian People’s Alliance : Conservative Party : Heritage Party : Labour Party : Liberal Democrats : Reform UK : UKIP.

The English Democrats, Rejoin EU, The Green Party and The Official Monster Raving Loony Party are also standing but no election leaflets have so far surfaced.

The thought that the subjects you might hear discussed over a pint, Covid, free speech, energy price increases, health care, housing, immigration, Net Zero, collapsing public services and escalating levels of taxation are being ignored by the major parties is hard to overlook.

 

21 November (Part 1) - Expanding beyond Bexley

Bexley Road Bexley Road Bexley RoadThis rather attractive development is 176-178 Bexley Road, Erith, another by Bexley’s favourite building and demolition company. (19/00039/FUL04.)

Attractive it may be but already the subject of vandalism. (Photo 3.)

The building is currently graced by two ‘Let and Managed’ boards. What is not obvious in Photo 2 is that Safe Homes and Bexley Homes share a phone number. 01322 222736.

Suspicious.

Digging in further reveals that they share a Dartford address - along with four other companies. Singh is a common name but all six are registered in that name. Just a coincidence obviously.

A Companies House search threw up another new company name. It is ‘90 Abbeywood’ and only a month old and registered where I am not welcome. Another Kulvinder Singh enterprise, How does he keep track of them all?

Earlier in the week a web search for 90 Abbeywood led to a Greenwich Council planning application but their planning portal fails on all searches this morning so that will have to wait for another time.

 

19 November (Part 2) - Running scared

Elwyn Bryant and James BrokenshireThe man you might not recognise here is Elwyn Bryant, he of the ill-fated petition against quarter of a million pound salary packages in 2011. Rejected by a dishonest Bexley Council without a word of debate.

He has slowed down a little since but can still give politicians a hard time and was looking forward to attending hustings in Old Bexley and Sidcup but he heard nothing about them.

Taking the initiative he called the booking agent for a hall in Bexley Village and confirmed that there was a suitable evening available for £150 and proceeded to tout his idea around the local parties.

He found his own way to the Labour Party office where to quote, “a couple of youngsters looked at me as if I was mad”.

The Reform UK and Conservative addresses were closed so Elwyn resorted to the telephone. The Reform man was definitely interested and said he would call the hall and invite the other parties. 48 hours later Elwyn had heard nothing so he called Reform’s number again. The Chief Executive said he was not interested. Later on the first man called back and told Elwyn he had been over-ruled. The boss thought that if they booked the hall the other parties would boycott it.

Elwyn phoned the Conservatives’ office and spoke to the Chairman of the Association. “Very nice” was Elwyn’s verdict but it was still no go. She thought hustings should be organised by local charity or church groups. The Electoral Commission disagrees. Not enough time was the principal excuse which is one I heard from Labour myself.

That seems to be more than a little lame to me but maybe the time expended simply doesn’t cost in. In 2019 there were only 70 people present and only five questions permitted. A lot of preparation would have gone into that, time that could be spent knocking on doors.

Elwyn along with everyone else I spoke to on 4th December 2019 was disappointed and Elwyn is disappointed again. Disappointed that no one has knocked on his door either.

He thought that Reform UK could “slaughter” the two established parties because it is the only one whose interest in the future of the country extends beyond potholes, commuter transport, cleaner streets and fuel duty.

He has a point doesn’t he? The big problem is in Westminster not Bexley.

 

19 November (Part 1) - Financial Strategy includes increasing Council Tax by as much as is legally permitted

Public Cabinet continued with a brief look at the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy and the Leader said the future is still uncertain due to inflation, material and skill shortages but the expectation is a balanced budget for 2022/23. The Government settlement is another uncertainty, it not being due until Christmas time.

The Finance Director said he expected the settlement to be announced on 15th December. It is already known that there will be £1·6 billion of additional Government investment in Councils and it is likely to include £200 million for supporting families and £38 million for cyber-security.

It has been assumed that Bexley Council will fully adopt all the Council Tax increases permitted in the recent budget.

Growth of £5·984 million will be required next year on top of £8·118 million already identified. The extra relates to parking, leisure, Place contracts and Social Services. Whether such shortfalls will have to be met in future years or are short term after-effects of Covid is not yet known.

Cabinet Member David Leaf said he did not anticipate any changes to the level of Council services provided next year. Councillor Leaf emphasised that everything is reviewed regularly to ensure that there are no budget surprises. Presumably his predecessor in 2014 failed to do that.
Election promise

2014 election promise.
In practice, close to being the highest Council Tax in London and services slashed.

Cabinet Member for Growth Cafer Munur spoke in glowing terms of the investments being made in Bexley. “Bellway, Erith Quarry, Park East, Peabody, Sidcup Library and BexleyCo.”

Labour Leader Borella reminded the meeting of the £11 million overspend on temporary accommodation which sent last year’s budget wildly off course. Park East he said represented a big reduction in available social housing and that which was promised in other areas has not been built yet. Stefano was not as sure as the Cabinet Member that £750,000 Old Farm Park homes were a success. Far from affordable.

The Public Health Grant has fallen from £12·1 million to £9·9 in five years. A £10 per head reduction. What on earth has the Leader of the Council been doing?”

Stefano warned that further increases to parking charges may be “a step too far and be a tipping point.”

The Council Leader said she had “pulled back on the temporary accommodation overspend”. Bexley residents had moved into all three parts of Old Farm Park, outright purchase, shared ownership and social housing.

On the Public Health Grant Tower Hamlets was given six times a much as Bexley and it was a Government decision. The future of parking in the borough was currently the subject of an in-depth study.

Cabinet Member David Leaf referred back to a meeting held a week earlier where Councillor Borella was said not to have asked about affordable housing. Councillor Leaf thought it relevant to add that Stefano was not dressed in his best suit. He further alleged that Councillor Borella is only interested in affordable housing when meetings are webcast and he has twice opposed investment in affordable homes.

Councillor Borella said he still believed in building Council houses despite “the Leader calling it a retrograde step” and repeated his statement that the social housing planned for Park East had not been built. “I think that is disgraceful.”

Council Leader O’Neill denied she had said that building Council housing was a retrograde step. “You won’t get me on that one.”

“Councillor Borella I need to correct you, I did not say building Council housing was a retrograde step.”

But what did everyone hear the Leader say in July?

“Having our own housing stock is a retrograde step.”

Oh dear! Is there really any practical difference between “building” and “having” housing stock? The discussion was hastily drawn to a close.

Note: In the first audio clip Councillor Borella added a few more comments after his initial statement of his belief in Council housing before the Council Leader responded. These few words have been cut to minimise web storage space but the Council webcast will confirm they are inconsequential.

 

18 November (Part 4) - Out gunned

Round Table There will be no Christmas Tree in Wilton Road because the consensus there was that it would need a 24/7 armed guard.

However in Welling they have a big cannon so a tree should be safe in Bellegrove Road.

The Welling Round Table is an enormous asset to their community.

BexFest, the Great Welling Beerfest, the Danson Park Fireworks and Danny ‘he gets everywhere’ (except on Council Committees) Hackett.

 

18 November (Part 3) - Ever more desperate

Tweet Having seen Councillor John Davey’s comment on the report shown below I searched Bonkers for every reference to Brexit. Former Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare MP asked the Council Leader just before the referendum if a pro-Brexit vote was likely to impact the borough but apart from that no one is reported to have mentioned it.

With one exception.

Councillor Danny Hackett who has come out as a strong supporter of the Conservative Old Bexley & Sidcup candidate, Councillor Louie French is twice reported as being very much in favour of remaining in the European Union.

Is no one allowed to change their mind? If the only evidence that can be found of Daniel Francis being a Remainer is two five year old Retweets someone must be getting desperate to dig dirt.

ׅ“Brexit Hating” is way over the top based on Daniel Francis’s record in Bexley.

Can’t the muck rakers find anything he said for himself? Daniel Francis made no issue of Brexit locally. He fully accepted the referendum result.

Guido Fawkes Guido Fawkes

John Austin was ironically correct (see his Tweet above) but it is local Tories who are currently adopting Goebbel’s technique.

 

18 November (Part 2) - Promises. Promises

Thames crossingAs the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election approaches it has been time to tidy up the archive of political leaflets built up over the years and smile ruefully over the broken promises.

Here is a selection from way back in 2010 when Labour was still in Government and the Conservatives locally were still feeling their feet - and lying quite a lot.

They were still campaigning against the rather modest bridge with which Ken Livingston proposed to replace the one abandoned after a public enquiry held some 25 years ago. They got that one badly wrong, All the TfL surveys showed Bexley residents to be hugely in favour of the crossing and they are still unable to get from one side of the river to the other.

Thamesmead still has its problems with crime.

Belvedere is still the borough’s dumping ground, losing wild life spaces to data centres and warehouses.

The CCTV system has come and gone.

Bexley Council is still begging for adequate Government funding despite having a supposedly friendly Government in Westminster for the past eleven years.

Thamesmead gangs Belvedere
Funding BCCTV

 

18 November (Part 1) - Budget progress report

Public Cabinet this week began as they so often do with a report on the budget situation by Paul Thorogood the Finance Director. There was little to report.

The forecast “remains break even” at the end of the financial year helped by an increase in NHS payments in respect of hospital discharges and after costs incurred will see a benefit of £874,000 to the Council. In the other direction Children’s Services will incur an extra £450,000 in costs due to additional demands by care leavers.

Cabinet Member David Leaf can always be relied upon to expand on the Director’s a short report and he did not disappoint. Apart from blaming the pandemic for continued financial uncertainty and a statement of the obvious on inflation and interest rate risks his two and a half minutes added nothing new.

Cabinet Member for Growth Cafer Munur likes to emulate his colleague and reported that Business Rate collection was down by 1·8%. He aims to “support businesses as much as he can through the Build Back Better economic recovery programme with £1·04 million”. Businesses have asked for the money to be spent on cultural street food, business support seminars, pop-up markets, lamp post banners, deep cleans, more Christmas lights, video, social media and advertising.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) questioned library opening hours (much reduced) and car parking use. Was the reduction in car parking due to Covid or the (30%) higher charges? He noted that the highways lighting spend was up. Was it due to increased energy costs?

The Leader told him that car parking issues are the subject of intense study to see if revenue is ever like to recover and the Deputy Director added that with libraries only recently reopening data is currently insufficient to see any trend.

When Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) stood to ask a question it was not difficult to guess that the subject would be housing. It was, specifically the take it or leave it offers. “Unsuitable or not” she said residents are “given only a matter of hours to make a decision. The real reason is [for the Council] to discharge duties and save money”.

“Is the Council looking for empty buildings that could possibly be used for housing?"

The question of only hours notice was instantly dismissed as was Councillor Taylor’s July report of some housing being verminous, without locks or function toilets. Unfortunately recent events have confirmed it. Her other questions were deferred to private correspondence, the public will remain uninformed.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) asked if the half million overspend on the Learning & Enterprise College was Covid related or something else. It was confirmed that “Covid had a huge impact on enrollment”. Staff costs had risen too.

There were no questions from Conservative Councillors.

 

17 November (Part 2) - Christmas is coming

Thanks to the generosity of both Bexley and Greenwich Councils who are prepared to chip in £900 each it is likely that Abbey Wood’s Wilton Road will be provided with Christmas lights this year after the tradition being given a Covid related miss in 2020.
Christmas lights Christmas lights
Bexley Council will be funding decorations in several shopping centres through their traders’ associations.

 

17 November (Part 1) - A good living from failure

Since my first encounter with Bexley Council it has had five Chief Executives that I know of. You could write to Terry Musgrave, the first of them and get a signed reply but everything went downhill from there.

The next one did a deal with a Council Leader who was subsequently given an unconnected suspended jail sentence, left soon afterwards and has since netted close to a million pounds from the Bexley taxpayer.

After him we had a lapdog who covered up for a dishonest Council until eventually Greenwich Police (Bexley refused to be involved) sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service alleging Misconduct in a Public Office. Saved by his appointment to a sensitive Government appointed post. Boats must not be rocked.

CumbriaIn more recent times a female Chief Executive was appointed whose only claim to fame was her withdrawal of the Press Desk at Council meetings and erecting a barrier between the public and the dangerous people on the other side.

She left with a £94,000 pay cheque only to be replaced by another female Chief Executive who has no claim to fame at all.

Before being unpopular in Bexley, Ms. Gill Steward had been unpopular in Cornwall and unpopular in West Sussex. After becoming unpopular in Bexley she managed to be unpopular in Hounslow and recently took a job in Cumbria to see if she could be unpopular there too.

A rip-roaring success. Appointed last July and dis-appointed a couple of weeks ago.

Due diligence is not a phrase oft used in Council recruitment circles. The report above was by Cumbria’s minority Green Party and it was ignored. The Greens are evidently not as green as I had imagined.

The report below is from the local newspaper. Ms. Steward is once again on then jobs market. Where next to be unpopular?
Cumbria

 

16 November - Elections. Bored of it yet?

Daniel FrancisWhat’s to be done when you try to keep an archive of political promises to be used against candidates years later and none of my Old Bexley contacts have received anything from Labour?

Give Daniel Francis a shout perhaps? I did and the postman delivered next day! A procedure which can’t be repeated on the Tories but that is their choice developed over many years.

All the Old Bexley and Sidcup Labour material I have been able to locate is now Indexed here.

If you have been looking at the archive recently you may notice that the navigation has been simplified. (Labour and Conservative only so far.)

The Conservative and Labour candidates appear to be frightened of mentioning national issues. Daniel Francis lists some in his survey request (scroll to final page) but that’s it. Nothing similar from Louie French.

He mentions the beer duty cut and the fuel duty freeze but he forgets the big National Insurance hike and the loss of the pensioners’ Triple Lock.

His theme is Local, Local, Local and Daniel Francis is not much better.

Only the Reform Party remembers that this is a national election but the two Councillors are electioneering as if it was for Bexley Council.

One can understand Councillor French avoiding national issues because there is nothing to be proud of there but Councillor Francis cannot counter it while his Leader wants the same but more so. More tax, more lockdowns, stricter passports and please don’t mention immigration.

