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News and Comment March 2024

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31 March - It’s all bad news

This is going to be a quick one. Firstly because the last day of the month blog never gets many readers and secondly the little DIY job I have been working on all week has gone wrong. It seems that not only can I not count 42 packs of resin in a tiny van but my measuring skills are not what they were. My home made wooden cabinet is about 30 mm too high to fit under the TV as planned. Fairly easy to modify but it needs to be done before Tuesday.

So let’s do a quick month end round up.

Parking
There was an Easter Market at nearby Lesnes Abbey yesterday and just for once it was a nice sunny day. The result was inevitable, cars parked around every yellow lined corner, wheels on the footpath and residents’ drives blocked. Some drivers managing to offend in more than one way.

Bexley Council could have made a small fortune with PCNs but they have closed their reporting phone line, never opened on a Saturday anyway, and I wasn’t going to photograph each one and submit reports individually. No tickets issued by the time I took a second look.

Express bus SL3
SK3I don’t often go into Bexleyheath but believe it or not there is nowhere nearer to Abbey Wood to buy a birthday card. Most of my trips to Bexleyheath are for Card Factory. (Have you seen Sainsbury’s selection and prices?)

So for the fourth time since the SL3 service started I walked to Abbey Wood station instead of the nearest bus stop to see if I could catch one.

I have quite often seen two SL3s travelling in convoy and one broken down on Woolwich Road but every time I set out to find one there are none within the next half hour. The shortest wait reported by my phone app has been 25 minutes. Last Tuesday just after 9 it was 27 minutes.

Fortunately a 301 was due in 45 seconds and it takes a more direct route, albeit with lots of stops.

An Express bus running at half hourly intervals is not an Express bus.

Another Sadiq Khan failure to deliver.


Freedom of Information
On Tuesday it will be 20 working days since I submitted an FOI request to Bexley Council which brings my record to something approaching one every three years. It was basically the same as the one submitted by @tonyofsidcup for which he got a rejection notice. I really do hope I don’t have to complain to the Information Commissioner.

Illegal immigration
A subject I have considered commenting on before but thought better of it. However you might guess that I am not an enthusiast for changing British culture irrevocably and I blame Tony Blair and the range of increasingly useless politicians who followed him.

But maybe I can quote a neighbour, a lovely Nigerian lady who came here to study on a visitor’s visa. She has recently qualified as a medical professional and is on course to be given British citizenship. I’ve forgotten what the qualification was but it wasn’t a nurse.

Like far too many people she struggles to pay her rent and has to waste time fighting a rogue landlord and she is absolutely livid that if you come here in a rubber boat with no documentation you can be fed and live rent free and given pocket money at our expense.

Black she may be but who cares? An asset to the country and a much better neighbour than some I could name. (Her views on that subject, as with most things, are the same as mine.)

6% price increases
Tomorrow most charges levied by Bexley Council will be increased. On average by 6%. Some by more than that and some less, where they have realised that their previous greed was proving to be counter productive. Be aware that no Bexley car park will be free overnight.

Coventry Building Society
After temporarily confiscating my savings, the letter with instructions on how to retrieve them promised to be sent last Tuesday has still not arrived. They did phone me yesterday to discuss my complaint but I told them to forget it. At most I will get a letter to say sorry but they are most unlikely to change their ways.

Fortunately I had another source of funds. Hard luck to anyone who might not, Coventry Building Society wouldn’t care.

King Clean Steam Cleaning
This disreputable outfit has gone quiet. Presumably they know that I have written evidence of their collusion with the neighbour to defraud me and they know that there is no way they had to buy 42 packs of quick setting resin to do the job - well some of it.

I can still poke my finger into the resin nearly a week later.

Maybe they don’t want to be investigated ny HMRC either.

The March weather
My solar panel sunshine logger says that March 2024 has been a pretty awful month saved to some extent by the morning sunshine of the last few days. But last year was far worse and 2013 and 2018 were a bit worse; but overall it has been duller than the best year’s March by up to 80%.

The longer days will improve solar generation which is just as well. The lower price cap from tomorrow has resulted in my tariff being increased. Thanks Octopus Energy.

 

30 March - Bad management in Watling Street

There was not only a debate on residents’ experiences with Bexley Council last week but there was a similar discussion on their ‘People Strategy’. This was a survey of staff. Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, West Heath) was concerned that they claimed not to see managers or leaders and got no regular briefings. A third said the Council did not treat them fairly. 86 said they had been subjected to bullying.

The Deputy Director of Customer Services said she was concerned too but had no detail of what was behind such complaints so ‘workshops’ will attempt to get to the bottom of the problem. It seemed it varied across different Directorates so I would guess that this will be due to some Managers being worse than others. She added that the anonymous survey would have allowed things to come to the fore and “they would be too scared” to bring bullying etc. to notice any other way. As a former Manager of a workforce the same size as Bexley’s I find use of the word scared to be horrifying and a total condemnation of the Council’s management style.

Unfair pay differentials, honorariums and leave allowances were said to be contentious issues.

Councillor Larry Ferguson (Labour, Thamesmead East) asked if there were any figures for employees who were not sufficiently scared and made formal complaints. (He was more diplomatic than that.) The numbers were described as “small” which probably means that a lot are indeed scared. He was not happy about only half of staff reporting that their mental health was good. (Crikey! What sort of poorly managed outfit is our Council?)

The Head of HR said that Managers were being trained via a “Management Essentials” programme to educate them in what being a manager meant and to “equip them with the soft skills needed and how to behave in the workplace and deal with difficult situations”. (This is truly appalling. Bexley Council must be appointing and promoting people to management roles who do not have a clue how to behave. The 50% mental health issues are perhaps explained.)

Mental health issues are the largest cause of sick absence. It was said to be much the same across all London Boroughs.

Adults’ Social Care will be the first Directorate to be given attention as complaints are highest there. Some of the problem may arise from the Service Users who can be abusive and “they will be written to”. (That’s right. Blame the frustrated customer, some of whom have already been supported by the Local Government Ombudsman.)

Cabinet Member David Leaf said all the right things which any embarrassed politician might say. He mentioned Covid within his comments about Mental Health. Probably Working from Home doesn’t help with that.

This report must rank among the most depressing ever posted to BiB. Out of their own mouths, Bexley’s managers have pretty much proclaimed their total incompetence and unfitness to manage a multi-million pound business.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green) was particularly concerned about the invisibility of managers but acknowledged that the layout of the building didn’t help them. (Maybe a purpose built Civic Centre - Labour’s preference - instead of the Woolwich Building Society bodge job may have been better.)

He briefly mentioned how in his own employment people from different departments were encouraged to mingle. Kitchen design engineers would work alongside chefs to see why things weren’t working but in Bexley Adults’ Services don’t even learn from Children’s.

The HR Director came out with some waffle about awarding staff ‘stars’ and putting trite messages on TV screens. (God help us.) One of the Councillors seemed to be happy that Bexley is no worse than other Councils to which HR added “We are not wildly out of kilter”. (Complacency rules OK.)

Maybe this is my cue to go back to the 1980s and being given the job of managing a 1,300 plus staff unit officially listed as “unmanageable.”

I moved my office (and support staff) to a door off the corridor leading to the staff locker rooms. Most people passed it twice a day. I left the door more or less permanently open. It was not a daily occurrence but staff were able to speak to me whenever they felt like it. Simple problems could be nipped in the bud by delegation to the right people, bigger problems might need longer but solved or explained they would be.

A couple of years later the unmanageable unit became the most productive in the entire country. I never thought to organise a survey. If the management door is open and they are out on the shop floor every single day you don’t need a bloody survey.

You don’t fix a problem like this with a contrived Strategy. You get a manager who is worthy of the name who changes everything necessary from the ground up. It takes time but it is the only way. Bexley’s Deputy Director of HR has convinced herself that the positive responses to the Survey are strengths to be built on and “we are good at it”. (History says otherwise or we wouldn’t be where we are.)

She might think that building on shaky foundations is the way to go but she is doomed to failure.

The only downside to my approach was that the Unions didn’t like it. Reckoned I had pinched their job. I am now utterly convinced that Local Government management is utterly appalling.

 



29 March - Scammed?

I occasionally read about elderly people who are scammed by rogue traders but always thought that could never happen to me.

But I think it has.

Google EarthIt began when I noticed that a neighbour was having his 18 year old block drive steam cleaned. I jet wash mine annually so it is much cleaner than his which has been jet washed only once - by me! - but it was coming up impressively clean. The contractor asked if I wanted mine done but I said no because I am equipped to do it myself and as soon as the weather improves I will. However I did ask about an area which has migrated sideways where 18 years of cars on full lock have pushed the blocks apart. (The border with the lawn, top right of the Google Earth image alongside.)

The problem has been getting rapidly worse with a gap in the region of an inch in places. The area involved was rather less than four feet square but it needed attention. When I was a bit younger I would not have hesitated to do it myself.

I was a bit concerned that the contractor’s van, whilst festooned with claims of their professionalism etc. did not display a landline phone number. I used to make it a rule that I would not do business with anyone who relied solely on a mobile phone but decided I was perhaps a little out of date.

The contractor said he could rip the blocks up and install a concrete buttress where the drive faces the lawn, see Google Earth again, but before doing so he would like to seal the brick surface with some special liquid to prevent lichen growing on the surface. “How long will that take?” Maybe a day for the sealing and cleaning but the block repair was a more specialised job and required up to four men who knew what they were doing.

There is also a small area by the yellow bush which has dropped a small amount relative to the grey border bricks and it causes puddling. They said that such a minor drop was best fixed by injecting an expanding compound under the bricks rather than pulling them up.

They named their price for the block repair which I didn’t think was too bad for two days and a four man job, a load of concrete to retain the replaced blocks and a deep clean beyond the capabilities of my Karcher. The clean to include the path alongside the fence (barely visible top left) and the narrow path leading to the wheelie bins.

Before leaving they threw a bucket of soapy liquid over about a quarter of the front drive which I assumed was left over sealant from the neighbour’s job. But before the cleaning? What was that all about?

Next day two men showed up around 10 a.m. One stood by while the other pulled up blocks. I didn’t count them but I would guess 25 at most and they were back down inside 30 or 40 minutes. It was an OK sort of job, the bricks were not perfectly aligned but the big gaps were gone and the promised concrete buttress would keep them in place. How a company that was, according to my neighbour, Check-a-Trade registered could get their time estimate so wrong was a bit of a mystery but the job was done and it had saved my back and knees from more wear and tear.

They then jet washed the front drive using my water - contrary to earlier assurances - but with no sign of the steam cleaner being brought into use. The result was as if I had used the Karcher. Exactly the same so somewhat disappointing. But they were much quicker than I would have been.

“What about the dropped area by the yellow bush?” We don’t want to lift blocks near a manhole cover but the expanding compound will ease them up enough.

They then turned their attention to replacing the inter-brick sand which after 18 years is mainly washed away. “How much?” We recommend a fast setting resin which will permanently seal the blocks so that they will never ever move again and the weed problem will be entirely eradicated. “How much?” Well it is very expensive. You will need 42 packs (very precise aren’t they?) and it costs £60 a pack. “Forget it, I am not paying £3,000 to prevent a few weeds.”

Well as bona-fide traders we can get it much cheaper than that and we haggled a very much lower price. Off they went to get it and were away for under an hour.

This is where I took my eye off the ball They said they bought it at a local supplier but my guess is that they went home and got a few packs from their own store. There is no way that 42 packs would fit into their van and it wouldn’t be up to carrying almost half a tonne extra when it already contained a huge water tank. Possibly they came back with half a dozen packs not 42.

Checking suppliers later I didn’t find anyone who had any stock. Maybe someone had been around to buy it all. Like 42 packs of the stuff!

I read the instructions that came with one pack. It said each one was good for 20 square metres. 42 packs at 20 square metres each is enough to cover my entire plot nearly three times over. I really should have done that calculation earlier and get myself a dementia test before too long.

The minimum gap that can be filled was stated to be 5mm and my block gaps are barely 2mm. I queried that because the manufacturer said the resin had to be compressed into the gaps but I was told it didn’t matter. The datasheet also said the resin goes off very quickly once the pack is opened and there is a quite short Use by Date (use after manufacture that is) beyond which it won’t harden. A review of the product I found later said it should not be used under 15 degrees Centigrade and it was only 8.

This may explain why four days later it has still not set and probably never will. I rather hope it doesn’t because the entire surface is smeared with the stuff. The contractor uses the Check-a-Trade blue tick but Check-a-Trade standard they definitely are not.

Let’s round this off as quickly as possible…


ButtressTwo front paths were entirely missed and no resin was applied to a third of the back patio presumably because their meagre supply ran out. There was no attempt to lift the sunken blocks by the yellow bush and there is no concrete buttress. Instead we have a one inch square section of resin which has not set four days after being laid and can be dug out with a finger.

I didn’t notice all the unfinished bits at first because I was told I shouldn’t be walking on it until everything had set. I’m still waiting for that.

