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News and Comment September 2021

Index: 20202021

30 September (Part 3) - A cold winter lies ahead

Regular readers sometimes send in little anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of life and a recent one struck a chord with me.

I used to use Bulb for my power supplies but they made rather a lot of mistakes on my Aunt’s account last year and then about 12 months ago announced a steep price increase which was the last straw. It was a variable tariff and inevitably it only varied in one direction. I managed to find a fixed term price at more or less the same price as Bulb pre-increase. It expires at the end of October 2021.

My correspondent has been with Bulb all year and maybe longer. In mid-August they advised him that prices were going up again and his Direct Debit would have to be increased by £14·80 a month. Then a few days ago another email advised an increase of £63·91.

That is a big bill. Mine has been £77 with Avro Energy (gas and electricity) for the past 12 months which has built up a £25 credit balance. With the contract due to expire I looked around for the best deal. The lowest recommended by a price comparison site was Avro Energy at £113·50 (fixed) which is a near 50% increase, Bulb £117 (variable), Octopus £138 (fixed) and EON £144 (fixed).

Avro’s website is a bit crap compared to Bulb’s but being the cheapest, a fixed price deal and no exit fees it looked to be the best buy. I signed up to remain with Avro Energy. Three days later they went bust.

Since then Octopus have been in touch to tell me they have taken over, please sit tight and do nothing. They have promised - twice - a lower tariff than is available from any other large supplier and cheaper than their own tariff on offer to new applicants.
Octopus
We shall see. I hope they realise that I noted down exactly what their tariff was three days before Avro went bust. Will they prove to be another lying utility company?

Octopus looks like being around twice the price of my bill for the past year and I gather at £77 my consumption is on the low side. This will be devastating for families living on the financial edge. Probably a Winter of Discontent lies ahead and we have a Government that seems unable to get anything right. The blind leading the disillusioned. Are they even leading?

 

30 September (Part 2) - NHS on the ball?

Following the report on the NHS having fallen apart for some people I was asked to bring you better news. No need to go into detail but a case of unexpected bleeding resulted in a face-to-face appointment with a doctor within two hours. Darenth Valley a couple of days later for tests and an appointment for a computerised tomography (CT) scan at Queen Mary’s Sidcup shortly afterwards.

So it would seem that with the right doctor and with the ‘wrong’ symptoms the NHS may still be working. I hope my new correspondent is given the CT results without having to wait months as has been reported by some - and me - and that they are better than expected.

 

30 September (Part 1) - Hall Place revamp on track

Councillor Melvin SeymourThe Places Scrutiny Committee spent a few minutes discussing how the recommendations already made for Hall Place were progressing.

Among the ideas to make more money from it was…


• More signs on the A2 and banners in the grounds advertising events visible from the A2.
• Place wedding photos in the Great Hall to attract more wedding business.
• Hold more markets and garden shows selling plants.
• Arrange outdoor cinema and theatre shows.
• Put on jousting displays and art events.
• Provide themed catering events.
• Refresh exhibitions quarterly.
• Improve the Hall reception area and put art on display in the Great Hall.
• Create more events aimed at children.
• Hire out rooms for evening classes etc.
• Install more toilets.
• Use the loft space as offices.
• Introduce car parking charges.


Cabinet Member Craske was the first to speak and said that a lot of income had been lost because of Covid - no wedding bookings in particular. Currently a wedding catch-up situation appears to be responsible for weekday wedding only bookings being made with receptions booked for another day and maybe at a different venue.

Visitor numbers are good; in 2019/20 the number reached 285,000 but in 2020/21 the number went over 300,000. Since April there had been 181,000 visitors.

A new catering contract is progressing well but locating artifacts to put on display is not. Nobody knows what is held or where they might be which introduces insurance problems. Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (Conservative, Crayford) said she was “fobbed off” when asking Officers questions. “We don’t know what we own” she complained.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) thought the progress report was excellent and it demonstrated how “this Council cannot be accused of not being a bit forward thinking on how to raise money. We have to do things they [residents] are not used to do doing and don’t like doing because we do need to raise money”. She thought a mini-bus picking up people from the station might be a good idea. “It could take people around all of Bexley’s tourist sites on a guided tour. It would be very popular. We have got to raise money.”

The model railway is on course for opening next year. “A massive project.” At its old Falconwood site it can open for only two hours a month and at Hall Place it will be open all day every Saturday and Sunday and attract more visitors to the café etc.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) requested a small bridge across a ditch near the railway that is frequently too muddy. “It wouldn’t cost much.” He recommended that Hall Place published its own accounts to see where it might be losing money.

Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) was surprised that there was no recommendation to promote Hall Place via Social Media. It was “appalling” that important gifts from the public had been “just put away” and now apparently lost. “We have not been supplied with anything that shows what the Council has and frankly we haven’t got a clue.”

 

29 September - The broken NHS

There is still a chunk of last week’s Scrutiny Committee meeting to be reported but there is simply no time for that sort of thing this week and at 5 a.m. on a Wednesday I must invoke the cop out procedure which is repeating what has come into the email Inbox.

Today I am going to have another go at getting a blood test which is needed for an imminent telephone appointment with QEH. Just a six monthly check.

It wasn’t going to be a telephone appointment but a letter changed all that. Then another letter came to tell me that I would be called by someone different to what was said in the first letter. What an absolute waste of money. Do I care who phones?

I feel hard done by; only two letters. One of my regular correspondents went through the usual neglect by Queen Elizabeth Hospital after an emergency procedure in January. Like me after an ultrasound scan at the beginning of the year he was left in limbo not knowing the result. I had to pester my GP for seven weeks, he was told by QEH the wait for an appointment with a consultant was eight months. Meanwhile no idea whether he was about to die or not. (†)

Then the usual routine; another letter. The consultant had decided not to see him but call on his landline at the same time instead. Then letter number three, the landline appointment had been shifted forward by ten minutes.

Letter four shifted the appointment forward by another five minutes, landline again. The call actually came a whole hour earlier than promised - on his mobile! What a useless shower they are in Stadium Road.

I am still waiting the result of an X-ray taken a month or so ago after an adverse reaction - or maybe coincidence - following the second Astra Zeneca ClotShot. Until I get the result the NHS can stuff any idea of a third injection.

Under Johnson and Co. the whole country has fallen apart.

† Fortunately a kindly soul in the consultant’s office read the report and whispered that he should not worry too much.

 

28 September - It was not a good day but maybe it improved later

It should have been an easy enough job, reinstall Windows on a friend’s eight year old PC. It had slowed almost to a standstill because it receives no maintenance, nothing filed, 20,000 unread emails in Outlook etc. Just awful and I soon decided that I should probably make a new one, but it was unusable so a quick reinstall should work wonders as a short term fix.

It has in terms of speed but Microsoft refuse to recognise the old Activation Key.

The computer has not been changed in any way since new and I have the original installation disc and when I first built the thing I stuck a note inside the case with the Key repeated on it, so it definitely has the right number.

The telephone support guy was worse than useless.

I repeated the job including reinstalling the old application software but it was still no go. A new computer will have to be made a little earlier than anticipated.

West Heath RoadHowever having returned home in the unanticipated rain there is just a little bit of what may be good news. Planning Application 21/02509/LDCP, 2 West Heath Road, was refused today. Certified as “unlawful”.

Nearby residents expressed concern about it because they believed it had been bought by Mr. Singh. I hope they are wrong, his name is not on the application, because I do not particularly want to be chased around town by a mad man again.

There was an earlier refusal last April. 21/01258/FUL.

 

27 September (Part 3) - Petrol loons

A couple of well meaning friends have asked me how smug I am feeling with an electric car in the garage. I thought I might be but I am not. As I discovered the hard way on Saturday electric cars are still held up by the idiots topping up tanks.

Electric car chargeI planned the bit of the journey I knew well to avoid petrol stations but on the second stage came across two on rural roads - both my side. The first one took exactly half an hour to get by and only because I ‘hid’ behind a bus that was being rather forceful.

The second took an hour and twenty minutes and people, especially those approaching from the other direction, were absolutely mad. When I got close enough to see they were deliberately blocking my lane by parking across it broadside on. All to prevent drivers on my side getting access to the pumps.

We seem to have bred or imported a vicious nasty unthinking class of uneducated people totally lacking in common sense. There were allegedly fights in Long Lane at 7 a.m. this morning.

My sister took a short holiday on the Essex coast last week and with just enough petrol to reach Hampshire set off for home this morning. Unfortunately she has been stuck on the M25 for a couple of hours and has just turned off down the M20 in desperation. I think the blockage is on the M26 at junction 5. She is in serious sh*t with no petrol reserve and the sunshine is charging my car in order to mount a rescue mission if she calls.

On Saturday my 80 mile journey took one minute under four hours despite racing down motorways when possible, all thanks to the petrol hoarding loons but basically it is Boris Johnson’s fault.

My son has a Class 1 or whatever it is called driving licence as an adjunct to his vehicle design interests. He passed on an Artic in a week of intensive training so it can’t be that difficult! I jokingly said a few weeks ago that he might use his skill to earn a few bob.

Oh no he can’t; the powers that be now demand an annual competency retest which would be a waste of his money. On top of that the Buffoon known as Boris has allowed the DVLA to be pretty much closed down (Covid being the excuse) so that new drivers cannot apply for licences or get tests. Then there is IR35 which is another story.

Make no mistake about it, the chaos of the last few days is entirely due to the incompetence of a Government that cannot see a juggernaut heading in their direction on the wrong side of the road. Which is exactly what I saw last Saturday morning.

 

27 September (Part 2) - Fix My Council. Please!

The Scrutiny Committee discussed FixMyStreet, a website I have never used but supported by Bexley and four other London boroughs.

Councillor Val ClarkCouncillor Clark disputed the Agenda comment that the site was “easy to use and accessible” because she can never find items directly reported to her by residents who had already used FixMyStreet. I am not surprised in the least, it is a criticism that can be aimed at many commercial websites.

A Council Officer said “I thought I was good at IT but struggle” but went on to say he “thought it was a good system that works well”. That man will go far, facing both ways at once.

Councillor June Slaughter took a similar view to Councillor Clark. Councillor Betts said that Councilor training was required but went on to complain that the Council had got rid of all the trainers.

Councillor Davey said he “used the system all the time and it was ever so useful but it was not easy to see what had been fixed”. A ward summary was required.

Councillor Hinkley also complained about the lack of a “jobs completed” facility. It currently reports “69 dead animals, 411 fly tips and 257 obstructed footpaths and roads” and Councillor Hinkley doubted the numbers. She thought there must be a software failure. Residents deserved to know the outcome of their reports without making repeat visits.

