Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The new bin scheme "is generally seen to be working"

I've had an email from Councillor Gary Parker replying to my response to his comments on a blog entry about the costs of the new bin scheme (166% more rubbish lorries).

It contains a statement that's one of the funniest statements I've heard in 2008, either that or either Councillor Parker or myself is incredibly out of touch with the opinion's of Greenwich residents.

The statement?

"the new system is generally seen to be working and both improving the environment locally & regionally"

Seen to be working by whom? I don't remember my street looking like a rubbish dump before the new scheme came in and my efforts to be green have resulted in more than double the number of polluting rubbish trucks trundling up and down my street.

My local friends seem to be equally fed up with the new scheme and other local bloggers have been critical.

So am I and my friends in the minority and on the whole local people think the new system has made things better?

Or is Councillor Parker making it up?

I'll send a response to him later, for the moment I'm too busy alternating between laughter and a concern that I'm living in some weird parallel universe, besides there's parties to be got ready for.

Happy new year to everyone and in the mean time here's the Councillors email in full:

Thank you for giving me space on your blog, to put forward the points I detailed in my previous emails. I would prefer not to get caught up in too much detail on this issue without seeking clarification on a number of issues you have raised. As I am not personally responsible for day to day management of the service, I will forward this email to council officers for their comments.
I would add though:
  • While are still things that need to be improved in both waste collection and environmental improvements, the new system is generally seen to be working and both improving the environment locally & regionally and saves significant sums of money
  • Myself and other ward councillors are working on initiatives to improve the environment and involve local people, work with CCRA as described in my previous email is only the first step
  • We will provide further information later in 2009 to local people, once we have consulted local community groups and developed some further proposals with these groups

Happy new year to you, all your readers and Charlton residents alike

Cllr Gary Parker
Charlton Ward

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Councillor Gary Parker Responds...

Councillor Gary Parker has emailed me about my last blog entry.

I'm very grateful that he's done this and I will be replying in full. For the moment though and in the interest of giving the Council a right of reply here is what he said to me:

I have just read your blog dated 18/12/08 regarding rubbish collection, many of the points including the statistics are either misinformed or just plain wrong, rather than rebut them point by point, I would like to point out a few facts that are not in your blog

1) The new recycling & collection system is both environmentally friendly- thanks to our recycling centre in Thamesmead (the MRF) we now recycle up to 40% of waste materials, this results in less landfill, significantly less journeys to landfill sites, less lorry journeys and has less environmental impact and pollution.

2) It also saves the council tax payer and the council money

3) We are now one of the highest recycling local authorities in the UK and the MRF centre is state of the art and the envy of many other local authorities- try quoting another local authority in the surrounding areas who can match this or provide a similar service.

4) The council is trying to educate people on recycling and associated issues, if we start taking other action against people without trying to educate them first, no doubt we will be accused of acting like ‘big brother’ ‘nanny state’ etc. If you read the rest of Cllr Sidhu’s letter and enclosures you will see information regarding the recycling programme and associated issues, this is something you did not bother to quote in your blog

5) Some local authorities give their residents up to 6 boxes or bins to recycle various materials, so I think your point on the numbers of bins etc, without comparison is not well made.

6) I think it is the height of cynicism to suggest we would rather cut children’s services to pay for more bins- you do not understand the budgeting process ( some grants from central govt are ‘ring fenced’ and in many cases we have a legal obligation to provide certain services, so we cannot just switch funding from one area to another, as you seem to suggest in this case, even if we wanted to- which we don’t) and that report is very inaccurate, we are not going to cut ‘front line’ children’s services , as you will see in due course, once the new proposals are in the public domain.

7) Greenwich Council provides very good value for money and over the last few years the Greenwich element of the council tax has either been frozen or had a low increase, far less than surrounding authorities such as Bexley or Bromley. I am hopeful this will continue as Greenwich as a local authority is often commended for its financial stability and management- (if you noticed it recently, we were not on the list of authorities which invested in Icelandic banks and had subsequent problems, due to our good financial management & policy), this also helps us provide extra services and invest in new ones, like the MRF, as circumstances change.

8) Today I and my co-councillor Janet Gilman have been on a two hour walkabout with members of the Central Charlton Residents Association in the area to identify problems and issues and are working constructively with them to take action, identify solutions and to develop new ways of working with them and other community groups to improve the local environment. This is the way forward in my view and as a local councillor I will continue to work with such groups to tackle these issues which are often complex in nature and not so simple to address as some people might suggest.

Cllr Gary Parker Charlton Ward

Edited to add my response:
Thank you very much for getting in touch with me and responding to my blog post.

To begin with I'd like to clarify that I believe in the new rubbish collection scheme and support the Council's aim to increase recycling and decrease landfill.

In brief I'd like to say that I believe the best way to do that is to tackle the problems caused by the new scheme and not just to send out extra rubbish lorries, with the associated extra cost of emissions and money.

Going in to more detail you say that the Council is trying to educate people on recycling issues. It appears to be the same households that have continual problems with the new scheme week after week after week. Therefore how can residents conclude that a years worth of education has been a success? Yes we've had leaflets, yes Councillor Sidhu's letter did once again give the details of the new scheme and yes occasional articles in Greenwich Time have done the same. However it's not working is it?

Can you understand the frustration and confusion that residents feel when instead of actually solving the problem the Council send an extra 1.5 bin lorries a week down our street? If this were the early days of the scheme perhaps that would be an understandable short term remedy. However when the scheme is a year old how can it be anything other than an admission of failure?

Furthermore in these times when so many of us are having to tighten our belts it smarts somewhat when we see those extra collections being done by lorries seemingly hired from an external company.

Can you reveal how much these extra collections are costing us?

My statements about the number of bins we will have wasn't really about the quantity itself, instead I was trying to ask how, when people are unable to deal with a two bin scheme, it is believed that having three bins will improve things?

Greenwich Time, Council leaflets and your email tells us residents that we get value for money, that we're helping the environment and that generally everything's going great. However when we've spent a year walking down our streets stepping around ripped open black sacks and green bins overflowing with mouldering bags of rubbish that just doesn't ring true.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not a creature was stirring, except for 166% more rubbish lorries.

I've received a leaflet from Greenwich Council informing me of the rubbish collection dates over the Christmas period, it also includes a letter from Councillor Rajwant Sidhu congratulating residents for supporting the new collection scheme.

Supporting? Congratulating?

What fantasy fairy tale world is Councillor Rajwant Sidhu living in?

Further on in the leaflet there is an admission that there is a "relatively high volume of waste being placed in the wrong bin." Perhaps the truth is beginning to penetrate the sand in which the Council has it's collective head stuck.

So what is going on?

Well one measure might be how many collections per week the Council is doing.

Under the old system there would be a green bin, what was all waste, every week and recycling every other week. So on average 1.5 collection lorries a week would roll down your street.

Under the new scheme the theory is that green and blue are taken every week and black sacks once per fortnight. So that's 5 lorries every two weeks, or 2.5 a week.

The practice of the new scheme in my road is that green bins, blue bins and black sacks are taken every week. There is then an additional collection the day after to empty the bins that have the wrong waste in them. So that's 4 rubbish lorries trundling down my road every single week.

They have to do this weekly black sack and "contaminated bin" collection because so many people are continuing to completely ignore the new scheme and keep on doing the same thing.

Now the Council could try and tackle the problem by going to talk to those residents who continually put the wrong rubbish out.

