Sunday, May 17, 2009

Councillor Parker speaks...

Well I seem to be doing well this week, having annoyed Councillor Nigel Fletcher I now seem to have needled Councillor Gary Parker too.

Well at least I'm an equal opportunity annoyance.

Anyway I do give my Councillors a fair amount of stick on this web site so I think that it's only fair that I share his response. It might well be that you agree with him and you think that they are doing a good job, please read and make your own mind up.

I have read your blog today with interest, you say in it that Floyd Road - your road has been cleaner than it has been for some time (your blog dated 16/5/09)- this is due to action by ward councillors and officers to address this issue. Then you claim later in the blog that the council is indifferent to this and is happy to have rotting food in the streets etc- is this not somewhat contradictory?. You also claim the council is wasting tax payers money on these issues, yet as I have explained to you previously, due to our recycling facility in Thamesmead the council recycles over 40% of its waste- the highest in London, saving money on expensive landfill. We provide more collections than many other local authorities and are still saving council tax payers money too, some local authorities only provide bi-weekly collections for some items of waste.

The fact is, ward and other councillors including myself have taken action on this issue, and when it has been brought to our attention we have acted quickly and so have officers- none of us have been indifferent to it as you claim. It is people who dump rubbish, not the council and we need to educate and inform people on these issues- which we also do through the council website, leaflets etc.

Officers are working on these issues and the enforcement team has been out in the area and officers have met with you and corresponded with you personally, have they not? As I have intimated to you before, the council is constantly reviewing this issue and looking at other areas/ councils more models of best practise- in Tory Bexley for example they fined people £12 for non compliance on these issues, this was then replaced with a policy of non- collection. Neither of these has worked particularly well and the latter could be counter productive – if you have any suggestions I would be interested to hear them.

In the meantime myself and my co- councillors have been working to support local community groups working to address a number of issues which will involve community action day on local environmental (not just waste issues) issues in July. We have also dealt with a wide range of other issues and casework regarding other issues too and will continue to do so.

As far as I am concerned I reject your assertions that ward councillors are indifferent on these issues and as you are aware, I have responded personally to you on several occasions this year alone and will continue to address these issues not only in Floyd Road but other parts of Charlton as and if they arise.

And here's my response:

Thank you for your email. I am grateful for the level of contact you have had with me and I hope that I've been open about how you do keep in touch on the blog.

Yes my road is cleaner than it has been in some time. However that is the result of the Council doing daily collections, and we seem to only be getting those because I've been pushing and complaining for over a year. Those daily collections are not the solution to the problem and will, in my opinion, make the problem worse as people continue to see that they can throw what they want into the street and it will be taken away.

That it's taken a year of letters, emails, chats to the staff at waste services, silly tables of monkeys and blog entries to reach a situation when the same problems are still being reacted to rather than fixed does, in my opinion, make is reasonable to question the Council's level of concern and commitment over the issue.

Yes the problem is ultimately with the people who are ignoring the new scheme. However we didn't have these problems with the old system so they are directly connected with the arrival of the new scheme. You're right to say you do need to educate and inform people about the issues, and that's just what's not happened until quite possibly the last few weeks.

And as for the comment about other Councils "only" offering bi-weekly collection of some waste I would remind you that that was Greenwich Councils' original intention too. However that intention evaporated in Floyd Road some time ago as extra collections were introduced to keep a lid on the problems and finally vanished borough wide relatively recently. I see nothing wrong in bi-weekly collections for some waste, I believe that the original version of the new bin scheme could have worked. However when problems appeared rather than resolve them the Council just seems to have backed away and implemented the easiest "fix" rather than stand by their plans.

Sometimes my emails and blog entries can be somewhat bitter however I would remind you that I've spent a year just trying to get my street back to the level of cleanliness that we used to have. I've had to also spend that year weaving along a pavement blocked with overspilling uncollected bins or sacks of torn apart waste with their rotting contents scattered all around. I've also had to frequently read in sources such as Greenwich time about how well the new scheme is going and how there were only a few teething problems, which just rubs salt into the wounds.

It's not been a good year.

We've still got the the same problems that I wrote to the Council about back in March 2008.