Councillor Daniel Francis had more questions. How are varying reports allocated to the appropriate contractor? Why does Serco close the complaint on its receipt and not when dealt with? “Bonkers in the extreme.”

Bexley’s Contact Centre now merely posts all resident complaints to FixMyStreet and never follow them up so they simply accumulate. Daniel had himself reported the same fly tipping four times in the course of a four weeks before any action was taken. He then discovered that residents had been reporting the same issue even before he had done so.

Daniel's favourite weed patchHe mentioned a current case of an inaccessible disabled parking bay in Albion Road which is still inaccessible 37 days after he first reported it. If a report is passed to a third party such as Thames Water there is no feed back mechanism. He said that Social Media is full of examples where the system has not worked.

The image alongside shows a bush that has grown out of a previously plain verge in the course of just a couple of months.

Councillor Francis further commented that no statistical analysis of FixMyStreet is carried out and if it was it might identify failing contractors. As is the norm very few if any of his questions were answered. That is Scrutiny in Bexley for you.

From an Independent peer report on Scrutiny in Bexley…


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

 

27 September (Part 1) - Recycling. “The only way is up”

Following the CountryStyle presentation, Councillors were invited to question Mr. Howard their principal spokesman.


Cabinet Member Craske said “it was a big decision taken by the Council and a decision that affects everyone and not one you take every day”. Well yes, tell us something new Peter. The key is “the proper partnership and if things go wrong we will sort it out quickly”. Councillor Craske “is very pleased” with his decision.

Councillor Sally HinkleySally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) was the first Councillor to ask a proper question. She said that bin collection is often the only Council service residents see and it is how they make their judgments on the Council. There had long been problems with Serco and some of them arose “over and over again”. How will CountryStyle monitor standards, she asked.

Mr. Howard said the contract includes many onerous Key Performance Indicators. He said that similar arrangements had worked well in the City of London and they were the only contractor to have theirs renewed there. “Engaging with the workforce would be critical. It is a very large contract for us and we cannot afford for it to go wrong.”

Specialised software will allow individual truck performance and profitability to be monitored should that be required.

Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) asked how quickly things will settle down after the ongoing disruption caused by the strike. He noted that repetitive complaints come from the same people week by week and he was unsure why. He provided an example or two.

The new service should settle in almost immediately if Serco fulfill their promises. “It will hit the ground running on Day One.” It should not be difficult to target the repeat mistakes. Serious ‘offenders’ will be sent back to correct their own failures. No longer would a different crew be paid overtime to correct the failures to do the job properly in the first place.

Good agency staff employed regularly would be offered permanent jobs.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said she already had confidence in CountryStyle but doubted the IT equipment on the trucks used by Serco had been working correctly. She was told a new address database was being installed and the opinion of the workforce on its effectiveness is being taken into account. Collection problems will be fixed, “they are relatively easy to fixְ”.

360 degree CCTV surveillance on vehicles should reveal crew failures.

John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) was optimistic for the new contract especially as his residents get “quite irate” about missed bins. Serco had not been reporting back accurately on the missed bin situation. Accuracy is “absolutely vital” and leaving missed bins for a further week is not acceptable. Councillor Craske said that the pandemic and the strike had both impacted on the food recycling rate.

Councillor June Slaughter said she “had a big thing about KPIs. If not sufficiently rigorous they are a waste of time.” Most of her questions had already been answered but after the experience of the last few months “the only way is up”. She particularly wanted to see more food waste being recycled as the current figure was only 37%. She was told the vehicle software and that at the processing facilities should identify geographical areas which have a contamination problem and the Council will be able to engage with residents as required.

Mr. Howard said that Bexley’s collection arrangements, the coloured bins and the collection frequency, were “the most effective. It gives us all the tools to maximise the recycling yield. It is absolutely the right methodology”.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) went further than John Davey by saying that Serco had “lied about whole roads” missed and not just individual addresses. Residents in the North of the borough who have Thursday and Friday collections are missed and the omissions are not even remedied by Tuesday - when the South of the borough is being serviced on time. The North “gets a second class service”. His grandmother’s Friday collection can be a week late while his own bin - in the South - is collected on time. He wants to see that “very long standing issue picked up very quickly.”

He also wanted to know what the street cleaning schedule was because right now the roads were “shocking”.

Councillor Francis was told that the collection slippages in the North were caused by out of date information about property development etc. and this issue was being addressed through the new database.

Councillor Lucia-Hennis (Conservative) said that her Crayford ward suffered the same problem and she was particularly curious about the colour of the rebranded vehicles. They will continue to be blue and white and the branding will include the CountryStyle logo. It is all set out in the contract.

The Chairman invited Mr. Howard back to another meeting early next year and put in a request to visit CountryStyles base in Sittingbourne.

 

26 September - Mr. Howard has his way with bins

Mr. HowardCountryStyle’s enthusiastic spokesman not only presented his slide show last Thursday, he recycled various facts about the company that is charged with emptying our bins for the next ten years


• The company has been operating since the mid-1990s and grown steadily ever since and is now “a resource integrated management company”.
• It has contracts in both private and public sectors and has a division which deals exclusively with food waste.
• CountryStyle operates from bases in the South East, in the Midlands and in Cambridgeshire.
• It processes compost, paper sludge and sewage for agricultural use. In excess of a million tonnes a year goes back to the land. The company has contracts for harvesting and hedge and hay cutting.
• Emergency drinking water supply is another offshoot of CountryStyle.
• Company assets are in the region of £55 million with an annual turnover around the £120 million mark.
• CountryStyle does not claim to be one of the major waste businesses but offers a credible alternative to them. Large enough to provide services but small enough to listen.
• The company likes to provide a complete ‘closed loop’ service as demonstrated by the processing of 125,000 tonnes of waste plaster board. The gypsum is ground to a powder for manufacturing reuse within a short distance of the CountryStyle processing plant and the same is true of the lining paper. The nearby mill uses power provided by burning CountryStyle’s waste and in turn CountryStyle processes their waste products.
• It processes about 100,000 tonnes of waste wood each year burnt in power stations both in the UK and in Europe via a dock in Sittingbourne owned by CountryStyle.
• In Bexley the company will take over about 300 Serco staff including about 150 drivers. Customers beyond Bexley include independent companies, multi-nationals and the City of London which renewed their contract after a successful ten years. Buckinghamshire and Kent County Councils are also customers.
• The company provides services for all of Kent’s NHS Trusts.
• In addition to taking on the Serco workforce CountryStyle has recruited extra managers with up to 30 years experience in the industry.
• CountryStyle has seven waste recycling centres in Kent alone as well as the two at Crayford and Foots Cray and the company owns more than 175 waste collection vehicles. All maintained in-house. Bexley’s dustcarts will be leased to CountryStyle.
• It runs a driver apprenticeship scheme.
• Green waste is currently at the 100,000 tonnes a year level.
• There is a long standing relationship with Unite, the union who are “supportive of us”.
• The local depot has been readied to provide the new service and the address database and collection arrangements have been thoroughly checked and rebalanced where necessary.

Councillors were queuing up to ask rubbish questions. More anon.

 

25 September - Tweeting tripe

Thank goodness for @bexleynews because without them today would be a blogging blank as I head off without so much as a teaspoonful in the tank into the far distance.
Budget False claim
The famous fibbers Tweeted two days ago that the new Civic Offices were delivered on budget. The dodgy duo rely on residents having short memories.

In 2011 when Bexley Council decided to convert the old Woolwich Building Society edifice into a Town Hall, they said it would cost £36 million. The figure was confirmed in an old budget report. Nothing of that magnitude gets done on budget so the figure crept up to £42 million. (See also 2014 budget.) @bexleynews doesn’t want you to know that they are not perfect

The same Tweet implies that the move has saved £2 million a year. It is not what they said before…

1.5 million a year savings

 

24 September - Nationally and locally, politicians really are Bonkers

There was a rare event in Bexley’s Civic Offices yesterday evening, a public meeting! The Places Scrutiny Committee met and received presentations from Three Rivers - no, me neither - and the new recycling contractor.

Three Rivers have been awarded £1 million by the Arts Council to deliver arts to Bexley. Their partners are Peabody, Orbit and TACO. Their presentational slide show is available here.

BP Thamesmead BP ThamesmeadProbably of wider interest given the strike trauma of the last three months was new refuse contractor CountryStyle’s presentation which was delivered with enthusiasm, passion even, by their representative Mr. Howard. He provided a whole load of interesting facts about his company which few would have guessed.

A detailed report will appear here in a few days time, the weekend will be taken up by a family wedding and a 150 mile solar powered car journey. It is not often that one gets to smile as one passes queues at petrol stations. (Actually that is not absolutely true when one looks at the £6·35 per gallon price tag.)

How long cheap electric motoring will last is anyone’s guess. My energy contract ends on 31st October and the best new price I could get was a 46% increase. Most companies, e.g. Octopus were more than 75% more expensive than a year ago. I made my choice and the chosen company went bust five days later!

Thanks to Ed Milliband in 2008 (his ruinous Climate Change Act) and a succession of politicians unable to see beyond their green noses we are heading for a massive energy problem. Bills doubling in a year due to a false belief that solar panels and wind can take the place of coal, nuclear and fracking.

It is fairly well known that the wind does not always blow and solar panels do nothing at night. Less well known is that solar panels are virtually useless on cloudy days. I have had solar panels on my roof for almost twelve years. 2021 has been the worst generation year so far and even this month the sunny days have done better than the cloudy ones by a factor of more than eight. Most days are cloudy.

Ignoring those simple facts is the fault of a succession of Conservative politicians, each one worse then their predecessor.

By next Spring we will not only have seen doubled energy costs and food inflation at 5% or more but big fare increases, a £1,000 a year cut to Universal Credit, pensions at a lower level than promised and a 10% increase in National Insurance Tax. Employers too, so their prices will go up. And that is before the next round of Council Tax increases.

Most people will be hit hard by a financial squeeze that almost everyone could see coming but Boris Johnson and his profiteering Cronies could not.

Neither, would it appear can any Conservative Scrutiny Committee Member.

At the aforesaid Scrutiny Committee meeting plans were laid out for filching more money from residents. At Hall Place the lockdown caused an increase in visitor numbers all with money in their pocket, or so the Cabinet Member thinks. There is a new catering contract “designed to make Hall Place really pay for itself” and “nobody can accuse Bexley Council of not being forward when it comes to how to raise money, we have to do things that they don’t like because we really do need to raise money”.