So Daniel lists all the local ills of which there are many and for which the Conservatives are responsible. But will he be able to do anything about them? No; even less so as an opposition MP as he could as an opposition Councillor. The same applies to Louie French.

It is all a bit mad, speaking of which the candidates are regretting the fact that no one has organised hustings. If they could find the time to look at the Electoral Commission’s website (just cancel their stupid Print pop up) they would soon discover that they could do it themselves.

Readers who have tried phoning the numbers printed on leaflets report that the answering machines say their offices are closed. What a shambles.

 

15 November - Hustings anyone?

HustingsHustings seem to have fallen out of the political dictionary since I first attended one in 1959 - heckled and thrown out.

In May 2015 the Erith & Thamesmead hustings were cancelled while people were assembling outside (there was a dispute over them having a Conservative Chairman) but in 2017 they were successful in both Thamesmead and in Old Bexley. (Unfortunately the YouTube videos of the latter are no longer available.)

Before the 2019 General Election they were arguably less than successful. A church group ran one in St. John’s Church, Sidcup but it was critised because of allegedly rigged questions. They were had to be submitted in advance, they were not admitted from anyone who knew their political onions and candidates were allowed to speak for only 60 seconds.

Except on the most superficial level it was all a bit of a waste of time. Difficult questions are required to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Some readers are hoping for something better this time but it looks like they must hope in vain. No one is organising a hustings.

The nearest one might get to questioning a candidate before 2nd December is if you are lucky enough to get a knock on your door or you catch their appearance on local TV News programmes.

I fear some readers will be disappointed.


5 December 2019 (Part 2) - Old Bexley and Sidcup election hustings

My friend Elwyn Bryant asked me if I would go with him to the Old Bexley hustings in Sidcup’s St. John The Evangelist Church and as he had a friend who lived more or less next door with a spare parking place on her drive there was absolutely no reason not to go. Erith & Thamesmead has been dead electorally as far as I can see.

Hustings HustingsI must say the church building is magnificent but whether it is the right place for hustings is debatable; maybe the environment helped to keep the more excitable elements on their best behaviour.

All five candidates were present with Reverend Cathy Knight-Scott in the chair. She ruled the roost very decisively with four minutes of introduction per candidate and one minute each to answer questions. There were only five subjects up as questions, a couple on Brexit and one each on housing, NHS, reversing austerity and WASPI women.

Including a quite lengthy introduction and the drawing of lots to determine seating positions the questions session lasted for only 70 minutes after which refreshments were served.

It was all over far too quickly and by accident or design no one known to be active politically was allowed a question. As such it was all a bit too easy going and with no more than 70 people present and no one from the press one must wonder what the point of it all is.


 

14 November (Part 5) - No bog or no shower? It’s your choice, take it or leave it

Daily MailThe roofless house story has fallen from the headlines but I am not convinced the situation has been completely resolved.

I have been poking my nose into where it may not be welcome and reviewed every piece of written and recorded information that has come my way. Some of it is conflicting but there is no obvious evidence that either Councillor involved has resorted to Craskisms.

Nicola Taylor the Labour Councillor for Erith has been getting her information directly from the young mother of three who fell victim to Bexley’s poor housing stock. She has to some extent been kept in the dark by Bexley’s housing managers who when chased for an answer to questions told her they had not replied “because you [a Councillor] may not understand it”.

The Cabinet Member took her information from the housing staff who are run off their feet following the staff cuts and their bosses who may be protective of their own backsides.

The further perusal of the evidence reveals that both Councillors worked together to find alternative accommodation once Nicola had impressed on the Chief Executive and the Cabinet Member on October 9th that there was a problem that could be ignored no longer. Councillor Taylor had referred to several similar issues at the Cabinet meeting on 26th July.

However there is no evidence that after new accommodation was allocated on the evening of 9th October anyone other than Nicola Taylor became pro-active. It was Nicola who had to ride to the rescue with payment for a taxi and it was remiss of the Council not to check if the boiler at the new address worked. It didn’t.

It was also remiss of them not to make a note of the tenant’s preferred method of contact. You’d think they would get that simple job right.

Depending on who you listen to the house is now repaired and reoccupied or still in need of a great deal of attention. A tradesman with a toolbag showed up there on Thursday to begin work so there is hope.

Trawling through old audio recordings proved interesting. Firstly there is the Council Leader and her infamous comment that Council housing is retrograde.

“Having our own housing stock is a retrograde step.”

The Cabinet Member’s response (audio clip below) to Councillor Taylorְ’s reiteration of her long held view that the homeless are placed in unsuitable accommodation was in retrospect misinformation whilst Cabinet Member Craske was just plain rude. Someone drawing a large salary must have Fullered poor Sue and led her up the garden path in much the same way that the Cabinet Member for Education was dropped into the deep end by his Departmental Head.

“I did not accept [when told at a previous Council meeting] that unsuitable housing was being offered. All property is inspected before use.”

When Councillor Gower became part of Bexley’s Cabinet I had high hopes that it would herald the end of its traditional dishonesty. I still do. Sue Gower will have to engage in the political knock about to maintain the credibility of her peers but I am sure that she remains happy to leave the misinformation machine in the capable hands of Cabinet Members Craske and Read. Maybe I am naive but I hope I am not. I much prefer to believe that when found lacking, Bexley Council’s senior managers’ principal interest will be themselves than to doubt the new Cabinet Member for Communities.

It’s not a difficult choice but who are you most likely to believe? Someone who tells a senior Councillor that they only allocate housing which is up to scratch or a Councillor who hired a taxi for a resident in distress to take her to a house with a working toilet, albeit one which did not have a working shower.

 

14 November (Part 4) - Not complete balls

Hadlow Road, Sidcup Hadlow Road, SidcupI took an early trip to Sidcup this morning to pick up another Tory leaflet from my new friend there who had not only saved Louie French’s leaflet but allowed me to park on his front drive.

I took the opportunity to look at the situation in Hadlow Road which he had reported to the Council for more than a year.

A space reserved for a tree or suchlike had never been planted and had become a mud patch. He expected Bexley Council would eventually take the easy way out and pave it over.

After fashion they did. It was asphalted. Then they got all artistic and placed a granite ball on top of it. Maybe they had one left over from Broadway.

It didn’t survive for long; someone ran in to it or maybe simply decided on a game of marbles.

Another waste of money.

Incidentally I have nothing against Louie French. The fact that he has always ignored me has no bearing on it as the forthcoming Northumberland Heath election should prove. Wendy Perfect has never acknowledged my existence either, there is no particular reason why she should.

Louie French has the great misfortune of having to represent a Government far too tolerant of wokery, insulate Britain terrorists and the south coast invasion. Far too obsessed with greenery and laying down impractical heat pump timetables and cockups over fishing and Northern Ireland.

Please donְ’t criticise my list too much for being disloyal to my old party, it is Conservative Counclllor John Davey’s list but I agree with him absolutely.

If you value your freedom and love your country you don’t vote Tory at this by-election. Pity poor Louie, he is not a bad bloke but using the former police officer who proposed James Brokenshire’s nomination in 2019 on the latest leaflet is just a little bit deceitful.

 

14 November (Part 3) - If you can’t stand the heat…

 It appears to be a rite of passage in Bexley that election candidates are made to ask sycophantic questions of the Leader or one of her cronies at Full Council. The first reference on Bonkers to planted questions was in April 2011.

There was something more specific a month later when Bexley Council began its campaign to deter genuine questions in earnest by publishing on its website the names and full addresses of those with the temerity to ask one. The first absolutely clear case of a planted easy question was also in April 2011 only five months after I attended my first ever Council meeting. It was by then member of the public David Leaf no less and fake questions have been a feature of Bexley Council ever since.

Just before the May 2018 election three ‘members of the public’ were described as useful idiots after asking their questions.

“Dear Leader, please list your achievements”. Yes, literally.

After election, two of the three showed themselves to be pretty good performers in the Chamber and not just good hoop jumpers. Intriguing that a fourth new Councillor in 2018 managed to dodge the ritual.

Ten days ago three more members of the public asked their questions and I described them as charlatans. That was wrong of me, I should have checked the dictionary so I apologise, the correct word is imposters. Following that Frazer Brooks held out a hand of friendship, Felix Di Netimah maintained a dignified silence and Aaron Newbury objected via the medium of Twitter and promptly blocked me when I compared him unfavourably to Friendly Frazer.

A Bonkers reader, one Twitter blocked by more Councillors than I can count, tipped me off about the Local Government Ombudsman link and another regular urged me to poke around Brent Council’s website.

Both Aaron and Felix had been politically active there. Good political news I would have thought, shouldn’t we know about Councillor’s political history? Right now Louie French is busy making his as public as possible.

TweetsMuch to my surprise, late last night Twitter alerted me to a comment by Aaron Newbury. Over the years senior Conservative Councillors have called me all sorts of things; a cretin, a wanker and in a very derogatory fashion, gay.

It says something about a Cabinet Member who regards the latter as being an insult. Labour Chairmen and the like are content with calling me a brownshirt.

None of that matters but I am rather proud of the fact that no one has ever called me a liar. Last night Aaron broke my 12 year old record.

He says I lied about him not living in Bexley. Maybe he was not fully in control of his faculties, it was late after all. I had specifically written that he had moved to Bexley.

A moment later Aaron Tweeted twice more and referred to our paths crossing at eleven o’clock at night. This was untrue. He passed me by while I was talking to Councillor Danny Hackett on the Civic Offices’ steps a couple of minutes after nine thirty. Aaron acknowledged neither of us even though he had been sitting right behind Danny at Full Council.

I composed a brief reply but Twitter would not allow me to send it. All three Tweets had been almost instantly deleted.

An hour later there was another Tweet, from one of Aaron’s political followers. I was accused of harassing a young person and referred to a Restraining Order for doing so before. Before? What is that all about?

So that’s cretin, wanker, homosexual and now child abuser from my Conservative friends. Bexley Conservatives truly must be getting desperate to silence comment.

Another thing I am quite proud of is resisting the temptation to Twitter block anyone on the grounds that I don’t believe in writing things not fit for publication and some people are in need of an education. I have three blocked accounts. A Scottish troll with single digits of followers, a Philip Read who is not ours so I am less likely to mistake one for the other and Sidcup Police who block me because I twice featured their dubious activities. Just simple retaliation on my part but I suspect the block count may have to go up to five soon.

It was a sour end to an otherwise productive day. Two Conservative Councillors and one Labour had helped me enormously in the pursuit of truth.

 

14 November (Part 2) - Boris in Bexley berated

Boris is not welcome Boris is not welcomeIt is not clear to me exactly what this is all about apart from the obvious.

Someone, allegedly in Bexley Village, shares my enthusiasm for Boris Johnson.

 

14 November (Part 1) - Michael Barnbrook aka @sleazebuster

Michael BarnbrookDon’t worry, he is not dead but he has asked me to pass on the news to old Bexley friends and 18,500 Twitter followers if possible that he is back in hospital thanks to his Loeffler’s endocarditis - look it up yourself - and with a very poor phone connection.

The latest problem began a week ago after he had accumulated an estimated 15 litres of fluid in the lower regions. The ambulance service let him down and he made his own way to A&E where he waited eleven and a half hours to be seen as an urgent case. Then another six hours to be allocated a bed.

Michael is at pains (bad pun) to point out that he has received excellent treatment in hospital but it has not been without its unbelievable moments, or as Mick is inclined to see them, humourous moments.

The plan was to hitch him to a machine which if I understood correctly would intravenously fill him with something that would get rid of the excess of water. By Friday the problem should have reduced to the point he could take a similar machine home and a District Nurse would visit twice a day to do whatever is necessary.

The plan fell apart when it was discovered that his part of Kent doesn’t have any District Nurses so he is going to be a bed blocker for two weeks.

The excitement does not stop there.

Mick has been trying to keep active and two weeks ago joined his local bowls club. This week came news that one of the members there had gone down with Covid. Mick had been in the same club house but not close to him, nevertheless, honest as ever, he told the hospital authorities and they panicked.

Despite him being Covid tested negative he was put into isolation. Not very effectively, there was nothing but curtains between him and the next patient but he wasn’t allowed to leave his eight foot square prison cell. No toilet, no shower, no washing his hair, no brushing his teeth.

Mick has never been one for placidly lying down (another bad pun?) so he rebelled and announced his intention to take a trip to the bathroom after midnight when there would be no staff around. Panic again. This apparently was going to bring the whole ward to a standstill. One trip to the bathroom would require it to be taken out of use until it was fumigated, disinfected and sanitised, demolished and rebuilt or whatever. All for a man who tested negative for Covid.

Mick can be charming when he needs to be so he called for Matron and charmed her into seeing sense. She has decreed that he can stop using his bucket now, but he is still unnecessarily detained in hospital because there are no District Nurses in East Kent.

And Sajid bloody Javid is going to sack some of them as soon as he can.

 

13 November (Part 4) - Too much smoke

When a neighbour texted me just after nine last night with the cryptic “Sharma performed well” I assumed it was something to do with Strictly Come Dancing, a TV programme I had heard about but never watched.

ConcordeI was wrong again, COP26 was something else I had heard about but never watched. There is not enough time to follow every political stunt even though my understanding is that a lot of jet engines were involved.

Maybe my father is personally responsible for climate change; he spent more than ten years developing the Olympus engine that powered Concorde. As you can see here from my own poor photo, early prototypes had a smoke problem.

His notebooks of mathematical calculations related to that project frighten me half to death. Eventually he got to stop Concorde from smoking. Pity he didn’t do the same for himself.

 

13 November (Part 3) - Desperate days

The Conservatives have been throwing everything they have got at the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election. Yesterday it was Boris Johnson today the Conservatives are trying very hard to make amends.

Who else has been seen out walking the streets?

98 MPs
These names are taken from the MP’s Twitter accounts and from the signatures on Louie French’s large office posters, many more of which cannot be deciphered.