I defy anyone to call the current situation a success or say that we got to it quickly.

A "success" would be easy to measure, clean streets with no extra or special collections. We're not there 16 months into the "new" scheme, and I think that's really quite depressing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

OfBlog's back again

In my apparent role as OfBlog I'm pleased to announce that we've seen a flurry of online local Conservative action.

No seriously I am, really.

I've not got the highest faith in the local "opposition" however regardless of my feelings it's great to see some activity and some information.

With a turnout in my ward of less than 40% the current shambles that we call a Council is genuinely vulnerable to being ousted, or at least so threatened with being ousted that they actually converse with us (which is different from talk to, on an occasional basis) and work for us.

So local political debate is great, hopefully we might get a Council that cares. However to do that we've got to wake up the 60% of the people who don't vote, connect with and inform them.

Anyway we have a new blog by one of the Conservatives standing as a Councillor for Charlton here:

And Councillor Nigel Fletcher has struck back at my claims that he's more interested in getting himself an expenses account in Westminster than in Greenwich with some interesting posts about what the Council is getting up to.

Thinking about all of this it's actually rather telling of the depths of my despair with my local Councillors and the Council as a whole that I, a Labour supporter, am telling people to go and look at what the Conservatives have to say. Well we've got about a year to question them and see what they have to say before we have to decide who's really interested in running this borough.

One thing that I learned from Councillor Fletcher was that one of my local Councillors, Alan MacCarthy, has been elected to be Mayor.

Now I've initiated contact with my Councillors twice over the past year. Both of those times Councillor MacCarthy has taken a while to respond and then when he basically just passed the buck onto his colleagues.

And now he's got another post he's going to be even less involved in his ward than he is already, if such a thing is possible.

And people wonder why I'm sceptical about my Councillors and their level of commitment?

Perhaps the title of Mayor should go to the Councillor who's worked hardest for his constituents? We certainly wouldn't see Councillor MacCarthy get it then...

Bin Bag Blog

Once upon a time this blog was labelled Bin Blog due to my recording of my struggles with the Council over the filthy state they left my street in and the lack of concern or interest that they showed over it. I think was meant to be a criticism but I quite liked the sound of it.

Anyway since they've taken away my bins I guess I should relabel myself as Bin Bag Blog as rather than having rubbish bins dumped out and overspilling on the pavement we now just get the bin bags, which act like some kind of rotting food cluster bomb once the local wildlife gets at them.

Well certain people are still dumping rubbish out in plastic carrier or bin bags on pretty much any day of the week, some muppet even did it on Tuesday just one day after our normal collection.

However the Council's promised daily collection does now finally appear to be in swing and they have been cleared up.

But what are the Council actually doing to avoid them having to do those extra collections, which surely can't be cheap. I've been told that the enforcement team are also monitoring the road, but it seems to be the same people throwing the bags out every time.

So is there actually any effort being made to talk to those people?

Or is the Council just going for the sticking plaster tactic of covering up the problem without tackling it?

On the one hand my street is cleaner than it has been in a long time, which is good.

On the other my Council tax is being wasted and people are being actively encouraged to throw out what they want when they want by having it taken away on a daily basis.

Greenwich Council.
Indifferent to rotting food in your streets.
Indifferent to the causes of rotting food in your streets.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Conservatives in Action (and in avoidance)

As I posted the other day Councillor Nigel Fletcher made a blog posting defending his focus on national rather than local political issues. That happened hot on the heels of me posting an entry about local Conservatives seem to have their eyes on Westminster and not on Greenwich.

Well I responded to that in detail here but I also left a comment on Nigel's block basically taking the same angle.

Now comments on Nigel's block require approval, which is good common sense, I do the same thing.

My comment has not yet appeared, however Nigel has been back on his blog and made two new entries. They're both on the same subject, but I guess breaking it into two can help him improve his 50:50 local:national split.

So he's logged on, so surely he saw my comment, yet it's not been published.

I wonder why......

Councillor Spencer Drury has also popped up again commenting that for what it is worth, quite a lot of my ward work is shown at It isn't relevant to the Greenwich and Woolwich constituency, but does show what I spend my time doing in my ward.