Companies will be asked to sponsor a tree or a flower bed and “one of the things we are working on, because we need to raise more money is…” and Cabinet Member Craske thought better of it and bit his tongue. He did however say that the Council must capitalise on the model railway currently being installed at Hall Place.

And I almost forgot, Bexley Council wants to increase the number of visitors but the plan is to help that along the way by considering the introduction of charges for parking. Bexley Council truly is Bonkers.

By next Spring a large number of Bexley residents will be learning that very hard times have fallen upon us and there may not be a great deal of cash left to spend on fripperies designed to save Bexley Council from the consequences of their decade long mismanagement. And what else is timetabled for next Spring? Ahh, a Council election, and what use will that be?

None unless a better class of Conservative Councillor finds itself in charge and that is simply not going to happen. Not until someone kicks the Leader into the increasingly long grass anyway.

 

23 September - It takes two. Only two

I have been reading, well skimming through, the Auditor’s Draft Report on Bexley Council. Probably not good reading for those who have a better understanding of accountancy than I do, but it seems that Bexley Council is successfully bumping along the bottom and kicking the more severe problems further down the road.

Not that I am a firm believer in the integrity of accountants. When I had a couple of qualified helpers they pursued Bexley Council on my behalf to the point where Bexley’s own Auditor admitted that the Council had been up to no good but the independent auditor refused to comment. They suggested instead that I should privately prosecute Bexley Council on the evidence that had come to light but they were reluctant do so so themselves. I concluded that the accountant was more interested in maintaining good relations with the Council than integrity.

Ombudsman Report

Small extract of a 21 page report in which Bexley’s own internal auditor condemned their own practices.

One has to wonder how it is that Bexley Council sank so low and one has to conclude that its Leadership has failed at every level.

Councillor Teresa O’Neill made it clear in happier times that Bexley is a Councillor led authority and Officers are at their beck and call and not the other way around. She has been in a leadership role since 2006, firstly as Deputy and then Leader when her boss was elevated to the GLA where he dipped his hand into the till. Something similar had happened in Bexley but only Mick Barnbrook reported it to the police. He was told that no one but Bexley Council could report such criminal goings on and the new Council Leader refused to do so. Probably another case of the police at the time working hand in glove with Bexley Council covering up crime. There were several such examples all hidden away somewhere on Bonkers.

Somehow or other the Leader remains in place; the whisper is that the last such vote went 19:16 in her favour. How is that achieved? Patronage presumably. Cabinet positions and Scrutiny Committee jobs.

In charge of Finance we have had a Councillor who ran his own business but left a dubious trail of disillusioned partners in his wake. Then we had one whose own business failed to be followed by another with no business acumen whatsoever.

Deputy Leaders last five minutes, first Rob Leitch and then Louie French. Attempts at reform are not well received.

The current Cabinet consists of a political spin doctor, a failed travel agent, an MP’s clerk, a small time landlord, a JP and a sports commentator.

Bexley Council is big business, at least in terms of budget, but there is almost no one there who who could run the proverbial whelk stall.

Eden ValleyAs far as I know, apart from housewives and pensioners, we have a barber, a painter and a chicken shop owner. I am being facetious. The chicken shop is a major wholesale poultry distributor serving South East England and beyond.

It is run along with family members by Councillor Andy Dourmoush. I only know him as a friendly sort of bloke because he used to pass the time of day with me at meetings pre-Covid. However it must be reasonable to assume he knows a thing or two about business. Financing it and running an efficient well focused ship which hasn’t run aground in the way Bexley Council has. More than an MP’s clerk knows anyway.

Councillor Dourmoush Chaired/Vice-Chaired the Resources and Growth Scrutiny and Audit Committees back in the day when I made a point of attending in person.

Just the man for the job I would have thought, as observed from the public gallery, asking probing questions but what do I know? Probing is never good in Bexley and the Leader flung him on to the scrap heap; replaced by Councillors Jackson, Wildman and the hairdresser.

A global search of this website reveals that Adam Wildman only asked one type of question at any meeting before his Committee appointment, the crawling type. Nothing but Teresa’s voting fodder.

Councillor Wildman does not run a chicken shop but holds a political appointment at the GLA. He came to notice several times for his creepy questions and was recorded here as follows…

In July 2018 his performance in the Council Chamber was described here as “arse licking of the highest order”. Later the same month it was “he was very keen to polish the Leader’s inflated ego” for which he was given a prolonged round of applause. The leader said he was “fantastic and proud of him”.

Before their election both Wildman and Jackson were willing to pose as ordinary residents to flatter the Leader. Described then as “useful idiots” one Councillor actually emailed me deploring such subterfuges.

‘Arse licking’ appears to work just fine because someone who has done absolutely nothing for Bexley Council apart from ego polishing is now Vice-Chair of Resources and Growth, the Committee that is supposed to scrutinise the decisions of an MP’s clerk. One Councillor doing a political job for the Conservatives questioning another in the same boat and both avowed Teresa O’Kneelers.

If you are looking for someone to blame for the direction taken by Bexley Council since 2009 you should be looking at the creepy 16. It would only take two to make it 18:17 against the Princess of Patronage and Queen of Capitalisation Orders.

 

22 September - Loitering with intent?

CampIt must be nearly four months since my new neighbour moved in and never once has he been a nuisance; quiet as a mouse and last week he had his rubbish heap removed which means he is doing better than most of us, me included.

However this morning there were voices in evidence and peering through a convenient knot hole in the fence revealed a gaggle of cops. They were not there long and the camper has since been seen relaxing in his chair, happy in the knowledge that he is doing more to tackle Bexley’s homelessness problem than Bexley Council itself.

Note: Exactly three hours later an ambulance and an NHS response car showed up and took the occupant away. On 23rd September the tent was taken away.

 

21 September - Road design is Bonkers in Bexley

Public NoticeEvery few days someone turns into Bowness Road for the first time in a while and decides to tell me about the lunacy they see before them. That’s good because I needed multiple nudges towards the promised FOI request. The last message tipped me over the inertia threshold.


Please let me know under FOI legislation…

• What was the design aim?
• How many KSI accidents at that spot in the past five years?
• Over what dates did the public consultation – if any - run?
• What were (or where are they already publicly available) the consultation responses?
• Did the Highways Department seek advice and guidance from external experts?
• Was the DfT guidance note consulted and if so why was the decision taken to ignore it?
• What was the justification for giving priority to the major traffic flow (West to East) to the detriment of those travelling in the opposite direction?
• When did the contractor start work at the site?
• What risk assessment was undertaken with particular reference to East to West traffic approaching on a blind bend and to traffic emerging from Silverdale Road encountering traffic on the ‘wrong’ side of the road? Similarly to the obstructed private drive.


Bowness Road Bowness RoadMy records show that I made an FOI request in October 2012, another in June 2015 and again in October 2017. Then nothing until August 2021 which is still not answered. This one will be number five. With luck I will be safe from the vexatious label.

My friend Michael Barnbrook made 100 FOI requests between 2010 and 2017 after which he was banned from making any more. Making a second FOI request is almost inevitable when the first response does not answer the question or opens up new avenues of enquiry. Banning sensible FOI requests from someone who acquires the reputation of nosy nuisance is illegal but when have such niceties ever bothered Bexley Council?

 

20 September (Part 2) - A process of elimination

TweetPlace your bets now about who dunnit

In the four years up to 2018 Bexley’s Cabinet included Councillors Linda ‘I can do what I like’ Bailey, Peter ‘Malcolm Knight is a wanker’ Craske, John Fuller, Don ‘Malcolm Knight harasses juveniles’ Massey, Philip ‘Malcolm Knight is a sad cretin’ Read, Alex Sawyer and Brad Smith.

Since then Bailey, Massey and Sawyer have left the Cabinet and Councillors Gower, Leaf and Munur have joined. Councillor Louie French managed to do both!

Which was the single Cabinet Member before 2017 who subsequently stood down? (See associated Tweet.) Don Massey by the looks of it. Bailey and Sawyer also left but remain Councillors.

Who was a Cabinet Member and still is in 2021? Peter Craske, John Fuller and Philip Read.

So which three Conservatives called the then Leader of the Labour Party a c*nt four years ago? The finger obviously points at one of the obnoxious pair from whom no one expects any better. Who else?

I am sure that John Fuller and Brad Smith would never indulge in such language and it is probably even safer to rule out Biffa Bailey which doesn’t leave a lot of choice. One of the obvious pair would not surprise me at all, the other a little bit.

If Councillor Francis is referring back to something that happened nearly eight or more years ago it opens up another equally obnoxious possibility.

 

20 September (Part 1) - More crap and worse

C wordYesterday’s indirect reference to the bad language allegedly used within Bexley’s failing Council provoked a smattering of comment on Twitter but is not the first such reference to rude words here.

I personally heard a Conservative Councillor call a Labour Member a tosser and the Deputy Leader say that he “doesn’t read that crap” when someone referred to this website at a public meeting. Everyone heard it, Councillors confirmed it but he denied it. Nobody really cared but he had to lie, they knew no other way in 2013 and the habit still lingers.

My Labour ward Councillor has been on the receiving end of Tory invective. As reported four years ago; three See You Next Tuesdays and a Dickhead plus an implied punch in the mouth from the ruling party.

There have been references to the notorious N and P words too. Bexley Council is comprised of rather too many disreputable characters.

 

19 September - You’re homeless? Then it must be your own silly fault

If the latest email from within the Civic Offices was published in full it might be possible for even Bexley’s poor management to pin down the source but the author clearly wants residents to know more of what goes on within the Civic Offices.

Even as set out below it might be traceable but maybe the author is a victim of the cuts, redundant and relatively safe.

It begins with “The rot in Bexley has truly set in”.

The email relates how a housing officer about to be made redundant was subjected to abuse by the Chief Executive “who told him in front of colleagues that she didn’t want to hear any more from him”. The actual words used are said to be too rude to be repeated.

The writer goes on to say that “Bexley’s housing crisis” is in part “due to the failure of BexleyCo to build affordable houses” and their “malaise” in all things.

After buying up property “for around five years the Council has a nice stock of two and three bedroom houses but they sit idle awaiting someone to modernise them”.

“Does Bexley Council care about the homeless?” is the writer’s question. The implied answer is no because the email goes on to say that “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”.

An appeal further delays matters.

The writer ends with a sarcastic “Bexley Council, Working For You”.

 

18 September - A broken road system and broken promises

RineyWhen did you last see a Conway lorry in Bexley digging up a road and temporarily and sometimes permanently reducing your quality of life?

It must be at least three months since I first noticed their absence but neither did I see a replacement contractor, then the following email prompted an enquiry.