I had already told these people that I wouldn’t be able to pay them immediately and they were OK with that but when it came to them leaving without payment one of the two got quite stroppy saying he had a mortgage to pay etc. This may explain why he was demanding payment to his personal account bypassing the company. It’s enough to bring the words Tax and Evasion to mind. Or ditto and VAT. What do you think?

The alarm bells rang more loudly when he said I was to get in the van to be taken to my bank. I didn’t fall for that one, the standard trick of the scamming fraternity and banks still open illustrates just how quickly they had finished what was said to be a two day job.

Hang around if you will, this gets better.

Being a fair minded sort of bloke I made a bank transfer for the block repair plus a little bit extra for the small amount of resin used. I rather regret that now but I didn’t realise at the time that the resin was applied by self-proclaimed professionals who had used it totally outside the manufacturer’s recommendations and published datasheet. It’s going to be useless.

So they are now after me for more money and they knocked on my neighbour’s door, not mine, to ask for my phone number. He gave it to them! Outrageous and a sacking offence when I was with GPO Telephones.

In the text discussion which followed he revealed what he had paid for his steam clean and how he had entered into an agreement with the contractor to get a reduced price which involved deceiving me, presumably so that the shortfall could be laid at my door.

Who needs enemies with neighbours like that?

That to my mind is little short of fraud. You may imagine the sort of reply I sent and I sincerely hope our paths never cross again.

The unpaid Invoice does not bear any VAT registration number or company address and neither does the contractor’s website. However the area of operations is centred on Bexleyheath so they must be local. If it was not for the neighbour’s recommendation and Check-a-Trade reference I might have checked the address out earlier.

Because of my neighbour’s utter stupidity with the phone number I was disturbed twice yesterday with calls complaining about a missing second payment. The numbers are now blocked as is the conniving neighbour who negotiated a lower price at my expense. Probably I will get unwanted knocks on the door next.

I could do without the aggro but I shall now have to make reports about possible VAT fraud, tax evasion and abuse of the Check-a-Trade blue tick. Then there is Trading Standards, not that Bexley Council has such a department any more, they have outsourced it to Citizen’s Advice.

Here is the rogue company’s flyer.
Clean King Steam Cleaning Clean King Steam Cleaning

Bexleyheath based Clean King Steam Cleaning. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

In summary…


• The surface sealer was notable by its total absence.
• A day’s job for four men became one man for half an hour.
• 42 packs of resin at £60 a go became more like six packs past its sell by date. Hence the failure to set. It costs £28 retail but no one locally has it in stock. Hence the back of the shed theory.
• The manhole cover joints were not protected and if the resin had actually set it would have been impossible to lift them ever again.
• Nowhere was the steam cleaner used and two paths were not jet washed.
• No attempt was made to raise the dropped blocks either by lifting them or using an expansion compound.
• As far as I could see the garden walls were not cleaned as promised. Certainly there was no very obvious sign of it.
• The concrete buttress to prevent further movement turned out to be a one inch strip of resin which hasn’t set.
• The promise that water would come from a tank on board the van was not fulfilled. As far as I could tell it all came from my garden tap.
• The various items of garden furniture were removed to the back lawn and not replaced.
• Payment was requested to a non-business bank account which may well have tax implications.
• The slogan ‘CheckOurWebsite’ is designed to look like Check-a-Trade and borrows the font and the probably trademarked blue tick.
• No VAT was charged.
• No business address was provided.
• Various authorities will be informed and no further payment will be made. I have probably been far too generous already.
• Who needs friends and neighbours like mine?


If any reader knows the right contacts for making the complaints to appropriate official bodies I would very much like to hear from them.

 

28 March - From Contact Centre to Chatbot

The most interesting item on the Agenda for Finance and Corporate Services Scrutiny meeting was entitled ‘Customer Experience Strategy’. There had been a survey which totally passed me by as it probably did you. It was conducted between 2nd January and 7th February this year and provoked 664 responses which was regarded as “quite poor”. Even more so if I tell you that 310 came from Council employees. Councillor Nick O’Hare was particularly critical of so few respondents being accepted as representative of the borough as a whole. He said that most of the public respondents were businesses and asked about the age profiles of those who weren’t.

Mr. Edwards, the responsible Council Officer, provided a lame response without a single fact that can be reported here.

Cabinet Member David Leaf said that 664 was a good response. It was said that Councils always struggle to get people to respond but “they really valued” the opportunity to respond.

Councillor Larry Ferguson (Labour, Thamesmead East) highlighted the responses that said the Council does not treat residents as human, the perception is that they do nothing, and the staff are disrespectful and aggressive leading to residents being afraid to speak to the Council.

It was said that the people who were afraid was the demographic that had been dealing with the Home Office and saw the Council as a branch of government. The respondents had been identified and given special treatment.

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) contrasted the 200,000 phone calls a year with the million web site visits and asked about “the conversion rate between the two”. He was certain that “a large number of answers may be found there”. It was said that 200,000 was down 15% on the year before and website traffic is increasing. Web chat is being considered and likely to be trialled towards the end of the year.

It was accepted that the elderly may not have digital access - is that not true of the poor too? - but pushing more people on line frees up resources for those with no access.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella (Slade Green and Northend) said it is often quicker to pick up the phone than scour a website and only 300ish residents and businesses responding to the survey was “abysmal”. He asked why the Council didn’t use its standard contact methods, waste subscription letters, libraries etc. to reach out to residents and seek survey answers. With the Contact Centre a shadow of its former self and libraries shut for half the week how do [digitally excluded] people access planning applications etc.?

Mr. Edwards confirmed that face to face and telephone was by far the most sought after contact method leaving Social Media well behind. Planning Applications can be viewed on a computer within the Contact Centre and assistance is available.

Later this year telephone callers will be offered an automated satisfaction survey when the call ends as used by many commercial organisations.

Stefano hoped that full and unmonitored email inboxes were not bouncing back too many messages. He suggested that surveys could be conducted within the Broadway Shopping Centre and was told that might well happen.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, West Heath) was concerned for the high number of registered disabled people and how were they being catered for. The deaf in particular had been consulted and a meeting with them had been conducted in British Sign Language.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) asked if the 200,000 phone calls included those handled by Capita who collect the Council Tax. He was told that Capita in effect impersonates Bexley Council when answering calls from its residents. The specific question wasn’t answered.

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) said he was pleased to see that the Council no longer demands that the disabled attend in person to collect a Freedom Pass even if they are non-verbal children in a wheelchair. Public Notices still suggest that they can be inspected at the Council Office but in practice it can only be done if the relevant member of staff happens to be available at the time of the visit. Some of these issues have resulted in costly Stage 2 complaints after Stage 1 acknowledged the complaint was justified but nothing was done to resolve it.

Mr. Edwards knew of the latter case and was investigating.

Had I known of the survey I would not have responded following my experience long before BiB existed. I applied to be a member of the Council’s Survey Panel and was accepted. It became apparent that the multiple choice answers demanded were all geared towards steering the survey result in a particular direction. I wrote to the Council about it and their response was that I was not suitable material for their Panel. This attitude was not apparent from this week’s Scrutiny meeting debate.

 

27 March (Part 2) - Child care and education

Monday saw another Children’s and Education Scrutiny meeting; not something I find very interesting but someone somewhere may wish to keep an eye on things.


• 92% of Bexley schools now have OFSTED ratings of Good or Outstanding.
• Only two weeks ago we were told how Bexley is doing very well with its Education and Health Care Plans and suddenly that is no longer the case. 90% down to only 77% being completed on time but a temporary blip due to strikes and staff shortages so it was said.
• The cost of child care placements is astronomical with the highest nationally being £63,000 per week and £27,000 in London. In Bexley the highest is £16,000 for one child per week.
• The Covid period additional demand for services is gradually abating.
• Recreational Courses have become too expensive so the same tutors are operating independently at about a third of the cost. College overheads are massively too high. (From a statement by Councillor John Davey which was not disputed.)
• The number of children registered with Children’s Centres varies between 2 and 13% across different Council wards without any very obvious geographical pattern. Methods for attracting more are being considered. (Social Media etc.)

 

27 March (Part 1) - Sent to Coventry

The plan for yesterday afternoon was to listen to Monday’s two hour long Children’s and Education Scrutiny meeting but a personal matter got in the way and I became so furious about it that it kept me awake for much of the night. It is a banking matter and the Coventry Building Society has in effect confiscated a large chunk of my savings. Maybe my cousin who I always regarded as a bit backward because he refuses to do on-line banking or allow the utilities and his Council to Direct Debit his account and pays for things by cheque has the right idea after all. But he is lucky to live only five minutes walk away from his bank branch.

CoventryI have been totally on-line for nearly 25 years and my account with the Coventry Building Society is at least 17 years old, I have emails from them, going back that far. I fortunately don’t have to worry too much about money and keep my current account well funded so that there is no need to be checking daily to ensure there is enough in it. However this week I indulged myself with another piece of expensive electronics and judged I should perhaps keep the current account healthy with a transfer from my Coventry account; something I have not needed to do for about a year.

I was aware that the Coventry had ‘improved’ their website since I last used it but the old ‘web id’ from 2007 still worked. It is hidden in a secret file on my PC because it is far from friendly and looks a bit like this: 5fn48zye; but isn’t for obvious reasons. I typed it in and the Coventry website opened and invited me to make a withdrawal to my current account. Unlike previous occasions it sent a code to my mobile but that is pretty much standard practice these days.

Then, after accepting the withdrawal request, it asked me to enter the 2nd, 3rd and 5th digit of my password which was rejected twice with a warning that a third failure would lead to a lock out; so I phoned them for guidance and was told I should use the very same credentials as I had used to log on; so I did and was promptly locked out.

No matter, said the lady I can cancel your on-line account, give it 15 minutes and you can Register afresh.

I did that using the old web ID as instructed and input my name, address, Coventry account number etc. until I got to the password entry. I had expected to have been offered a new one but that didn’t happen, so I tried the old one which was rejected. I tried again in case I had confused the 4th letter with the 5th letter or something. Same result. Invalid. I phoned again but the call dropped out. The next call was more successful and this time the security questions included my National Insurance number so what with me answering all the other questions they knew absolutely who they were talking to.

“What do I do now?” was the obvious question. “You must be mistyping” came the reply and I was encouraged to try once more. That third occasion not only locked me out of on-line banking, it killed telephone banking too. They seriously believed that I could type the 5fn number accurately every time but picking out the second letter of a password was beyond me six times over.

So I made a formal complaint and was told that the best they could do was send me a letter containing an as yet unknown set of instructions and however urgent the request for funds might be there was no way they could let me have my own money.

I am told that I will get a phone call tomorrow afternoon to sweet talk me into not closing my three Coventry accounts. Well good luck with that, why would anyone bank with an organisation which temporarily removes access to your money after following their telephone instructions?

When they find out that my lady friend has well into six figures with them because she tends to copy what I do they may be even less pleased.

Anyway there are better interest rates available elsewhere. It wasn’t worth bothering before, but now it is.

 

24 March - Blocked drains explained

The tail end of the Places Scrutiny Committee dealt with Street Cleaning and and the recently completed recycling rate improvement plan.

Gully GullyIt was said that residential street cleaning is on a three weekly schedule which you may believe if you like. (I have been monitoring small items of rubbish in the gutter of my own road and suspect it is more than a year old. Gully cleaning is now a CountryStyle responsibility which may explain some of the flooding here in the North.

Once again it was left to Councillor Smith (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) to ask the sensible questions. Are the worst affected residential streets swept more often than others and are the mini-recycling sites monitored by TV? It was accepted that fly tipping at these sites was a problem and they are now on a daily cleaning schedule. (My nearby site does appear to be cleared much more often than it used to be.)

A site where CCTV was installed saw a reduction in offending but there is no “moving of resources from cleaner to dirtier areas” because “the cleaner areas would deteriorate”. (I think that is what is known as a very weak argument.)

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) noted that the cost of removal of large household items has risen to £42 and asked how that compared with other boroughs. She had had two items removed recently by a contractor for less money. A quick collection is advertised but that isn’t really true. It was admitted that there were only 20 collections slots per day and maybe fewer if items are too large. Sofas etc.

The £42 is cost neutral. (Sounds like they should hand the service to Mabel’s contractor. For the record, Greenwich charges £12·27 per item or set of items, like table and chairs.)

Labour Councillors Ball and Hinkley both wanted to see more Community Litter Picking, the system is working well and needs to be better advertised. The Council Officer thought that volunteers should be issued with hi-viz vests but Councillor Hinkley strongly disagreed. She wanted to remain a volunteer and not look like a Council Official.

The main conclusion of the recycling improvement Sub-Committee is that there is a need for more communication with residents. The collection from flats was felt to be inadequate. Cabinet Member Diment said that all boroughs are noticing an element of ‘Recycling Fatigue’ but Bexley is slowly improving whilst most other boroughs are not. The Sub-Committee recommendations may be seen here.

