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News and Comment May 2024

Index: 2018201920202021202220232024

31 May - Complaints

Some good news and some not so good news for Bexley Council.

Dimitri has decided to abandon his complaint against the Mayor for not allowing him to ask a question at Full Council and the LGO will not be asked to intervene. In my view that is the correct decision. Don’t devalue the big complaints by submitting little ones. Maybe I should take my own advice but on the other hand I have not made a complaint about any aspect of Bexley Council since Councillor Craske thought it was a good idea to insult a member of the public who was asking a question. (The response was a lie which was proved to be so by the official Minutes of the meeting!)

This morning I made a formal complaint against Bexley employee Kelly Wilkinson for blocking my road to anything bigger than a motorcycle and sidecar.


30 May (Part 3) - Abbey Wood Village. The end

When there were high hopes that Wilton Road would develop into a thriving little shopping centre (†) once the Elizabeth line opened Bexley and Greenwich councils provided £300,000 to get it tarted up a bit. They took more than a third of it back in planning fees but no one expects total generosity from any Council.

One of the things they threw in for good measure in 2016 was a website. It was never updated and to cut a long story short that domain name is now legally mine. I have only once received a request for a site update so it is now more out of date than ever.

The only activity is the occasional email to me as webmaster asking whichever trader to provide a service and I have to print them out and hand deliver the requests. With only four exceptions I do not know traders’ email addresses either.

There have been three such requests this week.

The domain name (both and .uk) comes up for renewal on 17th June, £47 each plus VAT for three years. The web space comes free. Another long story.

Because traders have no interest in the website the decision has been taken to abandon it and it will therefore disappear in not much more than two week’s time. If anyone has a use for the domain, please ask.

† It didnְ’t.


30 May (Part 2) - Here he goes again

Mr. Kulvinder Singh submitted yet another planning application (24/01647/FUL) on 238 Woolwich Road this week. That’s the site he wrecked so severely in 2018 that his neighbours were forced to sell up and move away. Only Singh would buy.

This time it is a side extension, two new bedrooms and two new bathrooms. There is a long record of similar applications on various Bexley properties, some retrospective and some initially rejected but a compliant Bexley Council always eventually falls into line.

There cannot be much doubt about which way the decision will go on this one.
Singh and friends

Five Tories and a Singh.


30 May (Part 1) - Knee Hill is shut…

…but no one knows why.

At 9.30 yesterday morning I was on my way to Petts Wood by car, with a large bag of tools in the boot in case any anti-car nutter thinks the SL3 is a viable option, heading in a westerly direction on Abbey Road and intending to turn left into New Road. From a distance I signalled to a learner driver waiting at the bottom of New Road to cross my path and ascend the hill. He didn’t move and when I reached the junction the reason became clear. Five buses were trying to wiggle past parked cars and negotiate the stupidly designed kinky junction.

When it was clear of buses I turned left in front of the learner who was understandably very hesitant but within 100 yards or so encountered another SL3 descending the hill so I pulled into a parking space to give him a clear run. However the bus flashed me to proceed and when I looked in the mirror I saw the reason why. The road was blocked again with a queue behind me.

Usually when Bexley Council or a utility imposes traffic chaos on the area the local Facebook page will give the reason why but not this time. An inquisitive friend walked up Knee Hill to see what might be going on. Just after 2:30 p.m. the answer was absolutely nothing. There was some fencing in need of repair but no indication that any work was in progress.

Mr. Inquisitive phoned the Council but the Contact Centre said that the Highways Department had not answered their phone all day so there was nothing the lady could do to help.

By yesterday evening there was a rumour circulating locally that Knee Hill might open this afternoon.

A couple of months ago I mentioned Knee Hill to the Councillor in charge at Bexley Council and suggested that the existing kerb line could be eased out by about 18 inches on both sides without impacting any tree. Every regular user will have breathed in as he passes an off route bus short-cutting to the garage and wondering if his wing mirror will survive or mounting the low kerb on one of the bends. Another couple of feet would make Knee Hill a lot safer than it is.

The Councillor’s precise words were “It’s never going to happen” which was perhaps his way of saying Councils are stupid and always will be.


29 May (Part 2) - Where’s the Swingers’ Party?

Keir StarmerSo some guy called David expects me “to brighten the next month” with election comment when I don’t really know which way to jump myself. Amateur political punditry is probably best avoided especially when one’s only claim to very obscure electoral fame is winning the office sweepstake with the closest guess to the elected partyְ’s majority in both 1983 and 1987. In fact I was almost spot on in ’87 with a guess of 104 seats. It was actually 102.

I think I can also claim to have much more finely tuned political antennae than Rishi Sunak but then so does everyone likely to be reading these words. Utterly clueless isn’t he?

Within the past year I have felt more than once that I would vote Conservative if they fulfilled their promise to get rid of Inheritance Tax and even in the past week that prize chump Jeremy Hunt has said it should be done, but he hasn’t. I don’t see the tax as stealing my life savings - though it will - but the government ensuring that several people will not have enough money to put down as a deposit on their first house.

14 wasted years and a squandered 80 seat majority. The Conservatives could have done so much but few MPs proved to be Conservative in anything but name. Now they hope I might be an enthusiast for more of the same wet behind the ears LibDems.

My political pendulum is a somewhat knackered device with its leftward swing crippled by the knowledge that I am “scum” (© Angela Raynor) and “a racist” (© Wes Streeting), not to mention being the subject of legal action by a local Labour activist apprehensive of her on-line comment being given wider circulation.

It doesn’t matter how competent Daniel Francis (Labourְ’s candidate for Bexleyheath and Crayford) is or how caring Sally might be; while their party harbours so many deeply unpleasant people it won’t get my vote. They even support the London Mayor, or at least claim to do so. But I have my doubts about that.


29 May (Part 1) - A disgrace to Bexley Council

Coptefield Drive was close to being blocked all day yesterday. A van driver had parked in the orthodox manner and a black car was tucked in behind it; all fair enough but then a lunatic in Mercedes P1 XND parked end-on opposite leaving a 65 cm gap to the kerb.

Unfortunately Bexley Council does not enforce the 50 cm kerb rule because of their assumed lack of numeracy skills among the enforcement staff. They cannot be trusted to handle a tape measure, but never mind, the Mercedes driver had only blocked the road to large vehicles and as far as I am aware none came past. But then we had the pleasure of welcoming LD71 EBJ to the scene and there was no way through.

The red car is mine and neighbours from both sides of the road took a look at guiding me through but a quart will not go into a pint pot. So after a brief use of the horn and an enquiry at the nearest door there was nothing to do but wait and contemplate a call to 101; but what good would that do?

I walked away and left it but was fortunately around to see the driver return. Not a word was said as I photographed her several times. Then as she opened the car door I spotted the Bexley Council badge and I held it open for a moment to take note of the name. Kelly Wilkinson.

I think she asked me to let it go, not absolutely sure, but there was nothing said that was unduly bad tempered. I said she would soon be all over Facebook (I am not sure why I said that) but nothing more until after she had left when a neighbour would have heard me call her an idiot preceded by a suitable adjective.

This sort of behaviour might be acceptable if she had explained that she was on an emergency call (if she was) and there was nowhere else to park (there was) but to remain absolutely mute is really rude, although maybe not for a Bexley Council employee.