Bim Afolami
Nickie Aiken
Stuart Andrew
Victoria Atkins
Gareth Bacon
Duncan Baker
Aaron Bell
Crispin Blunt
Andrew Bowie
Paul Bristow
Sara Britcliffe
Anthony Browne
Felicity Buchan
Rob Butler
Simon Clark
Theo Clark
Chris Clarkson
James Cleverly
Therese Coffey
Elliot Colburn
Damian Collins
Alberto Costa
Nadine Dorries
Steve Double
Oliver Dowden
Jackie Doyle-Price
Iain Duncan Smith
Luke Evans
David Evennett
Laura Farris
Katherine Fletcher
Liam Fox
Michael Gove
Chris Grayling
Andrew Griffiths
Luke Hall
Matt Hancock
Greg Hands
Sally Ann Hart
Darren Henry
Anthony Higginbotham
Paul Holmes
Paul Howell
Nigel Huddleston
Eddie Hughes
Andrea Jenkyns
Robert Jenrick
Boris Johnson
Caroline Johnson
Gareth Johnson
Fay Jones
Kwasi Kwarteng
John Lamont
Brandon Lewis
Marco Longhi
Julia Lopez
Craig Mackinlay
Cherilyn Macrory
Alan Mak
Kit Malthouse
Jill Martin
Theresa May
Jerome Mayhew
Amanda Milling
Gagan Mohindra
Robbie Moore
Joy Morrissey
Jill Mortimer
Bob Neill
Guy Opperman
Tom Pannell
Priti Patel †
Victoria Prentis
Will Quince
Dominic Raab
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Nicola Richards
Angela Richardson
Gary Sambrook
Selaine Saxby
Paul Scully
Grant Shapps
David Simmonds
Chloe Smith
Royston Smith
Amanda Solloway
Ben Spencer
Bob Stewart
Graham Stuart
Rishi Sunak
Justin Tomlinson
Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Liz Truss
Robin Walker
Helen Whately
Heather Wheeler
James Wild
Nadhim Zahawi


Others

 


Cheryl Bacon (Sidcup)
Nigel Betts (Falconwood)
Andrew Boff (GLA Chair)
Christine Bishop (Crayford)
Sarah Bool (GE candidate)
Frazer Brooks (Falconwood hopeful)
Christine Catterall (East Wickham)
Oliver Cooper (Camden)
Peter Craske (Blogger)
Jason Cummings (Shirley, Croydon)
John Davey (West Heath)
Charlie Davis (Greenwich)
Richard Diment (Sidcup)
Anna Firth (GE candidate)
Peter Fortune (GLA member)
Neeti Gupta (Bromley)
Howard Jackson (Barnehurst)
David Leaf (Blendon)
Johnny Luk (GE candidate)
Lisa-Jane Moore (Longlands)
Aaron Newbury (Crayford hopeful)
Peter Reader (West Heath)
Lady Neville-Rolfe (Peer)
Neil Shastri-Hurst (GE candidate)
June Slaughter (Sidcup)
Kieran Terry (Chislehurst)
Holly Whitbread (Essex CC)



While Boris Johnson was in town yesterday he gave an interview to the News Shopper and said he was against Sadiq Khan’s Outer London road tax but I heard him say he was against road humps when he was in Bexley earlier but by the next day he had forgotten all about it.

Just a waste of space.

† Priti Patel’s presence was reported at an internal Louie French support meeting. There is no evidence that she went door stepping.
List updated from 13th November through to 1st December.

 

13 November (Part 2) - Blockhead and Blockbuster

Boris JohnsonI had heard several times that the cinema with a library attached going up on the old Blockbuster site in Sidcup was an ugly monstrosity so when the opportunity arose to take a lift there soon after 1 p.m. yesterday I grabbed the camera and jumped into the passenger seat.

What I didn’t know is that the Prime Minister would be in town while I circumnavigated the ugly monstrosity. Our paths didn’t cross.

As you can see it is far too early to make such a judgment but windows not unlike the machine gun slots in an army pillbox may not be a good sign.

I walked to the station for my late running train (leaves on the line) and bumped into an old Crossrail friend from back when I took photos of the construction every day.

Sidcup cinema Sidcup cinema Sidcup cinema Sidcup cinema

“What do you think of Bexley’s plan to run Elizabeth line trains down to Ebbsfleet.” He didn’t know that details were available; I elaborated.

I would like to tell you exactly what was said but your swear filter might explode.

“They p****d £4·85 million up the wall? It is never going to happen. That f****** woman has screwed up Bexley for too long, turned it into a s***h***. She cancelled the river crossing. No f****** idea. How can our capital city have no way of getting from one part of it to another?” And on he went.

I was really pleased to hear him say without me prompting that the passenger flows within the station would be a calamity. “Why did we install those escalators? Who will use the North entrance?”

My intimate knowledge of railways did not extend beyond underlining numbers in an Ian Allen book 70 years ago so it was nice to hear a railway professional picking the same holes in the extension plan as I did.

Back to the election. I expected to be chastised for pushing the anti-Tory case in Old Bexley but if anything it was the reverse.


Hi.
Recent activity in the South Welling area:
Tory: two lots of leaflets but candidate nowhere to be seen. How anyone can contemplate serving under that gangster Johnson is beyond my ken.
Brexit or whatever: one leaflet but candidate missing in action. Long may it stay that way.
Labour: doorstep chat with Daniel Francis and one leaflet. Comes across as a decent chap.


Ahh! The first confirmation that there is such a thing as a Labour leaflet. I was beginning to wonder.

There was only one blogging complaint this week. Someone objected to the poppy added to the banner. It shouldn’t be red apparently. It very nearly wasn’t there at all. The Royal British Legion was added to my woke list last year and I switched my monthly donation to another military charity. However for the sake of peace and quiet there are now two poppies on the banner. There may not be a poppy at all next year.

 

13 November (Part 1) - Curiouser and curiouser

Conservative Party Members who masquerade as members of the public presumably interest readers more than I had imagined. After discovering that Felix Di Netimah had been a Tory candidate in Brent one suggested that I go back to that Council’s website and do a more thorough search.

I did and found Felix’s nomination papers from 2018. I was surprised to be able to do that.

In Bexley where more Councillor addresses are hidden than in the rest of London put together I asked (in 2011) for a copy of the 2010 nomination papers and was told that they destroyed them soon after the election and didn’t keep copies. Probably they were lying.

Aaron Newbury Brent’s nomination papers include Felix and his address but it also lists the name and address of Aaron Newbury - 24 times! He was agent for that many Conservative candidates.

I wonder what persuaded the pair to move to Bexley. Easy blue seats perhaps? Probably not so easy in Northumberland Heath. That is going to be a dirty election (see what the Tories did three years ago) where Wendy Perfect holds the seat for Labour with just two votes.

I suspect I am going to fail to sit on the fence again. Candidate who speaks when she shouldn’t or one who speaks with forked tongue. Hmmm. Difficult.

 

12 November (Part 4) - Tory v Tice

Two more by-election leaflets to end the day. One from Louie French the Conservative candidate. I think I might take issue with the claim to have opposed “the Mayor’s tri-borough policy that shut local police stations”. Careful use of words, Bexley didn’t lose any police stations due to that policy.

Fortunately Labour Councillors fought the proposals very vigorously and wrote to anyone who would listen pleading for the retention of Bexley’s police station.

Their letters to the Home Secretary and the Mayor’s Office for Policing would have had more effect than Tories waving placards. In the two years leading up to when the police station might have closed, Louie French was mentioned here only twice. Not a word about police stations.

Another Richard Tice Reform UK leaflet has surfaced too. Not yet a single one from Labour. Are they going straight into Old Bexleyman’s bin?

 

12 November (Part 3) - What’s in a name?

I must be very careful about this or Clive Mardener might come after me but I once employed a man whose name consisted of 41 pretty much random characters. I remember it well because the primitive data base in use at the time allowed a maximum of 36.I never did learn to spell the man’s name and probably pronounced it wrongly most of the time. It taught me to be careful about such things which is why I noticed the following within the Agenda of the last Full Council meeting and contrasted it with the name that appeared on the Crayford Councillor’s leaflet.
Felix Netimah
Was it really the same man? Fortunately I took a photo of the “Local Resident” asking questions - but didn’t use it - so there cannot be a lot of doubt that despite the different spelling they are one and the same.

What would Google throw up? When spelt with an M the name can be found on Brent Tories’ website where a Felix Di Netimah was selected as a candidate in their Preston Ward. The face looks to be familiar.

The same name crops up on The Local Government Ombudsmanְ’s website. A Felix Di Netimah once worked there, maybe still does. Impossible to be sure if Felix has a twin or not without a photo.

My suspicion has always been that the LGO is stuffed full of ex-Council staff with sympathies to match.
Felix Netimah

Felix actually found in favour of the Council, his final paragraph was a sop to the complainant.

When the Independent Police Complaints Commission replaced the IPC, the Guardian journalist Michael Gillard reported that 84% of the staff employed there had been police or customs officers with a few Tax and Immigration investigators thrown in for good measure. Very Independent!

Have I found confirmation that my suspicions are well founded? Certainly the only time I made a complaint to the LGO the response was totally in favour of Bexley Council who had quite blatantly selected me for special treatment. Even the police agreed with me that they had been out of order to follow Bexley’s orders.

 

12 November (Part 2) - Anyone but Johnson

There are many reasons why that loose tongued buffoon Boris Johnson should be delivered a massive bloody nose in three weeks time. Here is another that should never be forgotten.
Richard Ratcliffe Boris dropped her in it Boris dropped her in it
Inspired by @ajnewbury94, the Conservative Council candidate who has “tremendously good opinions”.

 

12 November (Part 1) - Not a good look again

I file away far too much political stuff but sometimes it can be interesting to look back at it. One such booklet, quite a large one, is ‘The Complete Expenses Files’ published by The Daily Telegraph in June 2009. It lists the claims made by all our MPs and Geoffrey Cox got off quite lightly although it still makes you wonder why the taxpayer should pay for a millionaire’s house.

Did I hear yesterday that he has been expanding on his London property empire at our expense to lease at £1,000 a week?
Expenses Matt Cartoon
ACA : Additional Costs Allowance.

 

11 November (Part 5) - Anyone but Boris Johnson

ResignLib Dem, Heritage and three Labour leaflets/videos added to the archive.

Heritage Party video 1.
Heritage Party video 2.
Labour video 1.
Labour video 2.
Labour video 3.
Lib Dem leaflet.
Lib Dem video.

Three Conservative leaflets here.

 

11 November (Part 4) - Remembering Granddad

Remembrance DayMy Grandfather was a regular soldier in the Royal Field Artillery from 1913 to 1919 spending all four years of World War 1 in France and Belgium. He was at the Somme and Ypres but not being an infantryman was spared service on the front line although he did lose friends to snipers and horses to shrapnel.

He said or certainly implied he was never given Blighty leave over four years but he did once see his father when their paths coincidentally crossed on a parade ground. Granddad was apparently well looked after by a number of families and their attractive daughters and several photographs survive.

This is one of the Belgian Duhaise family (if I have deciphered it correctly) who sheltered him near Ypres and he carried it in his wallet, for luck presumably. It is surprising that his girlfriend Grace back home did not throw some of his photograph collection out.

 

11 November (Part 3) - And now for something really ordinary

Post Office Post Office Post OfficeA lot of Abbey Wood and Belvedere residents will be glad to see the new Post Office sign that appeared about ten days ago on the yellow tower block next door to Sainsbury’s.

I have managed to do without the benefit of a Post Office only five minutes walk away; not been inside one since the SE2 Crown Office closed three years ago.

Not even sure where I could find another Post Office, somewhere along Eynesham Drive I think which is some way past the borough boundary and well into no-go territory.

 

11 November (Part 2) - Tracking errors

I would like you to do me a favour and look at these Google Earth pictures centred on Abbey Wood station before reading much further. The first of them shows the totally discrete Crossrail and North Kent lines with the only set of points being to allow the Crossrail trains a choice of Elizabeth line platforms 3 and 4.

It wasn’t always going to be like that. The original plan was for both lines to share an island platform so that passengers would be able to hop from one train to another without using the stairs but engineering convenience towards Plumstead was given higher priority than passengers’ needs.

The second image shows the two Crossrail tracks entering the station but only one emerging on the other side of the flyover. The Northernmost track hits the buffers so that it doesn’t hit the flyover support columns.

The third picture shows the two North Kent Line tracks and just one Crossrail track proceeding Eastwards to allow the parking of trains should one need to be taken out of service and, courtesy of a set of points far to the East, to bring in engineering trains from Hoo without circumnavigating South London as was necessary in the early stages of Crossrail construction.

Currently the Crossrail trains can quite often be seen making test runs across London as they ramp up to the twelve planned services in and out of Abbey Wood every hour. As you will have read the signalling systems to allow that have not proved to be a doddle but the engineers will get there in the end, given enough money they always do.

Crossrail trains were designed for retro fitting of equipment for 750 volt third rail operation.

The North Kent Line carries eight trains an hour in each direction and the occasional freight heading to and from Angerstein Wharf. It is a busy line.

You will need to remember the above facts to fully understand what follows.

Crossrail Abbey Wood track layout.

Crossrail

The Plumstead side of Abbey Wood station.

Crossrail

Abbey Wood station and flyover.

Crossrail

The Belvedere side of Abbey Wood station. Points on the far right.

Bexley Council has led a consortium that has spent £4·85 million of taxpayers’ money on examining ways of extending Crossrail to Ebbsfleet.

Sensibly they proposed the cheapest of the possibilities. Murky Depths covered its essentials but basically it means SouthEastern and Crossrail sharing tracks. (See also New Civil Engineer.)

Where the two would combine will be for the engineers to think about but perhaps some points could go in to the West of the station to bring Crossrail into Platform 2 or back from Platform 1. It won’t be popular with Network Rail. Points are an expensive potential weak spot in any rail system.

The proposal is to divert eight of the twelve Crossrail trains and send them on the existing tracks towards Dartford. If they use the existing overrun track (Picture 3) it will put 16 alternating bi-directional trains on to it. It has been difficult enough to get twelve single direction trains running safely. Surely even Bexley Council cannot be that mad?

Allowing Crossrail trains to use Platforms 1 and 2 would put 16 trains an hour on each of them but at least they would all be going the same way. How long will it take to drop the pantographs and the third rail shoes?