But no.

The Council would rather spend our money funding a 60% increase in the number of bin lorries per week (I'm getting 4 lorries a week, compared to the 2.5 I should get under the new scheme). To do this it appears that they're having to charter in lorries (and staff?) from external companies.

But apparently they do have a long term solution! Black wheely bins will be making a reappearance! Somehow people that aren't bothered to use a two bin system correctly will magically do the right thing when presented with three of them.

And how much will that extra bin cost?

All to avoid actually admitting there's a problem and talking to people.

What do we gain from the new scheme? Well we've boosted our recycling rate by 40%, which is a good thing.

But what's the price the Council are having us pay?

Well compared to the old scheme when I had 1.5 lorries a week and I now have 4 the price for 40% more recycling is:
  • 166% more rubbish collections.
  • 166% more diesal consumed and fumes emitted.
  • 166% more working hours for rubbish collection staff.

Does that seem economical or green?

Well in the wonderful world of Greenwich Council it surely must.

Consider though that Greenwich Council are planning to cut childrens services but can find the money to continually paper over the problems with their new rubbish scheme.

Could it be that the rubbish problems they've caused might actually make the electorate turn away from them and that their seats are more important than children?

Edited to add: As Simon has pointed out my maths went a bit pear shaped... I think I got caught up with my comparisons with the new scheme as it should be and the new scheme as it is and it all went downhill from there.

To clarify under the old scheme I had 1.5 bin lorries roll down my street every week.

Under the new scheme I should have 2.5, 1 extra or an increase of 66%.

Under the way the Council are working I get 4 lorries per week. That's 2.5 more than the old scheme, an increase of 166%, and 1.5 more than the new scheme should be which is an increase of 60%.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Princess Alice, Thamesmead

I've not commented on this, and I should have done, but since my praise about the Blackheath Standard it's gone through several new managers and most definitely entered a bit of a slump when it comes to the quality of the food.

A number of my friends have now given up on eating there and this lead me to return to the Princess Alice. A couple of years ago it used to be a part of the Brewers Fayre chain but then it closed down, it's been reopened by Crown Carveries for a while now but I hadn't been back there until recently.

Aside from a handful of other dishes all they really do is roast dinners, which was exactly what we were after. On a Sunday a roast dinner was about £6.50, in the week I think it was about half the price. For the money we had a choice of beef, turkey or gammon and as many vegetables as you can handle.

Was it any good? Yes it was, better than the last few roasts I've had at the Standard. True enough I have had better but this was good solid food and everyone was happy.

We all had desserts too which also pleased us all.

If there is a downside it's the location (opposite Belmarsh Prison) and that some of the other clientele seemed to be suffering from the "I can't tell my child to sit down and behave in a public restaurant" disease that seems to afflict so many people there days.

Still all things told for the large family group of us, including children, that went it was a good option and I think we'll be returning there.

Princess Alice
2a Battery Road
SE28 0JS

Tel: 0208 3177847

PS: Oh and as for the Blackheath Standard they have recently brought in a new menu and the manager's said that things will improve so I should check it out...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chas & Dave at the Blackheath Halls

I spent the first half of my life north of the river, the land of tube trains and late night taxi rides home, in the east end of London. My Dad was born within earshot of the Bow Bells and I heard him once claim that "the Kray twins were good blokes, they only did it to their own." If the first part of that doesn't make my Dad a true Cockney then the second surely must.

So perhaps it's strange that it's taken me so long to attend a Chas & Dave concert, perhaps it's stranger still that when I did it was south of the river.

Saturday night found me at the Blackheath Halls with a very diverse crowd watching the "Rockneys" in action.

The show was broken into two rather different halves. In the first they played some of their more obscure songs, answered questions, sang happy birthday to a couple of audience members and played old style Rock and Roll songs. Chas was on an electice guitar, Dave was on an accoustic and tucked away at the back was Mick on the drums. Now maybe they felt an urge to prove that beyond their slightly humorous image they've actually got some serious musical chops and, in my opinion, prove it they did. They clearly loved the music they were playing and they played it well and with passion, which is always a joy to watch.

The questions and answers were also amusing, Mick joining up with them a very short while after they got together is why they're not known as "Chas, Dave & Mick", though there was a claim that they'd review the situation and consider renaming themselves. And did you know that Chas used to play the violin in the band? One night in the middle of a solo the neck of his violin broke off and he took it as a sign to call it quits on that front.

And then on to the second half in which Chas moved to a keyboard and the "favourites" came out. At this the audience really came alive with people dancing up in front of the stage and up the back, they even had a stage invasion or two.

So it was almost like two gigs in one. An intimate performance of some great songs and then a party like show of songs you remember from years ago. The second half was what I expected the show to be like, the first half was what really impressed me though.

They're on tour again next year (the dates are here) though as of today there's no repeat showing in Blackheath. However chatting to some of the crew did reveal that the evening was a sell out, so hopefully they'll be back there. I'd certainly like to see them again and it would be all the better if it were local.

Oh and to the person who wrongly claimed a signed T-Shirt that they hadn't paid for, stealing from Chas & Dave? Shame on you! Shame!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Vote for Maryon Park!

As local news papers and local bloggers have reported Maryon Park has been nominated as one of the Help a London Park parks. What that means is that it's up for a vote as to which ten should get grants of up to £400,000.

Maryon Park is a lovely little park, though perhaps it's easily confused with Maryon Wilson park which has the little animal zoo. If you've never been there it's well worth a stroll through, there's some great views, nice greenery and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Apparently the Council would like the grant to "improve their management" (well that shouldn't be hard, the whole lot can quit and be replaced by a several small kittens and a ball of fluff) and to "open up the archaeological site". By that I presume that they mean what little remains of the Iron Age Hill and Roman Settlement. At the moment all of that is fenced off and you can't get to it, I for one would love to be able to see what there is to see.

So anyway please vote here to lend a hand!

Spooks vs Bins

Brenda emailed me the other day to say Thought you might find it "amusing" to know that the big blue bin at the top of floyd Road made it on to an episode of Spooks last night as they drove up Floyd and turned left onto Charlton Church.

I'm not a big fan of Spooks so I had a look using the BBC's iPlayer that let's you watch you episode on line, you can see it here and Brenda is indeed on the ball! As it turns out Floyd Road has a safe house for MI5, who'd have guessed!

It's really quite fun to see your local area on the big screen, it's also amusing to see them make "mistakes" such as drive along the same piece of road several times during one conversation.

Brenda's also right in that the big blue bin that used to live at the top of the street is visible in one brief shot.

Also visible during many of the other quick shots are other unemptied bins and piled up rubbish.

So I wonder if anyone from Greenwich Council has seen this? How did they feel having their failures and lack of interest recorded for all posterity in the background of a BBC show? I doubt that they care...

Anyway here's some screenshots...

Dashing to the safe house, the young lad appears to have noticed the rubbish and is trying to comfort his mother and reassure her that not all of London looks and smells this bad, just the bits under Greenwich Council's care.
The secret safe house at number 38!
Heading away from the safe house.
The lovely bins at the top of the road, well done Greenwich Council!

Big thanks to Brenda for making this post possible!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Healthy Start with a pack of fags?

I've just seen a woman use her Healthy Start Vouchers to buy two packs of cigarettes, a bottle of wine and what appeared to be a tin of pineapple chunks.

The vouchers are meant to "give your kids the best start in life" and can be swapped for "milk, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and infant formula milk."