Road blocked Road blocked Road blocked Too far from the kerb

I am minded to put in an official complaint about Ms. Wilkinson if only to see what excuse Bexley Council comes up with. Personally I don’t think there is one for saying absolutely nothing. Perhaps she is from the FOI Department.


28 May (Part 3) - Knee Hill is shut all week

Broken down Broken downI suppose closing the turn right lane on Woolwich Road because Knee Hill is shut all week seemed like a good idea at the time but if someone breaks down in the remaining lane it can only result in chaos.

This unfortunate lady did her best to remove the cones with some help from the van driver who backed up to assist. He made a small gap in the cone line and went on the wrong side of the road to get there. Not sure why that was necessary but a spur of the moment decision to help presumably.

Photos from the front of an SL3 with an ambulance on blue lights and a siren stuck behind it. Eventually the lady opened a bigger gap into the turn right lane and we were able to creep by. Well done her.

The reason Knee Hill is shut may be a state secret.


28 May (Part 2) - Sixty years of elections

Marjorie My suggestion that I had a personal voting intention swingometer is not a very good analogy as it implies that it could move to the left, but that is never going to happen. Instead it quivers violently somewhere near the middle with occasional lurches to the right while the suspension hook might snap off at any moment and send the whole contraption crashing to the ground. (A spoiled paper!)

Meanwhile here is a picture from 16th October 1964 as Marjorie and I sat listening to my transistor radio as the General Election results came in and both of us becoming more depressed at the news. I think that radio will be in the roof somewhere. A red leatherette covered wooden box. I really must start to clear out all the old junk but it was a circa 1957 birthday present from a favourite aunt.

Marjorie came from Southend and had been working at that telephone exchange desk since before I was born. We went from the prosperous “You never had is so good” to “the [devalued] pound in your pocket” and eventually cap in hand to The International Monetary Fund for a bale out! Madness is repeating the mistakes of the past expecting a different outcome.


28 May (Part 1) - Boxley-is-Bonkers

Election results I am envious of a long term BiB reader; he rid himself of Sadiq Khan by merely swapping a vowel. He now lives in Boxley which is out Maidstone way. He thought you might be amused to see that incompetence is not confined to his old borough.

The parish election on 2nd May resulted in the wrong candidate being elected. Six seats were up for grabs and the Returning Officer read out the first five names correctly but inexplicably skipped numbers six and seven and announced that the candidate who came last had been elected.

The declaration was immediately challenged but nothing could be done about it. The Returning Officer had spoken and in law that is it.

Only the High Court can overturn the result and the expense is likely to be beyond the means of the man who lost out.

In typical fashion the Council has shrugged its shoulders and not even apologised.

Kentonline has the story.


27 May - Wagwan endz mandam? (*)

A weekend drive to Malmesbury was an eye opener in several ways. The M25 was restricted to 50 m.p.h. from Junction 5 (Sevenoaks) almost to Junction 7 (M23) with Junction 10 signed as being “shut”. The M4 was restricted to 50 as far as Reading and to 40 around Newbury. Nowhere was anyone working.

All of it due to the installation of emergency stopping places which would have been installed in the first place if the Smart Motorways had been built to the original specification. I felt the journey was a metaphor for the whole country, nothing is done right and the consequences are dragging everything and everyone down. Contrary to the many illuminated notices, Junction 10 was in fact open but whether to all exits drivers could only guess.

My son, just home from a trip to Europe where his mission was improving vehicle safety, said that Smart Motorways are by far the safest to drive on and the implication was that whoever made the decision (Sunak and a non-entity called Mark Harper) to bow to tabloid opinion was not very bright. As a political aside he has met the Shadow Transport Minister (Bill Esterton) several times because he turns up at all the industry safety events to learn his brief and no Minister ever has.

Wiltshire is as you might guess very much Conservative territory but their Net Zero policy is going to see the farmland around my son’s village disappear under two billion (†) solar panels and protest posters were everywhere. The Lib Dems look like mopping up the protest vote which is ironic when you think that if it was not for those idiots we would be benefitting from cheap and reliable nuclear power right now and not on imported gas.

When asked recently how old my granddaughter was I said 13 but time has flown even faster than I thought. I was subjected to non-stop Spotify via an ear offending Bluetooth speaker for most of Saturday. Teenage (she is approaching 15) music has changed since Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley in a pair of too tight jeans (according to my mother) and my own daughter’s preoccupation first with Saturday Night Fever and Grease and later Madonna. The song Greased Lightnin’ could not be played in polite company because of the inclusion of the word shit and Madonna took things a step further.

How things have changed. Some of today’s songs require translation into English. Google ‘Roadman Slang’ if you are as ignorant as I am. You too can then glorify shanking a peng ting.

Fortunately she doesn’t seem to be influenced by it and recently achieved school notoriety by telling the school’s smoking, vaping, drug dealing (and arrested) bully exactly what she thought of him and got away with it. There is the Young Citizen of the Year Award to be respected and the D Day beacon to be lit. I forgot to photograph her certificate from the Mayor and glass statuette but let’s say it was in a different class to Bexley’s plastic tat.

While watching her take her first driving lesson on a disused airfield a Bonkers’ email arrived. It said…

I’m sure the election will throw up some amazing stuff. Iְ’m relying on you to brighten the next month. No pressure then!!!

Do I really have to? At present I have two metaphoric pendulums before my eyes. One is firmly stuck in the Sunak richly deserves total humiliation position. I have met many people in my life who go to work and make a total mess of things but none ever set out to do that. There are so many things where Government policy could be changed towards a more Conservative position at little cost but Sunk [sic} is the first person I have come across who appears to go to work solely to eff things up as much as possible.

The other pendulum, the one on which party to vote for, oscillates wildly daily or even more frequently. I couldn’t tell you where it is today!

Another email commented on the Section 32 exemptions and the fact that some missing addresses are easily found on the web. That is true but the example given is out of date. The contentious issue the blog was trying to address was purely the absence of such addresses from the official Council Register of Interests and why, not whether it can be found elsewhere, such as this website. My personal view is I don’t much care as long as they live locally and know their ward well.

Over the years some of the reasons for an address being absent from the Register have come my way and none have been frivolous. Returning if I may to Malmesbury for a moment, one of my son’s friends stood for election in 2021 (Covid delayed) and got so fed up with the death threats he didn’t bother earlier this month. It is not only in Khan’s London that you might be smoked by a shank wielding road.

† My estimate based on claimed output.
* What’s up local friends?


25 May - Zero transparency leads to wanton waste

It all began twelve years ago when Bexley Council, rather more bent than it is now, was in panic mode about what might be uncovered by Social Media users and bloggers. A newish phenomenon at the time. A joker from Crayford was the most vociferous and occasionally foul mouthed critic and touted the idea of a bus trip around the borough to see what sort of houses Councillors lived in. There was no way he was going to do it and even less chance of anyone coughing up the price of a ticket but the Councillors of the day, fresh from reporting every identifiable critic to the police, went into headless chicken mode.

The bus trip idea provoked several Councillor lemmings into invoking the then new Section 32 of the Localism Act 2011 and followed Councillor Craske into obscurity. Never being keen on justice Bexley Council decided that hiding their addresses should be counterbalanced by publishing those of their critics.

A London wide check of Section 32 exemptions found 15 in the whole of London, eleven of them among Bexley Conservatives and most of those new applicants scared of buses.

To be exempted from registering an address in the Register of Interests a Councillor has to persuade the Monitoring Officer that there is a danger of violence or intimidation.