Felixstowe RoadAnother issue is platform passenger capacity. The stairs were criticised when the station was first opened for being too often jammed full. The answer was that they were designed for the Crossrail era and half the passengers would be using the other (Crossrail) set of stairs and some would avoid them altogether by using the ground level Felixstowe Road entrance. The same excuse was given for the congestion at the ticket barriers. There are lots more at the entrance to Platforms 3/4. Under Bexley’s plan they will only see a train every 15 minutes.

No one will use the escalator to get from Platform 1 to the Elizabeth line which was the reason for installing it because no one will alight on Platform 1 to catch the TfL service. Those with any sense will already be on one.

The ill-considered scheme is only concerned with being able to brag about bringing the Elizabeth line to Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green. It shows no sign of reconciling the throwing out of the carefully engineered passenger flow systems at Abbey Wood with safety and comfort. The station layout will be just plain wrong.

Sixteen trains an hour down to Dartford will be too much for the oldest Railway line in London so how does Bexley Council plan to tackle that? Cut the existing services, possibly lose the loop line trains via Crayford or Barnehurst or both.

Bexley Council looks to be planning a railway revenge for County Gate. How are passengers from Charlton, Greenwich and Deptford expected to get to London if Bexley Council manages to slash their services?

Fortunately the plan is more hot air from Bexley Council. If they had wanted Crossrail to run right across the borough they should have lobbied for it 15 years ago. But they didn’t; that was the era of grand isolation, campaign against river crossings, no railway and cripple inward investment so long as Knee Hill and Brampton Road are left in virginal condition. The Leader’s ward must be protected at all costs. We pay for Bexley Council’s past failures every day.

I bet they never asked for Labour’s transport guru Stef Borella opinion. Council pen pushers would rather waste your money.

Idiots.

Crossrail construction photos.

 

11 November (Part 1) - Not a good look

The roofless house story rumbles on and the Cabinet Member in not quite Aaron Newbury mode says that only she knows the truth about it. I doubt that is true. There is the tenant, the tenant’s friend and Councillor Nicola Taylor.

My guess is that the tenant noticed a little roof leak which upon examination turned out to be a big problem with rotting timber and one thing led to another as builders had to cut the plumbing to get at the beams which rendered the house uninhabitable.

Meanwhile in a housing department with staffing cut beyond the bone (ten down to four) no one had the time to follow up a report from a tenant in trouble. A department in which its own staff have said no one seems to care any more. “The current top brass and Council Members label those who turn up [at our door] as intentionally homeless because that is the easy thing to do”.

On past form no one would have thought of telling the Cabinet Member, it has happened before in the not so distant past dropping her, in this case, deep into the mire.

The suggestion that the Cabinet Member didn’t race towards putting things right the moment she heard about the case, from Councillor Taylor perhaps, is sure to be well wide of the mark.

There are however shades of Andrew Bashford telling me he had followed all the guidance on road narrowing when it was so easy to disprove because my own son had had a hand in writing that guidance. Charlotte - see below - probably knew just as much about the case as the Cabinet Member.
Tweet Tweet

They argue about ‘Not the full story’ but no one disputes the known facts.

My exchange of messages with Councillor Taylor (Labour, Erith) revealed her original set of notes for her speech to Council last week. It is already available as an audio clip but it is repeated below for those who did not get around to listening to it. It may have been changed subtly ‘on the hoof’ when delivered to suit the circumstances but it is essentially as heard.


The Housing strategy includes some interesting facts…

• Average Monthly rent for a two bed property is £1,100 – would need an income of over £33k to afford this.
• Average house price is £385k would need an income of near to £90k to afford this.

Families with low/medium incomes can’t afford these.

The Housing strategy even acknowledges that they may not be able to afford private rents in Bexley so it seems that Bexley Housing Strategy only puts SOME people at the heart of its strategy.

The strategy notes that there has been an 83% increase in households living in Temporary Accommodation in the past five years most of these households are likely to have low/medium incomes and yet the council Housing Allocation Policy seeks to place them in Private accommodation. Private accommodation that the strategy admits may not be affordable for low/medium income families. Yet when they incur rent debt, they are deemed to be “intentionally homeless”.

If you want our residents to have affordable homes, we need to increase the supply, the Private sector will not do it as they want to keep the prices high. So it must fall to the council to supply affordable homes for our residents on low/medium incomes, clearly this council doesn’t want our residents to have affordable homes.

The Strategy states that Registered Providers have provided 1,000 new homes over the past five years, 200 per year !

However it doesn’t mention the loss of social homes through the Larner Road, Arthur Street or Peabody developments in Thamesmead East or that residents were decanted to our Temporary Accommodation whilst development took place.

It doesn’t even counter the increase in those presenting as Homeless each year let alone for the past five years! In fact in June we helped less than 0·5% of people turning to us for help with Housing.

The Strategy is intended to cover until 2025 when I suppose it is hoping to see the fruits of BexleyCo either through dividends or housing, both of which have fallen far below expectations.

To my residents who are living in unsuitable accommodation it is cold comfort. To the family living in a home without a roof, to the disabled man with leg on frame offered a second floor flat with no lift to the domestic violence victim housed in the area her perpetrator frequents to the disabled man without a working toilet and to the family suffering threats of violence who have seen their family member murdered last month.

Many of our residents feel that there is hostile environment when it comes to seeking Housing help from our council.

All documented cases raised with Housing. some with the Cabinet Member directly. They don’t feel at the heart of this strategy, in fact many of them cease to be Bexley residents as they are moved miles away from their children’s schools, their work and own support networks.

They need affordable homes, providing affordable homes is not a retrograde step they need Bexley to build council homes for the first time in a generation.


The new Cabinet Member has her work cut out getting on top of that in a Council that has run out of money.

 

10 November (Part 5) - The hateful Sajid Javid complete with big black moustache

The Tyrannical JavidAnother reason not to vote Conservative in Old Bexley & Sidcup. A Government Minister would be willing to see the over 65s locked up in their houses for ever!

And would it stop there? The Conservative Government is corrupt to its core. On 2nd December grab your chance to kick them as hard as possible.

Vote Francis.

Other candidates are available.

With acknowledgements to @ajnewbury94.

 

10 November (Part 4) - Weird coincidence: “Francis is a name of Latin origin meaning French”

So what did Louie French have to say to the electorate of Old Bexley and Sidcup?
Vote French?

Click image for source document

If I were him I would not have started with being “a local resident and experienced local Councillor”. To be pedantic he has to be a resident or he would not have been allowed to be a local Councillor but more seriously so is his rival Daniel Francis. Louie has been a Councillor for seven years and didn’t last long as Deputy Leader, which may have been a good thing dependent on his reasons but for longevity he cannot compete with Daniel who was a Councillor 21 years ago.

Louie is going to fix the roads and paths but it is Daniel who has been doing something about them for a long time.

“Enhance our local parks & open spaces” but vote to build over them as a Councillor. “Provide a strong voice on planning and development.” Ditto.


“Secure more EV charging points” and “prevent pet theft“. Top of everyone’s priority list.

“Support our local charities and volunteers.” Bull's-eye! He has done that.

“Help our local environment.” How? By cutting back on grass cutting and street cleaning or improve the look of it with tower blocks?

“Back local businesses and employers.” Reliable sources say that Councillor French has definitely been the business man’s friend. Yours too? Who knows?

“Extend superfast fibre broadband.” An Openreach contractor while poking a fibre probe under my front garden last Friday told me that we will all have access to it within five years. I doubt Louie will be able to change that. Maybe he has seen the error of his former ways. On his Falcowood & Welling patch BT was prevented from installing VDSL broadband by Bexley Council idiocy. There is no evidence that Louie was instrumental about bringing that to an end.

Louie French says he is “hard working, approachable and visible”. Hard working maybe in an invisible sort of way but approachable? Never! Always walks by with his nose in the air.

This morning an incoming message said “Aaron has been a Dick”. Maybe Louie agrees. This analysis would not have been written without him.

 

10 November (Part 3) - Another Bexley Tory we can well do without

The cretinous Aaron NewburyI was genuinely really thrilled to be blocked on Twitter by the Arrogant Aaron from whatever unfortunate Bexley Council ward he has been chosen to plague.

The reaction is two fold. The blog banner above will be fixed so that instead of the image being randomly selected from a choice of twenty or more, it will be fixed permanently until I get fed up with seeing Aaron’s name on it.

The other is that my decision to sit on the fence so far as the Old Bexley by-election is concerned is rescinded. Adapting Councillor Read’s implication, we need more honest Labour MPs.

Aaron has proved once again that Bexley can well do without the sort of people chosen to be Tories in the borough.

Good luck Daniel.

Newbury fruit

With Tweeting standards like this I doubt I will be missing much.

 

10 November (Part 2) - The Member of the Public for Crayford

Crayford Councillors

It’s that man again.

 

10 November (Part 1) - How low can he go?

Twitter The reliably obnoxious Conservative Member for West Heath has attempted to influence an election by implying that the Labour candidate in the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election represents a party of crooks.

It was notable that in the list of crooked MPs published yesterday it was those from Labour who went to jail while the Conservatives were by and large allowed to quietly slip away and one might wonder at the impartiality of the judiciary but to link his own Council colleague to criminal activity is surely several steps too far.

What has been the situation locally?


• It was a Conservative MP, in OB&S no less, who was found to have misappropriated his expenses and kicked out of the party.
• It was a Conservative Leader of Bexley Council who received a six month suspended jail sentence for pocketing more than he was due.
• It was a Conservative Councillor who was arrested for Misconduct in a Public Office after authoring an obscene blog.
• It was a Conservative Councillor whose name was on a file that the police sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. (Misconduct in a Public Office again but the file was mysteriously lost in circumstances never officially explained.)
• It was a Conservative Member selected to be a Councillor in a safe seat who was arrested by the police for theft.
• It was the President of The Thamesmead and Erith Conservative Association who resigned her post because her standards of transparency and openness fell below the required standard.


If there is a criminally inclined party in Bexley history shows that it is not Labour.

 

9 November (Part 4) - Roofless plagiarism

Daily Mail The Daily Mail is today reporting what Nicola Taylor first reported on !5th October and featured here a couple of times since.

The subject is the roofless house in Erith for which a caring Bexley Council initially expressed no concern.

Fortunately Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) is a little obsessed by bad housing in Bexley; well someone has to be.

The Mail credits the photographs to My London but they are the same as featured here, cropped differently, three weeks ago. They are Nicola’s photos.


Slobs
There are only three lady Conservative Councillors who would give me the time of day and on occasions they have been known to pass me a message. Today was one of those special days. One of the three - and you must remember that this whole subject is very much tongue in cheek - gently chided me this afternoon for suggesting that modern Conservatives are sartorially speaking, just a bunch of old school Socialists. I am happy to accept that the ladies owe more to Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May than to Bessie Braddock.

 

9 November (Part 3) - A Tory Old Bexley leaflet ripe for analysis

Louie French James BrokenshireAt last a Conservative leaflet relating to the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election even if I did have to travel to the other side of the borough to collect it.

I promised myself I would not comment on the policies or lack of them put forward by candidates, maybe I said much the same here so I will confine myself to the quality of the leaflet.

Old school I know but men wear poppies on their left lapel not the right and why did the proof reader not notice that they had stated the election date as being 2nd December and then say it was expected to be called soon?

Their inside photos are ages old too. A clean shaven David Leaf who now sports the bushiest beard seen inside the Council Chamber since Mr. Singh addressed the Planning Committee.

And another thing, why do modern Conservatives dress like a load of slobs such that that one might expect from Labour in Michael Foot’s time? To the right; a reminder of what a proper MP looks like. 20 years ago Tories knocked on my door dressed exactly like that.

 

9 November (Part 2) - See how they fall

It looks as though my good friend Michael Barnbrook has been persuaded to come out of his sleazebusting retirement by the MP for North Shropshire. Owen Patterson is the subject of his complaint to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and by my count at least the 15th such complaint he has made about a politician several of whom have received jail terms as a result.


• Derek Conway MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup from whom the Conservative Whip was withdrawn after paying his family for a non-job.
• Ian Clement, deputy to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Suspended 12 week prison sentence for abuse of his GLA credit card.
• Ian Clement, leader of Bexley council. No action taken over his use of a Bexley council purchasing card and unjustified expense claims.
• Elliott Morley, former Labour MP for Scunthorpe. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting (mortgage fraud). †
• David Chaytor, former Labour MP for Bury North. 18 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Jim Devine, former Labour MP for Livingston. 16 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Eric Illsley, former Labour MP for Barnsley Central. 12 months imprisonment for false accounting.
• Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham. Asked to repay £1,573.03 of wrongly claimed expenses. Six months in Belmarsh.
• Harry Cohen, former Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead. Resigned, forfeiting £65,000 from his resettlement grant for “serious breaches” of parliamentary rules. †
• Nicholas Winterton, former Conservative MP for Macclesfield. Claimed rent on a flat he owned outright. Retired from politics. †
• Anne Winterton, former Conservative MP for Congleton. As above. †
• Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South. Wrongly claimed £57,000 for accommodation.
• David Tredinnick, former Conservative MP for Bosworth. Resigned over various expense irregularities. †
• Janet Anderson, former Labour MP for Rossendale and Darwen. Allowed to secretly repay £5,750 in over-claimed petty cash. †

† Voted in favour of keeping MPs’ expenses secret.


Surprisingly the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner does not address criminality and an investigation requires a specific complaint to the police. Michael failed with his complaints only once and that was here in Bexley after its Leader abused his purchasing card. The present Leader did not report him to the police and Michael’s complaint was rejected on the grounds that only the Council (the victim) could make such a complaint.

Clearly ridiculous because such logic would preclude all investigations into a murder but indicative of the way Bexley Council and Police would work together until fairly recent times for both good and ill. The Lewisham based BCU appears to have done away with the practice altogether.
Letter of complaint

An extract from Mr. Barnbrook’s letter to Cressida Dick.

 

9 November (Part 1) - Why bother with elections?

This is a bit premature isn’t it? Just a few days after Felix Di Netinah was being passed off as a member of the public by Bexley’s Leadership he was dropping on to door mats across Crayford ward masquerading as a fully fledged Councillor.

If Bexley Conservatives want to emulate the corruption on display among their national party colleagues, then so be it I suppose. One day it will come back to bite them.