So I checked it out.

There are 7 postings for this year. That's not even 2 per month.

If that does show "quite a lot" of the work he does in his ward then I couldn't help but think, "well that's still not very much is it".

I'm being really tugged around time wise at the moment with many things demanding my attention, however even I've managed to maintain a better post rate than that. It's hardly something that I'd use to defend myself against allegations that I'm really not that interested in something.

Anyway check out the links and make your own mind up.

On the positive side he seems to be more engaged with his area than my three local Councillors, though that's not saying a great deal.

For those who are thinking that all of this is getting a bit political, well yes, it is, and rightly so.

Our Labour Councillors have sat back for the last year letting filth pile up in our streets. Either it's an incredibly hard problem to solve, though they had no problem before the "new scheme", or they simply don't care.

Meanwhile the so-called local "opposition" have seemingly sat back with their eyes glazed over dreaming dreams of Westminster and a nice little expense account.

In the last election the turn out for Charlton was 37%.

For every person that did vote nearly two people didn't.

We can change things, we can vote in people who care and will work for us.

However to do that we need to be informed and we need to demonstrate the willingness to get out there and vote. Someone who stays at home with the misguided belief that they won't vote until someone engages with them is someone that the main stream political parties can simply forget about. They only bother worrying about the people that will vote.

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that the only hope for Greenwich is something outside of the main political system, perhaps even a residents party. However I remain passionately convinced that we can change things, and with just 37% of the people being bothered to vote there's a huge potential vote waiting to be tapped...

Edited to add: Aside from his comment below Councillor Fletcher has written a substantial rebuttal of my accusations of lack of interest in Greenwich poltitics. It's well worth a read, click here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

What the Council Do Do....

Well the Council can't, or can't be bothered to, keep the streets clean so what do they do?

Well as I've said before Jim Wintour is the Director of Neighbourhood Services and is therefore responsible for the mess. However it seems to he's too busy investigating horse based sporting events to reply to emails or do his job.

So what of Maureen O'Mara who is, as it turns out, is the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services.

Well I was somewhat surprised to read her name when catching up with the news in an article about age verification for online shops. You can read the story here but the key part is this quote from her:

"Although a small sample, our findings from this operation seem to show the danger to which young people can be exposed on the internet".

OK kids being able to order knives online is a bit of a problem but what about the danger that local residents are exposed to from broken class and rotting food in the streets due to Councillor O'Mara's department not doing it's job?

Isn't that more within "Neighbourhood Services" remit and therefore worthy of more time than giving quotes to the BBC?

Or could it be that it's not just opposition Councillors who prefer to tackle the risk free low hanging juicy fruits of national issues rather than stick their neck out and try to tackle local problems where they can really make a difference?

It's nice to know that "Greenwich Council has written to all the web firms involved in the test" but they couldn't find the time to tell me they were taking all of our bins away or to reply to my recent emails...

Greenwich Conservative's Response

As I've commented upon Councillor Spencer Drury has become involved in what has now been a year long struggle to get the Council to keep my street clean.

Well it also appears that there's been a minor flurry of other local Conservative action, coincidence?

The first sign was a leaflet through my door from them. It all appears to be pretty generic and recent(ish), but undated, material. Most interestingly though they have said that there is a "Charlton action team". They are Richard Shackleton, James Garry and Louis McLean-Wait. Could this be a new dynamic trio to replace the current "couldn't give a monkey's" trio of Labour Councillors that we have?

Well if the street problems aren't sorted out maybe I'll give them a poke and see if they can get any kind of a resolution.

You can contact them at

I am somewhat suspicious of the local Conservatives and believe that too many of them view Greenwich as a stepping stone to a nice expense account in Westminster rather than as something that actually want to passionately serve. I said as much in a recent post.

Well one of the examples I used in that post, Councillor Nigel Fletcher, has recently published what appears to be somewhat of a retort. It's his only posting in May and given how many, if not most, of his postings don't have anything to do with the borough it does look a bit coincidental...