JB Riney had been at work outside the Central Library in Bexleyheath easing over the kerb so that vehicles could continue to move when two buses stopped opposite each other. I thought that directly conflicted with Bexley’s highways policies, they happily block roads at bus stops elsewhere.

See photo below.

Pedestrian refuge

A long time reader writes…


I thought I’d alert you to something you are probably aware of.

Whereas it used to be the case that road works were to be seen everywhere being carried out by CONWAY they now seem to being done by JB RINEY.

(I should not think this of course but have to wonder whether the passing of brown envelopes has been involved somewhere along the line. Shame on me for having such thoughts.)

I first noticed RINEY at work at the top of Townley Road outside the library where they moved back the kerb line about twelve inches each side. Presumably there were complaints that if there was a bus or two unloading one side and a coach loading or unloading the other side it was difficult for other traffic to pass between.

Can’t say I ever witnessed a problem and I live only a few houses away. It did seem a lot of expensive work just to gain two feet but then Bexley Council priorities often seem a bit strange when they ignore other serious roadwork short comings.

A tree outside a neighbour’s house was removed a little while ago for no obvious reason and today RINEY filled in the hole and tarred over an area marked out by Bexley Council. Bye Bye tree lined streets. Tarmac is presumably cheaper and less trouble than trimming trees occasionally.

The area marked out by Bexley Highways totally ignored the many adjacent cracked paving slabs. It is debatable though which looks worse cracked paving slabs or tarmac. Not much in it I would have thought.

Separate topic. Have you been along Albion Road recently and noticed the state of the roundabouts? Last time I raised this with Andrew Bashford he assured me that they were to be planted with wild flowers when the time of year was right for planting. This was two to three years ago and the only thing to be seen on the roundabouts are not wild flowers but furiously growing weeds plus bald edges where large vehicles cannot get around without going over the kerb. Another illustration of the inability of Bexley Council Highways to design roundabouts that large vehicles can actually get around.

New bus stands Albion Road Albion Road Albion Road

You can see from the pictures below taken on 30th April 2019 that Bexley Council has reneged on its promise to restore the bluebells that once graced both roundabouts. Bluebells are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and they were destroyed by Bexley Council in 2017.
Highland Road roundabout Townley Road roundabout

Two and a half years of Bexley Council fibs. Roundabouts photographed 30th April 2019.

Note: I have seen criminal behaviour within Bexley Council but not ‘brown envelopes’.

 

17 September (Part 3) - Friendly and not so friendly

I entirely forgot that yesterday was Bonkers’ twelfth birthday. It was not a blog in 2009, that evolved later, and it is not yet eleven years since I attended my first Council meeting. Many years earlier I frequently attended meetings of senior managers at work and I had no real idea of whether they were well conducted or not, they were the only ones I knew.

I thought that by comparison Bexley’s meeting was a pretty amateurish affair. The summary was “an aimless mess of a meeting that achieved nothing whatever”.

In the following ten years or so I have learned a lot more about the apparent competence of Councillors but with a few exceptions I still don’t know them particularly well.

With nothing much worth reporting today I thought I would place them into three categories; those who studiously ignore my presence at meetings whatever the circumstances, those who appear to be a lot less stand-offish and a few that do not fit neatly into either category.

Councillors who have ignored me totally for more than ten years or since election.
Cheryl Bacon (C), Linda Bailey (C), Nigel Betts(C), Brian Bishop (C), Christine Bishop (C), Sybil Camsey (C), Christine Catterall (C), Val Clark (C), Peter Craske (C), Joe Ferreira (L), Louie French (C), Sue Gower (C), David Leaf (C), Geraldene Lucia-Hennis (C), Nick O’Hare (C), Eileen Pallen (C), Wendy Perfect (L), Philip Read (C), Melvin Seymour (C), Brad Smith (C), Adam Wildman (C). A total of 19 Conservative Councillors and two Labour.

Councillors who appear to be happy to engage in friendly conversation some much more often than others.
Esther Amaning (L), Stefano Borella (L), John Davey (C), Richard Diment (C), Andy Dourmoush (C), Daniel Francis (L), John Fuller (C), Danny Hackett (I), Sally Hinkley (L), James Hunt (C), Brenda Langstead (L), Mabel Ogundayo (L), Peter Reader (C), Alex Sawyer (C), June Slaughter (C), Nicola Taylor (L). That’s eight Conservatives, seven Labour and one Independent.

Those that fall into an intermediate category (†).
Alan Downing (C), Steven Hall (C), Howard Jackson (C), Cafer Munur (C), Caroline Newton (C), Teresa O’Neil (C), Dave Putson (L). Six Conservatives and one Labour Councillor.

The observant will have noted one omission. Lisa Moore (C) was elected only last May and I have not attended a Council meeting since then. My guess is that Lisa would fall into the second category.

† The third category is of Councillors with whom there has been no conversation beyond a thank you for holding a door open, passing over a heavy Agenda, including me in a greeting when passing by while I was speaking to another Councillor or a specific and personal welcome to a meeting.

Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) has quite often sent friendly emails but I do not recall our paths crossing more than momentarily.

 

17 September (Part 2) - No doctors. No care

The GP service is for many of us close to non-existent. I have been able to see a nurse via the e-Consult service who as it turned out was very good but GPs prefer to hide away somewhere. None more so than my 84 year old friend’s doctor in Bromley. He is still not being treated for a breathing problem mentioned here last January.

Back then he reported that the only form of face to face consultation offered was with a receptionist through a slightly opened window but assumed that those with agreed appointments with a doctor would be allowed inside. That has proved to be an optimistic assessment.

For two months approximately he has had an inflamed patch on his shoulder about the size of an elongated tea plate. It has been painful and could be anything from a serious reaction to an insect bite to skin cancer, no one knows.

After hand delivering a printed photograph his GP deigned to see him. Unfortunately when he turned up at the appointed time the receptionist said the consultation had to be conducted through the open window in front of a queue of people waiting in their cars. He objected.

Reluctantly the doctor dressed in a Hazmat suit and heavily masked opened the front door himself and looked at the skin patch. The photograph was passed on to a dermatologist and his verdict is awaited.

It seems to me that if a GP is not providing a service the NHS may as well strike him off their list of approved contractors. Patients would not be much worse off and it may act as incentive to the others to get back to work.

The four receptionists inside appeared to be doing absolutely nothing apart from chatting among themselves.

 

17 September (Part 1) - Serco’s demob happy

BinBin collections should be back to normal next week. Two Fridays ago my brown bin was emptied on schedule and last week the green bins were emptied too - although mine was missed, maybe because it was almost empty.

Today there is no sign of another brown bin collection but at 09:15 a truck came to empty the blue bin that can be seen in Photo 1.

It was replaced out of position so that the entrance was blocked to vehicles, the wheels were not locked - which was fortunate in the circumstances - the small paper opening was left up and the full lid was left unlocked inviting contamination by large lumps of polystyrene and plastic.

 

16 September (Part 3) - “The fish rots from the head”

TweetThis morning’s letter from within provoked a fair bit of comment and at one time I Tweeted the message shown alongside.

I don’t generally report confidential messages that come from Councillors, there are several of them. I try not to even let on to any one of them who the others are, speaking to me is probably some sort of treason in the eyes of the Leader. However here is a taster of what has been received.

The following was chosen because it predates the last election and you will have to guess whether the author is still on Bexley Council or left in disgust - or sacked. It has necessarily been redacted to Hell and back and with luck the author won’t even recognise it. However it should give residents a flavour of how Bexley Council is managed.


How long can Bexley Council continue to [huge redaction about supporting poor management]? Being on particularly good terms with the Leader clearly has its benefits. The situation is intolerable [redaction] and should not go unchallenged.

In Bexley doing nothing results in unchallenged promotion. [Redaction] and the wheels come off. [Long redaction]. They say the fish rots from the head and there is definitely something rotten in the London Borough of Bexley with the Leader proactively refusing to [redaction]. Time for change. If you can’t get it right after years in the job it’s time to go.


That is all I dare publish from a much longer message; inside knowledge is vital and the sources must be protected at all costs. I say again, that message is more than three years old, every word comes from the original message and the author is/was a Conservative. What has changed since? Not a lot by all accounts.

 

16 September (Part 2) - Badly managed Bexley. Bosses beyond redemption

Here we go again and it gets worse.

The latest letter from the Civic Offices is presented completely unedited apart from a word or two altered where it may have given a tiny clue as to the source.


I’m not sure if my opinions are at all helpful, but I thought I would share if it helps confirm (or otherwise) the experiences of others.

First, it is worth noting just how much staffing levels have dropped. It is not just those who have accepted voluntary redundancy. Many left roles before redundancy was offered and were not replaced. In recent years Bexley has also employed many staff on fixed-term contracts for roles that ideally should have been permanent. Those contracts have been allowed to expire without much thought about the gap in resource they create.

It is also notable what kinds of staff have been targeted. Some of the biggest cuts have been to teams with the lowest paid staff. This has inevitably hit morale, as it feels like management are looking after their own. It is also inefficient, as the tasks those staff completed now need to be undertaken by higher-paid staff.

Civic OfficesBexley is wildly hierarchical. You are actively discouraged from challenging anyone above you. There is a real preoccupation on pay grade as a measure of competence, rather than skills or experience. Senior management often fail to engage with those beneath them, which during lockdown was a huge failing. There is also an innate distrust of lower-paid staff from the management. They assume the rank and file are lazy, or useless, or both. However, in my experience they are actually hugely dedicated and resourceful.

There is also a lack of trust towards anyone who hasn’t been at Bexley for over a decade or more. This has led to a stagnation in thinking as it is the same old people having the same old discussions. Those people with experience in other local authorities or other sectors often struggle to be heard, or are dismissed for not understanding the unique nature of Bexley,

I have also never encountered in my career a senior management team who are paid so much yet deliver so little. I encountered very little genuine leadership, and no sense of strategy. It was clear those at the top have no plan, and simply keep asking staff for ideas - ideas they almost always ignore. Savings plans are written on the fly, and are never cross-referenced to identify dependencies or conflicts. There is no vision beyond “cut, cut, cut” and keeping the politicians happy. Many staff who could redesign services or simply find better, cheaper ways of working have been generally undervalued and in most cases let go.

Everything is outsourced, even if it costs more, and often with really bad contractual terms. All roads lead to Capita - if you wanted to do something new, at some point you would end up having to pay Capita for some element of that.

The political leaders seem to generate a real sense of fear, and that has trickled down through the whole council. This has led to people hiding problems or over-spends. Most people know where the issues are, but nobody has been brave enough to address them. Housing being a mess is nothing new. Senior management follow the councillors, rather than guide them to the best solutions.