 

22 March - Rail Road matters

The Transport Users’ Sub-Committee is a meeting like no other; the subject matter is of universal appeal except perhaps to the housebound, it is not webcast (hence the need to attend in person) and since we saw the back end of Chairman Val Clark in 2022, is comprised of Bexley Council’s friendliest Members. Last night, Richard Diment, June Slaughter, Labour’s Sally Hinkley and Chairman Cameron Smith. Everyone is on first name terms and to my surprise I was invited to sit closer to the proceedings than I chose to do. The Committee Secretary is Chantelle Queenbarrows who always makes me welcome and provides a copy of the Agenda.

All four Councillors had been at the previous evening’s Scrutiny meeting, don’t run away with the idea that it is an easy job.

The only downside is that free evening parking in Bexleyheath gets ever more difficult to find and reducing the number of accessible bays in Oakhouse Road has not helped.

Hadlow RoadI had hoped to hear some of the bus questions from last time answered but TfL failed to send a representative so the meeting was launched by Southeastern’s man George Patterson. If you have been following rail matters closely you may not learn a lot from the following. More trains (4 an hour) are to stop at Albany Park from June and services on all lines will be a little more evenly spaced. (The ‘clocks’ in the photo show the before and after situation on the Greenwich line.)

The extra trains will benefit passengers and ticket receipts. The benefits of more evenly spread services were spelled out and one must wonder why, after nearly 200 years of Greenwich line services, no one had noticed them before.

Some late night Charing Cross services are to be reintroduced to the Bexleyheath line to make theatre going easier and ticket gates will be in operation until 10 p.m. everywhere in an effort to reduce fare evasion and antisocial behaviour.

The 175 year old Blackheath tunnel will be closed from 1st June to 10th August for much need repairs. Weekend only closures would have been impractical because sending in materials and hauling them out ready for Monday would have doubled the number of closure days. Mr. Patterson didn’t think the tunnel closure would have much effect on Bexley residents. Richard Diment begged to differ, as do I.

Tickets will be accepted on local buses.

Passenger numbers are up by around 9% on a year ago but the peak periods are still well down on pre-pandemic which translates into Southeastern still requiring a DfT subsidy of £1 million a day. In better news the loop line restoration is predicted to be cost neutral so there is optimism for a favourable DfT decision within the next two weeks.

New drivers are being recruited to replace retirements. Recruitment is not a problem but retention is.

Harry Stevenson from Network Rail was able to add that the improved (“Access for All”) Bexley station will be open by the end of April with a refurbishment that goes beyond the much needed lifts. His illustrations revealed that they will be by Stannah and everyone familiar with Abbey Wood’s station or its adjacent supermarket will let out a loud groan. The Stannah repair van is almost a permanent fixture on Gayton Road.

Mr. Stevenson conveyed his thanks to Bexley residents and the Cricket Club for their assistance with and understanding of the project.

A Police Inspector from the 70 strong Safer Transport Team said that the number of robberies on buses was on the increase and in Bexley it has gone up by 66% but the borough remains third lowest in London. Beaten by Kingston and Richmond. No one was surprised to hear “with ASB it is the school kids. Ask any bus driver”. Under cover officers are deployed to combat it.

They vape on the top deck and Dylan from the Youth Council said it was incongruous that his school bus, the 669, was festooned with adverts for vapes.

Sexual touching, mainly of school girls, was an issue but most of the offenders are caught thanks to the technology found on all London buses. Their houses are searched for “other items of concern”.

Richard Diment said he had seen what appears to be a regular e-scooter rider jumping red lights. He provided the time and location and the Inspector will be waiting for the offender in the immediate future. If found he will get six points on his Driving Licence even if he hasnְ’t got one.

This new Inspector came across as down to earth and keen to improve things in her area of responsibility

On roads, the Highways Manager defined large potholes as being more than 40 mm deep and 200 across and small ones as at least 31 mm deep. Anything less doesn’t really count. The large ones are given a temporary fix as soon as they are reported and the smaller ones some time within the following 90 days.

The plan for four new Zebra crossings will probably be implemented during the school Summer holidays. The problem with the Yarnton Way crossing is still under investigation. The flooding could be a blockage, inadequate drainage capacity or tidal.

Andrew Bashford who appeared via a video link warned road users that if they thought Bexley had been plagued with utility works over the past few years, “it’s not looking good for the next three years I am afraid”. Three major water main installations plus a power cable from the Belvedere incinerator (currently working in Thames Road) are due to criss-cross the borough.

Hadlow RoadCouncillor Slaughter said the fancy blocks installed in Hadlow and Hatherley Roads in Sidcup in 2014 (Photo number 40 for example if you click the link) had not lasted very long but Mr. Bashford was reluctant to replace the surface with asphalt. He had expected a 20 year life. Replacement blocks are very expensive.

Negotiations are continuing for another 80 or more EV chargers across eleven sites. Probably low output units as ultra-rapid chargers cost around £200,000 each.

Cabinet Member Richard Diment indicated that he was unhappy with Bexley being palmed off with clapped out diesel buses (my words not his) discarded by central London operators. The SL3 ‘new Routemasters’ are more than ten years old. I suggested that he stood at the Harrow Manor Way station bus stop if he wanted to experience bus fumes at first hand.

So a good meeting except that the doorman had gone home and I found myself trapped in the building. Fortunately Sally Hinkley escorted me to the tradesman’s exit.

 

21 March (Part 2) - Bexley’s Safety Survey

It is always pleasing when Chairman Cheryl Bacon streaks through her Places Scrutiny meeting in only 90 minutes. Maybe I can knock off a quick report before the Spring sunshine has decided it has done its bit for the day.

There were three main topics up for discussion. Anti-Social Behaviour, Street Cleaning and Recycling.

Schools AllianceSidcup has been the site of a new initiative relating to ASB and the like. As you would expect, schools were asked to co-operate. Despite it being the first subject to air, Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) immediately switched to Hate Crime. “Is there any data on the race of those who completed the recent Community Safety Survey?”

Hate doesn’t figure in the survey’s Top Ten Crime concerns or the Top Ten ASB concerns for Bexley residents. 77% of respondents said they had never encountered it but the subject was Councillor Ogundayo’s Number 1 interest.

Whilst not flagged as a particular concern the survey revealed that there were more Hate Crime incidents relating to Race than all the other Hate categories put together but they were not usually reported to the Police because they are not seen as trustworthy.

60% of the Survey’s 708 respondents were aged 40 to 70 and almost none under 20 years old and it was accepted that more needs to be done to remedy that shortcoming.

No attempt was made to answer Mabel’s race data question.

The Police has a dedicated Hate Crime Officer and another is to be appointed to spread the “Good News”; perception of crime being more of a problem than the actualité.

Councillor Chris Ball (Labour, Erith) noted a pleasing reduction in the discarded laughing gas canister count but I was beginning to think that the debate would end without a single ‘traditional’ crime meriting a Councillor question.

Then Cameron Smith (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) came along to steer the discussion in a more sensible direction. “What about Burglary, Drugs and Vehicle Crime reports noted by the Survey Respondents?” would be a reasonable summary of his question. Unfortunately the Police didn’t feel able to answer the question without knowing what the Survey had asked. However it was accepted that Bexley was a Burglary Hotspot. (24% of S.E. London burglaries. All victims receive a Police visit.)

In passing it was noted that school children are being encouraged to be less violent and Bexley is now 20th worst in London for Domestic Violence but no one commented on that figure.

 

21 March (Part 1) - 2,000 lies

While illustrating yet another Bexley lie yesterday I should probably have emphasised that hard documentary evidence of lying is confined to just a handful of Councillors. Even if the criteria was extended to ‘wouldn’t trust them’ the number cannot be pushed past eight.

Notable perhaps is that six are or have been Cabinet Members and of the remaining two one may have been forced to lie in support of a bigger Council lie. Certainly it was a one-off event and nothing like it ever reoccurred.

Do I need to add that every one of them is a Conservative?

 

20 March (Part 2) - Bexley has above average GP numbers - if you exclude Thamesmead

There is a new Director of Adults’ Services at Bexley Council replacing Stuart Rowbotham. Stuart always seemed to have his finger on the pulse so it is to be hoped that replacement is just as good. She is Yolanda Dennehy the former Deputy.

The Adults’ Scrutiny Committee meeting is not usually the most scintillating and as with the last one just a few highlights may be worth reporting. A recruitment issue for Social Worker trainers probably has a severe impact on future services but it is not really an attention grabber. What else?


• The Home Office has withdrawn the licences from some care providers which means they can no longer recruit from overseas. The new Director said that overseas recruiting had mainly worked well “but a couple had not been compliant with their paperwork and this is easy to rectify”. A few were a bit more serious and being investigated. Residents are not at risk. Only four companies in total had come to notice.
• The North of the borough has 38 doctors (GPs) per 100,000 population while elsewhere in the borough the figures vary between 54 and 67 GPs. The England average is 44.
• The outcomes in the North (Lakeside} “are often not as good as elsewhere”.
• Nursing staff numbers are lower at 20 to 25 per 100,000 and again North Bexley is least well served.
• Getting a GP appointment is “a challenge” everywhere but the quality of care is “OK if you can get it”.
• “There is only one doctor in Crayford, but we keep approving more flats.”
• 80% of appointments in Bexley are face to face.
• Bexley has 43 Community Pharmacies but it is too early to know what impact they may have on GP services.


And that’s about it. Was it worth the two hours of listening? Probably not but someone needs to keep tabs on how things are managed.

 

20 March (Part 1) - Bexley Council’s 2,000 lies. Here’s another one

Lying TweetI have always been uncomfortable with the use of the word liar on Bonkers; I suspect it may come from my mother always drumming it into me that it was a word that is not used in polite society, but In Bexley it is impossible to get away from it because that is what our Council does all the time.

For the record, and it is a strange numerical coincidence, there are exactly 500 occurrences of liar on BiB right now and exactly 800 of lying. (Lie and Lies add another 882.)

Yesterday Bexley Conservatives X’d that the Labour Party - implying the local Group - tried to close down Bexleyheath police station in 2017.

At a local level that was a total lie. (883 occurrences now.)

At the time the Labour Group submitted several letters to the Mayor’s office while the Tories merely waved placards.

(Letters to the Home Secretary and the Deputy Mayor.)

Below you can read a short extract from one of Labourְ’s submissions and listen to Bexley’s Conservative Council Leader thanking all three local MPs - i.e. including Labour - for their help and support.  (Apologies for appalling webcast audio quality.)

Later in the same meeting an unnamed Labour Councillor was accused of favouring police station closure but when Stefano Borella said no one in his Group wanted to see it closed and asked for the ‘offender’ to be named it was admitted that the allegation was without foundation.

But seven years later they repeat the lie hoping that my archive will not prove them to be lying again.

As they most certainly are.

Labour to MOPAC

Bexley Labour pleads with the Mayor's Office for Policing to retain Bexleyheath’s police station.

Labour delighted

Bexley Labour welcomes the success of their campaign.

Leader Teresa O’Neill thanks the Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead for her support.

 

18 March - Things will get busy, but not just yet

I suppose there must be a reason for Bexley Council holding three Scrutiny meetings and a Sub-Committee meeting within the space of five working days but it certainly makes reporting them difficult. Maybe that is the reason for doing it but it also means that there will be nothing of note to be seen here until Wednesday at best.

With a radio advert repeating ad-nauseam today telling me how my electricity bill will be lower from 1st April I am tempted to relate how Octopus Energy estimate that my bill will increase by about a fiver a year. This is because they are increasing the standing charge by 1·8 pence a day while the peak rate charge will reduce by three pence per kilowatt hour.

But thanks to the installed battery I don’t use much day rate electricity and the night rate isnְ’t changing. For the record Octopus is still recommending a monthly Direct Debit payment which would cover their new annual estimate three times over. For the past week the Daily Telegraph has been cataloguing the wildest excesses of Ovo Energy and British Gas (refusing to return £10k. charged in error etc.) and I am happy to report that Octopus is not in their league. I pay them less than a third of what they recommend and still build up a credit and unlike the other companies they do not kick up a fuss over my ‘underpayment’. But obviously their computer systems are a long way from being perfect.

My increased bill when the price cap is reduced is yet another example of this Government’s eco-lunacy. Do as they encourage us to do and the reward will be a kick in the teeth. They will be suitably rewarded come the General Election - probably.

 

16 March - Making Bexley Even Wetter

Blocked drain Blocked drain Blocked drainBexley Council is broke, suck it up!

Every one of the footpath drains on the Harrow Manorway flyover (East side) is blocked.

There is a lovely big pothole where the bus is because Florence Road was never designed to be the major carriageway serving the Elizabeth line terminus, it was deliberately designed to restrict traffic flow by Bexley’s Head of Highways and now we pay the cost daily.

 

14 March - Tories preen themselves while Felix ruffles their feathers

Following Councillor Bishop was Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services with a rather good joke. Having mislaid his glasses and unable to read his script he reminded us that his name is Seymour. Once retrieved he continued with a number of good points about progress with his portfolio but there was little that hadn’t already been covered by others. In summary, it is a very difficult job and a lot of effort is being piled into it.