He says: "I have often been criticised on this blog for focusing too much on national politics, but I make no apology for doing so again. The truth is that what happens in Westminster has a real effect on people across the country, and the people I represent in Eltham North, and people across the Borough of Greenwich, can see this Government is failing them. We need change at the top, and a new Government is the only way we will get that."

It's a well written response but one that I just don't agree with. So to Nigel in particular and his ilk in general I say....

Yes what is happening in Westminster does have an enormous effect on the people of Greenwich, however questioning and working on those issues is the job of the opposition MPs and the national Conservative party.

Those national focussing Conservatives are therefore too busy dealing with those "bigger" issues to deal with the smaller ones that affect the day to day lives of people within Greenwich. They have delegated responsibility for that to you, if you drop that responsibility so as to chase after their scraps in Westminster then who is left to challenge the Council?

You acknowledge that there are problems with Greenwich's schools, social services, housing and responsible usage of our Council tax.

And then there's the plethora of other issues that pop up on a day to day basis that the Council seems to deal with badly. We've had our roads badly gritted, ground up glass used as grit, rubbish piling up in the streets, dodgy dealings over free air race tickets and the waste of money on a corporate box at the O2. Actually you'd best not tackle the box at the O2, until you were named and shamed your snout was rammed right into that trough right alongside Chris Roberts (read about that here, scroll down a bit, oh Greenwich Watch, you are missed...).

Those issues are what you should be dealing with and what I would expect to see a true local opposition writing and campaigning about.

Taking Greenwich away from the current group of disinterested and arrogant Labour Councillors will be tricky and it will take a lot of work. Devoting so much of your time to national issues is not only doing nothing to advance peoples confidence in you as a potential local Government but also damages that cause by giving the impression that you're not interested in what is really going on around here.

Proving that a Conservative Councillor is interested in the real low down and dirty problems of Greenwich when it's not just the few weeks before an election will do far more to set Greenwich right than talking about how "call me Dave" acknowledged your existence.

However not talking about your connections with the national party won't bring their attention upon you, which will slow down your climb out of Greenwich to a seat and an expense account at Westminster.

However what are you in this for?

I'll drop my cards right on the table, I have never once voted Conservative in any type of election.

However they can prove that they really are committed to making a difference to the borough and it is here that their passion and interest lies then I can see myself looking beyond the blue rosette and voting for the person behind it.

Right now though that just simply isn't the case.

Greenwich Council's Response

Well my street has been cleaned and the rubbish has been taken away, but other than that not one person from either the Council or the ruling Labour party has seen fit to give me any kind of a reply or response to my email.

Now Google's a wonderful thing, it indexes pages on the web and makes them searchable for years after they were written. So in the interests of any any inquiring mind who goes goggling for details on any of these people over the next few years let's name them nice and clearly here.

If you have any doubt as to the power of Google then try searching for "Councillor Gary Parker", I'm in there at number 2 right after Greenwich Council's own site.

What these people do, or fail to do, will stick around on the internet for years...

On the positive side that also means that if they do pull their finger out of wherever it's been stuck for the last year then that will also go on record.

Unfortunately my cunning plan that holding these people up to the dim light of what public accountability I can provide may get results is somewhat hobbled by the fact that not only do the Council clearly not care about Charlton, but they don't appear care who knows that they don't care. Why else would we have a year of inaction?

Anyway, on with the naming.

These are the people who I've contacted and have had absolutely nothing to say:
Councillor Allan MacCarthy
Councillor Gary Parker
Councillor Janet Gillman
Councillor Chris Roberts
Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services
Ray Collingham, Assistant Director of Neighbourhood Services

It's interesting to note that throughout the most recent saga of the Council taking all of our bins away Jim Wintour, the man nominally in charge of waste services, hasn't replied to me once.

Even Councillor Allan MacCarthy found time to reply to me, even if it was to do his usual trick of passing dodging any kind of responsibility and laying it onto his colleagues.

However perhaps I'm being too harsh on Mr Wintour, he is after all Greenwich's resident equine sporting expert and is therefore no doubt far too busy to actually do his job.

So perhaps I should send him the following photo, maybe that would combine his experience with what he's actually meant to be doing and would get the job done....