In the current financial climate Bexley needs to fundamentally rethink how it delivers all its services. However, it has a leadership who cannot see beyond wanting everything to stay the same, but for a lot less money. There simply isn’t the skills, experience or courage at a senior level to make things better. And the skills, experience and courage at lower grades simply isn’t valued and is allowed to leave. I’ve met and worked with some brilliant, dedicated people at Bexley, but they are not given the opportunity to thrive.

I hope these reflections are useful. I know you do this, but I would appreciate your discretion with the above and maintaining my anonymity!


Devastating or what? Another missive that reminds me of my time running a staff intensive money pit in the seventies and eighties; two of them, one after the other and both of them raised to most productive in the country. It is true that I made a point of making sure I knew exactly how each cog meshed into its neighbour so that the machine could be tuned for best performance but I still feel that one of the secrets to success was keeping my office door open so that even the lowest paid staff could pop in and tell me where I was still going wrong.

As far as I know Bexley Council still bans its staff from reading Bonkers by means of a block on its servers - thank goodness for mobile phones - but it tells you all you need to know about the mentality and intelligence of those in charge in Watling Street. Insular and blinkered. It translates very directly to paying very nearly the highest Council Tax in London.

 

16 September (Part 1) - Thanks and No Thanks

I don’t wish to appear ungrateful after seven Bexley Councillors out of the total of 45 called, messaged and emailed me following my encounter with Indians a week ago which was very nice of them. I was able to give an assurance that I was not suffering from PTSD or harmed in any way. There was a feeling that I should be pursuing a Restraining Order. I will if anything like it happens again.

But…

It is disappointing that no one has ever commented on the far more serious problem of the lady forced to live in squalor by Bexley Council’s housing agent L&Q. She is probably one of dozens if not hundreds. My Tent Man neighbour is still in residence too although in that case I was asked where he was.

 

15 September (Part 3) - Statistics and lies

My Freedom of Information request seeking the data that was used to justify the imposition of the odd even number plate restriction at rubbish dumps is not yet answered beyond the lawful maximum response time.

I suspect that an excuse for that nonsense is hard to come by.
Odds and evens

From Bexley Council's website at 08:30 this morning.

 

15 September (Part 2) - Rare metals and rare events

Hyundai KonaThis is a bit of an odd one even for Bonkers during a period when the Council doesn’t seem to be doing much.

A reader asks that I remind readers that catalytic converter theft is still rife all around London and the police in his experience are not especially interested.

Catalytic converters are quickly stolen, very expensive to replace and easily processed through scrap merchants.

It is something that motorists should be very aware of. Park if you can close to a wall or fence, fit some sort of protection around the converter. Install CCTV that oversees your front drive. Clear your garage and put your car in it - easier said that done perhaps, mine goes through the doorway with an inch to spare.

Or buy an electric car. No exhaust system at all.

Not that that is entirely without risk. Mine is three years old now and according to Hyundai could spontaneously combust at any moment. They announced in October last year that there was a battery problem with some cars and in April 2021 wrote to me to advise that my vehicle had one of the dud batteries. They said not to charge the battery to 100% and would fit a new battery for me.

Since then nothing, not a word from Hyundai including no response to three emails since June. I am not alone. 1,241 UK owners are affected and Hyundai has replaced precisely zero batteries. All the new units are going to the USA where the law protects the consumer more than in this country.

I now have a car which falls a long way short of what was promised when I bought it. Hyundai UK is content with that. One bloody awful company with no understanding of customer service. Think twice before you buy a Hyundai.

The number of cars that have in fact gone up in flames is small. None in the UK and 14 out of about 90,000 affected batteries world-wide so I am ignoring the range restriction but maybe you should avoid parking next to my car.

 

15 September (Part 1) - It’s not over yet

Useless masksI took my first trip on the Docklands Light Railway on Monday evening the first since 14th March 2020. In the intervening period I have always journeyed north by car but this time I was only going to Westferry, leaving Woolwich Arsenal just before six and back just after ten thirty so not a crowded train.

What was remarkable both ways was how few masks were in evidence, not just by the usual culprits but by people apparently from all walks of life.

I have never thought the flimsy blue rag can be doing any measurable good, it even says so on the packing but I wore mine nevertheless.

In part that is because I can no longer claim to not know anyone who has picked up the bug. On 30th August someone who I was due to meet next day said that he and his entire family had tested positive but he alone was feeling seriously under the weather.

Fortunately for me a succession of domestic date conflicts had prevented us meeting throughout August.

He spent the week in bed feeling like death warmed up while his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law shrugged it off. The following weekend he was taken into hospital as a precaution and to be given oxygen.

He soon picked up but is still in there recovering and will be for another week, possibly two, and it made me think that we are not over Covid yet and you can be unlucky. Then more news came to light.

He had been accommodating his Lebanese in-laws who became unwell immediately after arrival and tested positive while remaining relatively fit.

Lebanon is on the Amber List.

For those interested the friend is about 74 years old.

 

14 September (Part 2) - No one is happy

Jackie BeltonThe following email from within the Civic Offices has been slightly modified but the theme and notable phrases remain the same as the previous ones.


I can’t get over the irony of what I read here. Why Jackie B. came to Bexley in the short piece written at https://mj-future-forum-2020.heysummit.com/speakers/jackie-belton.

It seems she came because everything was good so how could Bexley ever attract a new boss after she leaves?

The only way is no longer up. Things are not going to get better. It’s a tragedy.

Sorry, but having been at the Council since [date redacted as a security measure] I have seen the ups and downs. The heart of the Council has been ripped out and morale in many areas is rock bottom.

Some blame the politicians. I personally blame the senior officers. They do little but slap each other on the back and think the rest of us are happy to accept their BS.

 

14 September (Part 1) - The point of no return

Daily Mail Group Photo It has taken several days to get around to reading all eight pages of the severe criticism of Cressida Dick in last Thursday’s Daily Mail. There are some really moving accounts of how the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has made life changing mistakes and too often gone out of her way to inflict maximum pain on police victims.

The Mail gathered together Alastair Morgan (†) who almost single handedly pursued the police for the corrupt behaviour linked to his brother’s murder and secured the landmark ruling of Institutional Corruption and six fellow victims of Dick’s reign.

Alongside him was Baroness Lawrence mother of Stephen murdered in nearby Well Hall Road 28 years ago which resulted in the Institutional Racism label. Paul Gambaccini, Nick Brammal son of D-Day hero Lord Bramall, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan’s widow and former MP Harvey Proctor all (or their partners) variously and falsely accused of the rape and murder of young children. Also with them was former Prime Minister Ted Heath’s biographer Michael McManus. The one time Bexley and Old Sidcup MP was also subjected to a totally spurious police investigation.

No police officer has ever been disciplined for their life wrecking mistakes. One small extract from the Mail’s article appears below. Absolutely damning of Cressida Dick.

Daily Mail Daily Mail

The Daily Mail 9th September 2021.

What happened two days later?

The President of the Thamesmead and Erith Conservative Association of which I was once a member, in her role as Home Secretary, the Home Secretary who tried to interfere with the publication of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel’s report, saw fit to endorse a two year contract extension for the totally discredited Met. Commissioner.

It is almost impossible to put into words the dishonesty, corruption and cronyism that permeates Boris Johnson’s Government. Priti Patel for whom many of us former Conservatives had high hopes consistently manages to plumb the depths of immorality and incompetence.

I voted Conservative in 1997 when Labour swept to power. I dithered at every General Election after 2005 but in the end always went Blue. No more dithering, the end of the road has been reached. At the top of the tree Conservatism in 2021 means Corruption and while local Tories keep Priti Patel as their President they endorse it. In Bexley next May and with a heavy heart It looks like being another Labour vote from me. The third in a lifetime of Toryism, but enough is enough. (Danny and Sally being numbers one and two.)

† For new readers, Alastair Morgan is the brother of murdered Private Investigator Daniel Morgan and the 30 year partner of my daughter. The official report into the failure of the Metropolitan Police to solve the murder and subsequently cover up their failures were described as Institutionally Corrupt with Cressida Dick singled out for special mentions. She dismissed the eight years of work out of hand. The suggestion of corruption was “offensiveֲ”.

 

13 September - Behind closed doors

What does a Chief Executive do?

Extra curriculaYesterday’s Council critic posed that question. The last one fled to Cumbria after a short career break” he said. If I had been asked the same question the answer would have been “nothing apart from spitefully taking away the Press Desk from public meetings and attempting to divide Council and public with a physical barrier”.

So not popular with me or the News Shopper reporter - when there used to be one.

Not a popular lady with the Leader” either according to our man at the Town Hall. “They didn’t get on because she was too assertive.” Not especially assertive surely or she may have achieved something?

“Jackie Belton is passive, too passive and lets others like Nick Hollier take control. Backroom boys who know nothing of people nor serving the public hence why we have strikes, overcharged elderly residents and decay. They turn a blind eye to corruption, even nepotism when getting their children jobs in the Civic. All I can say is as Monitoring Officer Mr Hillier knows where all the bodies are buried, but then the people in the Civic know of…"

I think I will stop there, I decided long ago that sort of thing in the Civic Offices has no place here.
Steward

From the Cumbria County Council website.

 

12 September - Another belter from within

Jackie BeltonFor someone who appears to have done nothing for Bexley since arriving in March 2019 and seen perform by me almost never, the name Jackie Belton crops up here quite often.

Much of what is known about the Chief Executive comes from within the Civic Offices. She is apparently determined to undermine the hard work of officers and many residents made their opinion of her amply clear on Facebook during the bin strike usually with a reference to her £213,000 pay cheque.

More recently she popped up at a Cabinet meeting to read out a catalogue of strike calamities from a minion’s script none of which was news to anyone.

Maybe my limited observations and the even less knowledgeable Facebook mob are not worth a great deal but what about the opinion of those who have the misfortune to work alongside her…


For some the pandemic has been a disaster. For others it has allowed them to further their career.

In 18 months few have seen or heard from Jackie Belton and as is the way with political types, whatever happens at the polls next May 2022 be ready for Jacky to announce she is moving on.

The lack of leadership has been pronounced for many staff. Pay freezes. Bonuses stopped. Redundancies. Outsourcing. Millions lost. Begging bowls for £10 million to the government and services in decline. You can’t run the same things with over ten per cent of the workforce gone.

Parents and children in Bexley will notice this with the children’s centres. Waiting lists for housing are rising. They now scapegoat Covid but the financial mess has been around for a long time.


More to come.