He chose to highlight Wadebill {? Not clearly audible), a hub for Learning Difficulties and Downs Syndrome adults in Belvedere. “It will always get a Requires Improvement from the Care Quality Commission" because the residents are difficult and extremely vulnerable, some with no family members, “so we are looking at decanting those residents and providing off-street houses for these people”. Some have formed their own family hubs and these will be preserved.

Improved travelling arrangements will allow domiciliary care workers to spend more time with patients.

Councillor Daniel Francis contrasted the extra 21% funding for Social Care with the overspend currently running at 30%. Querying the use of the word investment he asked what new was being provided. The 2024/25 Budget is balanced only because of the use of an “£8·5 million sticking plaster”. £4·9 million was used to balance the 2018 budget, £1·9 million in 2019, £2·4 million overspend on housing in 2018/19. £1·6 million a year later.” Omitting the atypical Covid years he added “£3·4 million in 2022/23. This year £9·3 million; a total in excess of £32 million and on top of that almost 25% of savings not achieved.” One of the reasons offered was “No political support for the savings” so one must wonder why the Conservatives voted for it.

“Nine Council properties are lying empty but paying Business Rates when they should have been rented out. One has been empty since 2014, two from 2016 and two since 2017. £700,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on Business Rates. Bexley Council has been sending out emails claiming that it never forgets that it spends taxpayers’ money but clearly they do forget.” (Half of Business Rates gets lost to central Government.)

Councillor Frances said that the Finance Director had written that “This is not the time to be reducing the General Fund Reserve and I would not advocate using the reserves unless the situation was critical”. How long before we reach critical the Councillor asked. “A storm is headed our way. This budget is unsustainable.”

Councillor Borella likened the evening’s debate to Alice in Wonderland emerging from a hole to find everything fantastic. “It is not reality.” He looked forward to a Labour Government sorting out the mess and a Labour Council in 2026.

He switched his attention briefly to the well worn path of overnight car parking charges and potholes but quickly reverted to form by asserting that the Conservatives know that their Government is not supporting them, they know the issues and how the Goverment has let them down. He said so more than once and without audible dissent from the benches opposite.

Councillor Caroline Newton stood to take what she called “a second bite at the cherry”. She mentioned SEND improvements and bringing SEN education back inside the borough. A catalogue of improvements and achievements by voluntary groups followed. Inspire and the Deaf Centre for example. “Free meals are provided and the funding does not come from the publicity seeking Mayor of London. His re-election would be a nightmare.”

Councillor Richard Diment, Cabinet Member for Price Increases said that parking revenues continue to suffer from the impact of Covid and his aim is to cover all the costs from revenue. It was achieved in 2023/24 and should be in the coming year too. It must not be a drain on other resources where money needs to be spent, like care services. “The prices have not been increased since [the 30% hike] in April 2021 and in those three years inflation has been 18%.” The review of charges had resulted in “a fairly modest increase overall of 6%.” Greenwich has put “some charges up to £7 and hour for some vehicles”. (As has Bexley in some places for all vehicles.)

“For most charges there would be a simple increase of ten pence and I would be surprised if most people actually knew to the nearest ten pence what they are paying when they go into a car park. I do not think that ten pence will make a difference.”

The significant decreases occur where we have decided to be competitive with Southeastern trains. “I would argue that the [new] overnight charges are fairly modest.” (£1·30 on Ringo, £1·50 for cash.) “I do not believe that will make a difference on whether people go out or not”. The Bexleyheath overnight charges will rise to £2·50 as will those in Abbey Wood.

The Council cannot afford to offer any free periods for short term shopping.

Councillor Baljeet Gill (Labour, Northumberland Heath) said that traders in his ward were already not happy that Bexley Council doesn’t listen to them and now they will be angry.

Independent Councillor Felix di Netimah (Crayford) “chided” the Labour Councillors for their view that Liz Truss’s budget was “a shambles” because both Italy and Spain have successfully cut taxes as she wanted to do, and “their economies have boomed compared to Britain’s. Income tax cuts always lead to growth. The evidence is there”. (Do we have a lone Conservative voice in the Council Chamber?)

The Mayor had to quell loud dissent but it was not clear which side it came from - or both. Felix was “sad” to have to vote against the Budget. The Conservatives have put it forward from a position of hubris (exaggerated pride and self-confidence). They brag about a balanced budget as if it is a huge achievement but it is a legal requirement. “We are not doing anything different from other authorities.” He was jeered for reminding Bexley Council that he had worked for the Local Government Ombudsman and knew exactly how poorly Bexley performed. It had to pay significant compensation to parents yet the Council Leader continues to blame the failures reported by OFSTED on the Council’s partners. (He is not looking for a reconciliation any time soon is he?)

This Budget does not look at essential Departmental efficiencies “and I cannot support it”.

Kurtis Christoforides was the last Councillor to speak and majored on the Social Services overspends which have an impact on universal services and visible activities. He was concerned that the parking fees would have a detrimental impact on residents and traders alike and welcomed the Cabinet Member’s promise to keep them under review.

The Leader summed up by wishing she could find £500,000 down the back of a sofa just before an election as the Mayor of London has been able to do “but fortunately for residents we run a tighter ship. Despite finding all that money he continues to hit those who can least afford it. That money which came out of thin air could have been used to keep down his precept instead of increasing it. He could have stopped ULEZ. It’s disgraceful that he takes money from those who can least afford it but that is Labour in control”.

(I’m not sure the arithmetic stacks up. Half a million is not going to replace a million in fines in just three months in Bexley alone as had been stated earlier.

“We have achieved a lot for this borough and we intend to continue Making Bexley Even Better and that is what this Budget does tonight.” Teresa truly is in Wonderland.

All the Labour Members voted against the Budget, all the Conservatives for and the Independent was as good as his word.

 

13 March - A fantastic Budget says the Bishop

A whole 100 minutes into the Council meeting and the real business of the night is about to begin. The debate on Bexley’s 2024/25 Budget. I listened live but that was a week ago and I’ve forgotten what was said, but if I guessed that the Tories claimed to be doing well and Making Bexley Even Better while dismissing fees and charges going up by twice the rate of inflation as neither here nor there, interspersed by a few home truths from Labour, I doubt there would be too many inaccuracies.

Let’s see if I am right.

Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) beat every Tory to the draw and fired straight from the hip, “That budget isn’t great is it?” And listed some things with which few would disagree; increasing demand for Adult’s Services, an aging population, care needs becoming more complex, funding cut for hospital discharges and a care workforce on a minimum wage struggling with staff shortages and reduced support from Government.

The result is “an overspend in Social Care a large part of it for residential nursing provision. Should we be paying it to private companies that exist to profit from residents’ needs? Providers who demand more and take a bigger slice from local Authority funding and who are beginning to hand back their contracts. But you say outsourcing works” and respond by downgrading services “and asking residents to pay more for it. It is clear who is to blame, your Government which displays a disturbing lack of urgency”.

“Thanks to your Government, Bexley residents suffer” - a comment aimed at care services but which could apply to literally everything.

Conservative Councillor Janice Ward-Wilson (Crook Log) said it was an ambitious and forward looking budget and its aspirations were good. Care demands continue to increase but nevertheless Bexley is ranked sixth best in London for the speed of issuing Education and Heath Care Plans, 90% being issued on time whilst Greenwich lagged on 35%.

Councillor Lisa Moore (Conservative, Longlands) was pleased to see a 21% (£9·6 million) increase in cash for Children’s Educational Services. “Covid has placed an unprecedented demand” on services which she has seen at close quarters due to her work for the NHS. Domestic abuse from alcohol and other things was a significant factor and once again the Covid lockdown was cited as a cause. (Which Government dreamed up that idea and had it enforced with unnecessary violence one might ask.)

Councillor Cameron Smith (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) once again showed his concern for small businesses and he saw on-line shopping and ULEZ as significant problems. People from Kent are no longer patronising Outer London businesses. “High Streets contribute to our civic pride and are becoming more core to our finances”, already contributing more than £50 million of Business Rates and maybe more under any future funding review.

Smaller High Streets without large shops offering free parking lose out to those that do and to Bluewater. Traders always asked for better street cleaning, a visible police presence and “above all” a more considered parking policy. Instead we get higher parking charges and overnight parking charges. (Cameron dressed up his comments more diplomatically than that and conceded that Bexley Council was not quite as “punitive” as Greenwich and Bromley’s parking policies.)

Councillor Andrew Curtois (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said the Opposition does not come up with budget ideas and rebutted their suggestion that central Government has failed Councils by insufficiently funding them. “That is wrong in so many ways. Bexley has weathered the storm by applying good old Conservative values” and the Socialist view that money trees solve all ills is wrong. “After 13 years of a Labour administration they left a note to say there was no money left. We cannot risk a return to Labour economics.”

Councillor Chris Taylor (Crook Log) who was a victim of UKIP in 2014 found an excuse to re-use his favourite description of Labour Amendments. It was “a back of a fag packet effort” (2011 budget, 2014 budget) and that was about it really. His speech was itself something of a fag packet job but nevertheless given a round of applause.

Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) was particularly concerned about the new parking charges. “Short stay charges have been increased across the borough. It will impact residents and if it deters use, traders too who we claim to support.” Except for three locations all-day charges have also increased. “Albany Park and Bexley High Street were £5·70 in 2019, £9·10 in 2021 but back now to to £5·90. Sidcup Place from £10, to £12·20, then £15·80 but now down to £6·80.” Why if charges were uncompetitively high have we had to wait a number of years to see common sense prevail? (Come on now Sally, we used to have a vindictive idiot in charge of Parking and now we haven’t.)

New evening charges are to be imposed in Sidcup Place. Mill Road, Nuxley Road, Avenue Road, Old Farm Avenue, Bexley High Street, Westwood Lane, Nag’s Head Lane, Grassington Road, Main Road, Thanet Road, Albany Park, Gayton Road and Felixstowe Road. To summarise her words, “How is that supporting the night time trade?”

She was not sure if traders could weather the latest increases. (Will it be goodbye to the Abbey Arms in Wilton Road? Maybe I was wrong about not having an idiot in charge.)

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) only made political points. Best to ignore him. Maybe Cabinet Member Diment was thinking empty vessels make the most noise again.

Councillor Rags Sandhu (Conservative, Bexleyheath) rambled on somewhat praising Jeremy Hunt’s budget along the way and also finding time to criticise Councillor Francis.

Councillor Brian Bishop (Barnehurst) said that the Conservative budget, despite the pressures of Covid, war and inflation, supported local businesses, growth, health, social care, education, housing, environmental services. leisure and infrastructure. He’s definitely swallowed the Making Bexley Even Better mantra hook line and sinker. “It is a fantastic budget” and those opposite blew every opportunity to contribute to it.

Without a single occurrence of Making Bexley Even Better so far and my predictions not proving to be particularly accurate; maybe it is time to leave the rest of the meeting until another time.

 

12 March (Part 2) - What is the point of our Express bus?

Mayor's propagandaWith an appointment with a dentist in Broadway for 11:30 just a hundred or so yards from the Lion Road bus stop an SL3 from Abbey Wood seemed like the obvious choice. Non-stop to Bexleyheath Station and then Lion Road.

I left home at 10:32 but a pulled calf muscle turned the seven minute walk into twelve. I needn’t have hurried, no suitable buses were due. Two 229s in quick succession but it takes a horrible slow route and only as far as the Clock Tower.

A B11 in 11 minutes but it takes a silly meandering route before it gets to Lion Road and an ‘every ten minutes’ 301 to the Clock Tower in 20 minutes.

Where’s the Express SL3?

Just to confuse me the 301 showed up before the B11 and thanks to little traffic and a good connection in Bexleyheath I made Lion Road at 11:22. Once the 301 had cleared the phone App an SL3 showed up at 27 minutes. This is no way to run an Express bus service for the Elizabeth line. The same delay as I encounterd on SL3 opening day.

With impeccable timing I limped home to find that Sadiq Khan has been spamming the BiB Inbox again.

Time table Time table

 

12 March (Part 1) - Budget Amendment rejected

Deputy Leader David Leaf Cabinet Member said that his colleagues Kurtis Christoforides and Cameron Smith had made excellent speeches and “The Labour Amendment is frankly facile and vacuous, it achieves nothing for our borough [except perhaps the chance of more affordable houses].”

He said that Labour Councillors Day and Ferguson both spoke “passionately about Council housing, both of them spoke about BexleyCo. If they support BexleyCo they will support this budget because that is where we are putting funding into, Capital funding to support BexleyCo”.

Referring to CIL, “we can’t just spend it for the sake of spending it, we have to have credible business cases. In Greenwich where they have a 20,000 housing stock and the Housing Revenue Account is significantly overspending and their temporary accommodation numbers are spiralling out of control spending £800,000 a month on Travelodge Hotels some of which are in this borough”.