Councillor Christine Bishop is still drawing her ten thousand pounds worth of allowances presumably.
Crayford Conservatives
Crayford Conservatives

 

8 November (Part 3) - Yet another Labour video. When will the Tories wake up?

Daniel Francis’s latest election video passes the tripod and mic muffle test so merits a place here.

In it he reminds us of the bin strike and Bexley Council’s not so wonderful record on Council Tax rates since 2006, the street litter and the Anti-Social Behaviour problems.

This evening I have arranged to drive across the borough to pick up a Conservative election leaflet to add to my archive. It wouldn’t hurt them to send a copy; what are they afraid of?

Is it any wonder that a former party member like me has come to regard them with total contempt?

 

8 November (Part 2) - Council Tax reduction - No not really

It used to be the case that if you were on benefits Council Tax bills were waived but the Government stopped funding it as part of their austerity measures leaving Councils in yet another lurch. Some Councils absorbed the cost while others did not. You can guess which camp was preferred by Bexley.

The local Council Tax Reduction Scheme was initially set such that affected working age residents paid a modest 5% which has been stealthily ramped up to 20%. It became income banded in 2019 to avoid the problem of small changes in pay rates (Zero Hours contracts etc.) pushing some people in and out of Council Tax Reduction too frequently.

To benefit from the 20% rate, disposable income must not exceed £50·99 a week. (See sliding scale below.)

Three weeks ago the subject came up for Scrutiny again. As Mr. Underwood, the responsible Council Officer said, “there is a dwindling number which we support.” People on Universal Credit do not automatically benefit from CTR.

The number of pensioners on the scheme has been reducing probably because of the now abandoned Triple Lock but from the start of the pandemic working age beneficiaries have been on the rise. Right now the pensioners supported are down to 4,501 and workers are at 9,668. “Wages are flatlining and Council Tax has been hiked with the result that people stay on the scheme for longer.”

“If the end of the furlough scheme causes a lot of small business failures we may see more people of working age coming to the Council for help.”

The scheme currently costs about £14·5 million but last year the Government provided nearly £700,000 as part of its Covid related hand outs.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) raised his hand in order to ask a question and spoke for four minutes. He praised Mr. Underwoodְ’s report but if there was a question it escaped me. I think he was asking for more data because Mr. Underwood said that some of it would be beyond the scope of the computer system.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & North End) said the report “made it clear that some of us are only one or two pay cheques away from a desperate situation”. Whilst he made some good points about the coming financial crisis the question seemed to be that the Social Care Council Tax precept may represent a future risk as was sustainable employment - or lack thereof.

Cabinet Member Leaf didn’t disagree, National Insurance Contribution increases may well be a problem.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) asked a convoluted question which may have been his very diplomatic way of asking if anyone was on the fiddle. He was told that at sign up claimants must provide evidence of their income and there are regular reviews and cross checks with other sources of data. Councillor Davey then asked if people have to pay back overpayments when the data lags behind reality. He was told it was not in practice a problem and the banding system helps. If it was the amount would not be written off but repayments would be handled sympathetically.
Table

 

8 November (Part 1) - Hoist on their own Lolly stick

Just like the Labour candidate in Old Bexley and Sidcup told us a few days ago, the lack of School Crossing Patrols is not really Transport for London's fault at all. Firstly it was Bexley Council that decided to use TfL funding for so called Lolly Pop patrols as the meeting minutes refer to them, but it was Bexley Council that failed to come up with the £50,000 funding they found last year.

It is what naturally follows when a Council flirts with bankruptcy and is forced to take drastic avoiding action, massive staff reductions, reduced library hours, 30% hikes in parking charges etc. School crossing patrols were reduced from 38 to eleven.

Not exactly news but further confirmation that Bexley's Cabinet will deceive the electorate whenever it can.(See below.)
Minutes
Unfortunately there is no way I can attend tomorrow’s meeting of the Road Safety Policy Sub Group as I will have a man working on my roof.

 

7 November (Part 3) - The James Hunt Appreciation Society

The lengthy write up on the Leader’s report provoked several thoughts of my own.

Councillor Francis not getting a reply to his July questions and the revelation that the Council has now lost them brought me closer to home. I have questions, requests, whatever, outstanding with four Councillors, two from Labour and one each from the other two Groups. It would have been five but Labour responded to one just a few minutes ago. Probably I am impatient, none are much more than a week old. (Ooops, just checked, one is a full month old. Gone in a Junk folder probably.)

I think the Thames Estuary Board’s recommendation on the Crossrail extension mentioned by the Leader is a load of old bunkum fudged by people who may have long ago owned a box of Hornby Dublo but lost the control unit. I know there will be a lot of railway enthusiasts out there ready to pounce but I really do think it is impractical nonsense. I briefly passed my thoughts by Councillor Stefano Borella who is the only Bexley Councillor who might know that a pantograph is not a child’s drawing implement and I don’t think he disagrees with me.

Maybe the Councillor whose garden has a model train running round it would care to comment too? On an otherwise quiet day this half baked Crossrail plan will be dissected.

MayorLastly I should perhaps comment on me being a little ‘cruel’ towards Mayor James Hunt after last week’s Council Meeting did not run quite as smoothly as he would have wished.

Every barb directed at poor James was cleared with him beforehand primarily to ensure an accurate Bonkers report after the mics proved to be less than adequate for noises off but also to make sure he was happy to be the subject of a drift towards mickey taking. His response was littered with Ha Ha and he said everything reported was fair.

James is a great guy. Someone needs to be in Blackfen & Lamorbey if only to balance the scales of integrity in that ward.

You know he is a man of the people when you publish this photograph and he writes back a thank you to tell you it is one of his favourites. “I love that picture.”

James for Leader. Council that is; to add to being Scout Leader.

 

7 November (Part 2) - The Leader’s report. Not “Fantastic”

The most reliably interesting part of a Full Council meeting is the Leader’s report in which Teresa O’Neill summarises the written article, 26 pages of A4 this time, and if she falls short of her usual standard you can always pass the time by counting the number of times she says something is “fantastic”.

On Wednesday she was eclipsed by The Alan Downing Show.

Teresa O'NeillThe report commenced with a tribute to James Brokenshire and a reminder that “he helped to create the Thames Estuary Board on which the Leader serves and secured £4·85 million towards funding a solution to finish our Crossrail One project and it was delivered last week”.

The Leader had visited the housing developments at Southmere Park and Park East (Arthur Street). “They are definitely places people will want to live in. It [Southmere] is brilliant.”

“What is not going to help is the Mayor of London’s boundary tax as it will stop people wanting to come in to our borough and that will apply to the whole of Outer London. We should be concerned about it.”

“The waste strike has been a big part of our lives since July and I want to put on record my thanks, our thanks, to all those who worked through that strike to deliver for our residents. Some were called some pretty nasty names especially from Members opposite and that was really out of order. I would also like to put on record our thanks to our residents for their patience throughout all that.”

“The strike cost us money and we will be collating that cost with a view to submitting a claim to Serco rather than just applying penalties. It is the right thing to do.”

“We have formally told Government that we will not be drawing down on the Capitalisation Order.”

“Our lobbying for fairer funding continues and Sir David Evennett MP secured a debate last week to discuss the disparity in public health funding. The Minister has agreed to meet me.”

The End! “Fantastic” count: Zero!

Councillor Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) caught the eye of the Mayor first. Oh dear, it was a question worthy of the sham members of the public. “Would the Leader welcome the Domestic Abuse Strategy committed to ensuring that no one lives in fear of violence and abuse”. The Leader, awful woman that she is, did not welcome it.

I jest obviously and Cabinet Member Sue Gower reinforced the message. Two and a half unproductive minutes.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) asked the Leader to expand on the half an A4 page of her report devoted to Corporate Parenting week. Councillor O’Neill said she “takes it very very seriously and it is a very important week”. Good, of course she does. We learned absolutely nothing except that Cabinet Member Philip Read (Children’s Services) is at home with a very bad cold.


Stefano BorellaCould Labour Leader Stefano Borella (Slade Green & North End) do better? Not difficult. He wondered why the Leader’s Report had nothing on the housing crisis. “Is that because the party opposite has no solution to the Made in Bexley housing crisis?”

“Park East is one of the most disgraceful developments I have ever seen the Council do. An absolute disgrace. The community that was there for 60 years providing homes for people is all split up and where there were 255 social rented units there are now none. It does nothing to solve the housing crisis here in Bexley.”

“It was exactly the same on the old Larner Road Estate. At a recent Public Cabinet meeting the Leader said that public housing would be a retrograde step.”

Stefano also made reference to the coming Winter of Discontent, the cost of living crisis, rising fuel prices (my energy costs have very nearly doubled in just two months), the queuing for petrol (150 pence a litre in Thames Road and maybe elsewhere as well) and the National Insurance rise (extended to working pensioners too). Universal Credit cut and the Pay More Get Less Council Tax rises by the party opposite. “We have a plan for housing for people.”

He also complained about procedural errors at recent Scrutiny meetings.

The Leader countered by saying that her report did make a brief comment on housing but the Local Plan was on the Agenda tonight, the Motion in which Bexley Tories congratulated themselves for producing it. (They have no idea of what sensible people think about such time wasting shenanigans.)

“The rising cost of living is for Government to determine.”

Would Councillor Richard Diment (Sidcup) improve on his Conservative colleagues standard of questioning? Of course he would.

He revealed that “on the afternoon of Thursday 14th October there was a mass brawl in and around Sidcup High Street. Estimates of numbers vary but were in excess of 100. It was beyond the capacity of the Sidcup SNT team who needed significant support but it took the Metropolitan Police an hour to bring in additional officers apparently because they had no transport available. What happened in Sidcup shows that we are not immune from this type of incident and raises concerns expressed by many Members of this Council that the BCU arrangement in South East London put in place by Mayor Khan are stacked against the people of Bexley.”

“Can the Leader advise what discussions have taken place with the police?”

The Leader had spoken to the BCU Commander and said “it wasn’t good enough and if residents were not getting the service they were paying for perhaps they should be getting a refund”. (Serco bin strike anybody?)

She was “frustrated” that just before that incident in Sidcup the Met announced Town Centre Teams for Woolwich and Lewisham but nothing for Bexley. “It really isn’t on, the young people causing the problem may have come from the other boroughs and it is unfair.” She had told London Councils that the BCU model wasn’t working and other boroughs had said the same. “Labour boroughs too.”

Cabinet Member for Education John Fuller said there had been meetings of all interested parties, Police, Business Improvement District, schools etc. and CCTV had identified the culprits as mainly coming from outside the borough fully equipped and complete with Get Away cars. Some school pupils were already suspended.

Councillor Francis (Labour, Belvedere and Westminster) said he was still in the dark over the financial arrangements relating to CountryStyle. He had asked questions at the July Budget Scrutiny meeting where he was promised an answer in writing and again two months later and he was still waiting.

He also complained of what has been reported here before. Telephone reports to the Contact Centre about street issue get entered on to FixMyStreet and forgotten about. “What is being done about it?”

Also that the lack of School Crossing patrols is wholly blamed on TfL’s financial failings but it is not true. The Road Safety Policy Sub-Group of which he is a member has “information that the majority of the current shortfall in this financial year is down to the £50,000 cut to [Bexley’s] road safety budget and that is reflected in the Minutes of that meeting. When will the Cabinet Member accept that the Council’s budget cut is stopping the recruitment of Patrols?”

The Leader said that no one can remember what Councillor Francis’s July questions were so can he submit them again. She agreed that there were issues with FixMyStreet.

Cabinet Member Craske said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the subject of crossing patrols.

Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) descended into electioneering mode. “Would the Leader support me in opposing Sadiq Khan’s Outer London Tax?” if he had been listening Louie would know that the Leader had done so 30 minutes earlier. Presumably he also hadn’t heard the Mayor’s opening comments about no electioneering due to the imminent Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election.

“Yes of course” was the Leader’s succinct answer.

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked what the current budget monitoring position is. Cabinet Member Leaf clutching a large bundle of papers was asked to respond. The Mayor frightened by Councillor Leaf's propensity to speak at great length told him to be brief. There had been five Budget Monitoring Reports in just a few weeks and another is imminent. “We are projecting a break even position.”

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) used up the last available minute of the session by telling everyone she had been on to the roof of the new library cum cinema and asked what was being done about marketing the flats. Cabinet Member for Growth Cafer Munur delivered a eulogy to Bexley Council’s astute investment of £7·8 million. “Marketing is well under way and you may find interesting Councillor Bacon that the opposition led by Councillor Francis opposed the Capital Programme which makes up the lion’s share of this investment. I think it sends a clear message to residents of Old Bexley & Sidcup, who delivers for them? One candidate who opposes regeneration and growth and investment and another who delivers it.”

The Mayor denied that Cafer Munur had been making political statements contrary to his earlier instruction not to do so.

The Mayor was unusually grumpy after the Motion nonsense and threatened to throw Labour out for their dissent - assuming that is what the Standing Oder waved at them said. The grumpiness was soon confirmed by the reprimand directed at Councillor Howard Jackson after he allegedly forgot to prefix the word Mayor with Mister. His face, caught by the webcam, was a picture!

The webcast and my own recording confirm that the Mayor should get his hearing checked out.

 

7 November (Part 1) - Drunk as a monk

Public NoticeOnly a week left to object to the all day alcohol and entertainment licence at Lesnes Abbey. Will it be noisy? Will it flood the local roads with drunks and cars? I don’t know. Would you go to The Lodge if it became a pub rather than The Harrow Inn? Sorry that’s a 13 year old bomb site isn’t it? The Abbey Arms then?

I wouldn’t go to a characterless functional box at the end of an unlit path up from Abbey Road.

Just what does Bexley Council plan to get the monks spinning in their ruin? Who better to ask than CC Events UK who seem to get their finger into a lot of the local entertainment pies these days and has contacts all over the place including the Abbey?

Nothing too raucous, no one wants to ruin the place after it has been transformed by £4·2 million of mainly Lottery money.

Maybe a regular quiz night, a film show on Winter evenings. The occasional 40th birthday party. Small wedding celebrations if they can get them. The Council has to get money wherever it can.