 

11 September (Part 2) - Not the happiest days of your life

School pledgeI have a friend with two children at a primary school in Thamesmead and he thinks it falls way short of their Pledge to Pupils.

The problem arises because one of the children is a clever little thing as most of them seem to be these days and the other is what my mother would have called ‘a little tinker’. He is excitable and runs around and tends to wear the patience of someone like me whose children are both fiftyish. Not always, but sometimes.

His parents love him and he gets treated the same as his older sister. Lavish presents on occasions and trips out to museums and tourist attractions etc.

However his school makes little attempt to cater for his over-activity by incarcerating him all day with two similar ‘little tinkers’ learning next to nothing from a teaching assistant. The sister reports that they are not the only disturbed children in the school but by coincidence the white ones attend regular classrooms.

My friend has asked me what he can do because his complaints are ignored and I explained that Academies are pretty much exempted from Council control and the sort of people who run these institutions are not easily shamed into changing their ingrained attitudes.

The Head in this instance reported my friend to Social Services for being a bad parent without even telling him, it was admitted only after Social Services began to, figuratively speaking, bang on his door.

After being subjected to a stressful period of investigation my friend was given a clean bill of health leaving him to face the failing school alone. I have suggested that he might start by submitting a Subject Access Request to the school and maybe send a description of his predicament to the Cabinet Member for Education and his Labour shadow but beyond that I am bereft of ideas. This brief report is by his request.

The school pledge is full of trite claims (Be open in all our endeavours! Individuality is paramount! Nurture every child!) culled from some catalogue of politically correct BS, screaming insincerity at full volume.

 

11 September (Part 1) - Twenty years on

Where were you on 9/11If everyone is going to play this game then so will I.

I had been asked by Sony’s Broadcast Division to install a video editing suite for an internet start up company in North Audley Street. The top floor window looked down on Grosvenor Square which at that time was the address of the American Embassy.

I had been working alone all day and then one of the bosses came up to tell me that an aeroplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I imagined a Cessna or something similar having come a cropper.

It was only when I went downstairs to look at the TV that I realised the situation was rather worse than that.

I felt more than a little vulnerable working next door to the Embassy and was glad to get away.

 

10 September (Part 4) - Town takeover continues

Planning permissionA close eye kept on planning developments shows that the flats proposed for the area behind Erith’s Potion Bar were approved yesterday.

In related news a friendly magistrate called to say that I may have been a bit too accommodating after Wednesday’s car chase and I should have been thinking about a Restraining Order.

If there is any repetition I will know where to go for advice.

 

10 September (Part 3) - The Conservatives sink in the polls but they deserve to go lower

BBC headlineSo Pathetic Patel did it.

Endorsed the extended appointment of Cressida Dick, the Met. Commissioner on whom the Home Office itself spent £16 million and eight years proving that the Metropolitan Police is Institutionally Corrupt, not just historically but right now.

Dick was mentioned in the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report more than 20 times and was personally singled out for disrupting and delaying the work of the Panel to protect the Met’s reputation and to Hell with justice for its victims. For nearly eight years!

However the former would-be Bexley Councillor rejected by the electorate in Erith 15 years ago thinks that Dick is the best person for the job. The best candidate for the UK’s top police job goes to someone the Home Office itself has confirmed captains a corrupt ship.

It says all you need to know about the integrity of the President of the Erith and Thamesmead Conservative Association. Zero.

The only good news today is that the Conservative Party has lost its lead in the polls. Long may they drop like a stone and preferably to the point they collapse and a party with true conservative values emerges.

 

10 September (Part 2) - Living dangerously

I should probably have said yesterday that my three Labour Councillors were not alone in expressing their concern at Wednesday’s involuntary car chase, a Conservative Councillor did so too. In fact he or she had suffered something not altogether different, but giving such credit to Conservatives presents difficulties. Will an association with me blight any aspirations to political progress that they may have?

Almost inevitably my favourite (former) MP also sent a sympathetic message.

And full disclosure; I spoke to Danny Hackett (Independent, Thamesmead East) while waiting for the police to arrive and he offered advice as to what to do if the police believed Singh’s fairy story. They most definitely did not.

Another supportive message indicated that accusations of photographing children are becoming the norm among certain wrong-doers.

Moving on to something lighter - I think - I am asked to spot the common factor connecting the Woodman in Bexleyheath, the Nordenfelt in Erith, The Potion Bar also in Erith, the White Horse in Welling, Ye Olde Leather Bottle in Belvedere and the Drayman in Bexleyheath.

That’s an easy one to answer; they all look to be public houses and I must have personally brought about their downfall by never entering any one of them, some I am not even sure where they were.

Another mischief maker suggested I look at Planning Application 20/00296/FUL. I did. It refers to 2 Holmhurst Road, Belvedere, DA17 6HN which has permission to be a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).

The application form bears a familiar name and address. Do I dare to stroll by one day?

 

10 September (Part 1) - Unscrupulous politicians need unscrupulous coppers

Daniel Morgan ReportThe Daily Mail would not be Alastair Morgan’s (†) first choice of newspaper, that honour would likely go to Byline Times and The Guardian but he told me when we last met a couple of weeks ago that the support received from a Mail journalist had been outstanding.

Last Saturday that journalist, Stephen Wright, wrote five pages for the Mail in which he detailed the mistakes and immoral behaviour exhibited by the Metropolitan Police over the past 26 years since Rachel Nickell was murdered on Wimbledon Common and the police framed Colin Stagg for the crime.


DickOnce again Cressida Dick features prominently in the Nickell case, protecting the Met’s reputation is her top priority. Click on the associated image to see more of the same.

Yesterday Stephen was on the Mailְ’s front page with the headline MET CHIEF MUST GO.

Absolutely she should.

Inside the newspaper there were eight pages of reasons why Cressida Dick is totally unfit for public office and a seventh on Page 16 by Stephen Glover. Commissioner Cling-On he calls her.

On Page 5 was a letter from seven of Dick’s victims, all of them with lives ruined in different ways. That letter is reproduced below.

How can a further two years in office possibly be a reasonable proposal? It is said to be supported by both Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan. Why?

In my opinion the answer is all too obvious. Every incompetent, dishonest or corrupt politician must have an incompetent, dishonest or corrupt police officer to protect them. In Bexley we have seen exactly that several times.

When the Council closed a Bridle Way without the required authority from the Secretary of State they attempted to justify it by claiming that free access was causing high levels of crime. They found a tame copper to provide them with such a report but a Freedom of Information request to the police revealed that there had been no crimes.

When a Scrutiny Committee Chairman was ill-advised to illegally exclude the public from a meeting Bexley Council sent out false briefings to the local press that I and others had been running riot in the Council Chamber - which might have justified the exclusion. The police report of the incident confirmed that no member of the public had done anything wrong at all. When the repercussions escalated Bexley Council had to prevail upon the police to rewrite their report. Michael Barnbrook obtained the ‘before’ and ‘after’ copies.

When Councillor Peter Craske was arrested by a new and unsullied Borough Commander for his ill-advised internet activities, the police were subsequently leaned upon to find some way to “resolve the situation”.

Following the complaint about this perversion the investigating officer at Scotland Yard told me in front of my MP that as many as seven or eight Bexley police officers could find themselves in serious trouble. However shortly afterwards his superior officer reported that none of them had stepped out of line by at first refusing to investigate the crime and later conniving with Bexley Council to look for reasons to undo the arrest.

The IPCC as it was then, stuffed full of former police officers, refused to accept the further complaint

Every bent politician needs a bent police officer.

Fortunately the link between Bexley Council and the Police appears to have become a lot less obvious since the BCU became centred on Lewisham.

† For new readers, Alastair Morgan is the brother of murdered Private Investigator Daniel Morgan and the 30 year partner of my daughter. The official report into the failure of the Metropolitan Police to solve the murder and subsequently cover up their failures were described as Institutionally Corrupt with Cressida Dick singled out for special mentions. She dismissed the eight years of work out of hand. The suggestion of corruption was “offensiveֲ”.

Letter

Boris Johnson is asked to restore trust in the police service.

 

9 September (Part 3) - When three are as one

I am going to place on the public record that all three of my ward Councillors responded to my tale of bullying yesterday by the white van man believed to be one of the Woolwich Road building developers. They are Councillors Daniel Francis, Sally Hinkley and Dave Putson whose message was particularly kind and especially appreciated.

My planning confidant offered his apologies too for unwittingly leading me into danger.

 

9 September (Part 2) - When one equals two

Another Bexley fibYou don’t have to be a liar to be a Tory but it helps progression to the top echelons if you are.

From time to time Bexley’s propaganda channel pumps out the news that Bexley tops the Covid vaccination tables but although the figures vary month by month their claim is always false.

Number 1 is just another attempt by Conservative Bexley Council to deceive voters.

Climbing above Sutton to reach second place does not make Bexley Number 1 in London. Being Number 2 is good, why not be content with that?

“Can’t, it is not what a propaganda machine does.”

Vaccinations Vaccinations

 

9 September (Part 1) - Sick behaviour

The emailed tip off from my planning contact yesterday morning began with…


Just drove past 95a Woolwich Road there is a sold board in front garden checking on Zoopla I find it was put on the market on 29 Dec 2020 I can find no record of sale on Land Registry. Strange because on Mr Singh’s application the agent signs on 23/06/21 that he has been for the previous 21 days the owner.


I managed to mistakenly read that as "a solid board" but a suggestion that a planning application about which I had already reported favourably might not be entirely truthful - it would mean that the Land Registry was more than three months behind the times - was not especially surprising.

Only two hours after receiving that email I too found myself driving along Woolwich Road so I thought I would stop to look at the new ‘solid board’ - expecting a substantial screen. I parked in a nearby cul-de-sac and walked to better acquaint myself with the location which I had misreported earlier this month due to my geographic confusion!

It being a spur of the moment decision I walked past 95a totally unburdened apart from the car key in my pocket and maybe a little disappointed that there was no boarding up. A wasted interruption to my journey.

Shy SikhAs I continued on my way to cross Tyeshurst Close a white van cut across my path and stopped right in front of me. It was driven by the man who pushed me around in Heron Hill in June 2016 while I was photographing his demolition of Ye Olde Leather Bottle for which he was later fined by the Health & Safety Executive. I have not seen him in the intervening five years

The driver said something mildly abusive which I ignored and carried on my way in an easterly direction. A few minutes later I retraced my steps to retrieve my car there no longer being any sign of Singh and Co.

I drove to the end of the cul-de-sac in order to turn around and when I got back to Woolwich Road the white van was stopped sideways across the Erith bound carriageway causing a small traffic queue. It was not very difficult to ignore the van driver’s hooting, shouting and gesticulating and drive towards my next port of call, B&Q Belvedere.