Currently 13 Bexley Councillors hide their addresses from public view. Zainab Asunramu, Larry Ferguson, Sally Hinkley, Mabel Ogundayo and Nicola Taylor; all Labour, and Conservatives Teresa O’Neill, Frazer Brooks, Bola Carew, Kurtis Christoforides, Andrew Curtois, Andy Dourmoush, Cameron Smith and Janice Ward-Wilson.
Section 32 exemption

You can see who has claimed the exemption and we know it can only be because of the threat of violence or intimidation.

The observant may notice that the man who had the most reason to be fearful in 2012 no longer considers himself to be at risk. Councillors Cheryl Bacon, and Chris Taylor have similarly jumped ship.

What we don’t know is what sort of reasons for issuing an exemption certificate are accepted by the Monitoring Officer. Dimitri thought we ought to know and in April 2023 submitted an FOI. Not for the specifics relating to individual Councillors but just a general idea of what is enough to convince the Monitoring Officer. Bexley Council wouldn’t play ball and neither would the Information Commissioner. Secrecy and rule bending is the name of their game. Dimitri is not a man to give up easily so he took the case to law.

The verdict was delivered last week; a little progress but not much.

The ICO, always ready to move the goalposts, had claimed that the information provided to the Monitoring Officer was personal and therefore exempt under Section 40 (not 32). He went off on a ridiculous tangent about them declaring interests before Council meetings, as though that was relevant to a home address. That was essentially Dimitri’s grounds for Appeal and the fact he hadn’t asked for personal information.

The judgment confirmed Bexley Council’s incompetence by revealing that Councillors were able to merely phone the Monitoring Officer requesting a Section 32 exemption. Nothing was written down and Bexley Council genuinely has no idea why the exemption was granted. (And we pay our useless Monitoring Officer £104,522 a year!) A mild reprimand was given because the correct FOI response should have been ‘Not Held’ rather than the refusal to cooperate.

Only five Councillors had made their applications in writing and the inference to be drawn is that their reasons relate to things going on in their personal lives. One case was more extreme than the others - the Judgment refers to it as a Special Category. This is likely to be the special circumstances of the Baroness. Going into detail may well allow identification of individuals and for that reason Dimitri’s request for more information was not accepted.

Another big waste of money then? Yes, but clearly Bexley Council’s fault. All that was requested was anonymised reasons for the granting of Section 32 exemptions to which the answer should have been “Five Councillors are at risk from their personal lives and relationships while in the remaining cases we regret that we failed in our responsibility to take adequate notes”.

The ICO would not have had to make up excuses and the Tribunal Appeal Panel would not have been required.

All that has been gained is confirmation that Bexley Council has never been blessed with competent Monitoring Officers and the ICO is inclined to make up the rules as it goes along.


24 May - It’s a point of view

Awards for Scouts“As I understand it, nominations are vetted by the current and former Mayor” is a quotation from Tuesday’s blog. A Councillor friend has kindly expanded my limited knowledge of the selection process as follows…

The current Mayor [Ahmet Dourmoush] chairs the selection meeting while the previous Mayor [Nick O’Hare] is vice-chair. The next previous Mayor [James Hunt] is a member and Labour have a representative too. James Hunt was relegated to just a panel member this year. Next year he will fade out of the picture - at most just a substitute member.

The probability is that the Scouts will continue to submit more nominations than anyone else. A criterion in the ‘Individual’ category is that service must exceed 20 years. Many Scout and Guide leaders will easily reach that goal and being the largest youth group in the Borough it’s, like you said, simple mathematics.

Hope that helps.

Councillors don’t usually (that is never) send in detailed information like that which is deliberately false so it is the case that our Scouting former Mayor could have been easily out-voted - but he wasn’t. If I was being really mischievous I might remind @tony that the panel was 25% Greek Cypriot and 25% Turkish Cypriot and two of the Awards went to Turks. Surely that has to be looked into? 😃

Maybe @tony could submit one of his infamous FOIs asking for a list of nominees by organisation who were rejected.


23 May - A pretty good day outside of Downing Street too

You wait four whole weeks for a Council meeting to report and the webcast falls into an audio pothole after 55 minutes never to be heard of again.

Never mind, the important bits went out OK and we learned that Sue Gower (MBE, JP, MA, PGC,E QTLS, GDPRP, FCIM and probably more) was to be elected unopposed to be our new Mayor with Lisa Moore her deputy. A former Mayor had told me more than a month ago “You will approve of the new Mayor” and he was right, I do.

Some Councillors are always friendly and some are most definitely not. Sue is in the former camp and I have corresponded with her on and off for more than ten years. I wrote a blog entitled Superwoman in March 2014 and to this day wonder how she has managed to fit so much into her life. If you want to feel a little inadequate take a look and if that is not enough there is another.

Oh, let’s go the whole hog and splash the web space cash on 15 megabytes of Councillor Janice Ward-Wilson’s informative words…

CabinetSue’s Deputy, Lisa Moore, is another Councillor who reached out in my direction before her election and has maintained friendly relations ever since; not constantly but a a long way from another who both reports me to the police and blocks me on X thus ensuring a bad press whenever the opportunity arises. Why Bexley’s many decent Councillors tolerate her Leadership I have no idea.

On the other hand the calibre of her Cabinet has improved over the years, Peter Craske left last year followed by another step in the right direction last night. No more Philip Read, another Councillor who has been a little too fond of making malicious trips to the Police Station.

Mayor Sue Gower’s thanks.

Councillor Steven Hall then thanked the outgoing Mayor Ahmet Dourmoush for his “amazing” year in which he officiated at more than 700 events and raised more than £37,000 for charity. Ahmet is another Councillor who always went out of his way to be friendly with me and no doubt many others. Labour Leader Stefano Borella was similarly effusive in his appreciation of Ahmet.

Ahmet thanked everyone for their support, after which the audio feed cut out.

I donְ’t think there is another Council meeting until well into June. Sorry to be vague but Bexleyְ’s website has followed the website audio into a black hole. Will there be any politics to report in the interim period?

The website is back up. Next meeting is Children’s Scrutiny on 19th June.


22 May (Part 2) - Bexley’s new Mayor is…

Councillor Sue Gower. An excellent choice! An amazing woman.


22 May (Part 1) - Corruption everywhere

I used to think that corruption was confined to what I would condescendingly refer to as Banana Republics when my job involved communicating with many of them. My responsibility was India and China and, telephonically speaking, downhill from there. Apart from South Africa under its Apartheid Government the whole of Africa was ‘mine’.

In Africa cables would mysteriously disappear - the termites ate it, honestly, we didn’t nick it - and so in extreme cases would their telephone exchanges. When Lagos could not be raised one morning (in 1982 from memory) we discovered that it was sited on the floor above the accounts department and it had to be burned to the ground to hide the evidence of where the money was actually going. It couldn’t happen here; but then the following year it did. BT’s (actually its forerunner) was similarly infiltrated - but no exchange incineration.

To introduce a bit of Bexley to this blog; at much the same time, it was discovered that the managers of BT’s Crayford Engineering Depot were flogging off bits and pieces to third parties on a massive scale, but unless anyone knows better, all trace of it has disappeared from the records.

I recall that in my one and only meeting with the Post Office Corporation (pre-BT) Chairman that he was convinced that there was corruption everywhere and I thought he must be deluded, but now I realise that in his elevated circles he would be seeing things that I didn’t.