Personally I can’t see it getting many wedding bookings, all the weddings I have been to in recent years have taken place in magnificent country houses. Goodness knows where people get the money from. Maybe that will be Lesnes’s secret weapon. Prove to your spouse what a cheapskate you are on Day 1.

So that doesn’t sound too bad and if the parking gets out of hand there is always 020 3045 3000. Oh damn, unlike the park licence car parking reports are office hours only five days a week.

However the Licence Application turns out, and we know that already don’t we because all Council consulatations are a sham, a couple of the more boozy traders at the Sunday Farmers’ Market should be happy. They won’t have to apply for an alcohol licence every time they set out their stall.

Maybe it’s just Cabinet Member Craske’s way of dragging his 700,000 visitors a year to the park claim into the realms of reality.

Note: The path from New Road is illuminated.

 

6 November (Part 5) - Supreme Aarongance

The more approachable Councillors believe that the 2018 intake of new Conservatives has been an improvement on the old guard and there is evidence that they are right. Richard Dimond, Sue Gower and Howard Jackson have all made their mark in a positive way. More recently Lisa-Jane Moore too.

The same chatty Councillors are looking forward to the 2022 intake taking that further, if of course, they can overcome the electoral catastrophes lining up against them. Again they are probably correct.

Frazer Brooks has been active and seems to be far removed from the old school. He is hoping to be selected to represent Falconwood & Welling. Felix Di Netinah is eyeing up the Crayford ward which strongly suggests that Councillor Christine Bishop who is yet to be mentioned on Bonkers is standing down.

His question about electric vehicle charging points showed a lack of research and one day I might have to educate him. On the other hand the three supposed public questions out of four last Wednesday were all put up jobs, you can’t realistically hold it against the individuals if they are made to jump through hoops, but there appears to be an odd man out.

What reasonable individual setting out on a career in politics, one which presumably aims to listen to the opinions of those he represents, proclaims “Opinions are my own, and they are all tremendously good.” It is remarkably close to ‘Up Yours!’
Arrogance
Aaron Newbury’s first public reaction to one of my Tweets was to attempt to belittle me, making me an instant Wendy Perfect supporter. Frazer Brooks on the other hand stuck out the hand of friendship. He won’t be named as a candidate until Louie French finds his way into Parliament, or not as the case may be.

 

6 November (Part 4) - Lesson learned. Don’t make jokes at the end of serious reports

The Motion report was written yesterday and was among the most difficult there has been to write. Some of the argument was off mic and barely audible because I was as far away from the participants as it was possible to get. I couldn’t even see them and it was essential that both sides were treated fairly.

The finished article was inevitably delayed until today, 5 a.m. to be precise, while facts were checked and as far as possible, second opinions sought.

Having laboured over it for such a long time I probably shouldn’t have ended it with a lame joke. I must remember that not everyone knows Bexley Council well enough to immediately recognise when a bit of leg pulling is going on.

James HuntI should not have allowed the name James Hunt to appear in the same sentence as Val Clark and confuse some readers. The link was to me a very obvious joke and hopefully to James too.

James has always treated me with the utmost civility, the first Councillor to ever grab my hand and shake it vigorously at the very same time as another one was impersonating me with a ‘rival’ and criminally salacious blog.

Mayor Hunt and Mayor Clark are chalk and cheese. One cracks down on members of the public who fail to clap for her, the other cracks jokes. I hope he took mine in the spirit intended and hope the coming week is more restful for him than the last one. Two term James! He won’t do that again.

 

6 November (Part 3) - Daniel doorsteps the disgruntled

In case you missed it, here is Councillor Daniel Francis’s video address to the voters of Old Bexley & Sidcup. I am pleased to note that Daniel has access to a tripod and microphone wind thingy. Pity about his musical choice though.

The video appears here not as an endorsement as such, the lack of OB&S Tory material is their choice not mine, although it is true I would be delighted to see Daniel knock the smile off the Conservatives nationally.

Most of those who I thought might be good and honest MPs when I already knew full well that Boris Johnson wasn’t have proved themselves to be a bitter disappointment. Someone has to ‘Send a Message’ © Richard Tice.

 

6 November (Part 2) - Bexley needs a clear out. Urgently

176/178 Slade Green RoadI suspect the real message behind the photos of the derelict property in Slade Green has gone unnoticed.

Bexley Council has owned it for three years. Two houses couldn’t have cost them much less than £500,000 and it has been a complete waste of money. The Director of Housing who I always believed was one of the more competent officers is paid £96,726 a year plus a 20% pension contribution from the Council.

If she is one of the better ones…

Is 176/178 Slade Green Road a one-off cock up or typical of Bexley Council? The roofless house suggests it is.

A Pakistani friend of mine works not as a high powered pubic servant but as a double glazing fitter. On 11th March this year he exchanged contracts on a 117 year old house which had had nothing done to it since a rudimentary bathroom was installed in 1962. The kitchen still boasted the original Butler sink and two taps which emerged directly from the wall.

There was no central heating and very little insulation in the roof. The floor boards were noticeably dodgy in places and the electrics were definitely inadequate.

The mortgage company refused to hand over the money because the Energy Performance Certificate was rated F. A deal was done with the surveyor to get it over the required threshold which is best not discussed here.

The photos immediately below were taken three days before the double glazing fitter took over the property in March and the second set was taken on 16th April, delayed by the intervening Easter holiday.

All downstairs floor boards lifted, replaced where necessary and insulation placed beneath. New kitchen, refurbished bathroom, central heating, new wiring installed and the loft insulated - all in four weeks.

Just what is Bexley Council doing spending tens of millions on old houses in need of renovation and getting nothing done in years?

It is hard not to agree with the Labour view that Bexley Council has failed and is failing totally and absolutely with its housing strategy but Councillor Alan Downing calls any criticism “a load of rubbish”.

He is going next May but Bexley needs a much bigger clear out than just him.

Old house Old house Old house Old house

Old house 7th March 2021.

New house New house New house Old house

Old house renovated by April.

 

6 November (Part 1) - A bad day at the office

Probably it is just me, but I find Bexley Council’s addiction to Motions boring. Typically; ‘This Council promises to be on its best behaviour and back this saintly cause in future’.

Worse is that there are so many of them that they have to be regurgitated at the next meeting after time runs out.

This week the Motion was the self-congratulatory and entirely unnecessary “This Council welcomes [its own] Housing Strategy which puts Bexley homes for Bexley people at its heart” which came from Councillor and Deputy Mayor Alan Downing. Anyone might think he was a new would-be Councillor currying favour with the Leader rather than an old timer serving out his last few months.

To his credit I suppose, he admitted that his Motion was so long in the tooth that he could no longer remember when he put it forward and wondered if it was relevant any more, but rules is rules so it had to be debated. What a farce.

Councillor Downing’s introductory speech included his dislike for Bexley’s developing “concrete jungle and over-height tower blocks”. The Motion was seconded by Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) who insisted it was simple and required no amendment. From a Conservative point of view the act of public back slapping was obviously perfection itself.

Councillor Bishop was only interested in other bodies providing “houses for sale, social housing, affordable homes, social rent, private rent and shared ownership”. All good pure Conservative stuff no doubt but to hope there would be no amendment was wishful thinking.

Labour Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith) stood and the Mayor said “he hoped it was not to amend my Deputy’s wonderful Motion” but it was.

As was to to be expected the Labour Group introduced a no-hoper amendment; in bold below. Motion
It flies directly in the face of Bexley Council’s policy of remaining aloof from direct intervention in the housing market and it was bound to cause an upset but what is the point of a Council with no opposition?


Monitoring OfficerThe Mayor looked at the proposed amendment in silence for two minutes and nine seconds before saying on Monitoring Officer advice “your Motion does not make sense”. Three minutes later the new Monitoring Officer offered a conciliatory compromise which was to allow Members to decide.

It is the norm for Labour Motions to be given the once over by Officers before submission to avoid the ignominy of one being slung out in public on legal or technical grounds. The new Monitoring Officer was in danger of being caught between a rock and a hard place on her first Council outing with what was becoming a divisive Amendment. Welcome to Bexley Patricia Narebor.

The Mayor rewarded Councillor Nicola Taylor who had said something not clearly captured by the Council’s microphone or my own with a personal put down which betrayed his usually generous nature. There can be little doubt that Nicola was “getting quite mouthy” - as it was described to me after the meeting - but maybe not entirely without justification. She told me only a few days ago that some of the bad housing stories she has seen in Bexley reduced her to tears.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella referred directly to the Housing Strategy and spoke in favour of the Amendment. The Mayor interpreted Stefano’s comments as a suggestion that he had not read the Strategy (Stefano: “I have actually read the Strategy”) and the Mayor raised his voice and put him down too. Stefano apologised for the unintended implication.


Joe FerreiraStefano confirmed that he had made an advance submission of the amended Motion and been assured by Officers that all was in order. Following further advice from the Monitoring Officer that acceptance of the Motion was up to the Mayor and Members to decide the Mayor generously did the decent thing. An act which he may later have come to regret.

Councillor Ferreira made his case which included the impact of Covid on housing, working from home etc. and that Bexley’s Strategy fails to acknowledge Bexley’s current housing crisis. It should commit to building Council houses he said.

The Amendment was seconded by Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) and there is no way one could do her justice with a short written extract so here is her statement in full…

Well worth three minutes of your time.

The Mayor referred to the Council’s Housing Strategy again and said that Page 13.9 negates the Amendment and he read it out. I think I might disagree with him but when things get too politically technical I can easily be wrong.

The Deputy Mayor Alan Downing was asked to comment on the Amendment…

What a load of rubbish said Alan Downing the Deputy Mayor.

…after which the Amendment was quickly chucked out on a show of hands.

The actual Motion was backed at some length by Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) and the Leader. The final result was never in doubt.

The Mayor on what must have been a stressful day got in the final dig, he does not get his “legal advice from Wikipedia, Twitter or Facebook”. Now who is making unnecessary implications?

The Mayor said the Labour members were rude. Has James Hunt been spending too much time with former Mayor Val Clark? I didn’t think we would ever go back to those days, but they were fun and so normally is the Mayor but in an altogether better way than his predecessor from Falconwood.

As for Councillor Downing, this blog once asked if he was the rudest man in Bexley and maybe we now have our answer. I suspect the doctors of Bexley have similar thoughts too.

Voters might wonder why a Council has to pass a Motion in praise of itself and in doing so display a mixture of frayed tempers and procedural incompetence. I suspect both sides will be wishing that Councillor Downing had never presented his parting gift to Bexley Council.

At the end of the allocated time three Labour Motions were left on the heap.

 

5 November (Part 3) - Councillor’s Question Time

Councillor Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) asked Peter Craske what he (not Bexley Council) had done to address climate change. The question had already been asked by Felix Di Netinah which allowed the two Councillors to exchange some quite good jokes.

“I am going to be very energy efficient and refer to the answer I just gave.” Back came “I am all for recycling.”

The Cabinet Member who only a few years ago announced that Bexley would plant no more street trees unless a resident paid directly (£230) for each one said that he had planted 1,100 street trees.

Councillor Moore (Conservative, Longlands) was next with a question about County Gate which was reported yesterday.

Wendy PerfectLabour Councillor Wendy Perfect (Northumberland Heath) asked Cabinet Member Sue Gower to report on the discussions she has had with Orbit about the many problems at Becton Place.

There has been almost daily communications with Orbit’s Directors. Orbit has apologised for missing the October meeting and another is scheduled for mid-November. Every resident should have been provided by now with a circular explaining the situation.

Councillor Perfect said there was “a clear disconnect between residents and Orbit.” The Leader, the Chief Executive, Sue Gower, the MP plus Cabinet Member John Fuller and Councillor Perfect had all been involved in pushing Orbit into taking their responsibilities seriously. “It is not good enough.”

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) asked Cabinet Member Gower to elaborate on the Council’s use of the term “suitable housing”. Is Councillor Gower still confident that the housing provided by Bexley is “suitable”. She was.

Councillor Taylor brought up the example of a woman rehoused close to her abuser and the disabled man with “a leg in a frame offered a flat on the second floor with no lift”. Then there is the documented case of a family living in a house with no roof for three weeks. Can the Cabinet Member be honest?”

The answer was that “case work can only be discussed confidentially in full knowledge of the facts. It is not in the Council’s interests to put people into unsuitable housing”.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) has the knack of asking questions more pertinent than some. “How is suitability determined”. It is done on “a case by case basis based on the information supplied by the applicant at the time. Out of borough placements have proved to be particularly successful with families taking a new quality of life and job opportunities”.

Time was then up leaving 26 questions unanswered.

 

5 November (Part 2) - British Heritage. Missing believed lost

David KurtenHard on the heels of the Lib Dem video is one from Bexley resident and Leader of the Heritage Party David Kurten. 2,400 views in 90 minutes, not bad at all. The Lib Dem video has 39 views (three of them mine!) in 18 hours, most of them linked from Bonkers probably.

David takes his usual campaign path against “wokery, Covid Communism and climate alarmism” to which he adds Parliamentary sleaze. "We need a change.” We sure do.

 

5 November (Part 1) - Lib Dems sling their hat into the OB&S ring

Simone ReynoldsThe Lib Dems have chosen their candidate for the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election. It is Simone Reynolds who was their candidate in December 2019 too.

There is a short video, personally I don’t think I could ever vote for a party that puts out videos in portrait mode - with a columns sticking out of the subject’s head and no microphone wind muffle. Have they never been to a cinema or watched TV?

The Lib Dems came third in OB&S two years ago with an 8·3% share of the vote.

 

4 November (Part 7) - Full Council questions from members of the public

After the fifteen seconds of Petition submission time the real business of the meeting began; public questions and first up was Dimitri Shvorob from Sidcup. He too was inconvenienced by the lack of an Agenda as he was relying on it for the text of his questions.

He asked Cabinet Member Craske if the CountryStyle recycling contact would be better able to mitigate the effects of a strike than the Serco one and if so what were they?

Councillor Craske said the provisions include more pay and holiday entitlement and a joint management partnership with the unions.

Mr. Shvorob then asked the Council Leader if she would consider a “we are sorry” gesture of a one-off tax rebate following the bin strike.