The van stayed on my tail hooting all the way down Picardy Road which just for once presented a clear bus-free path. As I entered the B&Q car park with wild white van man on my tail I keyed out 999 on my hands free phone and parked close to the store.

White van man parked alongside but not the same driver who’d come close to running me down ten minutes earlier.

He stood at my window shouting, making punching gestures accompanied by prolific use of the F word while the police listened on the other end of the phone. At one stage the turban wearing madman opened his van door to extract a threatening weapon but fortunately had second thoughts about using it.

Every time I attempted to move my car the van driver attempted to block me in. Relying on his reversing lights and the ferocious acceleration of an electric car I dodged behind him several times and we drove around the car park in close convoy. More than once we briefly blocked an entrance.

The police did not respond quickly and mad van man apprehended a passing tradesman to seek help in getting me. The bemused stranger was told I had been “lurking outside his house taking photos of his grandchildren” or words to that effect. The tradesman looked at me and wandered off.

One of my escape bids involved a slow road blocking drive via the Fish Roundabout along Eastern Way as far as Abbey Wood and back again. On the return trip the police called to ask where I was. Van man was alongside me far too close with his horn blaring. Once again the police heard it via the phone and I was able to describe as it happened how he drew ahead and cut in front forcing me to a standstill. I got away again but he again attempted to run me off the road on the next roundabout.

I parked behind the unmarked police car described to me on the phone and turban van man followed.

The police took the details from me including him maybe still being sore about the H&SE fine and the fairy story about photographing his grandchildren. I don’t think I know Singh’s home address and except for Ye Olde Leather Bottle and the notorious back garden of 238 Woolwich Road I have used other people’s house photos on the blog.

The two young police officers dealt with the situation to perfection as far as I can see. They asked me what I wanted them to do about the van driver and I asked only that he should be restrained for a moment so that I could return home safely. Their interview with the driver was out of earshot.

I have no further idea of what the police said to Singh except that he and his son had been warned about their behaviour. The police let me drive home while they continued to interview the driver who must have been Singh the elder. I didn’t know there was one.

At no time was there any suggestion that the police believed his photographing grandchildren nonsense.

My Sikh neighbour, another Singh, is a peace loving gentleman but I have two other reports of our favourite property developer abusing observers and one of another police report.

 

7 September - Boris. Is he out of his very own buddleia tree?

Buddleia DWA ArchitectsI have spent two days chopping up buddleia. Mine is chopped down every year but this year it has nowhere to go thanks to the bin strike and is laid in the sun to dry and hopefully shrink down. Then, carried away somewhat, a second one which isn’t mine and as tall as a house which required a ladder and large saw.

Has anything happened while I have been aloft?

Coincidence perhaps, but probably not, DWA Architects have been busy designing for Bexley again, this time it’s 2 West Heath Road. (21/02544/FUL.) If DWA sounds familiar it will be because you looked at 95a Woolwich Road a few days ago.

Same architect? Yes. Same client? You will have to guess.

No sooner had I climbed out of my tree than I heard that Johnson the Demented had climbed out of his. The devil will be in the detail but everyone knows that the Scottish Government already pays for nursing homes up there and it ain’t fair.

I think that is probably a myth. Due to changed circumstances my son is now having to pay for his mother in a Glaswegian nursing home; a nice one so I am told.

However it costs him £750 a week with dear Nicola contributing an extra £250 to settle the £1,000 bill.

You can be pretty sure that BoJo is just as capable of pulling the wool over people’s eyes as the fiery Scot. What will happen when you spend £86,000 of your Mum’s savings on a luxurious care home in double quick time? Chucked into a Council slum presumably.

 

5 September (Part 3) - Objections over-ruled

Last Wednesday Bexley’s Cabinet spent more than an hour trying to convince themselves that cutting the expenditure on Children’s Centres from £691,000 to something that they could very nearly pay from their own allowances was a good idea.

If Children’s Centres were not a statutory requirement you can be pretty sure the service would be gone.

One of the reasons for this particular cut was that Bexley Council claimed that the service wasn’t reaching the most vulnerable which may have been true so it is odd that their first proposal was to make Centres even more inaccessible.

26% of children are never registered with a Centre and most (56%) don’t go on to use the services. (The latter statistic peaked at 85·2% in the Agenda report.)

Following objections the Council came up with three new options. The Cabinet rejected the first one because “This model did not deliver any financial savings and was not viable”. Full marks for being honest about what this is all about.

A second option was to reduce the Centres to only one and close seven. It did not meet the public’s objections.

The third and favoured course was to have five Centres (West Street, Northumberland Heath, Normandy, Danson and North Cray) run by six people. it will bring the costs down to £314,000 a year. The responsible Cabinet Member attempted to explain how it would work…

ReadCouncillor Read did a David Leaf on the subject and spoke for more than 20 minutes.

He began by saying the cuts were necessary to achieve a balanced budget but without digressing too much into how Bexley managed to get into its parlous financial state. The catch-all excuse of Covid did of course receive a share of the blame.

Cutting expenditure on Children’s Centres “created an opportunity to improve methods”. One aim was to cut the need for travel and another to ensure that all children would have access to the services “during their first 1,001 days of life”. The ‘closed’ centres may be given over to nursery and Early Years provision.

Cabinet Member Read emphasised that his proposals received “no overt opposition and that applied across the political divide”. One must wonder why Labour’s Press Release was critical.

Philip Read dismissed claims in the media that Children’s Centres are to be closed. They will not, some will be “redesignated”.

Another claim was that only children “deemed vulnerable” would be served. Once again this was wrong.

Contrary to yet more claims “the new model will provide a wider variety of services and more choice for families”. It will be “a service of which we can be proud and the envy of other authorities at a lower cost to taxpayers”.

Cabinet Member Cafer Munur queried the statistics given by his colleague suggesting they were even worse. Maybe they change rapidly. He strongly favoured taking services to those who need them which the new arrangements aim to do.

Councillor Wendy Perfect, Read’s Labour Shadow had six questions.

She referred to the report saying 46% of children in Thamesmead East lived in poverty, the Bexley average being 26%, so why no Children’s Centre there she asked.

What evidence is there that the new model will reach more vulnerable children? Where elsewhere has such a scheme succeeded with only six staff? What is the backup plan if a review finds failings? Until now most users have been from the Danson area. If they are right to suggest that six staff is insufficient how will the Council cope with the outpouring of anger? The proposed Partnership Boards have not worked before in Bexley, what makes you think they will this time?

Councillor Perfect was told that the services will be made more local and the new Thamesmead Library may be used. The funding is reduced but less is going into buildings. A similar scheme operates in Kensington. Councillor Perfect did not appear to be entirely happy with the answers she received. She was surprised to find it needed a detailed study to discover that Thamesmead was the most deprived area of the borough closely followed by Slade Green. “Perhaps you should have saved your time.”

Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) made a number of objections to the proposals and how her views had been misrepresented. Rather than summarise her concerns it might be preferable to let her have her say.

There was a six minute answer but Councillor Camsey dismissed it as “all very aspirational but there is no real answer”. I do not recall any Conservative Councillor ever before complaining about the non-answers that are the norm in Bexley Council. She remained “concerned that practical issues have not been addressed”.

Council Leader O’Neill said that Councillor Camsey “was quite right to raise the issues at this stage” but thirty minutes later the proposal was nodded through unchanged.

Councillor June Slaughter shared Councillor Camsey’s concerns and in particular whether six staff would be enough. “Time will tell.” She further understood that several practical considerations were still not resolved. There is very little time left to resolve them.

One time Children’s Centre manager, Cabinet Member Sue Gower spoke in favour of the proposals and related how, as manager, she was able to spot problems and intervene. One must hope that the six are as motivated as Councillor Gower.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) thought the proposals were “absolutely great” which is good to know.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella who represents Slade Green picked out parts of the report which were contradictory. It said Slade Green was now mostly older families with no need of parental support but the number of push chairs on the streets indicated otherwise. The report itself refers to 1,057 under fives in Slade Green. The residents of Slade Green are seeing more and more houses go up with constant degradation of their facilities.

Councillor Perfect woke up to the fact that four of her questions had gone unanswered. She tried again. “The biggest problem is, are six staff enough to support children right across the borough?” She still didn’t get an answer. Six will be a guess based on budget so how can there be an honest answer?

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked for a break down of staff and building savings. (No answer available.) He also pointed out that consultation responses had apparently been interpreted in two different ways to suit different circumstances. Cabinet Read said that wasn’t so and explained why the misunderstanding had arisen.

It was Councillor Borella’s turn to point out that not all his questions had been answered. It didn’t get him very far but there was an attempt to explain why Partnership Boards would work this time around.

The Children’s Centre proposals were adopted unanimously; when are they not?

 

5 September (Part 2) - One rumour confirmed

Plan for Wharfside CloseThat was something of a record. !5 minutes after reporting that I could not find anything for Wharfside Close on the Planning Portal and the number 18/03247/FULM dropped into the Inbox. Sure enough it is Mr. Singh and his Dhadda Estates behind the triangular site noted as “Rear of 44 Erith High Street”.

The proposal is for five storeys comprising 13 flats and commercial accommodation.

Has permission been granted? “Status : With Case Officer”, so probably not yet.

 

5 September (Part 1) - The Erith Rumour Mill

Erith Town Erith PierThe past two weeks have provided a new phenomenon, residents convinced that Bexley Council is about to take the wrecking ball, not to the concrete jungle which is the shopping centre which I doubt anyone likes, but to the more pleasant bits or Erith.

Maybe the enquiries are provoked by Planning Application 21/02449/FULM which details the proposals for Riverside Gardens but they went further.

“Will The Running Horses” be demolished? I don’t know but nothing would surprise me.

“Is it true that Bexley Council plans to kick Erith Town Football Club off its pitch and build more tower blocks?” They would be stupid to do so but enquiries reveal there may be some substance to that one.

“What is going on in Wharfside Close behind the Whitehart? Is it true that a certain Mr. Singh has acquired it?”

The only clue that he might have is that a wall has been partially removed and the land behind it cleared but Bexley’s Planning portal shows no entries for Wharfside Close. So no permissions granted.

Wharfside Close Wharfside Close Wharfside Close Wharfside Close

Erith

Wharfside Close on Google Earth.

 

4 September (Part 2) - For God’s sake go and go now

Danny HackettThis may be bit sad but I woke up at midnight not sleepy at all. A bad habit but with nowt else to do I looked at the phone - to think that ten years ago I was sure I would never own one - and a moment later (00.04 this morning) Councillor Hackett posted his thoughts on the Johnson government and he is absolutely right.