“We heard the usual bluster and comments around Councils and the Budget [Jeremy Hunt’s] and we heard Councillor Borello [sic] about hard pressed Council Tax [sic], well as people have already said The Mayor of London has already put Council Tax up 71% since he took office and he’s punishing people in our borough with the unpopular ULEZ tax and we look forward to him being booted out of office at the ballot box in May”.

“I’m surprised he keeps going back to reserves because Labour’s record was that they left barely £5·5 million in the General Fund Reserves in 2006. Worse than that they voted against our savings and efficiency proposals which have protected our reserves but at previous budget meetings they voted to take money out of reserves.”

“I have the list here. £200,000 taken from reserves to prevent increases in car parking and home care costs. £270,000 from reserves for staff pay rises which would have breached our collective bargaining agreements. £130,000 on community safety, £250,000 on CCTV and £150,000 on school crossing patrols. Without inflation it comes to about £1 million a year of extra spend and [in total] a £10 million raid on our reserves. I don’t think they have any credibility talking about our reserves.”

“I want to pick up their point about the Household Support Fund in the Amendment. They ask us to lobby and we do, at the LGA Economy and Resources Board and at London Councils.”

“One other point which Councillor Borella and other Labour Members made, the 14 years of funding failure and they say things are going to be better under Labour. Well the last time we had a Labour Government, a Labour Council and a Labour Mayor Council Tax went up 40% in four years. Quite clearly Central Government wasn’t funding to the levels it should have been but there is one Member in this Council Chamber who stood for a party that was committed to maintaining the coalition Government’s spending envelope for Local Government Finance. That Member is Councillor Stefano Borello [sic] in 2015. Their spokesman Hilary Benn said that “Labour Members recognise that Local Government has to make a contribution to tackling the deficit, tough times require tough decisions” but they went further and said they wanted to change the funding formula that would have left Bexley worse off.”

“Labour has no credibility on reserves, no credibility on Local Government funding, no credibility on the Council’s Budget and no credibility with this Amendment. We should vote against this Amendment and Make Bexley Even Better.”

After giving full voice to the Cabinet Member for Resources brevity must now come to the fore.

Cabinet Member Philip Read said he hadn’t planned to speak on the Amendment while waving around a large sheaf of notes. As expected he merely said that his Children’s Services were rated better and more efficient than similar authorities followed by a repeat of the criticism of Labour and their refusal to believe that Covid is still impacting costs hugely.

Labour Councillor Francis defended his short Amendment with an extract from the history books. When in opposition the Conservatives tabled Amendments which were only 153 words long in total over three years and the [current] Leader’s was only three sentences long. After 14 years in Government nationally and 18 locally Britain is Broken and the finances of this Council are broken. We have the highest ever overspends and the highest ever following year budget gap and an inability to meet a quarter of the deep dive savings from last year’s budget. We will now enter a third year with no sign of what the CIL money will be spent on. The Cabinet Members who keep saying that we must live within our means are the very ones who overspend their budgets. The recommendations of the CIPFA review are still not implemented more than two years later.

Leader Teresa O’Neill summed up with a suggestion that the Amendment was written by Artificial Intelligence while admitting that she didn’t really know what that is. She was happy that Labour attacked the Government because it must mean they have nothing with which to attack the Council. “We have a lot to be proud of”, for example the regeneration in Slade Green and Thamesmead. The care overspends go on vulnerable people. Is the party opposite suggesting they shouldn’t be supported? Sadiq Khan fined Bexley people £1 million in just three months with his ULEZ tax. They are people who cannot afford it and it is a disgrace.

The vote went exactly as you might expect. The debate then moved from Labour’s Amendment to the Council’s own budget. More of the same?

 

11 March (Part 2) - Well that told ’em

As I was saying, the Conservative Councillor for East Wickham was next to speak in the budget debate. Would Caroline Newton provide some much needed gravitas? She immediately made her position clear. She was going to vote down more money for BexleyCo. Labour Councillors Borella, Amaning and Asunramu had all made “critical disparaging comments of the work this Council has done in relation to education. While we work with partners we have seen nothing but negativity in their Press Releases and Social Media posts from Labour and their acolytes enabling others to be abusive towards those trying to make things better.”

There have been Joint Scrutiny meetings held to address the SEND problems and for Labour to suggest that nothing has happened is “remarkable. The spin, inaccuracies and completely incorrect statements are disgraceful.” The Chairman had to interject to quell the Labour interruptions.

“You might think my email and phone would be red hot with opposition contact but there has been nothing.” Since becoming a Cabinet Member Councillor Perfect (Labour) has brought two items of case work to Caroline’s attention but she was already working on them. There’s been no other contact.

“Their Press Release (PDF) is a work of fiction and thanks to that release a journalist summarised the comments as their Group has consistently raised parents’ concerns but these were ignored with Cabinet Members claiming the issue was fine and not a problem’ suggesting schools, parents and carers had got it wrong.”

“It suggests that I as the incumbent Cabinet Member am of that view. If the Leader of the Opposition attended Scrutiny or his colleagues accurately reported it [he would know] that’s far from my opinion. The spin does not deliver any solution and neither does this Amendment. Political posturing does not a solution make. No solution to managing more than three thousand [inaudible but probably EHC] cases, no solutions to their increasing complexity, no solutions to increased placement costs, no solutions to increased transport demands, no solutions to increased transport costs. That is disgraceful given the sermon we had earlier.”

I think Caroline may have fallen short of gravitas (and me with bad puns) but she was clearly annoyed and justifiably so. My favourite piece is her reference to acolytes. I think I know who she means and they really are the most obnoxious and unscrupulous characters that you would ever hope never to meet. A well known Councillor provided me with another example of their dirty tricks over the weekend. “Nasty” was the word used. How very restrained!

Who’ְs next? Oh it is Councillor Leaf. I had better leave that one until tomorrow in case he didn’t know when to stop.

 

11 March (Part 1) - It will not end well

@tonyofsidcup ran a campaign all last year aimed at getting a pedestrian crossing installed outside a Sidcup School and was pretty much ignored until he took the preliminary steps towards organising a petition. His reward was a speech in Council by Leader Teresa O’Neill condemning him for wasting Council Officers’ time. Wasting lives may not matter to Bexley Council but time does. At one time the Head of Highways said that Zebra crossings cause more accidents than they prevent. “They cause a collision problem.” Presumably he equates broken limbs with scratched bumpers.

However out of the blue, Bexley Council suddenly announced four new Zebra crossings, but not @tony’s. You might think they would now want to bask in the glory and not go out of their way to bring the negatives to the fore. If so you would be thinking of a different Council with a sensible Leader.

A couple of days after the announcement @tony asked Cabinet Member Richard Diment why the crossings were subject to another public consultation and immediately received a fulsome reply. However one question remained unanswered. Why was the most dangerous crossing site not going to get a crossing? One might almost assume that this is another case of Bexley Council favoring its Tory heartlands over Thamesmead.
Crossings
A helpful Councillor suggested that it is because Yarnton Way is liable to flooding and the Head of Highways, Andrew Bashford confirmed it in writing. “I can advise that the Yarnton Way crossing was deferred pending further investigation and resolution to some drainage issues at the location and which would be problematic for a zebra crossing to be introduced whilst the issues remain.”

@tony took the official route and asked “Can I please have report(s) summarising the Council’s 2023 survey of pedestrian crossing locations” and the reply said “I must advise that we will not be providing you with the information you have requested. This is because we consider your request is vexatious.”

Presumably Bexley Council knows that they cannot lawfully give an individual the vexatious tag and can only take such action if someone keeps asking the same question. Is asking for a copy of the report that might reveal why Thamesmead has once again been neglected really the same as asking about the safety record of a site in Sidcup a year ago?

On 1st March @tony decided that Richard Diment might once again be more helpful as he was a week earlier. Eleven days later @tony has not had so much as an acknowledgment.

@tony’s opinion and mine have more than once differed when it comes to Richard Diment. When I opined that he played ‘a straight bat’ I was quickly provided with an alternative view. It is beginning to look as if @tony is going to win the Richard argument although I would strenuously maintain that while Baroness Teresa O’Neill remains Leader of Bexley Council even the most honest of Councillors will feel constrained.

There must be a reason for Bexley long being the most dishonest Council in London and I think we know what the continuing common factor has been.

The missing Yarnton Way crossing is close to my home, there is only one Zebra site closer, so I tried my luck with an FOI too.

 

10 March (Part 3) - When is a tweak not a tweak?

Next up to not properly consider the Labour Group’s Budget Amendment was Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services Melvin Seymour who said he was a working class boy who didn’t understand why the party opposite thought it had a monopoly on compassion. “Opposition is being able to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds and not actually having to deliver anything.” He hinted that his opinion of the current government is very similar to mine and added that the Leader of the Labour Party has no time for Local Government either.

“Some parts of our housing stock are not what they should be”. Housing should be affordable, a place in which people feel safe, within a neighbourhood where amenities can be enjoyed, with sufficient recreational space and school places and enough GPs. “Strange then that all three Labour Members on the Planning Committee voted in support of the [inaudible] development in Crayford which has none of those things.”

“In 2022/23 we supported an average of 430 people in residential care settings. In 2023/24 it was 681 not including respite care beds. Home care in 2022/23 1,037 people and in 2023/24 1,666. Discharged for Assessment in 2023/24 73 people a month and much higher In 2023/24 largely due to Covid pressures and NHS strikes.”

“Supporting Learning Disability cases are up from 158 to 208 and that is why I will oppose the Budget Amendment and support this one.” All impressive but worrying figures with no relevance to the Amendment unless the unspent CIL money is going to be handed over to Adult Care.

Could Councillor Cameron Smith do any better? He immediately said he would oppose the Amendment “because it doesn’t address any of the challenges we face and it is looking for an easy way out”. He wanted “removal of the cap on Council Tax increases” and also “to invest in our local services at the most affordable price we can for residents”. (I think he lost me there. More Council Tax but more affordable?)

On firmer ground he said that Bexley does not stoop to the levels of other Councils. In Hounslow an LTN affecting two streets raised £26 million. The Mayor of London raised Council Tax by 71% and TfL fined Bexley residents more than a million pounds in the first three months of ULEZ alone. “This Council does not go to the extraordinary lengths that Labour Councils are going to to bail out their mismanagement.”

He went on. Neither do we, as in Greenwich, propose that schools pay £8,000 a year for their school crossing patrols. They are also cutting a million from the tax breaks previously offered to the poorest residents and some motorists are charged up to £7·70 an hour to park. (As they are for on-street parking in Abbey Wood.) “We do not go to those lengths and we have a balanced budget.” Instead we have “19 more road resurfacing projects, £1·6 million to be spent filling pot holes, £1·7 million on electric vehicle charging, fly tipping fines up from £400 to £1,000 and four new Zebra crossings”.

“That is the budget I will vote for and I cannot vote for an empty Amendment with no value. Oppositions are supposed to offer an alternative and they have not.” (First they say the Amendment is ‘a Budget Tweak’ then it becomes something radically different excluding all the good things Cameron mentioned only a moment earlier. Tribal politics is a very strange game and we all suffer by it.)

Councillor Caroline Newton was next but I suspect everyone needs a short rest from this pantomime - or is it a Whitehall Farce, for those old enough to have laughed at Brian Rix on a 12 inch TV screen?

 

10 March (Part 2) - The way they live in HMOs

If the Labour Group had their way and £3 million or so was spent on housing they could buy half a dozen houses like this. (All formerly Council or Housing Association owned.)

 

42 Coleman Road, Belvedere, DA17 5AN, £450,000
41 Coleman Road, Belvedere, DA17 5AW, £450,000
8 Claytonville Terrace, Belvedere, DA17 6AQ, £450,000
169 Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath, DA6 7QA, £573,333
82 Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath, DA6 7QD, £573,333
83 West Street, Erith, DA8 1AG, £450,000
1 Winifred Road, Erith, DA8 1AJ, £450,000
16 Winifred Road, Erith, DA8 1AJ, £450,000
37 Alexandra Road, Erith, DA8 2AX, £450,000
12 The Nursery, Erith, DA8 2EZ, £450,000
300 Bexley Road, Erith, DA8 3HB, £450,000
153 Birling Road, Erith, DA8 3HR, £573,333
140 Birling Road, Erith, DA8 3HS, £573,333
18 Halstead Road, Erith, DA8 3HX, £573,336
10 Elmstead Road, Erith, DA8 3JA, £573,333
12 Stelling Road, Erith, DA8 3JH, £573,333
8 South Road, Erith, DA8 3RA, £450,000
22 South Road, Erith, DA8 3RA, £450,000
97 Lensbury Way, London, SE2 9TA, £573,333


LensburySeven years ago Labour Leader Stefano Borella suggested that Bexley Council appeared to be in the business of selling off houses cheaply and then seeing them sold on again at inflated prices. 97 Lensbury Way for example became a Home of Multiple Occupation divided into six rooms, each with a shower and two kitchens between them.