That's working well then...

I'm not sure if I'm more shocked at the shop or the shopper.

Hazel Blears vs. Political Bloggers

A few weeks ago a journalist from the Bexley Times contacted me and asked if I would submit something to go into their Your Shout column in response to Hazel Blears' comments on political bloggers. Amongst many other places you can read about those comments here.

After emailing in my thoughts I was told that the newspaper didn't have room for the column that week and that what I'd said might be reused in the future. I'm not sure that it has been and given the time since I sent it in and that far more eloquent and political local bloggers, such as the Last Boy Scout, were also asked to submit something I doubt that it will ever see print.

So I thought that I might as well share what I had to say here.

I have disdain for the political system and politicians and I’m encouraging a culture of cynicism and despair! What am I doing? Well those are the words that Hazel Blears recently used to describe political bloggers, which is a category in which some would include me.

I have a blog that covers my local life and during my time online I’ve covered a number of political issues that directly affect me. Examples of that would be the peculiar allocation of tickets by Greenwich Council for the first Red Bull Air Race or the recent changes to our rubbish collections.

I’m a strong believer that our political system thrives when people are informed and feel involved and when politicians feel accountable for how they are performing. It’s when those two parts of the system break down that it is damaged. When people feel in the dark about what is happening around them and when there is no examination of what our politicians are doing then the gulf between the electors and the elected grows and real cynicism sets in.

Local blogging can both inform people and expose low level local politicians to the public eye. For example I came to know that it wasn’t just my small area that was affected by rubbish being uncollected and other people in turn knew of my attempts to get things cleaned up. We’re not alone and we can do something about our problems.

It used to be that only the politicians working at a relatively high level were exposed to the public’s gaze and judgement. Now if you go onto the internet and search for your local Councillor the chances are good that you’ll find bloggers talking about them. Good deeds and answered letters will be remembered, details of unanswered letters and promises unfulfilled will be readable for years to come.

We’re shining a light into our political system from the bottom up and that surely has to be a good thing? This isn’t about cynicism but is instead about hope that when we are involved we can change things.

Edited to add: Just after I posted this up I heard from the newspaper and apparently my "Your Shout" went into the paper yesterday. I should try and get a copy...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bombay Bicycle Club

The Bombay Bicycle Club chain of Indian Restaurants has recently opened a take-away branch in Greenwich, they're meant to be pretty famous but I'd only heard of them in passing before and didn't know that much about them.

Recently I've begun to feel a bit let down by my usual delivery Indian, the Coriander in Westombe Park. It's just felt like their standards were slipping and things just weren't as tasty or as well presented as they used to be.

So after I had a leaflet popped through my door from the Bombay Bicycle Club I decided to give them a go and I'm pleased to report that we really enjoyed our dinner, we enjoyed it so much we had another one the following night too.

The best part of the experience for me was that you can order online where a complete menu is displayed, this is especially useful for me as I often lose menus. You go to their website and chose what you want and then select a delivery time. Both of my orders turned up in the selected half hour slot and were still hot enough to eat without a brief spell in the microwave.

The dishes that we've had have been tasty and one in particular, the Lasuni Murg, was nicely spicy but was still flavoursome. Many lesser curry houses will just overload a spicy curry and attempt to napalm your tastebuds into hiding but not the Bombay Bicycle Club.

The only negative thing I can comment upon is that I found the Naan bread to be a bit too similar to the ones you buy in supermarkets. They had that slightly floury texture where as I like mine to be bubbly and ever so slightly doughy so you get that lovely sensation as you tear at it.

Price wise it is also a bit more expensive that other places seem to be, the Lamb Biryani (a common price thermometer for me) was £9.00. However considering that I got easy online ordering, "club card" style reward points, delivery at the time requested, hot food and it all being very tasty I think that price jump is worth paying.

Two thumbs up and a new favourite Curry House from the Charlton Average Household!

The Details
Tel: 0845 478 8214
192 Trafalgar Road
SE10 9TZ

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Blackheath Fireworks

So last night I went up to Blackheath for the Fireworks and as per usual I thought that they were great. It always seems to odd to see so many thousands of people all up there and aside from the actual display it's a real experience. Was it just me though or did they move the location of the display?

Before the show a number of us had plans to meet and eat at the Royal Standard in Blackheath. However due to the numbers of people they had through their doors they had a much reduced menu of burgers and nachos, worth remembering when you're planning for next years event.

There are rumours that Lewisham Council may not sponsor any more fireworks shows, I hope that they do continue as it is a great evening and I'm looking forward to next year's one already.

So a big pat on the back to Greenwich Council, Lewisham Council and the fireworks company who sponsored/subsidised the evening but who's name I've forgotten. Thank you all very much!

Oh and there's only the one photo as I've got a new camera that I've not quite figured out how to work, the fireworks setting appears to be rubbish if you don't have a tripod or a steady hand.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Body Worlds and the Mirror of Time at the O2

A few days ago I took myself down to the O2 to see the Body Worlds exhibition that they've got there.

So how was it?

Personally I found it all very interesting, I've never been to one of the shows before so this was all new for me. I did find it informative and it was quite fascinating to see how we're actually put together.

Although I knew what the exhibits they didn't look macabre or gory, in fact they look strangely unnatural and I didn't get any "ick this is a dead body" thoughts.

However there were some things that I found a touch gratuitous. I couldn't, for example, see the value in the gymnast on the rings having his internal organs hung beside him. It's as if they're trying at times to make an artistic statement, which to me just didn't work. I personally wouldn't mind my body being used in an exhibit to show someone how it works however to use it to make something that looks "interesting" to me seems somehow different.

Was it worth my £14 to get in? Definitely. However I'm not sure how useful the audio guide, an extra £3, was. I often found it a distraction and stopped commentaries short preferring instead just to look for myself.

One thing I should perhaps point out is that a number of the exhibits are things that I'd heard of from previous exhibitions (the man on horseback and the pregnant woman for example) so it might be the case that if you've seen one of these shows before you won't get as much out of this one as I did.

Oh and I'm still a bit clueless about the "mirror of time" thing. Yes there was a vague theme about aging on the information boards but that seemed to have little to do with the exhibits.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Las Iguanas at the O2

The other night I went to the O2 to meet with some friends and we chose to eat at the Las Iguanas Resturant.

The O2 and all it's bars and restaurants were very very quiet. We had checked that it wasn't a gig night as my experience of those is that eating is nigh on impossible. However we were surprised at how quiet it all was, "dead" seems to be the word to use.

So do gig nights support the bars and restaurants? Are people put off of going to it as a general "meeting" venue because it is so busy when the Arena is in use?

Anyhow to Las Igaunas we went.

The starters that we had were great, tasty and a touch different, we were all impressed.

The mains however didn't leave up to the opening. I had the Puerto Rican Paella, which was nice but I know that I can cook a better Paella myself, and I don't believe myself to be a great cook. Others had the Carna Asado, both the Venison and Lamb versions, which again were described as being nice enough but nothing great. One of the Brazilian curries was also chosen with once again the same sort of response.

Don't get me wrong, no main course was "bad" and everything was enjoyed but it just wasn't something I would get excited about.

The staff were very good offering a friendly and helpful level of service.

However there is a downside, it was cold, very cold. We had to move tables twice to find somewhere that wasn't in a freezing cold draft. I don't know if the Restaurant had it's heating turned off due to the low level of customers but it really wasn't good.