I didn’t come across corruption again for another ten years when I found to my horror that the local police were far from honest and coincidentally my daughter became involved with the Morgan family, a member of which had been murdered in 1987 just as he was about to expose police corruption.

It was still thought to be an almost unique event but probably it wasn’t. We have very recently seen the Post Office Horizon scandal and now the contaminated blood fiasco - if that is not too lighthearted a word to describe it. Before that it was Hillsborough, Grenfell, Test & Trace, lobbying and MPs house flipping. It would seem that whether it be police, politics pandemic or Post Office the ruling classes do whatever they damn well please without fear of retribution.

The Morgan and Langstaff (contaminated blood) inquiries have one thing in common. Theresa May. After nearly thirty years of refusal by successive, mainly Labour, Home Secretaries to consider the possibility that senior police officers might be bent, she alone stuck her neck out and ordered an inquiry. It found the Metropolitan Police was Institutionally corrupt, not only in 1987 but right now. Only one police officer lost his job over it, the one who tried to expose the shortcomings from within. Several less than honest Commissioners are collecting fat pensions.

As Prime Minister, Theresa May was not a shining example, but as a compassionate human being maybe she is. It was Theresa May who as Home Secretary ordered the Morgan inquiry in 2013 and as PM, Langstaff in 2017.

And now we have no spare prison places. How convenient.


21 May - Scouting suspicions; Statistics and Singh

I first became aware of Bexley’s Civic Awards in 2011 when I turned up early for a Full Council meeting and found something else going on. I had no idea what it was until the Mayor became all stroppy because the newcomers didn’t clap loudly enough. We had inadvertently barged into a Civic Awards ceremony. Succeeding Mayors have shown more sense and held separate meetings in relative privacy.

Last Friday another 39 volunteers were honoured, 24 in the Adults Group. Among them was Karen from Citizen’s Advice; Alf from the Air Cadets, Maureen who manages a Youth Group and Sharon who inspires children. David runs an Allotment Association, Andrei champions hockey teams in the borough along with musical inspiration Julie. Dominating the list is Derek, Lee, Richard, Dawn, Nicholas, Adam, Lynn, Andy, Vivienne, Daniel, Kirsty, Timothy, Alison and Chase representing local Scouts; Two Karens, a Sue and an Alison from Girl Guiding and Lucy who runs the Brownies. Robert Baden Powell would be proud.

Additionally Ilkay and Rauf were given Outstanding Achievement awards for service to the Turkish Community. The full list may be seen at

As I understand it, nominations are vetted by the current and former Mayor which this year would be Ahmet Dourmoush and James Hunt. Ahmet is a big wig in the Turkish School in Blackfen and James is top dog in South East London scouting; the Air Cadets too. Both excelling in their chosen fields as far as I can see.

On the other hand it looks to be a bit incestuous, something I have been reminded of before, but more likely it is nothing more than statistics. Two Turks is neither here nor there out of 39 awards and one might guess they took a leading role in the earthquake relief work last year.

Scouting is by far and away the biggest youth movement locally and probably nationally too and is run by huge numbers of volunteers. Each year more of them will qualify for an award nomination and the number will swamp any similar group. Are there any other similar groups in Bexley?

Except when Mr. Singh was given an award Bonkers has not reported on them but it is nothing new for the Scouts to collect the bulk of the awards. No one else seems to be very interested in making nominations, they have got into the habit of putting names forward while hardly anyone else has cottoned on.

Maybe that is a reason for abandoning the awards scheme or maybe more people should get involved, but given the nomination rules, Scouts will outnumber Singhs, and thank goodness for that.


20 May - Shameless

Yesterday’s blog very nearly didn’t get published because I considered it to be a barrel scrape too far and the number of readers who might be interested in disability issues would be few. But I had no better ideas and time was short - there was a train to catch - and the Publish button was hit rather than Delete.

What I hadn’t thought about is that the relatively few people who have an interest in SEND issues probably feel neglected and pleased to see some coverage of them. Hence more feedback than usual; but no one noticed that in my rush to catch the train the blog went on line with the wrong date and stayed that way for more than 24 hours.

One reader was so complimentary about what I considered to be yet another self-indulgent blog that I genuinely thought he was being sarcastic, That conversation strayed from SEND to my prediction that the political classes are so corrupt that it might lead to a “massive rebellion” and how I felt it had become necessary to be very careful about what one says in which sometimes feels like a Stalinist state.

JokeWe confessed to being racists (© Wes Streeting) because we both voted for Susan Hall which led to a discussion on Sadiq Khan.

As it happened I sat next to a Sadiq Khan lookalike while waiting for a Northern line train at Moorgate and facing him on the train the similarities were even more remarkable than the earlier side-on view. Same hair colour and style, same skin tone, nose and mouth shape; just a slightly less round face and the fact I was not riding in a bullet-proof limousine told me it wasn’t him. I felt sorry for the man; who would want go around unprotected looking like Sadiq Khan?

I mentioned how some of the comments I hear about Khan are unkind to say the least although maybe not undeserved. “What sort of things?” asked my new found friend. Hence the little joke pictured here. That sort of thing!

Yes I did laugh! Shameless!

There will be a Council meeting on Wednesday for those interested in more serious matters.


19 May - Bexley answers the question while most donְ’t

As an alternative hobby to submitting one hundred plus FOIs in not much over a year may I suggest one FOI to 100+ Councils? A lot less work for a similar amount of data.

While perusing WhatDoTheyKnow I was initially enthused by a list of Bexleyְ’s CCTV locations until I realised it was 15 years old and pre-dates the traffic spy cameras. If I may digress, yesterday I was approaching the Knee Hill traffic lights and the unnecessarily large yellow box when the car behind me switched on its blue lights and siren. It was unable to overtake so I used the rapid acceleration of the EV to very quickly tuck myself into the exit of Hurst Lane a few feet away from the lights so that ‘blue lights’ could pass. As the exit from the yellow box was clear when I entered it and I don’t think I actually came to a complete standstill I should be in the clear; but it is yet another example of how easily yellow box junctions dish out injustices and why no one is very happy about anything any more. Sooner or later there will be a massive rebellion.

Back to the WhatDoTheyKnow archive of FOIs. I found one which had gone to a large number if not all Councils. It was a simple enough request about the number of children being educated at home but many Councils regard the number as a State Secret while others said it would cost too much to count them all.

To its credit Bexley Council answered the question in full albeit a full two months late.

Probably it is not something of very wide interest but having dug out the answers it may as well be posted here.

1. How many children/young people within your Local Authority with an EHCP have no school or setting named in Section I of their Plan (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: 13
2. How many children/young people within your Local Authority with an EHCP are electively home educated (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: 26
3. How many children/young people within your Local Authority have been awarded and currently access Personal Budgets for Education (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: 21
4. How many of the Personal Budgets for Education currently accessed have been provided as part of an Education Otherwise Than At/In School or College (EOTAS(C)/EOTIS(C)) provision described in their Education Health and Care Plan (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: 13
5. How many of the Personal Budgets for Education currently accessed have been awarded to children/young people who are being Electively Home Educated (EHE) (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: 3
6. How many of the Personal Budgets for Education currently being accessed are awarded in the form of Direct Payments to families (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: All of the above
7. What is the total annual cost of Personal Budgets for Education within your Local Authority (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: £170,377.22. This varies all of the time but this figure is the agreed amounts as at Jan 24.
8. What is the total annual cost of Personal Budgets for Education allocated as Direct Payments to families within your Local Authority (as at Jan 24)?
Answer: As Q 7

I suppose it would be cheeky to point out that the authority that pays out £170,000 to families educating their SEND children at home lavishes quite a lot more on keeping their Director of Children's Services in the style to which he has become accustomed?