Teresa O’Neill said what I had heard her say before. The strike cost the Council a great deal of money - no sale of recyclables etc. - and the costs were being totted up to be sent as an invoice to Serco. As such there was no money to hand back.

Dimitri added that the strike had cost residents money in various ways but maybe the Leader misunderstood the point being made because she appeared to be interested only in the costs that fell on to the Council.

I would have asked how it is that the two months of no service might have resulted in the widely reported £5 rebate for the blue, green and white bins if one was to be made, but two months of brown bin service is charged at nearly £10. Maybe it is a rip off?

Frazer BrooksFrazer Brooks simply asked Councillor Craske for the latest news on the CountryStyle contract from which one may safely deduce that Mr. Brooks is a Conservative supporter.

Peter Craske said he was happy to answer. CountryStyle’s responsibilities go well beyond bin collections, they include road sweeping and winter gritting. In their first week of operations they picked up 30,000 bins left behind by Serco.

Councillor Craske said that the Contact Centre already had “many positive message about our new partner”. (Peter Craske also said a few days ago that Lesnes Abbey Park had an average of 2,000 visitors every single day of the year.)

It was good to hear him say that the service will be extended to include electrical items. Good, I might be able to clear an attic full of obsolete techno-toys.

The payment of the London Living Wage from Day 1 was confirmed.

Another Bexley resident, Mr. Felix Di Netinah who has his sights set on being the Tory candidate in Crayford asked about the Council’s response to Climate Change.

Councillor Craske referred to 1,000 new street trees, LED lighting and the old but not quite true story of 16 years as top London recycling borough.

The supplementary question was about electric charging points first installed in Bexley two years ago. “Had the Council installed any? was the question.

Councillor Craske thought we were “at the tipping point for electric cars, they have become cheaper”. (Hyundai’s up from £32k. to £38k. in three years and MGs, from £23k. to £28k. in two years etc.) “41 chargers across the borough” he said. According to zap-map.com only if one counts privately owned charging points.

I am going to continue my mission to educate Bexley about electric vehicles. Bexley Council has not installed any electric chargers at all. Every one of them is just an intelligent power point which the car can control. The charger is in the car except on 50 kilowatt plus units which are proper DC chargers.

The Councillors had more questions with which to fill the allocated 30 minutes. Tomorrow maybe…

Note: At the beginning of the meeting the Mayor asked for members of the public not to be photographed. Frazer knew in advance I was likely to photograph him. If Bexley Council was truly worried by such things they might adjust their CCTV such that I was not clearly in shot every time it homed in on Teresa O’Neill. I don’t care but maybe she does.

 

4 November (Part 6) - Not all bad

There are advantages and disadvantages in watching Council meetings on the webcast. Advantages are not having to drive across Bexley but the disadvantages is that one gradually gets out of date with the appointment of new Council Officers and the webcast is limited technically. In particular if a row breaks out only one microphone is active at any one time so any insults flung might be inaudible. Screen grabs are nothing like as good as a decent SLR shot either.

Last night I decided to put in a personal appearance but Bexley Council was not very welcoming. It provided no Agendas for members of the Public and you can’t scribble in the margin of a mobile phone copy or easily read ahead to see what is coming next. Photo opportunities were limited by a failure to dust off the raised seating.

James HuntBut it was a good meeting nevertheless, partly because I arrived early and Councillors were unusually friendly; then the icing on the cake was Mayor James Hunt getting more than a little ratty with the small number of Labour Councillors who can never resist arguing with his decisions and being vocal uninvited.

It was always thus.

I was warmly welcomed by Peter Reader, nothing unusual about that, light hearted banter with John Davey whose Twitter wit I find amusing and a nod of acknowledgement from Andy Dourmoush.

Daniel Francis spared a minute or two from his busy schedule. Richard Diment said hello and June Slaughter said a few words as she passed by. Cabinet Member Sue Gower made me jump while I had my head in the phone with more friendly words. The first face to face conversation but she was always ready to discuss things via Social Media so not much of a surprise.

During the meeting I went outside to where the Agendas are normally kept to see if I had missed them, but no. Minutes later election hopeful Frazer Brooks showed up with one he had found somewhere. What a nice gesture, he should go far but maybe not if Teresa O’Neill noticed.

After the meeting new Councillor Lisa-Jane Moore risked her reputation by making a special trip across the chamber to introduce herself.

Have I missed anyone? Well I suppose so. Nicola Taylor sent me a text message after the meeting to say that she was sorry she’d not noticed me hiding behind Peter Craske.

At the Chamber exit door John Fuller engaged in conversation too; nothing unusual about that either.

On the way out Danny Hackett was talking to the reception staff and out of their earshot on the other side of the front door notes were compared about how we regarded the meeting. In very much the same way as it happens, a sort of what was the point of all that?

While there Aaron Newbury, the Conservative wannabe in Northumberland Heath wandered by with his nose in the air. Maybe an early sign that voters there should stick with chatterbox Wendy. Perhaps she will win by more than two votes next May. Council meetings would be dull without her.

 

4 November (Part 5) - Temporary accommodation. Bexley’s burning issue

176/178 Slade Green Road 176/178 Slade Green Road 176/178 Slade Green RoadThere was a fire at 176/178 Slade Green Road on Tuesday, that is what the painter working on the church next door told me. Fire engines, the lot according to him.

It looked as though there might be some smoke damage and the rubbish lying nearby would be tempting for any passing arsonist.

So why is this interesting?

Because the houses shown are listed on Bexley Council’s asset register.

Bexley Council said eight years ago that it didn’t insure its property which remembering my 16 months working for Prudential Assurance is a sensible thing for a big property owner to do, but it will be doing their reserves and housing problem no good at all. But at least it has a roof so maybe it is still fit for habitation by Bexley’s standards.

With thanks to the painter and my man in Watling Street.

 

4 November (Part 4) - County Gate

Lisa MooreCouncillor Lisa Moore’s submission of the County Gate petition amounted to a few seconds as her papers were collected by the Mayor’s man but she did manage to squeeze in a few comments twenty minutes later during question time.

She asked if Cabinet Member Craske was aware of the County Gate residents’ petition and the Royal Borough’s intransigence. Councillor Craske certainly was and said “it was a saga reaching back to 2007” when Greenwich Council actually stopped Bexley’s fully funded work on the day it was due to start and it has been stalemate ever since.

Cabinet Member Craske said that a London Mayor had used his powers to stop such work only once and it was to back Greenwich against Bexley in respect of the County Gate dispute. However he was “delighted that the petition had cross party support and he would email the Mayor in the morning”.

Councillor Borella (Labour Slade Green & North End) pointed out that when there was last a deputation (2011) on the issue Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London and he did absolutely nothing to help. Councillor Craske repeated that the only reason the scheme does not go ahead is because of the Greenwich Council block despite it having the backing of TfL. It was not an answer to Stefano’s question.

He had approached Heidi Alexander the Deputy Mayor and Transport Chair but she too had done nothing.

 

4 November (Part 3) - Your cheating Tory Council

While the bin men were on strike I marked my calendar with an X every time they missed my garden waste bin. I calculated they owed me five collections. Sure enough Bexley Council has announced a ten week contract extension.
Bin contractIf I was nitpicking I would say that the strike hit weeks were a bigger loss of service than the figures alone suggest. A three week gap followed by a one week gap may not give sufficient time to fill the bin up again.

More of a problem is that my ten week extension will cover December, January and February, not exactly the peak of the gardening season, but hang on a minute, collections are stalled over Christmas and New Year so I won’t get five ‘hardly worth having during Winter’ collections I will only get four.

Bexley Council can absolutely be relied upon to cheat residents out of their money whenever they can. It is no good them bleating that the contract is being extended to ensure “a full service”, I lost my Winter collections as per contract ten months ago and I should not lose them twice. Nor should you.

 

4 November (Part 2) - What have the Old Bexley & Sidcup candidates done for Bexley?

TweetIt is not often that I find myself agreeing with Councillor Philip Read but two years ago he correctly reported that Abena Oppong-Asare had been virtually silent as a Bexley Councillor and contributed pretty much nothing to local politics.

As an MP she has presumably fulfilled his expectations as she has mine.

At that time I catalogued every comment Abena had made in Council that provided me with a blog entry; fairness dictates that I should do the same for Councillors Francis and French.

Forgive me but I am going to duck out of cataloguing the rarely silent Daniel. No one is going to check through 225 blogs. Louie French on the other hand scored a more manageable 60.

Someone is going to tell me that Councillor Louie French has taken a keen interest in the local business community (oh! they already have!) which is a claim not without foundation but to most residents his name has probably not registered at all. I would like to be more positive but Louie is one of those Councillors who makes a point of ignoring me. As such it would be hard to support him now even if Boris Johnson was a Conservative and very obviously he isn’t.

 

26th October 2016
23rd July 2017
8th March 2018
9th May 2018
27th June 2018
29th June 2018
19th July 2018
11th October 2018
8th November 2018
12th November 2018
21st January 2019
2nd February 2019
3rd February 2019 (Pt 1)
3rd February 2019 (Pt 4)
11th February 2019
13th February 2019 (Pt 1)
13th February 2019 (Pt 2)
26th February 2019
28th March 2019
11th April 2019
21st April 2019
26th June 2019
13th July 2019
9th November 2019
16th November 2019
26th November 2019
29th November 2019
23rd January 2020
22nd October 2020
5th November 2020
24th November 2020
16th December 2020
26th January 2021
6th February 2021
24th February 2021
4th March 2021
27th March 2021
30th April 2021
18th May 2021
1st July 2021
30th August 2021


There’s around 20 more currently off line pending link checks and full mobile compatibility. Abena Oppong-Asare scored only 17.

Note: The letter to which Councillor Read referred in his Tweet may be seen by clicking on that image.

 

4 November (Part 1) - All smiles in Welling

Daniel FrancisMy Belvedere Councillor Daniel Francis had a busy day yesterday; facing the cameras in the morning, facing the voters in the afternoon and me in the evening in the Civic Offices where he found time to speak to me at the Full Council meeting.

No leaflets yet, but I have had sight of a Press Release which is reproduced below…


Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, commented that residents of Old Bexley and Sidcup have an important decision to make on December 2nd. A local guy who has lived here his whole life, who will always put the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup first, or more of the same under the Conservatives. A Conservative government, a Conservative council that have consistently let the residents of Old Bexley and Sidcup down.

Rachel visited Welling High Street and added, on the High Street I saw boarded up shops and spoke to business owners who are concerned about the increase in business rates but also the rise in anti-social behaviour; the cost of parking to shop locally and about street cleaning. We need a Labour MP who will prioritise the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup; who will campaign for lower business rates and for better services for the local community. That’s why I urge everyone in Old Bexley and Sidcup to come out and vote for Daniel Francis on Dec 2nd.

Daniel Francis is the Labour Party candidate for the Old Bexley and Sidcup By-election.

Daniel is grounded in the local community; he has lived in the constituency for the past 6 years and his children attend local schools. Daniel has been a borough councillor for 17 years; he’s the longest serving Labour councillor on the Borough council and is currently the shadow cabinet member for energy, climate and housing.

Whether it is Albany Park, Bexley Village, Blackfen, Falconwood, Sidcup or Welling Daniel has seen the Conservatives take the constituency for granted first hand and understands the needs of local people.

Only Labour is on the side of working people, a vote for Daniel is a vote for:
• Standing up for small businesses
• Prioritising community safety
• Driving investment to local areas



I would not be unhappy to see Daniel elected in Old Bexley, there can be no denying his commitment to local people and his ability to stand up and speak on their behalf. His Conservative opponent on the other hand… No, I had better wait until someone leaks me a leaflet but Boris Johnson absolutely does deserve a very bloody nose.

Note: Labour Party photograph taken in Maison Parisenne.

 

3 November (Part 2) - Reform UK booklet bombs Bexley

Reform UK leafletThe Reform UK Party has dropped the biggest ever leaflet into Bexley to support their candidate Richard Tice in OB&S.

In it you can read everything a disillusioned Tory will want to see. Unfortunately there is not a single word on how it is to be paid for.

 

3 November (Part 1) - County Gate

County Gate mapCounty Gate is the last road in Bexley before you trip into the bad lands of Greenwich. It is a notorious rat run on to the A20 that residents have complained about since 2007.

In 2011 the closure campaign was headed up by the current Secretary of Old Bexley & Sidcup Labour Party, that’s right; the one who reported me to the police and got her solicitor to threaten me for an honest attempt to analyse her Tweeting activities.

She posed for my photographs at the time, now I am blocked on Twitter. As indicated earlier this week, I despair of Labour activism, a cult where logic flies out of the window.

Tonight Councillor Lisa Moore (Conservative, Longlands) will present a petition to Council to once again try to persuade the Mayor of London to over-rule Greenwich Council and do something to solve the traffic problems in County Gate.

County Gate is not a long road so it did not take too many visits to get every door knocked and see how many residents approved of the proposals. All but a couple were happy to back a petition and the exceptions were arguably selfish for not doing so.

Readers with long memories may remember how County Gate was headline news in the News Shopper with a good number of more detailed reports made here.

For those with shorter memories below is a list of blogs which include the words County and Gate strung together. (Not every one of them is terribly important but it is a complete list.)

A quick refresher course suggests to me that Greenwich Council kiboshed the plan for traffic sanity to appease one of their own Councillors who lived in nearby Mervyn Avenue. Nearby it may be but it is in red Greenwich.

Whatever you might think of Bexley Council and its devious ways, Greenwich serves as a constant reminder of what a Council can become if any of the more extreme Labour activists get into power.

Lose an argument, throw toys out of pram, play the race card and hide behind a software firewall. I was going to add aim a few insults Fascist etc., but of course you don’t have to be Labour to sling insults.

 

12th July 2011.
14th July 2011. (Part 1)
14th July 2011. (Part 2)
23rd July 2011.
24th July 2011.
1st August 2011.
15th September 2011.
4th October 2011.
19th July 2012.
21st July 2012.
31st July 2012.
11th October 2012.
13th November 2012.
6th June 2013.
7th June 2013.
17th February 2016.