So the big question, would we go again? Yes, I think that we would. However I'm far more likely to try and east at Rodizio Rico, which happens to also be Brazilian. I've eaten at their Angel branch and it was great, so I'm hoping that the O2 can live up to those same standards.

If you want more information Las Iguanas has a web site here:
The page for the O2 branch is here:
And you can see the current menu here:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blame Newham or Greenwich Council

In a story on the News Shopper web site (click here) John Austin, the MP for Erith and Thamesmead, says that he is concerned about the increase in flights from London City Airport.

"Many of my constituents are naturally concerned about increased levels of noise and atmospheric pollution" he says.

Somewhat contradicting that he also says that many of his residents may not be aware of the proposals as Newham Council haven't informed them.

So it's Newham's fault?

Well not quite.

There is a group called the London City Airport Consultative Committee which describes itself as a forum for discussing Airport issues, keeping people informed and monitoring the local environment.

Deputy Council Leader Peter Brooks is not only the Councillor for Thamesmead (the people right under the flight path) but is also a member of that committee. Which makes a lot of sense, if he bothered to attend the meetings.

As I've mentioned before (here and here)up until the October 2007 meeting Councillor Peter Brooks hadn't bothered to attend any of the meetings for the previous four years.

There was nothing of any impact to Greenwich to be discussed he claimed at the time. Oh no, just an extra 40,000 flights a year and the concerns, as described by the local MP, of his own constituents.

In the January 2008 meeting Councillor Denise Hyland was described as Councillor Brooks' deputy who would attend when he couldn't. Well Councillor Brooks again failed to make that meeting or either of the two since then. Councillor Hyland has attended just one.

So if there is a failure here is it of Newham Council or Greenwich?

Greenwich Council has representatives on the airports consultative committee but in over four years they've attended just one meeting.

Will John Austin tackle the council over it's failure to become involved and it's ignoring of his, and it's own, constituents?

I doubt it. This isn't about the well being of residents, if it were we would have seen the Councillors attending the committee meetings that they were meant to, it's about political point scoring and trying to point the finger anyway but Greenwich.

Edited to add: I thought something ran a bell when I looked up Councillor Hyland, she represents Shooters Hill ward. Who else does? Well non other than Councillor Danny "stuff the people who trusted me when I said I would represent them, I'm off the Australia for 6 months" Thorpe.

Is it any wonder that Councillor Thorpe thought it was acceptable to run off? He probably looked at his colleague Councillor Hyland and thought "well she's on a committee and doesn't bother attending it when she is on the same continent, I can offer the same level of commitment and dedication to my constituents from Australia!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

More on the Horn Fair

I've written about Charlton's Horn Fair before but I've recently found out a bit more about it.

No one actually knows when it started, one explanation dates it back to the times of King John. It used to take place for three days from St Luke's day (18th of October), the church of St Luke's in Charlton dates back to 1250 which explains the day of the fair and opens the possibility that it really does go back that far.

I've previously touched upon the connection of horns with cuckoldry, there is though an alternate explanation for the horn connection. Apparently the traditional symbol for St Luke is an ox with horns. Many ancient fairs would apparently display some symbol of their being open, and it's easy to imagine that a fair taking place on a saints day would use the symbols of that saint for that purpose. So perhaps that's how it got it's name.

However the story of King John, in which he was caught in the act with the wife of a Charlton miller by the miller himself and thus got permission to hold the fair as compensation, is far juicer and therefore probably became more popular as the years passed.

The fair was opened by the procession from Cuckold's Point for which people apparently dressed up as the miller, his wife and the King. Cross dressing was also apparently the thing to be done for this procession. William Fuller wrote in 1703:

"I remember being there upon Horn Fair day, I was dressed in my landlady's best gown and other women's attire, and to Horn Fair we went, and as we were coming back by water, all the clothes were spoilt by dirty water etc. that was flung on us in an inundation, for which I was obliged to present her with two guineas to make atonement for the damage sustained."

The Victorian's weren't too keen on London's fairs which had a notoriety for unpleasant and lewd behaviour, Charlton's reputation was such that when an law was passed in 1871 that allowed such fairs to be abolished it was one of the first to go.

This additional information comes from the book London Lore by Steve Roud. It's packed with all sorts of tales about London and it's a really enjoyable read, so if you're into this sort of thing it's well worth a look.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Villa Moura, Blackheath

The other night Miss Charlton Above-Average and myself went to the Villa Moura restaurant in Blackheath for dinner. We'd driven past it a fair few times and I thought it was time that I finally gave it a go.

Villa Moura describes itself as a seafood and Portuguese Restaurant, and it is very much, in that order. Most of the dishes are fish, the meat menu seems to be a very secondary add on.

So how did it go?

Well very nicely thank you.

The restaurant is pretty small and feels a bit "old fashioned" and cluttered as it were, not overly so but it's not a "modern" feeling place.

For food we had Mediterranean Peri-Peri Prawns and Avocado and Prawn salad as starters. Both were nice, especially the Peri-Peri Prawns which were nice and juicy with a lovely sauce.

The mains were a special of garlic spinach stuffed Sea Bass and Dover Sole, the Dover Sole was merely good while the Sea Bass was lovely.

For dessert if was Fudge Cake and Creme Caramel. The Fudge Cake was great, nice and soft and not too heavy. It also came with some great vanilla ice cream that we could easily have eaten a whole bowl of itself. The Creme Caramel was good, very enjoyable but not remarkable.

All told it was a great dinner. The "worst" courses were those that I would still say were very good, the best courses were lovely. Everything tasted nice and fresh, it was filling but not overfilling and with some lovely tastes and textures.

The service was good, prompt without being over pushy.

So all told two thumbs up and I would love to go again, which is about the best complement I can give to a place.

After one visit it is hard to tell but I think it is quite possibly the best restaurant that I've eaten in around here. It's certainly better than most of the tourist traps in Blackheath itself and well worth the extra journey out of Blackheath to get to.

Villa Moura has a web site here, you can find all sorts of information about the place and complete menus.

The address is:
Villa Moura
121 Lee Road
Tel: 020 8318 2116

It's located here

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hired Rubbish Lorries?

Yesterday was my bin collection day and, as is usual now, all the right waste was taken.

So what do I see rumble down my road today, a rubbish lorry.

It appears to have been collecting "contaminated bins", that is residents who nearly a year into the scheme still can't understand what they're meant to do and put the "wrong" rubbish in the "wrong" bin.

Interestingly though the lorry wasn't a Greenwich Council one, it was hired from a company called Gulliver's.

Now on the one hand this is a good thing, they're proactively emptying the bins before the fill up and overspill onto the street.

However are the Council having to hire in extra vehicles to do this extra collection?

If so how much is it costing?

Is this a long term "solution" or are they also addressing the problem of contaminated bins that the "normal" bin lorries leave behind?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Firepower Artillery Museum

A few weeks ago I went to the Firepower artillery museum at Woolwich Arsenal. I've been meaning to write about it for a while, so it's about time I got down to it.

Basically it's good, very good.

There's actually two museums in two different buildings opposite each other, so if you do go do make sure that you do both.

If I had to make a complaint about it I would say that some of the layout can be a bit disorganised. You can have seemingly unrelated items popped into the same display case next to each other, which can make it a bit confusing. However that's really only a minor niggle, and in a way it's quite endearing.

It's more of a museum of artillery, as the name suggests, than a museum about the Royal Arsenal. Though it does have a lot of artefacts and information about that aspect of it all.