Note: SEND - Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
EHCP - Education, Health and Care Plan.
EOTASC/EOTISC - Education Other than In/At School or College.


18 May - A pain in the backside

It has now been established that Dimitri Shvorob is not vexatious but he may be A Very Naughty Boy guilty of harassment under the Environmental Information Regulations. Every time he asks a question that can be contorted into having an environmental impact, like the Information Commissioner’s example of Zebra crossings causing additional vehicle pollution, to which I might add its flashing beacon might cause one more gas fired power station to be fired up, poor old Dimitri will be in trouble. Any question which causes a stressed bureaucrat to sigh and expel additional Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere will put Dimitri’s question in jeopardy.

A ridiculous scenario obviously but that is where crooked decisions by crooked organisations lead us.

Somewhat to my surprise Dimitri was not critical of yesterday’s blog which trod an uneasy path between him and Bexley Council which had wrongly accused him of vexatiousness. By the legal definition maybe he is not vexatious but yesterday an email from me to him used the term “a pain in the backside” which amounts to much the same thing.

In my book anyone whose mission is to expose the worst aspects of Bexley Council cannot be all bad but his boundaries are different to mine. Collecting information as a hobby activity is unappealing to me and not just because there is a cost associated with it. An hour or two’s work on each FOI according to Bexley Council so one might guess that Dimitri’s 100+ FOIs came in at under £5,000. Not a lot in the grand scheme of things but a guess was not good enough for the mysterious Mr. Chapman who asked Cabinet Member David Leaf to be more precise.

Having posed the formal question in writing Mr. Chapman indulged in his own little bit of wastefulness by failing to turn up to put it to the Council in person and was apparently oblivious to the cost of asking a question which required far too much historical research. Deputy Leader Leaf was much more sensible and didn’t bother with dusting off his abacus and merely guessed that Dimitri has cost us all a few thousand pounds.

For David’s full answer click the extract above.

£5,000 or whatever the true figure may be will pale into insignificance compared to the cost of the months of ICO work; dreaming up a dubious legal workaround to dig Bexley Council out of its hole, writing a 31 page reply and handling the inevitable Appeal.

Everywhere one looks this country is bogged down by red tape and unnecessary regulations and the tax implication is why we all feel worse off. The FOIA was Tony Blair’s handiwork. What happened to David Cameron’s Bonfire of the Quangos? Another Tory lie which has led to the highest taxes ever.


17 May - Information Commissioner moves the goal posts

I have spent rather too long wading through the Information Commissioner’s 31 A4 page response to Dimitri Shvorob’s complaint about being labelled vexatious by Bexley Council and was a little surprised to find BiB named within in it. I was immediately ready to be critical of Bexley Council for informing the ICO of my reporting role in this affair when a more careful reading of it revealed that it was Mr. S. himself who had made a reference to Bonkers. He felt that the reporting of his exploits here might be a reason for him being treated harshly by Bexley Council.

BiB has not always fully supported Dimitri because he does things that I believe dilute his more reasonable enquiries. Where I would be content to see confirmation that Bexley Council is less than honest and quietly regard that as a success, he, in his own words, is “not a chap to suffer in silence”.

In the past I have attempted to be fair to both sides, Dimitri, because he can be a good source of news, and Councillors who do not deserve to be called “scumbags”. (When they are not!)

Some readers may have noticed the use of the word funambulism (tight-rope walking) to explain my dilemma.

While happy to record that Bexley Council sometimes acts like a bunch of crooks - because it undoubtedly has in the past - evidence of any recent repetition has to be solidly based. Refused FOIs are a reason for suspicion but are not proof. I do not approve of the Leader devoting a Full Council report to exaggerating her case against Dimitri to try to justify a refusal to answer his legitimate question while acknowledging that some are distinctly trivial and may well be annoying.

As correspondence with several Conservative Councillors would reveal; I have questioned what Dimitri actually does with the information he collects. There have been occasions in the fairly recent past when I have asked him for a copy of an FOI response and found that he doesn’t keep them - although he may do now - and he has himself had to ask Bexley Council to remind him of what questions he has asked. His excuse would be that they had taken six months to answer and Gmail only keeps mail for 90 days.

Direct MessageThis is not good and makes it hard to give unreserved support and I have told him that he tends to take things too far. The City Events/Lucy Beckwith business comes immediately to mind. I have felt that some follow-up questions have been knee-jerk reactions, the sort of thing that one might briefly consider as a mischievous wind-up but doesn’t actually do.

So what did the Information Commissioner make of it all?

He considered ten complaints and if I was being mischievous I would say that he found against Bexley Council in nine of them. But that would be misleading, the verdict was that Bexley Council was wrong to rely on the vexatious provisions (Section 14.1) of the Freedom of Information Act; vexatiousness being applicable to repeated questions rather than individuals.

The ICO believed that the Council should have relied on Section 12.4b of the Environmental Information Regulations which allows for rejection on the grounds of harassment. I can see some logic in using the Environmental laws in relation to a ULEZ question but to apply it to the provision of Zebra crossings as the ICO has done looks to be a stunt to circumvent the limitations of the FOIA vexatious provisions. The ICO attempted to justify their manipulation of the law but could come up with only one such example…

“Information about improvements to existing pedestrian crossings and proposed pedestrian crossing locations will affect the state of the elements as they will require changes to pavement layout and are likely to affect traffic flow, thus having an effect on vehicle emissions. Consequently, the information sought by these requests falls within the definition of environmental information.”

That must surely be a load of convoluted old nonsense which perfectly illustrates how officialdom is always able to twist the law in their favour.

Going down the EIR route with its harassment provisions rather than the FOIA and vexatiousness (which the ICO agrees cannot apply to Dimitri’s complaint) requires the public interest to be considered so the ICO had to return to Bexley Council to get them to retrospectively consider that issue.

The likelihood is that a devious ICO is well aware of this Get Out Of Jail Free Card and is happy to hand it to Councils on a plate. It makes Dimitri a relatively easy target.

Apart from his more recent questions relating to the pedestrian crossing he had hoped to see installed, Dimitri took a scatter-gun approach to FOIs with questions to 20 different departments averaging six questions a month. (None of which is illegal.)

Bexley Council took the view that the questions were of no public interest and served no purpose beyond Dimitri’s personal curiosity or even a desire to bog them down in bureaucracy. They claimed that the occasionally “combative” approach and the number of questions amounted to harassment. Having been recommended to use the Environmental Information Regulations instead of the FOIA Bexley Council were able to enforce their ‘FOI’ ban and Dimitri’s behaviour has left him a sitting duck under the EIRegs.

Bexley Council has had to back down on its total FOI ban - which explains them answering one last week - and have assured the ICO that they will answer any future ones which they deem to have an element of public interest.

The Commissioner has specifically rejected Dimitri’s assertion that his FOIs are unwelcome because a truthful response would damage the Council’s political leadership and I think they are right to do so. I have never considered that to be the case; more often it is the refusal to respond which is damaging and not any suspicion of what the answer may have revealed.