You might imagine what sort of people choose, or see no alternative, to live in an HMO.

The Lensbury lot appear not to have been the best of tenants and may be either extremely accident prone or simply ungrateful house wreckers.

The result is that Stefano’s prediction has gone into reverse. What sold for £573,000 is now up for grabs for less than half of that price.

Lensbury Way previously featured here on 18th March 2019, on 20th August 2020, on 19th October 2021 and on 2nd August 2023.

The current estate agent’s listing is here.

Lensbury Lensbury Lensbury Lensbury

 

10 March (Part 1) - The Amendment is a piecemeal Fudge

A correction, an overnight message suggested that if I spent more time watching the webcast instead of just listening to it I would see that Councillor Gower was busy scribbling a few notes in the minutes leading up to her speech. It was not really pre-prepared.

She said that the Amendment appeared to be developed in isolation and “delivered at the last minute for Amendmentְ’s sake”. She may be right, Kent County Council Labour delivered a well argued 42 page alternative  and Bromley Labour’s Amendment, while much shorter is much more detailed than Bexley’s. (Pages 9 and 10 of PDF.)

Cabinet Member Gower (Bexleyheath) took exception to the criticism of her housing department, it doesn’t let people down and receives many letters of thanks for the support it gives.

“This is not the time for last minute piecemeal proposals and criticism to be tabled and I therefore oppose the Amendment.”

Short and sweet but with no argument against the Amendment except that it was developed in isolation with no time for proper consideration. It has been noted before that Budget Amendments are always made that way in Bexley. Perhaps a different approach is needed.

Councillor Ferguson (Labour, Thamesmead East) was next to his feet. He thought it was staggering that Bexley had failed to spend £2·275 million earmarked for affordable housing and £0·79 million of CIL payments were busy doing nothing. He said there can be is no excuse while residents search for adequate housing and the money should go to BexleyCo. Other developers very often gain planning permission by promising affordable housing but then renege on the deal and this Council accepts it.

The Amendment is an easy one if the political will is there, he said but will any of the Conservative speakers tell him why the money is left unspent? An hour into the meeting and as yet no one has got near to answering that question.

Cabinet Member Richard Diment opposed the Amendment too and started with an assertion that Labour Councillors appeared to be making their dream speeches as MPs in the House of Commons rather than in a local Council meeting. A thought that occurred to me too as I listened to their words, too many of which related to things about which no Councillor can do anything.

“The opposition does not come up with specific proposals but relies instead on 11th hour Amendments presumably because they do not want them to be scrutinised in advance.”

“Many of us have forgotten what an awful experience Labour was both locally and Nationally. Locally they make promises but elsewhere in the country and nearby in other boroughs we can see exactly what Labour administrations do and the mess they make of people’s lives. Mayor Khan has given us a 71% tax increase in only eight years, more crime, a police service in special measures, a near bankrupt TfL and no progress with affordable housing.”

“Next door in Greenwich £34 million is being cut from their budget. Across the chamber we hear noise and bluster but nothing constructive to ensure that residents get a better service but we get confirmation [of what my father always said to me] that empty vessels make the most noise.”

Richard Diment was not in the mood to Wispa his words.


Note: The quoted words are a reduced version of what Richard actually said.

 

9 March (Part 3) - Turkish & Delight

Apart from the lame Wonka Experience reference, did the Cabinet Member for Growth say anything worthwhile? Not really.


• Now is the time to come forward with [budget] proposals so they can be scrutinised and adopted if they have merit.
• Being part of [the budget] process is not a priority for the opposition.
• We are met [only] with last minute objections and tweaks.
• If you move CIL [Labour wanted it spent on affordable housing] something else suffers.
• We are already working with BexleyCo to provide affordable homes.
• Data says that Bexley needs larger family homes. “Who is to say that moving CIL money will deliver the most value for money?”


Most of that is verbatim. Councillor Cafer Munur said he didn’t know the answer to his last question but that wouldn’t stop him voting against the Amendment. Ignorance is bliss.

The next speaker was Councillor Anna Day (Labour, Slade Green) and we heard more about Government cuts and how they were “straining the Council’s budget to breaking point”.

Her five minute speech included the following…


• Every Councillor has heard about the damp and mould issues in the housing stock and the cost to residents is “immeasurable”.
• 578 households are in temporary accommodation including 1,007 children.
• No one understands why the Council has no plans to improve the situation.
• Bexley Council chose to sell the housing stock and it has a laissez faire attitude.
• When Council officers are asked to assist they reply with “Unfortunately we do not have the luxury of our own stock” and nothing can be done.
• After the demolition of Arthur Street we are still waiting for replacement housing stock five years later.
• BexleyCo has not lived up to its remit but the Amendment offers the opportunity to kick start building.


She concluded by giving some examples of the extreme poverty to be found in her ward. Maybe Councillor Munur came to realise how his speechifying was totally outclassed but I doubt it. What an Aero head!

Councillor Amaning (Labour, Belvedere) was critical of the “devastating” SEND report and authorities were suffering from the Government’s “chronic underfunding”. She didn’t have anything fundamentally new to say so let’s see what Conservative Councillor Kurtis Christoforides had to add to the debate.


• Did the Leader of the opposition foresee Covid, Ukraine, war in the Middle East, missiles in the Red Sea and “if he did what would he do differently?”
• Perhaps he would not bother with furlough and business support. The opposition proposals are disingenuous.
• Presumably he would avoid the care services overspends by not spending the money. How would that affect SEND children?
• The Leader of the opposition “decries Council Tax rises so presumably his plan is simply to borrow”.
• If the Council had kept its old housing stock the maintenance bill would have sunk the Council’s finances many many years ago.
• Labour’s promise of “the moon on a stick” for less money is total fantasy.


A few decent points there delivered with only the occasional glance at his notes, a far better performance by Smartie pants than Bourneville Boy’s. But I still haven’t heard what would happen if a couple of million of CIL money was diverted to BexleyCo as per the Amendment. My guess is that the real danger is that BexleyCo would spend it on more Golden Hellos and Golden Goodbyes.

Next up was the delightful Cabinet Member Sue Gower who read from her pre-prepared script. A Councillor told me yesterday that prepared scripts are easy because the Labour Group leaks like a sieve. (No I didn’t learn that at the planned meeting in a pub. That had to be cancelled.)

You have probably heard enough of this for one day so I will go and find something else to do that does not involve too much exercise. I have not been right since I slipped on a discarded banana skin last Saturday.

 

9 March (Part 2) - Bedlam, Building and Bins

A short break from budgets and and Chocolate Teapot Cabinet Members beginning with something that is well outside my area of expertise. Firstly, I have attended more rugby matches this year than I have football games in my entire life and secondly I do not follow planning matters except in rare circumstances. I leave that to the indefatigable Murky Depths.

However I have been asked to bring a Welling Unites F.C. Planning Application to your attention. Since all I know is what arrived in a recent email and what is on the Council’s website I cannot do much more than reproduce it here.

Welling United Football Club

Hi, I wonder if you’d help get this seen. It’s about a planning application to build an 8 storey 104 mostly 2 and 3 and a few 1 bed flats on the Park View Road side of the football pitch with only 8 disabled bay parking provision and two ‘car share’ on road spaces in total. It’s going to be bedlam.
The council have also made John Newton Court permit only so those residents are using the roads too.
Welling football club are only leaseholders so can’t get build permission only planning. This is protected Green Belt/Metropolitan open land. The document attached is a resident objection plus alternative site proposals hopefully making it void to use under GB/MOL criteria. But without help planners will push it through.


The message came with a Word document which I struggled to get into a readable format (so I could not correct a few space omissions) but I did manage to convert it to a twelve page illustrated PDF.

I imagine this is very worrying to residents living close to the football ground and anyone else unhappy with Bexley Council’s intention to cover us in concrete. Personally I am being blighted by ugly tower blocks.

All I know about planning approvals is that they are governed by the Mayor’s London Plan who as Chairman of C40 Cities is on a mission to wreck London which definitely includes restricting car parking. It is because of Khan that Bexleyheath is blighted by the overbearing Eastside Quarter.

The latest abomination is numbered 23/03296/FULM. There are currently 212 public comments on the Council’s website. Obviously it is not a popular idea and you may wish to increase the tally.

Business Expansion
How did I miss this? Your favourite property developer set up four new companies last year. Helping Hands Housing Trust, Sukhchain Housing, RK Construct and Teer Court Commercial.

One might almost believe that he has forged a relationship with Bexley Council to solve their housing problems.

I’m a fly tipper
Yesterday morning I took a toilet roll spool, some empty envelopes and a six litre milk container to the bins and chucked the paper into the unlocked left hand bin but before I got to the right hand bin a Country Style operative who had come to empty it opened the lid and invited me to toss the milk bottle inside which I did while noting it was full of cardboard and silently cursing my neighbours.

Then the penny dropped. The bins which have been arranged, left to right, paper, plastic, glass were now plastic, glass, paper. So my paper had gone into the plastics bin and the Country Style man raised no objection to me putting plastic in with the paper.

I apologised for so doing but there was no sign that he cared. Why can’t they leave well alone?
Bins

Rearranged bins.

 

9 March (Part 1) - Who’s a Wonka?

Following the Leader and her Deputy’s speech in favour of the new budget and the consequent raid on residents’ bank accounts Stefano Borella (Labour Leader) put forward his alternative which the Mayor confirmed had been fully costed by the Director of Finance.

The Labour Leader praised the help provided to him by the Finance Directorate followed by…


• Real terms cut in Bexley to funds by the Conservative Government of 66%.
• Bexley is one of the select group of boroughs with average Council Tax above £2,000 a year.
• Mortgage payments are up.
• Shop prices are still rising.
• The tax burden is at a 70 year high with 25 rises since the last election.
• The average family is £1,200 a year worse off under the Tories.
• The overspend in Bexley in 2023/24 will be around £9·3 million and the reserves will be raided again.
• If overspends are not curtailed the reserves will be raided again in the coming year.
• There will be a significant budget gap for 2025/26 which will have to be planned for next July. (Children’s and Adults’ Social Care being named as the culprit.)
• The recent SEND report is “appalling and an indictment of the political leadership of this Council. A dereliction of duty” and the Council denied there was a problem.
• Liz Truss cost us £60 million and many Bexley Conservatives supported her.
• Municipal bankruptcy is a real possibility.
• The Conservatives no longer claim to be keeping Council Tax low because they know it is a promise they cannot keep. CT has gone up by 40%. (†)
• The Leader has failed to get a Fair Funding Review despite being a leading Member of the Conservative Group at the LGA, London Councils and in the House of Lords.
• Conservative Chancellors promised to fix the roof when the sun was shining but instead they smashed the windows, broke the door down and then burned the whole edifice.


Nothing about what was in the Budget Amendment but that was because it was on paper for the benefit of Councillors and not available to web viewers.

Councillor Asunramu (Thamesmead East) seconded but not before spending a moment on International Women’s Day and Ramadan.


• Local Government has been severely underfunded by Government.
• Families are pushed into destitution.
• Many Councils are on the brink of bankruptcy.
• Children’s And Adults’ Services are in a dire state.
• Overspends are astronomical.
• SEND has widespread systemic failings and “we were not surprised” and the party opposite is responsible because of their failure to pre[pare for the inspection. “It is shameful and a travesty.”


No reference to any money being diverted to housing. Without the Amendment before me it is not suprpring that this web viewer did not know what Councillors were talking about later.

Council Leader O’Neill declined the opportunity to comment on the Amendment but Cabinet Member Munur was less reticent. He likened the Amendment to the Willy Wonka experience in Glasgow. “A lot of hype and building up of expectations only to find you have come to visit an empty warehouse”.

† No idea where Stefano got that figure from. Compared to your CT bill when the Conservatives took over, April will see it up by 63%.

 

8 March - BexleyCopout

After the Leader told us how well Bexley had done in 2023 and her toy-boy told us the borough was deep in the financial doo-doo the Labour Leader threw his spanner in the shape of a budget Amendment. The next part of the Council meeting then became difficult to follow as the Amendment is not available to webcast viewers who consequently have little idea what the Tory spanners are complaining about.

Fortunately the Labour Leader sent me a copy before I had time to ask, along with a whole load of comment. (PDF includes Amendment.) Possibly the most important part of the Amendment is that BexleyCo should spend £2·7 million and more on affordable housing but the Conservative Councillors stood up one by one to decry the Amendment and that idea. Most did so by reading from a pre-prepared script on an Amendment that had been put before them only a few minutes earlier. It is a pity that their crystal balls were not available ten years ago.

Labour comment…


The Amendment moved by Labour Councillors but voted against by every Conservative councillor, would have provided £3·546 of payments provided by developers to be given to the council’s development company BexleyCo to assist them building more affordable housing and investigate building more affordable rented properties on their developments.


Over the weekend BiB will provide the names of every Tory Councillor who spoke against more affordable accommodation together with a summary of their reasons. Perhaps they will make more sense than when I listened live without the benefit of knowing what the Amendment said.