All told a very interesting day out.

The Arsenal used to have narrow gauge railways criss-crossing it. I believe that this is a surviving wagon from one of them. I think it used to be over the river at North Woolwich but was moved over fairly recently.
A piece of the Iraqi Supergun and a gun shield that was shot at in order to test it's strength.
"Yes son you can have a cannon, but it's got to look like a cute animal!"
The main hall, lots of things!

They've also got the cannons captured during the Crimean War from was taken the metal that all Victoria Cross medals have been cast from. Unfortunately the photo upload now seems to have died, so I can't get anymore photos up...

Chocolate teapot or no teapot?

Now I've had my issues with my local councillors. Basically with 9 months of the new bin scheme and the streets still regularly littered with uncollected rubbish I'm pretty firmly of the opinion that they're about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

However spare a thought for the residents of Shooter's Hill, one of their Councillors Councillor Daniel Thorpe has been on holiday on Australia for the last six months.

I thought that it really took something for a prospective Councillor to stand before the people and say "trust me, I will work for you, I will represent you" and then to blithely ignore them as my terrible trio are want to do. However Councillor Thorpe appears to have taken that sort of behaviour as a bit of a challenge. He's taken contempt for his ward to a new level and skipped off out of the Country.

As if showing that level of disdain for those who voted for him isn't enough he then proceeds to really push him out front in the "I couldn't give a Monkey's Uncle about you" chart by also being on the following committees and panels and abandoning them too.
  • Best Value Review Team: Homelessness

  • Best Value Review Team: Libraries

  • Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel

  • Greenwich Council Joint Committee

  • Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Panel

  • School Teachers and Lecturers Joint Committee

What a thoroughly revolting example of public service.

And what do the Council do about him? You'd think that they might chastise him and stand up for the residents of Shooters Hill and those affected by the Committees that Councillor Thorpe has jilted.

Oh no, not Greenwich Council, they seem to be backing him.


You can read more about this story at the follow web sites:
News Shopper
The Last Boy Scout
Thurrock Gazette

It's quite nice to note that if you Google for "Councillor Daniel Thorpe" the Thurrock Gazette story comes up first.

Maybe he was trying to beat some of his fellows on Google too?

Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services and therefore the man responsible for the shambolic new bin scheme, has negative stories about him coming up in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th positions (myself and the last bus home).

Councillor Allan MacCarthy has my discussions about his lack of performance at number 4.

Councillor Janet Gillman limps in with a link to her lack of interest in Charlton at number 6.

Finally Councillor Gary Parker draws with Allan MacCarthy with one of my entries about him coming up 4th.

So Councillor Daniel Thorpe is good at something, it's a shame that it's not serving his ward.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There's a Charlton Residents Association...

...but not for the likes of me.

Local Blogger The Last Bus Home has been to a meeting of the Charlton Central Residents Association, read about it here.

I did hear about this group a while ago when Councillor Gary Parker mentioned that he had addressed them in an email that he sent to me.

However they didn't seem to have a very active web presence, I only found a holding page, and I soon gave up on them.

Well it turns out that they do exist, but they're only for residents of a very small number of streets in west Charlton. So why do they call themselves central? Surely "central" is the old bit around the Church? No idea...

Anyway apparently excluded, and so is the Last Bus Home despite living much closer to them than I do.

Councillor Parker was addressing them again and he admitted the problems with the new bin scheme and blamed them partly upon "management of the services".

Well the manager of the services is Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services. So if there's a management issue isn't it his fault? If so what the hell were the Council doing sending him on a free holiday out to China? Well I say free, the chances are that we paid for it.

Also bear in mind that the Neighbourhood Serivices team that deals with waste collections is severely understaffed and wants to tackle the residents that foul our streets but can't as it's "political".

So the Council understaff them, send their boss away on a holiday, tie their hands when it comes to enforcement and then seemingly blames them for it.


Still it's easier than admitting that, in the end, it's the fault of the Council and the Councillors themselves.

We'll soon be entering our second year of the new scheme and sites like the one below are still a weekly occurrence.

True enough after a week or so of it being like that it does get cleaned up but they're still not talking to the people who are doing it. They would rather spend what cannot be an inconsiderable amount of money doing extra collections than really get to grips with the problem.

Open House Biggin Hill

Last Sunday I was involved with the Open House event down at Biggin Hill. I didn't do an awful lot, in fact I did what felt like very little in comparison to many of the other volunteers but never the less I was there on the "other" side of the fence.

They were doing an event to highlight the role that the airfield had in the Second World War and to show people some of the things that remain from that time.

The original plan was to have people taken through a "time tunnel" in one of the bomb shelters and when they emerged they would be back in the 1940s. There would have been a RAF re-enactment group, a Spitfire parked up, a tour of a few bunkers and then a simulated air attack.

Things didn't quite work out that way.

The "time tunnel" didn't happen, the bunker was full of paint and other nasty chemicals. The real hardworking volunteers spent hours on the Saturday trying to clean it out but it was just decided that it wasn't safe, so scratch that idea.

Then the Spitfire was late, it had a flat tyre and engine problems. So the early people didn't get to see it. And then when it did turn up a Jet popped out of a hanger and started having various tests done upon it. The result? Well it had to be squished up near the re-enactors and the people couldn't get to the pillbox, sleeping quarters and final bunker where the simulated attack would have happened. Oh and the pyro guy got stuck in traffic so the early people didn't get the attack either.

It was still a great day though.

Visitors were first taken to a WW2 C-Pen (a C shaped walled area to park aircraft in) and given a talk on the airfields history. Then they went past the re-enactors who gave them a shortened briefing as if they were pilots about to go on a raid to Dieppe. The re-enactors had set themselves up in front of one of the last remaining, if not the only remaining, ready room on the airfield. That was where the pilots would sit drinking tea and waiting to scramble and intercept incoming bombers.

Later visitors then got to walk around a Spitfire.

Then it was off to another set of re-enactors who had set up an anti-aircraft post. After that it was off to visit a pill-box, the sleeping quarters and finally the E-Pen (like the C-Pen but E shaped, it could hold two aircraft).

The weather was lovely and the visitors just kept on coming, the scheduled lunch break didn't happen. In the end I believe over 500 people put in an appearance. It was great to see the level of interest, and it was quite moving to watch some old veterans talking to the re-enactors about their memories and sharing some great stories with them.

The state of the ready room was a bit of a sad affair though. Apparently it's a listed building, but the owners of the airfield have no intention of refurbishing it and it's being left to fall apart. They have, allegedly, offered it to the re-enactors who could move it to another site on the airfield. But it would remain on the airfield, and owned by the airfield, who after it's all refurbished could then do with it as they please.

It's a shame to see one of what can only be a very few such buildings just being left. Hopefully something can be worked out and it won't just fade away.

Anyway I'll close with some photos and an advance notice that a similar type of day will quite probably happen next year. So if you're at all interested in that period of history then get yourself down there.

If you're interested the Spitfire is the Pride of Kent and it's a Mk IX that was built in 1944, you can read about it here

The E-Pen

The re-enactors giving their briefing.

The re-enactors, some period vehicles and the ready room.

Looking from the AA Post to the re-enactors.

The Spitfire finally arrives!

Being this close to it as it taxied along was just amazing.

A final posed photo.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Greenwich Heritage Centre

Last week I went to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, it's next to the Firepower museum on the old Woolwich Arsenal.