 

2 November (Part 3) - The company they keep again

Rachel ReevesNews reaches me from Hugh Neal of Maggot Sandwich fame that Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will be on the campaign trail with Councillor and Old Bexley by-election candidate Daniel Francis in Welling High Street early tomorrow morning. I say early because interviews are scheduled for 10:35 based around Maison Parisienne at 5-7 Bellegrove Road, DA16 3PA.

That maybe something to do with the Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury being my Erith & Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare but rumour has it that Rachel Reeves has a sister who lives nearby. Abena will be pleased to learn that my morning is already spoken for so there will be no need for her to hide behind a lamp post if she ventures into darkest Welling.

 

2 November (Part 2) - The company they keep

I was determined to try not to be too partial in the run up to the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election. I said so privately and I said so here. The fact that if I was an OB&S resident I’d be tempted by The Reform Party cannot come as any surprise given that I voted for Boris Johnson and for the past year made no secret of the fact I’d like to see him deposed by any legal means possible. Preferably a totally humiliating one.

But I am afraid Bexley Labour has brought me back to the keyboard to do something I really didn’t want to do. Their nine remaining Councillors are all well meaning people and some go well beyond that. Sally is always friendly despite her obvious disdain for my opinion of Sadiq Khan. Nicola and I are on good terms despite me kicking her quite hard a few months ago. Brenda was happy to confirm in writing that I never moved from my seat after Council Officers put out a lying Press Release that I had run amok in the Council Chamber.

Dave emails me occasionally and few could come across as a more friendly and gentle man. Mabel is lovely and been helpful to me several times including right now. Esther is always supportive and I cannot imagine anyone falling out with Stefano, I like him a lot so how come they get mixed up with such obnoxious helpers?

A few months ago a Labour activist hiding behind the moniker of Sidcup4Remain on Twitter had her solicitor send me a letter demanding I remove all reference to her on this blog despite the only references being her own Tweets and unjustified attacks on Councillors Philip Read and Danny Hackett. If I did not do so I would be reported to the police for harassment. In a weak moment I hid the relevant blogs away. Sidcup4Remain blocked me on Twitter. She is a Committee Member for Old Bexley & Sidcup Labour.
Old Bexley Labour Bexleyheath Labour
Sammy W DMMore recently a Labour activist (Sammy W) who follows @bonkersbexley sought my help when she fell out with another Twitterer known as Bill Cutts. I assume it is his real name but on Twitter you can never tell.

I replied to her Direct Messages in a friendly manner while letting her know that I was not happy with the way Labour activists play the race card at every opportunity. Last night, just as I was off to bed, I noticed that Sammy W had sent me another Direct Message. I sent a holding reply.

This morning I thought I had better answer Sammy’s message properly. I discovered that she had sent me two more DMs; one a reference to the British National Party and the other supposed evidence of what a bad man Bill Cutts is. I decided to reply to the effect I had had enough of being intermediary and trying to be fair to both sides.

However I couldn’t. I am blocked from sending more Direct Messages. I don’t care but why is it that neither the Secretary of OB&S Labour nor the Chairman of Bexleyheath & Crayford Labour (I didn't know she held that position until this morning) want to stop me reading their pearls of wisdom? Presumably the last thing they want is scrutiny.

I know a little of what OB&S candidate Daniel Francis did when his local Secretary thought she could dictate what I write here, perhaps he should try to advise Sammy. Maybe he already has, maybe that is why her Twitter account was locked overnight.

Now; who else can I upset? There must be a shifty Tory lurking somewhere.

 

2 November (Part 1) - BexleyCo

Two weeks ago Bexley’s Resources and Growth Scrutiny Committee discussed BexleyCo, the Council’s housing developer which may be about to overturn its reputation for being a four year old bottomless money pit.

The Finance Director spoke about its Governance, Financing, Management and Business Plan but revealed nothing new. BexleyCo currently owns Sargasso House in Footscray, Old farm Place, West Street Small Park, Hainault in Lesney Park Road, 221-225 and 237 Erith Road (Burstead Woods), the car park site in Felixstowe Road stolen from Abbey Wood commuters, the Walnut Tree Depot in Erith and Sidcup Library in Hadlow Road.

The Chairman Councillor Howard Jackson said the years ahead were likely to be turbulent, what plans did BexleyCo have for meeting those challenging.

Graham WardMr. Graham Ward the BexleyCo boss said the supply of materials and labour was already proving to be a problem. Prices had been going up and West Street is already affected. Material shortages had delayed Old Farm Place and there are global supply issues some due to Covid but the USA and China is soaking up a lot of materials especially timber.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) asked when the promised financial returns might be forthcoming. The Agenda referred to risk to the Council; what are they? How viable is the affordable housing situation if the Council as shareholder is to make any money? All good questions.

The answer was that the first Dividend is expected to be £1·6 million in 2023 and over ten years the Council expects to make £31 million from all income sources. The Council loans BexleyCo the money to buy the land from them and it pays interest on that loan while they sit on the unsold land. The £1·6 million has already been entered into the Medium Term Financial Strategy over three years to spread the risk.

Building cost inflation has been offset by rising house prices but the risk is that they fall. Provision of affordable housing requires acceptance of lower profit margins than a private company might demand. Bexley is hoping to achieve a 10% margin.

At Old Farm Park priority was given to buyers who lived in the borough or nearby - the site being close to the borough boundary. In practice all have been reserved by local people.

Contractors are asked to use local labour and the numbers are monitored and increasing.

The investment in Sargasso House was said to be going well with no rent arrears or similar from either of the two tenants. “A really good asset.”

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green) said it was “disgraceful” that there will be no affordable housing on the Sidcup Library site and asked for an assurance that BexleyCo would never indulge in any Grenfell style short cuts. The answer was thorough and reassuring. Cabinet Member Leaf said that the profit margins were sometimes far too low to allow affordable homes, a margin no private developer would look at. However contrary to earlier expectations Hadlow Road will now have some affordable housing.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) said that the so called affordable housing was not affordable on normal Bexley salaries “so why are we doing it? The word should not be in BexleyCo’s vocabulary.” Also “the only way to deal with Homeleigh is to pull it down and build again. There are no private kitchens, no private bathrooms and the whole place is a disaster.”

Homeleigh is not a BexleyCo responsibility nor will it be transferred from Council ownership. The Finance Director said that £36,000 is being spent on Homeleigh, not the £40,000 reported at the following day’s meeting.

Councillor Downing’s questions about property maintenance were deemed irrelevant because BexleyCo is only building homes for outright sale.
Resources and Growth Scrutiny Committee meeting
I do not recall listening to Councillor Jackson’s Chairmanship before but his style was efficient and effective. Still a two and a half hour meeting though!

 

1 November (Part 4) - Left wing politics. Reliably unfathomable

Twitter spatI have followed Sammy W on Twitter for a long time, I haven’t a clue who she is, whether she has a formal role within Bexley Labour etc., all I know is that she is politically a fair way to the left of me.

That is a perfectly OK position to adopt, she is entitled to her view and I know some really lovely ladies who are well to the left of me. In any case it would be silly to allow Twitter to become a personal echo chamber.

Without Sammy I would not know what the initials PMSL stood for. I had to Google it and rather wish I hadn’t.

A few hours into yesterday’s Twitter spat Sammy sent me a Direct Twitter Message in which Bill was said to be a campaigner for UKIP, The Brexit Party, its successor Reform UK and the British National Party.

Clearly it was not intended to be a compliment.

I responded along the lines that I would be trying to walk the tightrope of not damaging either the Conservative of Labour election campaigns (see below left) and to be honest I doubt anyone would be influenced even if that was my goal.

Back came the inevitable reference to Bill being a racist to which I responded that BNP members were not all racists. (Below right.)

At the very same time Bill Tweeted that he expected to be called a racist before too long and I told him he already had been. Naturally Bill was interested in exactly what was said and I told him that I was considering how I should inform him.

Later on as his argument with Sammy developed she Tweeted that she was looking forward to seeing her Direct Messages given wider circulation as long as it included Bill’s Tweet which confirms he voted to leave the European Union.

Cardinal sin that.

Which party he voted for is left to speculation; presumably Conservative in December 2019 for Let’s Get Brexit Done. The Brexit Party did not stand in Old Bexley & Sidcup.

I have absolutely no idea why Sammy believes that to be relevant but there is no reason to deny her request; (to the left above) nor for that matter do I understand the comment about a “troll friend”.

So with the agreement of both parties the Direct Messages appear below.

As far as I can judge all the DMs show is that leftists are inclined to shout racist whenever an argument gets heated but it is not exactly news and they seem to regard doing so as a badge of honour and something that should be more widely known.

Obviously I do not understand the Socialist mind.

Twitter Direct Message Twitter Direct Message

 

1 November (Part 3) - When political activism runs out of control

You’d need a heart of stone not to feel sorry for Councillor Francis canvassing for votes in Old Bexley yesterday. The weather was horrendous as I drove to Bromley mid-morning with wipers going full tilt, but at least the sun shone later.

Then there’s the fact that statistically speaking he is the underdog and some of his supporters do his cause no good at all. Daniel would have had no idea that his perfectly reasonable Tweet would lead to a deluge of Twitter comment that started in the early evening and continued well past midnight.

It began with East Wickham resident and black cab driver Bill saying that he was inclined to vote for Richard Tice. Labour supporter Sammy asked what the Reform Party had ever done for Bill. Well nothing obviously; the new party has never won a Council seat or a Parliamentary one.

My mistake was to side with Bill who I have noticed several times is from very much the same political mould as I am.
Canvassing in Old Bexley Twitter spat

Twitter spat Gradually, over dozens of Tweets the conversation descended towards full on Angela Rayner mode. Bill was labelled a drinker who would not be fit to take his cab out in the morning, a misogynist and a narcissist. Sooner or later he seemed likely to be called racist because that is the way that arguments with left wingers usually go.

More alarming was the fact that Sammy claimed to know how Bill has voted at previous General Elections. “Your voting record is public if you know where to look.”

Bill was quite naturally alarmed to think that his secret ballot was not secret. Sammy told him that “Ballots have not been secret for the past eleven years.”

Digging in further Sammy claimed that Bill was tracking her address through her mobile phone usage and she was going to report him to the police.

By late last night the Twitter spat was getting into the realms of the surreal.

Bill was alleged to have campaigned for the Brexit Party in 2019 which makes him racist - about which more anon. It does not prove where his vote went. It’s like saying I am a Heritage Party supporter because David Kurten was featured here before the GLA election - but I actually voted for Shaun Bailey.

I feel really sorry for Labour candidates at times; most are decent well meaning individuals who have the misfortune to attract fanatics and obsessives. I have said before that I turned towards the Tories in my teens because all the political slogans daubed on walls were written by vandals campaigning for Hugh Gaitskell.

They have no idea of the damage they cause to their party among more rational and tolerant people and why the Labour leadership continues to support them will always be a mystery to me.

I have a feeling we are not finished with this yet.

 

1 November (Part 2) - The enticement of Bexley

I have to admit that if I lived a little further to the south I would almost certainly be voting for Richard Tice in Old Bexley & Sidcup. Both the Labour and Conservative contenders are worthy candidates but I simply couldn’t support either party. The Conservatives no longer are and Boris Johnson has made pretty well every wrong decision possible on Covid, the economy and Green issues.

Carrie Zero is simply unaffordable and compelling people to drive electric and install heat pumps is far removed from my idea of what a democracy should be. Keir Starmer appears to be the same but more so.

Presumably dyed in the wool Labour supporters will vote Francis and Conservative right or wrong fans will go French but there will be many who like me who decide we have had quite enough of Johnson.

Richard Tice’s first ‘leaflet’ appears here not as an act of favourtism, those for other parties will be given equal prominence if I can get hold of them. As has been obvious for several years those with known political inclinations are not given leaflets - I was told that by a canvasser in my street - and the same goes for my contacts in Bexley.

Their loss.

In fantasy land, if Councillor Francis was to be elected, Starmer would have to stand down immediately and hand over his job to Daniel. He gave former Bexley Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare a front bench job pretty much straight away so by that yardstick Starmer has to go.

Maybe it is worth voting Labour after all.

 

1 November (Part 1) - The Agenda said Housing improvements. Really!

It seems a long time since the Communities Scrutiny Committee discussed housing, twelve days to be precise, and as is the norm Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) was first in with the questions.


• There has been a reduction in [the numbers in] temporary housing but where has everyone gone? Have we discharged our duties to them?
• How many have gone because of the one single offer and you’re out policy?
• In June 2021 3,219 people asked for advice on temporary accommodation and in that month only 15 were accepted as homeless. “An explanation for those figures please.”


Answers came there none except that some applicants had been referred to affordable housing schemes and not all advice requests are from people requiring immediate rehousing. Some are fraudulent from people owning homes outside Bexley and others are sub-letting. One was found to be using his temporary accommodation as a storage facility while he lived with his family.

The Deputy Director said that many problems were caused by staff shortages, only four in place out of a required ten - and whose fault is that one might ask? Councillor Taylor said the only solution was a greater supply of housing.

Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) wondered if the temporary housing at Homeleigh was in a better state now than when she visited a few years ago and why L & Q is sitting on land for which they have planning permission.

Once again some of the lack of answers was blamed on staff shortages - “it has slipped” - with the icing on the cake being the pressure put on the system by asylum seekers. Homeleigh was closed due to Covid but is undergoing £40,000 of refurbishment work.

The Housing Associations are all falling behind with their repairs and maintenance programme because of budgetary considerations. The cost of Housing Associations going carbon neutral is estimated at £98 billion in London alone. That’s Billions with a B.

Nothing can be done about Housing Associations sitting on land.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said she knew of a disabled man unable to get up a single step who has been offered a second floor flat with no lift in Brixton. He has fallen foul of the one offer rule and is abandoned by Bexley Council unless Mabel can successfully plead his case. He is one of many victims of a callous and uncaring Council.

Mabel was told that one offer and out is common across all London Councils. (I know it was not in Newham fewer than two years ago because my aunt’s carer benefited from it.)

I could barely believe that the Deputy Director for Housing told Mabel that homeless people abandoned by Bexley Council can always go to Judicial Review if they are unhappy!
Scrutiny Committee meeting

 

News and Comment November 2021

Index: 2019202020212022

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