So how can all that be summarised? It appears that the BBC website on vexatiousness will not have to be rewritten but an unscrupulous ICO is more than willing to get around the law by defining a Zebra crossing as an environmental issue.

Bexley Council comes out of it reasonably well. The persistent ULEZ questions were undeniably ‘environmental’ so it was entitled to use the EIR (but lacked the legal expertise to know about it) and having been given the nod by a devious ICO it can hardly be blamed for switching the attack from Vexatiousness to Harassment.

The costs incurred by both the ICO and the Council must have been horrendous and one has to ask; For What? I cannot think of a single item to introduce here as an example of how we are all better off for knowing the answer to one of Dimitri’s questions.

And as if to prove that Dimitri is in combative mood, I have already seen his draft Appeal.

I think I now have a big splinter in my bum. Not being entirely for or against Bexley Council. Against some of Dimitri’s FOIs but fully behind his campaign for a clear petition statement from Bexley Council and fully confirmed in my opinion of the Information Commissioner’s Office. Their chosen deviancy was not predicted, only that the long wait for an answer indicated that they were up to some form chicanery. Is any Quango worth the expense? Do we have a partial explanation for the record 70 year high levels of taxation?


16 May - How did it go so wrong?

Tax promiseRather later than usual the 2024 table of London Council Tax rates has been completed. The advantage of waiting until May is that it gives the consistently lazy Councils; Camden, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark etc. time to get their latest rates on line, but there is not a lot that can be done about those that use the finest of grey fonts on a light grey background. Fortunately Bexley has never presented a problem and is notable only for being the biggest financial failure over the past 30 years.

In 1994 Bexley’s Band D tax rate was £340 a year and now it is £2,155. 30 years of inflation would have taken it to £691. Are services three times better? I think we know the answer.

Excluding the two Councils that went blue in 2022 Bexley retains its position as the highest taxing (consistently) Conservative borough in London.


15 May - ‘V’ for vexatious, vindictive, vendetta

As we move towards crunch time I cannot help but compare the allegedly vexatious Dimitri Shvorob with the late Michael Barnbrook who earned himself the same accolade from Bexley Council. Both knocked up more than 100 FOI requests, Dimitri single handedly while Mick did so over a much longer period while allowing himself to be an FOI funnel for five of his supporters.

Both gentlemen planned petitions which might embarrass Bexley and both were derailed by the Council’s unprincipled political maneuverings - an outright lie in Mick’s case.

Perhaps their worst ‘sin’ of all is that both put themselves forward for election as Councillors, twice in Mick’s case and once coming within a literal handful of votes short of success. Standing against a Conservative candidate is sure to reap retribution. Allotment campaigner Rita Grootendorst (Tory Bexley wanted to get rid of allotments) did it in Erith in 2010 and her 500 odd votes was easily enough to allow the Labour candidate to slip through and deprive the Tory Mayor of his seat. Unforgiveable!

Arrest ArrestRita was mercilessly pursued for her unorthodox gardening ideas despite them winning her an Award from The Royal Horticultural Society. Undeterred Bexley Council went down the legal route, first getting their mates from Arnsberg Way to arrest her and then seeing Rita in the Magistrate’s Court under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act. Bexley Council lost and as far as I know they gave up on being the nasty vindictive tyrants that too many of their employees are.

There are not many avenues through which to hit back at out of control authorities. There is the Information Commissioner, the Local Government Ombudsman and the Independent Office for Police Conduct or whatever they are calling themselves this week. (They have a record of changing their name every time their reputation is trashed by yet another scandal.)

My experience of the three of them is not very great - in both senses of the word. The [then] IPCC refused to look into Bexley police conniving with the CPS and Bexley Council in order to “resolve Councillor Craske’s situationְ” as they described his arrest. The IPCC reply was not so much as a refusal to investigate as a meandering mess that simply failed to comment on it. To this day I remain convinced that Craske was not charged with the criminality traced to his phone line because Boris Johnson, Mayor and Police Commissioner at the time, had given the order to de-arrest him; but we will never know for sure.

I think I only complained to the Local Government Ombudsman once and that was over the Council Leader reporting me to the police for ֧“criticising Councillors”. The LGO rejected my complaint on grounds which might be summarised as “any nut job can make a malicious report to the police and it is for the police to sift the wheat from the chaff”. I suppose in a way they were right.

I have no clear recollection of my few brushes with the ICO apart from them always coming up with some cock and bull story to excuse their friends in Council but Mick Barnbrook’s complaining about his vexatious label is easier to recall. The ICO upheld his FOI ban because he was a racist who had made enquiries about a black Monitoring Officer who had found the inquisition stressful. History showed that Mick’s suspicions were correct. The racist allegations could only have come from Bexley Council still angry that Mick very nearly defeated Steven Hall as a BNP candidate. Mick was no racist and joined the BNP in pre-UKIP days because it was the only anti-EU party.

It takes a long time for officialdom to construct a waterproof tissue of lies to build against a resident who has incurred their displeasure. The fact that I am still awaiting the ICO report from Dimitri - assuming he is still speaking to me after various implied criticisms - is probably not a good omen. Senior Council staff are nothing if not dishonest; they have to be to cover for their incompetence.


13 May - The gutter press

In the Gutter
Fly tippingHugh Neal’s Erith based blog reached a major milestone yesterday, its 1,000th weekly edition without a single break in 18 years. Hugh made the right decision when he chose a weekly interval. He won’t be getting emails enquiring after his health following three days of silence as I do. If he ever misses a Sunday it would surely mean very bad news.

As yesterday’s blog will have indicated, a public presence does tend to give an easy access to local Councillors. Hugh reported a nasty fly tip that appeared overnight in Appold Street this morning.

Councillor Borella (Labour Leader) responded 41 minutes later.

Out of the gutter
Badly swept Badly swept Badly sweptMy road was given its annual sweep this morning. The Country Style mechanical sweeper inevitably went down the middle of the road courtesy of the Elizabeth line commuters but fortunately the area right outside my house was clear so there was not much of an excuse for a poorly done job.

But it was poor nevertheless. The grit which has occupied the gutters for as long as I can remember was shifted nearer to the middle of the road.

Back in the gutter
Bexley has fallen foul of the Local Government Ombudsman again. The Council decided that a homeless father did not deserve more considerate treatment just because he had a young child to look after. They maintained this line of attack until faced with a Court Order.

They claimed that the father did not want to proceed with his housing application unless his son was included and closed the case. The Ombudsman found that Bexley did not explain their decision to the father and kept no contemporaneous notes or telephone recordings to support their excuses to the Ombudsman who unsurprisingly ruled against the Council. They were ordered to apologise to the claimant and pay him £200 compensation.

It’s becoming something of a habit.

Note: The original complaint is a year old; the LGO ruling was made in March 2024.


12 May - A new lark in the park

Labour Councillors's surgery Labour Councillors's surgeryA rare fine day for the Lesnes Abbey Farmerְ’s Market today and the local Councillors (Belvedere ward) came up with the novel idea of being there to hold an impromptu surgery.

I didn’t like to intrude as they were busy at the time I wandered by and in any case I was dressed like a tramp because Iְְ’d merely taken just a few minutes out from a small gardening job.

Please excuse the particularly poor mobile phone photos taken at a distance but that is unmistakably Councillor Sally Hinkley.

X/TwitterNever slow to be critical of Councillors who don’t do surgeries @tonyofsidcup immediately popped up with a Twitter/X question.