It was fantastic, for reasons I'll expand on shortly. However I will briefly get a negative issue out of the way, and then I can be all positive and glowy, which will be nice.

As I walked up to the Heritage Centre from the river path I went along the side of the building, I then came across this:

It's a memorial to those conscripted for National Service and it was put up by the Council. Which is all well and good, but isn't it in kind of an obscure place? Why not put it on the front of the building where more will see it? It just didn't strike me as very fitting.

And now back to the positive.

At the Heritage Centre there's a small but informative museum about the history of the area mainly focussed upon the Arsenal and Docks.

There was a lovely information board about a residential area called the "Dustbowl", a 1900 visitor noted that "the male inhabitants are bullies, dock and waterside labourers, costers, hawkers and tramps. The women are prostitutes."

The police only entered the area in pairs and officially it was out of bounds to the soldiers from the barracks, "the military patrol can capture and confine any solders found there. But nevertheless the low class solder goes there."

And they say this area can be rough today?

They also had some artifacts that were found that were found at the Roman Settlement west of Maryon Park, that's not far from my house. I knew that the camp and/or fort existed but it's fascinating to actually see things that your neighbours from 2000 years ago left behind.

After the museum I found the best part of the centre, the research room at the back. Basically it's a library of books, local newspapers and photos of Greenwich. Best of all the staff were amazingly helpful. I was looking for any photos of Charlton and they got me boxes of them out and then made copies of them for only 10p each. I've since seen the woman who seemed to be in charge on a documentary about ship wrecks in the Thames and she's a local historian. So it's not just workers in there, they're skilled and knowledgeable workers!

I managed to find some photos, which I believe that I can't post up because of copyright, and some old maps of the area. I actually bought all the maps they had of Charlton and then some of other areas for local friends.

I'll be posting some more soon about the maps and photos I found have to show.

I believe the Heritage Centre is connected with the Council, they certainly have a page for them on their web site. I know that I knock the Council a lot but they are doing a great job with the Heritage Centre, I would love to see it expanded!

If you're at all interested in your area then get down there and have a look around and then do talk to the staff.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jim Wintour's Cleaned Up!

Unfortunately I don't mean the streets, instead of sorting out the problems with the "new" rubbish scheme he's been off on a nice trip to Hong Kong, presumably paid for by us.

He was sent by the Council to observe the equestrian events in Hong Kong during the Olympics.

Quite what horses have to do with the man who's meant to be in charge of keeping our streets clean is a bit beyond me. Maybe horses are his hobby, he's got to have some interests in life after all and clean streets clearly aren't among them.

Considering that he's also failed in his main responsibility you'd have thought that giving him a trip to Hong Kong is the last thing the Council should be doing. Giving him the sack might be somewhat more appropriate.

Perhaps the Council has done this to make up to him. After all Waste Services have said that they want to enforce the new bin scheme but can't as it's getting "political". Perhaps Jim's been frustrated at having his hands tied by the Council and the trip to Hong Kong was given to him to make up for it, or to shut him up.

How do I know this?

Well Councillor Andy Jennings the Conservative representative for Kidbrooke and Hornfair emailed me. This is what he had to say...

I was the councillor who obtained the details about the costs of the Greenwich China trip. For your information the six were

Councillor Roberts, Leader
Councillor Fahy, Cabinet Member
Mary Ney, Chief Executive
Frances Dolan, Director of Culture & Community Services
Ray Gerlach, Head of 2012
Katrina Delaney, Head of Communications & Community Engagement

Regarding the costs, the £14,000 was on flights alone. The Newham costs included accommodation and subsistence as well.

You may also be interested to know the answer to one the questions I asked, given the response…

8. Which members of the group will be visiting Hong Kong during the trip?

None. There is a separate Official Observer programme for Hong Kong for the equestrian events. LOCOG allocated one place for this to Greenwich Council and Jim Wintour, Director of Neighbourhood Services is undertaking this task.

I am currently formulating a response to the chief executive’s responses and will publish on in the next few days.

So the Council spent far more than £14,000 on getting the six Councillors to Greenwich. And how much more on top of that did Mr Wintour's vacation cost us?

I wonder what would happen if I were as efficient at paying my Council tax as Mr Wintour is at keeping Greenwich clean. Would I get a free holiday seemingly completely unsuited to my skill set too?

Edited to add: Someone called Steve commented on this story and of particular interest he said "Greenwich Council didn't pay anything for accommodation etc, for as reported in all local media the costs of this were picked up by the local authorities in Chongwen."

So the total cost to Greenwich was £14,000, I wonder why Newham didn't get the same deal.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Council's trip to China

The News Shopper web site has ran a story about Greenwich Council sending six representatives over to China.

In a way that sounds fair enough, we are going to be a host borough for 2012.

But then you read that Newham sent only four, and those went cattle class where as Greenwich Council (or us tax payers) stumped up for Business Class seats.

Then consider also that Newham has the Olympic Stadium and village, which surely gives them more of an interest in the games than Greenwich.

So Greenwich paid £14,000 to fly six people out.

Newham paid £9000 to fly out four.

News Shopper named three of Greenwich's representatives as Council Leader Chris Roberts, Councillor John Fahy, and council chief executive Mary Ney. Who were the other three I wonder?

Did we really need to send more than Newham?

In these times when so many of us are tightening our belts did they need to go Business Class?

Greenwich Council, promoting equality and quality of life for all, especially themselves (yeah I said that on the News Shopper site, but I like it so I'll re-use it).

It's this sort of thing that makes me lament the passing of Greenwich Watch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The missing bit of the Thames Path...

The other day I wanted to take myself down to the Firepower Museum at Woolwich. It was quite a nice day so I decided to walk along the river to get there, I had the idea of following the Thames Path in my head.

Now you may know this but I was surprised to find out that the Thames Path has a missing bit. I took myself down to the Thames Barrier but you can only get along the river as far the visitors centre.

After that, and somewhat confused, I backtracked to Woolwich Road. There I discovered signs for the Thames Path "Intermediate Stretch" (or something like that). They take you off Woolwich Road at Roston Road and then back to the River. Looking at you can see that there is indeed a missing stretch between the Thames Barrier and the Leisure Centre by the Woolwich Ferry.

For those who are interested below is the route that I took:
I got from Harlinger Street to the river by walking under an archway in the middle of the block of flats that appears in front of you. I believe that this is technically private land, but I was good, I promise.

I'll post some more stuff up later about both Firepower and the Greenwich Heritage Centre but in the meantime I took some photos as I went along, it was really quite nice.A boat that was seemingly very low in the water, odd...

Canons! There was information in the heritage centre about how there was a fear that the Dutch would sail up the Thames as far as Woolwich and therefore the area was fortified. The cannons seem to be on loan from somewhere but I wonder if this is an original emplacement.

A sadly tired looking mosaic about the Thames Path.

Looking back towards London.

A cluster of metal statues outside Firepower.

More of the statues...

Odd set of blocks between Firepower and the river. I wonder if this was the old waterfront?

The Woolwich Ferry has a bed to go to sleep in :) I guess this makes a lot of sense, they can keep the spares out of the way by the river bank without it sinking into the mud. Still I did quite like the idea of it having it's own little cat bed type thing to retreat to.

Reactive or Proactive?

The other day I posted that the contaminated (bins with the wrong waste in them that the bin men therefore refuse to empty) at the top of the street had been emptied.