When Bexley Conservatives inevitably create a song and dance about Labour voting against their budget, Labour may be able to say that the Tories voted in favour of maximising homelessness.
Labouyr Amendment

That’s it for today. Too many other things to do but not all work. The last time I was in a Bexley pub (The Morgan doesn’t count) was during a brief break in the Covid nonsense when a local polito detected, during a phone call, that I was thoroughly fed up with the nonsense inflicted upon us and suggested that a few beers might help. History will repeat itself this afternoon. The problem with these people is that they never say anything really interesting.

 

7 March (Part 2) - Leader and Deputy talk tough

Let’s start with Teresa O’Neill’s opening words about the need to raise more taxes. Would she make a better job of impressing me than Jeremy Hunt earlier in the day? As far as I am concerned that should be an easy job. Nationally the Tories are toast and deserve to be.

She started with a statement of the obvious. They have to set a balanced budget and this year has “not been an easy one”. There has been no opportunity to increase the reserves in 2023/24.

Grasping for something good to say she reminded everyone that a year ago Bexley scored an ‘Outstanding’ rating for children in care and secured funds for Shenstone School to be completed in September 2025.

A new Library was opened in Thamesmead and Country Style has improved its services. Missed bins, recycling batteries and electrical goods etc. A Bank Hub came to Welling after innumerable bank closures.

The pandemic, demographic changes and inflation are all making life difficult and nowhere worse than in Adult and Child Care Services. Costs are rising steeply but Bexley is doing better than any neighbouring boroughs when it comes to arranging hospital discharges for people who continue to need care. The Government still refuses to provide any more money. Some excuses were offered for the SEND failures.

Labour Councils are still making housing difficult by dumping their homeless in Bexley and the reduction in parking income is doing the budgeting no good at all. Fewer commuters and fewer shoppers got the blame. The Fair Funding formula continues to favour Greenwich over Bexley but Greenwich is cutting services too. “It is so frustrating that it is not a level playing field.”

Fortunately the pot hole money this year and next is coming directly to Councils so the Mayor cannot “top slice it” for his own nefarious purposes.

‘Making Bexley Even Better’ count. Two.

Deputy Leader David Leaf added that he was controlling risks and “the resource envelope would be expanded”. I think that means looking for more ways of robbing residents. “Next year will be a tough challenge.”

MBEB count; One.

 

7 March (Part 1) - Taking the pee

I arrived home yesterday just in time to catch the Council Leader half way through her initial speech seeking to justify yet another highest possible Council Tax increase. It proved to be an interesting meeting with some good contributions from Councillors on both sides of the chamber. It was two and a half hours before residents’ pockets were formally hammered with a vote for another 5% CT increase.

Along the way I muttered ‘idiot’ twice and ‘liar’ once which is a very low score for Bexley Council. The L word would however have soared past the 20 mark if I counted the ‘Making Bexley Even Betterְ’ nonsense. I found myself thinking that Bexley Council is akin to a cyclist who didn’t bother to maintain his bike when he bought it second hand 18 years ago and now after ignoring the Steep Hill sign finds himself half way down the decline when the front wheel falls off. However to everyone’s surprise he is reasonably adept at rear wheelies as he heads ever faster towards innumerable pot holes. Will he be able steer towards the soft grass verge or hit a concrete bollard head on?

In a year’s time we will be facing the biggest funding gap ever.

How more than 40 speeches can be summarised here I currently have no idea; normally the feeble ones are simply discarded but few fell into that category this time. I will get ahead of myself and break the chronology by picking on Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (Erith) first. (Nothing wrong with her speech, so don’t jump to conclusions.)

She said that care workers are “on minimum wage and struggling to feed their families”. Referring to the massive overspend on care services we heard, “should we be paying it to private companies who exist to make a profit, private providers who demand more and taking a bigger slice from local authorities? You say outsourcing works and I blame your government.”

This struck a chord with me because earlier in the day I had been with my daughter who churns out a weekly politically focused radio programme and the occasional one for TV. With the minimum of £4,000 a week for a single child residential placement in mind I asked if she had ever looked into the cost of residential child care. She had and before I had time to mention £4k. immediately came out with £10,000 a week being a commonly found figure.

How can that possibly be justified I asked and was given an idea of how violent some of the children can be but, using language that her mother must have taught her, said of care providers “because they are rip off merchants who can get away with it and they are taking the piss” and local government management is too weak to tackle it head on. OK, the final words are mine not hers, but how can up to £16,000 a week for just one child ever be justified?

 

6 March - Jam today and jam tomorrow

Yesterday I took a bus ride from the stop nearest to Places Cabinet Member Richard Diment’s house to the 301 stop nearest mine. I broke the journey in Bexleyheath but only to post a letter in the box next to the clocktower. The Royal Mail in an act of stupidity that one has come to expect from them has removed Abbey Wood’s letter box; however I was back on a bus within two minutes.

All was well until we came to a halt soon after the Melanie Close stop in Long Lane and crept forward only when motorists created a gap by doing a U-turn. It was much the same until we reached the top of Knee Hill and diverted on to New Road. Overall the journey took an hour and 17 minutes; an unpleasant experience not helped by one of the children on board letting off a stink bomb.

It was a quick turnaround at home for a car journey to North London and the possible reason for the hold up became apparent. The radio said the Liz line was in big trouble again which meant the cars picking up passengers from Abbey Wood station were waiting longer than usual in Gayton Road. This in turn jammed Wilton Road which meant that there was a stream of traffic from Knee Hill which couldn’t get into Wilton Road and jammed many motorists including me and a Superloop in Abbey Road because some of that queue was trying to turn into Wilton Road. And couldn’t.

Cars were unable to easily escape from Florence Road because those stuck in Abbey Road prevented it. I let one in and he rewarded me by indicating right back towards the station. Obviously there was no free space anywhere near the station and he was going round and round. 21 minutes after leaving home I was passing Yarnton Way.

It is a great pity that there are no Councillors living close to Abbey Wood station to see what goes on there and perhaps think of a solution, although I admit I cannot.


• If Wilton Road was restricted to buses only the traders would complain that shoppers would be driven away.
• If Florence Road was stopped off at its Southern end the residents of Fendyke Road would be subjected to the diverted traffic but it might distribute it over a wider area making dispersal easier.
• If the exit from Florence Road was made Left Turn Only (buses excepted) the pressure on Wilton and Gayton Roads would be relieved somewhat because of the easier escape route on offer.


None of it is ideal. Maybe residents would have benefited if Bexley Council had engaged its collective brain in the ten years it didn’t notice Crossrail being built.

Note: Great minds etc. A similar post has appeared on Facebook.
Wilton and Gayton Roads jammed

Photographed 6th March with the Elizabeth line running well. When it doesn’t no one goes anywhere.

The comment “Computer is running OK but I get no picture.” led me to believe that the faulty PC may have suffered an issue in the graphics area. I was wrong; the BIOS was screwed up preventing Windows from booting. Remove and replace the battery from the motherboard and away it went. Next time I see it I will replace the battery.

 

5 March - Local Labour Loons

Nothing much will appear here for a couple of days. Both today and tomorrow I am booked in for a computer repair session, in different places and both involving journeys. Will the Liz line let me down? I suspect component failures (a monitor and a router) and will go equipped with spare parts. In both cases I have been suitably ‘bribed’ with free dinner.

With no Council meetings until tomorrow - one which I will have to miss - BiB must fall back on its wonderful readership.

MPs are not the only ones who get death threats from local sources. I was threatened too after posting this blog. The writer said “We have got some very angry parents who are of the view that you are attempting to silence them. I wouldn’t like to be responsible for your safety.” and in a follow up, “I wouldn’t guarantee your safety”.

Utterly deranged.

BiB has run several stories which have been unsympathetic towards child care services but never with the slightest hint that a parent might be at fault except perhaps in the notorious Rhys Lawrie case. He was murdered and his grandfather supplied evidence that he had suffered parental abuse. Local care services ignored warnings from doctors and teachers alike.

Nutters abound; here’s another one, not his first, who believes that his brilliance with computer technology has forced BiB off air. Obviously someone who doesn’t know how to track anonymous contacts and use the web’s deny command.

Idiot. A known local Labour idiot.
Trolls This is what he would have seen. (I temporarily banned myself from Bonkers.) Notice
Until the local Labour party kicks these malicious idiots out of their party no one should take it seriously.

 

4 March (Part 3) - Give them an inch…

LV 68 OSJI reported this illegally parked car today, not because it is creating a particularly severe obstruction but because Abbey Wood residents must take a zero tolerance approach to bad commuter parking.

The rule is…


Vehicle parked more than 50cm from the kerb, and not within a designated parking space. You may not ‘Double Park’. This applies even if no other vehicle is present – Contravention Code 26.


Bexley Council came out to look at it but said they could not be sure the car was more than 50 centimetres (20 inches) from the kerb and they do not carry tape measures.

I would be the first to agree that whether a wheel is 49 centimetres or 51 centimetres (or even 65 centimetres) from a kerb is not something we should be arguing about but this vehicle is more than four feet (120+ cm) from the kerb. Nearly five feet to the actual wheel.

I would suggest that someone who is so spatially unaware that they cannot differentiate between less than two feet and more than four has no business mo-peddling around the borough.

Meanwhile we can perhaps assume that ‘double parking’ that does not involve literal double parking is a PCN-free activity in the borough of Bexley. Even that may be untrue, there is an actual case of real double parking further along the same road.

 

4 March (Part 2) - Slow & Late (3)

The SL3 Limited Stop bus service is probably a good idea in principle but it could be argued that the Thamesmead to Abbey Wood section is superfluous to requirements. TfL thought so but Bexley Council believed that there might be electoral advantages in extending SL3 over a route which is already served by two high frequency buses over two miles of bus lane.

Fortunately that section is unlikely to suffer long delays except at the Sainsbury’s pinch point where the bus lane ends. It is along the roads to Bexleyheath Station and the Library and out to Chislehurst where problems are near certain.

My regular visitor from Petts Wood phoned hands-free this morning to say she was stuck outside Chislehurst station from where it later transpired that traffic was queued all the way to Sidcup. She dodged some of it by doubling back to the Crittall’s Corner roundabout but normally she follows the SL3 all the way to Abbey Wood except for using the direct route via Crook Log rather than take in Bexleyheath Library.

Even so it was 62 minutes after passing Chislehurst station that she showed up here where her first words were a very unladylike “F***ing Bexley Council!” something I am sure we all will have said at one time or another.

One must wonder how long it will be before Sadiq Khan is saying the same and contemplating how best to tackle Bexley’s road system. (Don’t tell me! It will be road charging.)

I asked the family transport expert if there has ever been any thought given to matching bus routes to vehicle length and maneuverability and the risk they might pose when mounting kerbs at corners. I did get an answer but maybe I shouldn’t say what it was.

 

4 March (Part 1) - Crime and Prejudice

JailedIs the News Shopper being selective in its reporting or simply summarising all its Court reporting?

18 mainly local people were sent to jail in February alone. A lorry driver who fell asleep at the wheel and killed a boy. A dangerous dog owner. An unlicenced uninsured speeding red-light jumper on a motorbike who killed another young boy. A gangland thief and a burglar.

Then there were two knife murderers so stupid that they killed one of their own and another who killed a man while stealing his watch.

Six who killed an alleged “snitch” and one who killed his former girlfriend’s new partner. An unrelated victim escaped death by stabbing when some off duty policemen intervened and saved the day. Despite slashing the victim with a larger knife the criminal only got eight months!

To complete the gallery there is a County Lines drug dealer and one who went a bit further. Class A drugs and guns.

It is an unfortunate sign of the times that you can guess who did what and not be far wrong.

 

3 March (Part 2) - All talk

Labour ConservativesSome will assume that politicians are interested in what they think and that is why parties commission opinion polls but in reality they are not interested in what anyone thinks but only in how they might vote. Politicians also kid themselves that what they hear on the doorstep will translate into a vote.

If the Tories called on me and steered the conversation around to the Mayor of London I would happily endorse their view that he is among the most malevolent of individuals to have ever sullied British politics, and when Labour rings the bell to tell me we have been taxed to near penury by Hunt and his predecessors I would go further and say that not a single one of the current crew’s decisions makes any sense at all.

Both parties would go away happy and come the General Election neither will get my vote - nor will that Tice fellow.


Prime MinisterWhich sort of brings me to last Friday afternoon. I was listening to Talk Radio but not paying much attention because probably Vanessa Feltz was on and she has to be the worst radio interviewer there has ever been and the programme cut to Rishi Sunak at his little lectern outside No. 10.

He did not at the time provoke any memorable sound bites in my mind except a very generalised “What a prat!”. It is 2024 Rishi not 2004 when your words may have been a much needed warning. A bit late now. Where have you been since October 7th?

The radio reverted to the studio where I was staggered to hear all the pundits saying what a wonderful speech it was, Sunak’s “best ever” and just maybe it was. It wouldn’t be difficult.