Maybe Councillor Hinkley will forgive me if I partially answer the question for her. Over the past week she has given me advice about what can be done to tackle a bad landlord and dug out some information about a questionable planning decision; both BiB postbag items that did not merit a mention here.

She also did me a little favour that has absolutely nothing to do with Bexley Council, just a nice gesture from someone who tries to do nice things.

Daniel can speak for himself; or choose not to if he has any sense!


11 May - Marking time

For Blog Number 7,013 it is barrel scraping time again.

Yesterday’s report that Bexley Council had responded to @tonyofsidcup’s FOI request by saying they did not know who represented them on the Oxleas NHS Trust is likely to be them resorting to buggering him around again. It is foolish to assume that Bexley Council will be straight forward and honest about anything. A quick look at Oxleas website reveals that Councillor Janice Ward-Wilson (Conservative, Crook Log) serves as Governor at the Trust; and if that is not enough it is only six months since Bexley Council announced that appointment.
Oxleas Trust
@tony had asked for information on the last four years of appointments. That information remains unavailable due to Bexley Council’s ignorance.

Aaron Newbury being Janice’s predecessor doesn’t look to be very democratic. He is an unelected Conservative activist, not a Councillor entitled to represent the population at the NHS Trust.

It took years for Bexley Council to approve the Lidl store in Belvedere but a similar proposal for Erith has fared rather better. 233/00298/FULM in Fraser Road was approved a couple of days ago in only 18 months. 18 Conditions imposed, among them not to open for customers before 8 a.m. or after 22:00.

Funambulism again
Coincidence I am sure but since sticking my neck out two days ago by saying that the leading Labour Councillors have always been ready to engage in correspondence on Council matters, two matters have arisen which merited a few words and in both cases a helpful response came flying back.

I may have been critical of them from time to time but not so often that I can remember when, but it is only Conservative Councillors who are so thin-skinned that they block me from looking at their Twitter/X posts.

Councillor June Slaughter
Sidcup rubbishA last minute edit on 9th May saw some praise for Councillor Slaughter stripped from the narrative on the grounds that reminding the Council Leader that in 2014 June was the only Councillor who stood against a Council campaign of lies might get her into retrospective hot water, but casting caution to the wind June gets another well deserved credit here.

Following @tony’s (him again!) complaint that Sidcup High Street was strewn with rubbish Councillor Slaughter got busy. It is not appropriate to reveal every string pulled but suffice to say that the culprit has been identified and the problem should now go away.


10 May - Sorry. No idea

You must know by now that a resident who asks to be identified here only as @tonyofsidcup (which is difficult to do when Bexley Council publishes his real name in their Full Council Agenda) has been declared vexatious for making too many Freedom of Information requests. A legally dubious decision upon which the Information Commissioner has been pontificating for several months.

In what may be an indicator of things to come an FOI which @tony submitted on 1st May has been answered by Bexley Council. Disappointingly they have no idea who represented Bexley on the Oxleas NHS Trust in recent years which is a bit odd to say the least but at least @tony received a polite response.


9 May - Funambulism

According to Bexley Council’s website there will be a Council meeting in two weeks time but none at all in June. Maybe they are just slow to update their meetings page but it currently looks like Bonkers will struggle to report anything significant for a while. Maybe the Information Commissioner will rule against Bexley soon in the vexatious FOIs dispute but apart from that it looks like trivia will once again be ruling the roost here.

Yesterday’s suggestion that Bexley Labour had something to celebrate brought forth a contrary view. Not so much on the LGBTQ+ issue but the fact that Bonkers does not generally give Bexley Labour a particularly hard time.

The reason is not hard to find. 60 years of political observation taught me to be wary of left wing parties but there can be no denying that locally Labour’s elected Members have always, since 2009 anyway when I began to take a closer interest in them, been well intentioned and scrupulously honest.

The new complaint is that if you ask a Labour Councillor a question the answer will be the same as if you ask a Conservative. That is that you won’t get a reply at all. And if you ask a Labour Councillor to help in a dispute centred on a dubious policy exercised by the Conservative Council they wonְְ’t. Ergo; they are all the same.

I have no recent experience of that sort of thing but it certainly used to be the case that Labour Councillors could be relied upon to do the decent thing when their Conservative counterparts were lying their socks off. Maybe it is different now. If I include just the odd word here and there I can still only muster six names out of Bexley’s twelve Labour Councillors who I have ever spoken to or corresponded with. That’s 50% but on the Tory side the figure falls below 30%.

I am pretty sure that if I emailed a question to either of the two most recent Labour Leaders I would get a reply within 48 hours and probably a very comprehensive and detailed one. We may not always agree politically but there are no obvious signs that civility has flown out of the window.

One can only speculate on how it is that an anti-Tory email sent to every Labour Councillor came to be totally ignored. Perhaps the two parties are in some respects ‘all in it together’ as alleged or maybe there is a history of which I am not fully aware.

Perhaps it would be best not to fill in between meetings with trivia? Anyone know who the next Mayor will be? Maybe it is time we had a really poor one again to liven things up a bit.


8 May - Something to celebrate

Bexley’s Labour Group has had a good couple of weeks. First their LGBTQ+ Motion supported by the Conservatives and then their man avoided defeat on May 2nd; although 111,216 Bexley/Bromley residents may be less than happy.

However the former deserves celebration and Labour Leader Stefano Borella has issued a Press Release.(PDF.)


6 May - Intelligence required

There were two messages of support for the mini-rant about my 49 minute six mile journey to Sidcup last Friday both of them providing examples of how Bexley Council has gone out of its way to make travel more difficult.

Unfortunately both have been reported here before. A lost slip lane in Danson Road can cause tail backs to Crook Log and before and after photos may be seen here.

Nearer home is Florence Road, a previously minor residential route which has become the only road exit from Abbey Wood’s Elizabeth line station and bus terminal. (About 12 buses an hour.) During the morning and evening rush the deliberately engineered congestion in what is a one-way street has a knock on effect in Wilton Road, up Knee Hill and along Abbey Road which in urn blocks the exit from Fossington Road. The sort of clever stuff which one has come to expect from Councils.
Fossington Road

Left: North. Right: Southern exit on to Abbey Road. Top centre: Fendyke Road.

To be fair to Bexley Council they made most of their changes in 2001, long before the Elizabeth line became a consideration. Then in May 2009 they installed the exit width restriction. The Conservative Councillor for the area at the time, one John Davey, pronounced it utterly bonkers and as with many things he was right. As is often the case in Bexley, the idiocy was engineered by Andrew Bashford, subsequently promoted to be head of the Highways Department.

The weekend suggestion goes further than my own. It calls not only for the width restriction to be taken away along with the parking bays at the southern end but also the removal of the footpath opposite which goes from nowhere to nowhere.

There is absolutely no need for it. Nobody heading on foot to the station from the south or west will use it when there are much shorter options and those coming from the east would use the east side footpath.

Removing the west side footpath would allow Florence Road to be wider than it was when it was a two-way street so it would be more than good enough for two lanes (eastbound and westbound) to exit on to Abbey Road and relieve Fendyke Road residents of the high speed rat run.

Such a scheme would however require intelligent thought and there of course lies the major impediment to such a scheme. Maybe John Davey could sponsor it, he had the foresight to predict the problem 15 years ago? Bonkers he said then, absolutely bonkers now.