I wondered if the Council were simply reacting to the problem or whether they had finally made the move to talk to the residents who keep fouling our streets.

Well there appears to be an answer, and I'm said to say that it's not a surprise.

Once again there is at least one bin stuffed full of plastic bags at the top of the street.

Waste Services, the department responsible, want to move from talking to the offenders to actually enforcing the Council's new bin scheme. However they've been unable to do this due to "political" reasons.

So our local Councillors know about the problems and they are unwilling to put the effort in themselves to actually resolve them (as opposed to occasionally organising a clean up) and are preventing Waste Services from sorting it out themselves.

Heads in the sand again.

And you know that they'll get re-elected in a couple of years.

I am well aware that in the end this is the fault of those residents who appear to be completely unwilling to work with the new scheme and are happy to make our streets a waste strewn health hazard.

However the Council chose to implement this new scheme, before which we had no real problems, and therefore have the responsibility to deal with it's fall out.

If there's a spate of robberies in an area the people really to blame are the thieves, however don't we ask questions if the police continually refuse to do anything about it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bins emptied!

Yesterday the top couple of houses along my road had about five unemptied, or contaminated, bins outside. One in particular, a new small green one that one of them had been given, had been stuffed full of black sacks for at least a week.

I took some photos and lamented as to how long it might be before they were cleaned up.

I get home tonight and they've all been tidied up, blimey!

This means that either the Council are indeed getting on top of things or someone else along this street is starting to give a damn about how our road looks and contacted Cleansweep themselves.

Either way that's a good development.

I'm still sceptical, very sceptical, that the Council have actually talked to the people who continually fill their bins with the "wrong" rubbish. And remember this, it is the same people who are doing this week after week after week. The Council know who they are and Waste Services do want to tackle them, but they're having they're hands tied. As Waste Services themselves said moving to actual enforcement of the new bin scheme has become a "political" issue.

However maybe now we're finally seeing a change.

My fingers are crossed!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cleansweep's 48 Hour Response

Some nice chap along Floyd Road has seemingly been buying some new furniture for his flat. The waste from him doing so has been dumped outside on the street. There's a big pile of huge sheets of cardboard, plastic wrapping, boxes, a small mattress/futon/"bed thing" and other assorted bedding.

Now it's quite possible that he can't get it to the dump himself, after all he's got a very nice silver Mercedes and he probably doesn't want to get it dirty. So instead it's the street that he dirties.

At least once this week the pile has been kicked over by passers by and he's had to tidy it up. Last night it was kicked over again, it's now blocking the pavement and spilling over into the road.

CleanSweep were told about this and I was given a 48 hour response time, that was on Wednesday. There's a Charlton match today and in a few hours tens of thousands of people will pour down the street and over the rubbish. That can't be good.

Phoning the Council all I can be told is that the call has been marked as "work in progress."

So to fulfil the 48 hour response all Cleansweep have to do is to go onto the task list and mark a task as in progress?

The Council will show due diligence and begin to remove cars from the street in a few hours, for which they will get at least £50 a car.

Hopefully the Council will show due diligence and begin to clear the pavement, for which they will get thanks from residents and fans.

Update: Quite literally as I type this a lorry has turned up and the rubbish is being cleared up. Great stuff! It doesn't take much for the Council to impress me, they've managed to do it.

Now will the Council just react to this problem or will they have a word with the resident responsible and try to stop it happening again?

Monday, August 18, 2008

"A-level success"?

Well the A-Level results are out and Greenwich Council are making a bit of a song and dance about them.

"A-level results day was one of celebration in Greenwich. With an overall pass rate of 96.4%, a number of pupils achieved excellent results and will attend top universities" says a news update email that they sent out.

A page on the Council's web site boasts of "many success stories".

Let's step behind the spin and have a peak at what's really going on.

Pupils educated by Greenwich achieved an A-Level pass rate of 96.4%.

That's below the national average of 97.2%.

It's worse than last years pass rate of 97.8%.

It's worse than Lewisham's pass rate of 98.3%.

Once again Greenwich Council has gone into "head in the sand mode" in the face of a potential crisis.

Greenwich Council, failing our streets, failing our children.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bin Blog Update

It seems that despite claims to the contrary people are interested in reading and commenting about the state of the streets since the new bin scheme staggered into life.

So here's a quick update, and it's actually reasonably positive, sort of.

The street has been a lot cleaner of late and the problems at the top of the road haven't reoccurred. There is, or was, still a small green bin up there stuff full of plastic waste but that's better than it was.

It seems that recently the Council have even been around every week to take black sacks away.

However just around the corner the Last Bus Home is still having problems.

I was told a while ago that Floyd Road was a "priority road", is it still? Is this a standard level of service or are the Council still scampering around trying to keep on top of the mess while failing to tackle the cause?

Time will tell, and hopefully I'll have a bit more time on my hands to do the telling...

Monday, August 04, 2008

A quick update...

A very quick follow on to my last post...

After last weeks cleanup a green bin at the top of Floyd Road is once again over spilling with plastic bags and recyclable waste.

What was I saying about the Council seemingly being unable to be proactive about the causes and simply reacting to problems?

I closed the last post with:

I think I'm right to be pessimistic over this being any change in the tide, I think I've got the historic evidence and an explanation of how the system works that back me up.

But come on, someone out there prove me wrong.

It looks like I've been proved right, again. That's such a shame.

On a lighter note did anyone see the air race this weekend?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I've caught people's attentions...

My last post and the email it described has attracted a number of responses.

To open with I'll point out, to those who might not know, that my street has now been cleaned up. I suspect this is only temporary, I'm depressingly sure that the same residents and businesses will once again pile their rubbish up at the top of the road. However for now something has been done, I can only hope that that something included actually tackling the causes of the filth and not just the filth.

Have a look at the post for all the comments made there but here's a summary of everything that's gone on.

Monday 28th of July
Coucillor Janet Gillman emails me twice with an impressive average word count of 9 words per message. To be fair though one of the emails was blank. She told me that she had forward the email on to Councillor Maureen O'Mara who is responsible for Cleansweep. This response, in a way, goes right the heart of the problem. Cleansweep are a reactive group who clean up mess when it occurs. To the best of my knowledge Waste Services are the ones who are responsible for the longer term management of the problem. Greenwich Council, and Cleansweep in particular, actually do do a decent job of cleaning up when they've been made aware of something. However all they do is keep reacting and seemingly do little, or little that actually has any impact, to tackle the cause.

Tuesday 29th of July
I'm emailed by someone, who's name I have but will omit, from the Greenwich Contact Centre. Last Sunday as well as the email I reported the problem online to Cleansweep. There's a ridiculously tight word limit to what you can enter so all I managed was this:

Other information: Between number 2 and the top of the street and down the alley between number 1 and the top of the street.

Description: Blue Clear Away bin between #2 and the top of the road full of rubbish and smells. Outside #2 are green bins full of plastic bags also smelling. Alleyway between #1 and top of the road also has green bins filled with plastic and sacks.

Their response was:

With reference to the green top bins that are full of plastic etc. Do they belong to any of the residents in Floyd Road.
It is the responsibility of the residents who these bins belong to, to contact us to get these bins emptied. However, I have raised a Service Request (ID 225927) to advise Waste Services that these bins need emptying.

With regards to the Clearaway Bin, Clearaway need to be contacted to get this bin emptied as this does not belong to the Council.

The first point seems almost dismissive of my report, which was nice.