I used to think that Tony Blair would be the worst Prime Minister ever. Few disliked him more than I did. I remember exactly where I was when news came through of the Women’s Institute ladies booing him at their conference and rejoiced that it might be the beginning of the end. It wasn’t!

Could anyone sink lower than Tony? Of course they could. Boris Johnson never disappoints with his eternal quest to alienate every Conservative voter.

A tax raising tyrant intent on introducing Labour Lite, Commie Lite perhaps.

Your next car has to be electric, your next boiler must be a heat pump and neither is anywhere near market ready. A manifesto that promised no more tax on income, and separately an assurance that he had a plan for care home funding. Today it is all too obvious that one of them has to be a lie.

His government was going to deal with the over-population problem but instead he rescues in their thousands people of a different culture from war torn France.

Friends of the Government become millionaires on the back of Covid contracts at least 10% of which were a total waste of money. He shovels the infected elderly into care homes to ensure your grannie dies alone.

Boris believes in freedom of speech but only if Priti approves of it. We have an Institutionally Corrupt police force in London and he is steadfast in his support for it.

Johnson isn’t going to vaccinate teenagers against Covid because the risk outweighs the benefit. Then he faces the other way.

There’s going to be a vaccine passport to enter theatres and sports stadiums; then the threat is watered down to night clubs only in order to cajole the healthy young to take a vaccine which sometimes provokes serious side effects.

Then just when you think it is safe to enjoy life again he says the passport will be extended to all venues where large numbers of people gather.

It’s no longer about the science, this is about control of the individual worthy of East Germany and not a western democracy.

Another sad fact is that there is no one in his Cabinet who stands out as talented. All yes men dim enough to make Boris look relatively clever.

Every time I run into a new group of people the opinion of Johnson is the same; a spineless twat as one friend described him. At Lords on Thursday when fewer than 200 people watched Middlesex trounce Derbyshire I sat as a guest in the Members’ area surrounded by six people I had never met before. The chat during the break is the same as it always is, at least among 50 something males. Boris Johnson is simply insane on every policy that matters to such people. Sadiq Khan and Keir Starmer were not too popular either. Malign anti-British on the one hand and totally out of his depth on the other.

Not for the first time, I’m with Danny Hackett - and a few Conservative Councillors too whose public tongues are tied. We are seriously in the soup.

If Boris gets his way this will be my last season of cricket.

 

4 September (Part 1) - Tell us something new

Chief ExecutiveThe bin strike is officially over and Bexley’s Conservatives will be hoping you soon forget all about it. Their spin machine can take a well earned rest and be as silent on the subject as the £200,000 Chief Executive was throughout the strike. It is hard to find anything to justify Jackie Belton’s employment but last Wednesday she ended her Trappist tendencies by opening her trap before Cabinet Members.

Whether it was a worthwhile gesture or been better to remain silent is for readers to judge. What is the old adage? Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.

For £200k. we heard…

“There was significant disruption to waste collection and street cleansing as a result of the industrial action.” (I think we knew that.)

“The strike commenced on 12th July 2021 and was suspended on 24th August.” (Tell us something new.)

“The Council was told about the strike ballot in June and it was held on the 29th and a strike called for two weeks from 12th July. (Residents with their wits about them knew that too but maybe the Cabinet had done a Dominic Raab and were consequently in ignorance of it all.)

“At one time it looked as though the strike could go on until October.”

“Bexley Council reminded both Serco and Unite of the seriousness of the impact on residents and encouraged formal ACAS involvement.”

“The number on strike varied from 50 to 65 and approximately half of them were drivers.”

“Temporary staff could not be brought in to cover for strikers because of legal restrictions.” (Once again nothing new.)

Having said that Ms. Belton returned to the encouraging ACAS theme but added that the Footscray dump was operated seven days a week with extra hours at both sites on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ‘Pop-up’ collection services were operated from car parks. (But only as the strike came to an end.)

“Serco is being closely monitored and Council Officers met with them daily.”

“Following suspension of the strike, collections resumed on 25th August.”

“Significant volumes of waste have accumulated as a result of the disruption, dust carts are filling up quicker and they need to make more frequent trips to the tipping facility. There is a catch up plan which includes diverting food waste collection crews to recycling and garden waste collections. Waste may not be collected on the normal day and residents are advised to place all containers out for collection. Serco is confident that services should be back to normal before the new contract starts on 4th October.”

“The longer opening hours and pop up sites will continue”. (From Bexley’s website : "There will be no special collections of materials at car parks tomorrow Saturday 4 September.)

I imagine Bonkers’ readers will have been sufficiently interested in strike developments to have known all or most of the foregoing and those who weren’t interested would not be tuning into the webcast to hear Jacky. So what was the point of the Chief Executive in effect quoting from her desk diary?

Maybe she knows that some Members of the Cabinet are not the sharpest tools in the knife drawer but surely even they learned nothing from the four minutes of old news.

What was the point of it? What is the point of Jackie Belton?

Note: Some of the quoted speech has been stripped down to reduce the number of redundant words but is essentially as spoken.

 

3 September (Part 2) - Bowness Road. A more expert opinion

Crash siteIt would be a shame to leave the subject of Bowness Road without having a word with the former chairman of an EU Committee on road and vehicle safety to see if he had any thoughts on Bexley’s Highway Bunglers. On another occasion the verdict was that he wasn’t sure whether Bexley Council was incompetent or malicious to which I added “probably both”.

This time I was reminded that it was a long time since he represented Britain in that capacity in Brussels and he had since directed his energies almost exclusively to vehicle safety. Nevertheless I received a lengthy and detailed report of the sort which might in other circumstances be sold to a Government Department. It will take some time to digest it but it does look as though Bexley has once again ignored Government Guidance.

A more detailed analysis may follow, meanwhile I found some of the general chat interesting. Maybe you will too.


Instinctively, that scheme does look too close to the bend and the junction and driveways part way through represent extra hazards.

There has been for many years in highway design a school of thought that reducing the driver’s ability to see a hazard makes them slow down and take more care and in some circumstances there have been studies to say it works. However, everything we do in vehicle design would say the opposite, you try to maximise the drivers chance of seeing and correctly responding to a hazard.

In vehicle design we get the argument don’t make the vehicle safer cut crashes by putting a spike on the steering wheel not an airbag and people will slow down and take care. That has been proven nonsense.

I have never liked that approach to infrastructure. Highway design is no longer my area but I am aware of something called stopping sight distances which are used in infrastructure design to assess the lines of sight needed given different speed limits/traffic speeds. It would be interesting to see what they said when applied to situations of drivers approaching the give way to give priority and when they could see an oncoming vehicle as well as people emerging from the junction (†) who now need to look the ‘wrong way’ for a possible hazard when turning left.

They don’t appear to have followed the advice given in the Department for Transport’s advice to Councils.


That point about improving visibility in vehicle design is a good one isn’t it? If designing highways such that people cannot see well is a good idea, why not replace windscreens with portholes and allow licences to drivers with poor eyesight?

I feel a Freedom of Information request coming on to see what got into the Highways Manager’s silly head.

† Drivers emerging from Silverdale Road will instinctively look right and may turn into traffic from the left on the wrong side of the road. No one at Bexley Council will have been bright enough to think of that.

 

3 September (Part 1) - It’s a miracle. More for less

TweetIt is a little bit of a mystery to me why the subject of Children’s Centres has not featured greatly on Bonkers. I know there was a plan to close them all down but I was not sure what the Centres did.

I know there was a plan to improve services to parents via the unusual technique of closing them all down and I know there was a much criticised consultation on the subject but Cabinet Member Philip Read said in Council that there was nothing wrong with it.

He must have been wrong again as another consultation on how expenditure can be cut in half while fooling everyone into thinking it was all for the best was held.

The Cabinet met again on Wednesday to rubber stamp the new plan. I have not yet found the time to listen to it but Labour Councillors have not been so tardy, They issued a Press Release yesterday.

All the constructive suggestions put forward by users were rejected. Saving nearly £400k. (£691,000 down to £314,000) is the only thing that matters when bankruptcy has been narrowly avoided.

 

2 September - A pictorial catalogue of L&Q failure

Last week I took another look at the disgraceful state of an L&Q house. As you may see below Bexley's Housing Services Manager thinks it is entirely satisfactory situation. The promised photographs are now available.

Do you think that Dianne Blazer knew what she was talking about when she wrote her twaddle? Do you think she lives among so many badly done bodge jobs?

What is needed now is an expert in social services. What help should an elderly lady with multiple health issues and very little money be getting from Bexley Council? At present the answer is none.
Letter from Dianne Blazer
Index to previous blogs that refer to the same address.

 

1 September (Part 3) - Bexley Council solves its temporary accommodation problem

Temporary accommodation Temporary accommodationBexley Council has run out of money for pretty much everything apart from creating dangerous new road layouts, however credit where it is due. Someone’s homelessness has been solved at minimal cost.

A washing line between two trees, an open fire with a wooden guard around it and its own personal rubbish dump just like every other house around the borough.

So far this year it has saved three months of rent. Brilliant!

Bexley needs more initiatives like this. Well done new Cabinet Member Sue Gower, Alex Sawyer never managed to come up with anything like that.

 

1 September (Part 2) - 95A Woolwich Road

It didn’t take long for readers to let me know about a mistake in the earlier blog posted here late last night. It is not an extension of Mr. Singh’s own house and office (95 Woolwich Road) that he plans to extend, it is the one the other side of Tyeshurst Close, 95A.

The planning application refers to Balmonza and Google maps to Dhadda Estates all being companies associated with Mr. Singh.

The plans don’t look too bad to me but Mr. Singh has become such a controversial figure in and around that location that his activities create widespread interest, even the not so damaging ones. And I don’t live nearby which may be a factor!
Google maps Elevations

Click images for a larger view.

 

1 September (Part 1) - Woolwich Road residents beware

Companies HouseHe’s back. Via Ye Olde Leather Bottle and 238 Woolwich Road and a number of other sites, Mr. Singh has a new company, this time with designs on 95 Woolwich Road which appears to be his own company office..

The application is numbered 21/02083/FUL and is from Mandippe Singh. (The forename is redacted but not especially well.)

The image shows the current Companies House entry. There was a previous entry for the same company but it was dissolved on 16th January 2018 after being struck off the Companies House register at the end of October 2017. The Director was Tarsam Singh and none of the official documents show monetary reserves greater than £1.

 

News and Comment September 2021

Index: 20202021

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