4 May - Another reason not to vote for Rishi Sunak

This afternoon’s news is another reason to want to see Rishi Sunak and his Parliamentary party totally annihilated. He failed to back his candidate in the London Mayoral election which must surely mean that he secretly backs Sadiq Khan. C40 cities, Net Zero, crime unchecked, higher taxes, unlimited immigration etc. What is the point of a Conservative who is nothing like one? Absolutely nothing.

London as we used to know it will not survive another four years of Khan and I doubt I will still be living here in 2028.

On a slightly related issue I have continued to Mute (on X/Twitter) anyone who posts juvenile or abusive comments. It makes for a much better reading experience. This afternoon I realised as a name disappeared from view that I had Muted a Bexley Councillor. I decided against reversing the decision because I don’t think I have ever read anything worthwhile from that particular source.

I am wondering how the X algorithm will deal with a Follow and a Mute on the same account. @tonyofsidcup survives by a whisker.


3 May - Delay by design

At the last Full Council meeting Leader Teresa O’NeilI expressed her frustraton at the disruption to travel in the borough caused by a plague of utility road works. I think she might do better to look at her own policies over the past 18 years.

This morning I needed to be in Pett’s Wood by nine o’clock, a distance of exactly ten miles from home or 10·3 via Sidcup High Street to avoid the stupid width restrictor on The Green. I left at eight o’clock precisely and the first six miles to Sidcup took 49 minutes. Once across the boundary with Bromley it was plain sailing, four miles in 14 minutes.

The really slow going began at the northern end of Penhill Road where there was a queue to enter it. Local readers will recognise that I was taking pretty much the route of the SL3 Express bus. It would have taken at least 25 minutes to get from Penhill Road to Sidcup. The scheduled time from Bexleyheath Library to Chislehurst station.

There were no utility works, no cones, no temporary traffic lights. The problem is increased traffic and junctions designed to restrict flow. Five minutes might have been saved if Rectory Lane was closed off.  That corner gets blocked because traffic cannot turn into the Lane because of traffic emerging from it. For those unfamiliar with the area, it is a single track road with passing places. I have not driven down it since 2012 when I struggled to get through it in my then new tiny Kia Picanto.

Black sacks were in evidence on Sidcup High Street again but were gone when I returned 45 minutes later.


2 May - Sidcrap

I thought that blocked drains was the most obvious sign of Council neglect in Bexley but not everyone agrees. The streets of Sidcup are said to be littered with rubbish but is that really the same? Blocked drains are wholly Bexley Council’s responsibility whereas filth on the streets is put there by people. Traders have to pay for waste collection so the sacks are probably from residential flats above the shops and without rear access. Missed ‘bins’ become an even more serious problem if they are sacks and left at the mercy of any passing fox, or rat or crow.

When were those footpaths last jet-washed?
Sidcup rubbish Sidcup rubbish Sidcup rubbish Sidcup rubbish

Note: I unexpectedly found myself passing this spot at 16:50. It was clear of rubbish. Councillor June Slaughter knew who to call. 50 years of experience paid off!


1 May - A Fantastic Fun Fifty

June SlaughterCouncil Leader Teresa O’Neill did us the usual favour of reducing her 26 page report to Full Council to a mere six minutes and 19 seconds but managed to use her favourite word, ‘fantastic’ within the first sentence. It was the unanimous Con/Lab vote on the LGBT+ Motion that won the praise, quickly followed by two more Fs. Councillor Stefano Borella’s Fiftieth birthday and Councillor June Slaughter’s Fifty years as a Bexley Councillor. “It is a Fun time all round tonight.ְ”

She praised the staff who had turned out during the recent storms and commiserated over the borough wide road works. She had reminded the Government that Outer London still has digital black spots and Cabinet Member Caroline Newton had spent the day with the Education Minister discussing SEND issues. “The DfE has been very complimentary over the SEND improvement plan.”

The Leader took credit for the SuperLoop extension from Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood and Thamesmead and she has also asked that the DLR be extended to Belvedere.

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) asked the Leader to praise the reduction in missed bin collections and the newly installed litter bins. Cabinet Member Diment answered. “It is a tribute to those that go out in all weathers and pick up around a million bins a month, 99·98% of them without error.”

The first of the new bins have been installed in Blackfen and more will be installed over the next nine or ten months.

Councillor Peter Reader (Chairman of the Audit Committee) asked a more erudite question. Could the Leader assess the Government’s proposals to tackle the backlogs and delays to Local Authority audits by external auditors?

Deputy Leader Leaf was keen to answer. “It is a very important issue and there is a massive backlog and there is a process in place to draw a line under audits which have gone back over many many years. Unfortunately Bexley is caught up despite our accounts being ready in time.” 2022/23 is still outstanding.

Councillor Borella mentioned the Children Services overspend and asked how confident the Council is that it will not repeat the overspend this year and how far away is the next Capitalisation Directive? This Government has not given Bexley a Fair Funding Review despite the Leader seeking help at the Local Government Association, London Councils and the House of Lords. “What is going on? Nothing!”

“Should she not reflect on her position after 17 years?”

Stefano said he was talking to the Mayor about more Superloops, for Welling perhaps? The Council should cooperate with their counterparts in Greenwich.

The Leader said she was working very hard on budgetary issues and every penny of expenditure is being monitored. “The reality is that there are unknowns at the moment with multi-year settlements.” (A reference to the forthcoming election.) “Bexley is punching above its weight and I am proud of that.”

Councillor Lisa Moore (Conservative, Longlands) asked what progress is being made with the reorganisation of Children’s Centres. Cabinet Member Read said the changes went live in November 2021 “with the aim on focusing on the first 1,0001 days of a child’s life which is based on the Government’s guidance document. Most registrations are coming from the more deprived areas of the borough indicating that the targeted services do correlate with the needs of the community as intended. 1,056 children are attending regularly.”

Councillor Larry Ferguson (Labour, Thamesmead) said that the Leaderְ’s written report acknowledged that “housing problems are significant but she does not get to grips with them. She says that it is further exacerbated by Government Agencies working on designated schemes for asylum seekers and refugees. There is also the problem of other London boroughs placing their homeless in Bexley.”

“The party opposite is well aware of the problem but does not want to take the bold step of building or strictly enforcing our own construction targets for affordable homes. We are in a desperate situation. They could use the unused £3 million allocated to affordable housing through BexleyCo but you either want to spend the money or you don’t. They could take a hard look at their own planning system. It won’t do for developers to rock up with proposals and bold-facedly come back to say that affordable homes do too much damage to their profit margins. There must be some developers who can meet our needs to some degree at least but BexleyCo has put forward yet another plan for Erith with no affordable housing. Where is BexleyCo providing affordable homes?” [This is a condensed version of Larry’s lengthy speech.]

Teresa O’Neill responded by saying that Larry should speak to his Labour Councils who block book accommodation in Bexley hotels which puts the cost of controlling the anti-social behaviour that occurs in those hotels on Bexley’s taxpayers.

Cabinet Member Cafer Munur said that £3·5 million is an extremely small amount of money [fewer than 20 houses?] and he wants “a bigger bang from the buck”. He had to go back several years to Old Farm Place to find a significant BexleyCo build of affordable homes. It then transpired that it was only twelve homes.

Fortunately for Cafer the Mayor decreed that it was time to bring down the curtain on the Leader’s Report.


News and Comment May 2024

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