The second shocked me. They seemed to be saying that the bin was nothing to do with them and that they weren't going to do anything about it, to get it cleaned up I would have to report it to Clearaway.

Excuse me but isn't dumping commercial waste on a residential road fly tipping? Isn't that kind of the Council's business or can any group leave what they want where they want?

I did email them back asking:

Thank you for your response. Should I not report overspilling bins to Cleansweep? As to the Clearaway bin is this being dealt with or are you saying that I need to contact Clearaway myself to get it removed?

I've heard nothing back from them.

Councillor Gary Parker also emailed me. He did this to my email address for this site and not the one which I used to send the email. That does show that at least he remembers me and has got something filed away under my name. A small touch but one that did quite impress me.

He had this to say:

I was already aware of issues on Floyd Road, I have spoken to Jim Wintour and action should have been taken today to deal with the backlog of waste today; recent industrial action in waste services due to national pay issues may also be a contributory factor here, there is more planned in September, unless the dispute is resolved. Jim Wintour will be writing to you in the next few days with an update on the situation, if there are further issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

So the mess was the fault of the national strike? Really? What about all the other times that the same people and businesses have fouled the top of my street? The strike doesn't really have anything to do with this at all, well apart from their possibly being a delay in getting it cleaned up. This once again goes back to my point about all we see Greenwich Council being is reactive and not proactive.

However he did successfully prompt Jim Wintour into action, as we shall see in a bit.

Thursday 31st of July
An appropriately named commentator commented:

Isnt it about time you start having a go at th pigs that live in your local area creating this problem ie the residents rather than blaming the council for the scum that live in your street?

I've had that kind of comment before. My response is that yes it is the fault of the residents and businesses who make the mess. However the Council have implemented a new, and somewhat complicated, scheme with seemingly no thought given to what to do when it goes wrong. It's been over 7 months now and still there are repeated problems. To begin with it seemed to be just residential waste that piled up, now however certain shop owners have cottoned on to the fact that the Council do nothing about the causes of the problem and have added their waste to the pile. The Council may not be the direct cause, however as the creators of the new scheme (which incidentally I do support) they have a duty to see that it's implementation does not cause problems. When problems are caused they have a duty to keep the streets clean.

I also hear from Jim Wintour, the director of Neighbourhood Services.

He said this:

Your ward councillors have contacted me about your concerns about Floyd Road. Indeed I should make it clear that your ward councillors have been assiduous and consistent in pressing me for a higher standard of waste collection, particularly in Floyd Road.

The new waste collection service has had many successes. For example, the percentage of waste recycled has increased from 24% in 2006/7 to 42% now.

The service has also had its problems, particularly with black bags. We have listened to what residents told us and taken action. The Council has agreed to offer all households black topped bins to place their residual rubbish in. Owing to the European shortage of bins we will not be able to introduce this until March 2009. In the meantime we are putting more intense efforts into collecting black bags and bins with incompatible rubbish.

There have been particular issues in Floyd Road. The road is closed to vehicles, making collection more difficult. However, I can only apologise for the unemptied bins on Sunday 27 July. I attach a photo which I took on the morning of Wednesday 30 July and you can see the bins had been emptied.

Some residents in Floyd Road still seem uncertain about recycling. You may wish to draw your neighbours’ attention to our website, setting out what rubbish goes in what bin, and when black bags are collected. The website is at:

In conclusion, can I again thank you for the hard work that you and your colleagues do. The reports from concerned citizens like you are essential to delivering a cleaner and a greener Greenwich.

So my Councillors have been "assiduous and consistent in pressing" for cleaner streets? 7 months of pressure? With no end to the problems? Make your own mind up on that one...

As with Councillor Parker and the national strike Jim Wintour wheels out the water works as a partial cause of the problem. As with the strikes though the water works are a one off event, the same problems have been going on in my street for months, there's no connection there.

Yes some residents are unsure about the recycling so why don't the Council go and actually talk to those people? We all know who they are. You know reach out and make contact? I really don't see it as my job to go up and down my street trying to sort people out who for all I know could be not the most pleasant of characters. Don't we pay Council Tax to keep the streets clean? I would, and have had to, talk to my immediate neighbours about certain issues and between us we've sorted them out. However am I meant to take on that role for the entire street?

Saturday 2nd August
I get a surprise comment from Councillor Paul Webbewood of the Liberal Democrats.

Well the Liberal Democrat councillors put down the following motion at last Wednesday's Council:
(sorry it's a bit long)

"Council wishes to take stock following the introduction of the part-fortnightly rubbish collection system in January 2008.

Council notes that estimated recycling levels between January-March 2008 were 42%, compared to 24% in the whole of 2006-07. Compostable rubbish has increased fourfold following the introduction of the separate collections for food and garden waste.

Less positively Council notes many complaints about untidy streets due to the greater use of black bags.

Council welcomes the decison to purchase bins which will be offered to residents to use for non-recyclable rubbish in place of black bags, although it notes that this may cost over £1 million and believes that the problems should have been foreseen earlier.

Council notes that, while it is frustrating that a minority of residents are not co-operating with the new collection arrangements, it is not accepatble to leave bins deliberately uncollected even if they contain the wrong type of rubbish.

Council therefore:

1, Thanks all staff involved with the new rubbish collection system;

2. Congratulates new residents who have contributed to the increased recycling levels;

3. Apologises to residents for the extra mess on our Borough's streets since January;

4. Calls on Councillors Roberts and Sidhu to repeat this apology in a signed article in Greenwich Time;

5. Guarantees that all bins will be collected promptly even when contaminated by the wrong type of rubbish;

6. Will collect black bags weekly until the bins for residual waste become avaialble;

7. Will use all available powers to deal with residents who consistenetly fail to separate their rubbish in the proper way. Where such residents are private tenants Council will endeavour to make the owner of the property take responsibility for any such failure"

This was voted down by both the Tories (who at least had an alternative motion) and by Labour (who clearly resented discussing this in public). Deputy Leader Peter Brooks clearly wasn't interested and his only contribution to the debate was a bogus point of order.

All very interesting.

However if the opposition really do care about the borough then why not come out here with your camera and a journalist or two and really make a big deal about this issue. Perhaps they already are, but if so why aren't I hearing anything about it?

We have a real and demonstrable example of the failings of this Council on the streets of Greenwich. Use it.

Councillor Allan MacCarthy
Councillor MacCarthy gets a heading all to himself.

I heard nothing from him.

I presume he's too busy with his new role as Deputy Mayor, before then he was always so prompt with his responses and committed with his actions.

Oh wait, hang on, no he wasn't.

I've got an image of him spending the time that he used to spend ignoring the needs of his electors spending it sneaking into the Mayors Office, putting on the pointed hat and spinning round on the chair going "wheeeeeee!". Oh that and still ignoring the needs of those that put him where he his.

The Conclusions...
Congratulations to anyone who's made it this far!

We've seen a whole lot of hot air spouted above, a fair proportion of it from me. So is anything going to change? Will we see a real desire to resolve the problems? Will the opposition parties swing into action and really tackle the Council over this? I'd put money on the answer to those questions being "no".

Remember, as I found out, Waste Services are severely under resourced. Their rules of engagement are also being limited by "political" constraints, namely over their desire to use the law to tackle the persistent offenders.

I think I'm right to be pessimistic over this being any change in the tide, I think I've got the historic evidence and an explanation of how the system works that back me up.

But come on, someone out there prove me wrong.