Our unelected Prime Minister is worried about the way militant Islamists are well on the way to taking over country and Parliament (as one of them told me they would almost 30 years ago) but the only threat he can actually name is Nick Griffin, one time Member of the European Parliament waving the flag of the British National Party who is now 65 years old and who has disappeared from public view. Some threat!

But Griffin is apparently still a figurehead of the far right. Who the Hell are they anyway? When did you last see one or many rampaging through the streets of London? (1993 if you are asking.)

I am prepared to believe that Nick Griffin is not a nice man. He is on the record as being a Jew hater (and fined £2,300 for it in 1998) and Mick Barnbrook used to tell me (circa 2011/12) that Griffin was a small time crook who was on the list of politicians he had reported to the police for alleged criminality. 18 of them ended up out of office and in some cases behind bars but despite Mick’s evidence of financial irregularities he was never able to persuade the police to investigate Griffin.

Mick and I postulated that the establishment needed a prominent bogey-man in the public eye to deflect opinion from their own criminality.

So now Sunak singles out Griffin as a bad man who he alleges supports George Galloway MP; who denies ever having any contact with Griffin.

Perhaps Rishi Sunak should investigate Nick Griffin more thoroughly. He was arrested in 2004 for allegedly stirring up racial hatred against Asians for remarks he made in a BBC documentary. Then he claimed the arrest was a stunt by the Labour Government to curry favour among Muslims. Would that ever happen? In his defence Griffin quoted the Quran and a jury acquitted him of all charges. The Great British Public had spoken.

Sunak is suddenly worried about militant Islam as he jolly well should be but the only named bad man is Griffin who said the same thing 20 and more years ago. (Griffin is omitted from the official transcript of the speech, you need to go to Youtube or similar.)

I suppose it explains why Suella Braverman was sacked. She knew what appeasement would lead to.

Fortunately the Talk Radio presenters appear to have come around to my initial point of view. Sunak is a prat. One can’t even say “fine words and no action” because some of his words are not particularly fine.

 

3 March (Part 1) - Subservience is what you need

Woolwich Road bunker238 Woolwich Road is the address that acquired a ‘nuclear’ bunker in its back garden the unsightliness of which drove the neighbours out of their house and there was only one willing buyer.

The bunker was built without permission but despite a sham show of resistance it was eventually OK’d by a Council which forgot that its own survey showed that the edifice had encroached on Lesnes Abbey Woods.

Last December there was a further planning application. It was for a two storey side extension on a bungalow. Planning regulations are that two storey extensions must be “subordinate” to the main dwelling. Difficult when that is a bungalow. It goes on to say that the new roof line should respect the original “thereby lowering the ridge line”. That test is failed. The ridge line is going to be the same.

Its saving grace - if not Bexley Council itself - is that the steeply inclined ground gives the illusion of “subservience”. The extension was therefore deemed to be “acceptable”.

23/02870/FUL if you can be bothered.

 

2 March (Part 2) - SENDing best regards

Bexley Labour Group has issued a Press Release (PDF) following Bexley Council’s latest OFSTED disaster; one which was reported here last Monday.

Their Leader Stefano Borella who put his name to the document is a lot more generous to the staff involved than the two SEND parents to whom I have access. Not many people trying to do their best for their children appreciate being screamed at and threatened by the SEND Officer’s line manager. The parents’ complaints were upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman.

 

2 March (Part 1) - Bexley Council is playing Silly Buggers

Again!

NonsenseFour locations in Bexley are likely to get new pedestrian crossings but exactly why is difficult to say. If you read the News Shopper it is because a lollypop man died in a tragic bicycle accident three years ago but that took place a mile or so away despite one NS commentator apparently falling for the implication that he was killed while shepherding children across the road.

Bexley is short of school crossing patrols because an infamous former Cabinet Member decided it would be a good wheeze to get the Mayor of London to fund them. And then the Mayor decided not to.

The crossings may have come about because one site benefited from a 2,335 signature petition.

It is equally possible that one parent, our old friend @tonyofsidcup, insisted on asking awkward questions about Bexley Council’s inactivity and threatening to organise a much bigger petition. His campaign for crossings was so unwelcome that the Council Leader devoted a great chunk of her address to Full Council last November to telling fibs about him.

Now out of the blue, Bexley is set to get four new crossings. Is it because it acquired a Cabinet Member with an IQ high enough to drag the Cabinet’s average up to somewhere close to triple figures - and with a nose for popular politics too?

But why only four crossings, or maybe the question should be why that particular four?


DrainThe worst accident black spot is Yarnton Way in Thamesmead. Five times as bad as Brook Street which is to get a crossing. I know Yarnton well as it is easier to turn left when exiting Clydesdale Way, Belvedere (Lidl, Toolstation, Screwfix etc. and if you are mad enough, the Morgan pub). The alternative route home means trying to cross the busy A2016.

Yarnton Way is a more or less straight 30 m.p.h. dual carriageway which attracts the sort of driving behaviour I have come to associate with Thamesmead. I have twice encountered drivers taking a short cut around Yarnton Way roundabouts the wrong way.

Bexley Council has encouraged such behaviour by making the roads around them too narrow for anyone’s comfort and far too narrow for buses. It has acknowledged that the carriageways have been made too narrow by installing low kerb stones which are OK for bus wheels to mount but perhaps not pedestrians’ toes. But if a car fails to negotiate a chicane at speed the kerb is enough to flip it.

You can understand why Yarnton Way may need another pedestrian crossing. So why isn’t it getting one? A flooding and drainage problem is said to be the reason and now the money is going to be spent elsewhere Thamesmead can go and weep into its river.

Is it the pesky Thames floodplain that has scuppered commonsense or is it that Bexley has given up on unblocking drains? @tony thought we should be told.

He made a simple FOI request…


Can I please have the report(s) summarising the Council’s 2023 survey of pedestrian crossing locations?


He was told he could sod off but @tony tried again.


Can I please see any documents and emails regarding flooding concerns at the proposed pedestrian crossing in Yarnton Way included in the Council’s 2023 survey of pedestrian crossing locations. He was rewarded with another Sod Off.

FOI response

“Having considered!!” Which idiot wrote that? It is another immediate ‘Sod off!’

This may very well be illegal (the Information Commissioner phoned @tony to discuss the issue) as is to be expected of a Council which has never been afraid of breaking the law but I think the residents of Thamesmead deserve to know exactly why Bexley Council thinks their lives are less important than others. Yesterday I submitted my fifth FOI request, the first being made on 31st October 2012.


Dear Sirs,
I live approximately mid-way between Abbey Road (Belvedere) and Yarnton Way (Thamesmead) and walk and drive along both regularly. Yarnton Way may have a road safety problem and your own accident statistics would tend to confirm it. It was recently top contender for a pedestrian crossing but lost out in favour of Sidcup and Bexley.
This is attributed to a drainage or flooding problem. Both Abbey Road and Yarnton Way are within the Thames flood plain and no one would dispute there are water issues here.
When Crossrail was being constructed I saw their holes quickly fill with water, some of them in line with the river’s tidal flow.
I have had occasional correspondence with Bexley Council about flooding since 2011 and it is something which is not easily resolved. In Abbey Road it is a drainage problem, the gullies are not cleared and I photographed a blockage only a couple of weeks ago.
I do not know why Yarnton Way floods at the proposed crossing site, hence the formal part of this FOI request.
Please supply a copy of the survey provided to Mr. Bashford or his subordinate if not handled by the Head of Department. Similarly the recommendations to the Cabinet Member.
I do not dispute that there is a problem but I would like to know its nature. Inadequate or defective infrastructure or natural causes about which little can be done.
Yours faithfully,


As yet there has been no acknowledgment.

Will Bexley Council continue to play Silly Buggers or will the new Cabinet Member conclude that dragging its reputation through the mud is really not worth the candle and make the information public?

Richard Diment for Leader and a spot of commonsense!

 

1 March (Part 2) - When Meeting Minutes lie

I was disappointed when Labour Leader Stefano Borella didn’t get back to me after I asked if he could elaborate on his assertion at Public Cabinet that the Deputy Council Leader had lied. I wouldn’t say that my relationship with Stefano is difficult because he is among the very friendliest of Bexley Councillors but he would be right if he is wary of my tendency to lean to the right and I feared I might have over-stepped the mark in the recent past.

I am pretty sure I have never found any reason to be critical of Stef although sometimes I might wonder about the strategies he adopts. What he most certainly isn’t is a liar and if faced with guessing if his version of events or a Tory one is correct there would be only one way to jump.

However it turns out that the failure to respond wasn’t that he didn’t feel able to trust me, he was simply busy and took longer than usual to answer. Meanwhile I reported what I thought I knew.

The minutes of the Children’s Scrutiny meeting said…


Two Labour Members, Councillors Perfect and Amaning, claimed that the impact and consequences of the Covid pandemic were not causing any budget pressures and that budget challenges faced had nothing to do with Covid; but this claim was rebutted by Cabinet Members present who commented on the ongoing impact on services caused by the pandemic.


Councillor Borella said in Cabinet that that statement was a lie and “a downright lie” in his email to me. He concedes that it was a lesser lie in the case of Councillor Esther Amaning.

Lie or not it was indisputedly an inaccurate statement because the Minutes were revised and Deputy Leader Leaf issued an apology to the two Councillors and the meeting Chairman. Additionally the Minutes were withdrawn and the replacement removed all references to Councillors Perfect and Amaning.
Amended minutes

Revised Minutes.

One question must be was it a lie or a temporary lack of judgment. To help decide I revisited my audio recording. Here is Councillor Perfect embarking on her ‘soliloquy’.

Wendy does not get into David Leaf territory but she can go on a bit sometimes, however what she does not do here is utter the dreaded C word.

You should note that Councillor Wendy Perfect went on at some length claiming that Government policy had caused the problems in Childrenְ’s services but did not mention Covid at all. Then Cabinet Member Philip Read jumped in to blame the unfolding disaster on Covid. It might be more accurate to say it was the lockdown that caused the problems but maybe that is nit-picking.

The Gospel according to Philip Read. Covid, Covid, Covid.

Esther Amaning said that there were other factors in play…

Esther doesn’t think Covid has much to do with the massive Children’s budget overspend.

… but Cabinet Member Read was having none of it and launched another of of his strident attacks on Labour women. (But not without some interesting facts.)

Cabinet Member Read goes off on one again.

Well that pretty much proves that the Minutes of the Children’s meeting were well wide of the mark, there was no reason whatsoever to pin something on Councillor Perfect that she never said, but does that make David Leaf a liar or merely guilty of having a bad memory and of researching inadequately?

I would suggest that Read going on and on and on about Covid in response to Wendy Perfect steering well clear of the subject misled Deputy Leader Leaf and filled his head with wrong assumptions which he then felt he must eagerly address. That makes him a fool rather than a knave but why is he put into that position at all?

You may or may not agree with Wendy, that really doesn’t matter, nor is it very relevant that Cabinet Member Read is aggressive towards the opposition. That is not news. What is news is that in Bexley the Deputy Council Leader writes the Minutes of meetings and is at liberty to bias them in any way the Tories wish.

Cabinet Member Leaf may or may not be a liar but he certainly isn’t the Committee Clerk and nor should he be allowed to take on that role.

 

1 March (Part 1) - False names and fake news

FacebookI am not a big Facebook user. I occasionally look in on the SE2 group and sometimes Bexleyheath News & Gossip. If I make a comment I usually forget to go back and check for possible replies but yesterday I went hunting for Trolls to see what they might be saying about me.

I found them at Bexley & Sidcup News.

I learned a long time ago that Facebook groups are often administered by people with axes to grind. In my opinion and experience SE2 was before the Admin changed hands and former Councillor Danny Hackett who was once a Facebook Administrator opened my eyes to a few things.

It would appear that Louie French MP has found similar malevolent activity at Bexley & Sidcup News. He has been threatened by anonymous Trolls, probably the same ones who tried to drag me into their argument.

Me being called a Fascist, reported to the police several times and threatened with Court action for occasionally reporting the utterings of a spiteful anonymous Troll is small beer compared to what Louie has to put up with.

The Trolls will almost certainly be linked with those who attacked Danny Hackett after he abandoned his allegiance to Labour and showed a leaning towards the Conservative Party. The Trolls rounded on him and and made up a story that he wouldn’t thank me for repeating here.

Suffice to say the News Shopper splashed a lurid headline which led to a police interview.

Danny showed me the long series of text messages which were the basis for the false allegations.

All I will say here is that they originated from Labour supporters who people of my generation would describe as sluts.

They are adopting the same technique against former Mayor James Hunt too. Allegations and tittle tattle to tame newspaper reporters. You can be pretty sure it will be all bollox. It is the Labour activists’ stock in trade.

I once asked a senior Labour man why he didn’t stamp on such behaviour but he could only shrug and say “What can I do?”

When you read local Facebook groups always remember who runs them. False names and fake news abounds.

 

News and Comment March 2024

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