Monday, March 10, 2008


After a weekend in the real world, painting out graffiti and launching a Duck platform (pics of this in my next post, when I have got them downloaded!), amongst other things, it is back to cyberspace for a quick post. This is currently the season for announcing council tax rises and the figures are now in. Greenwich has one of the lowest increases in London at 1.96% you might think I would be happy about this, but I’m not.

In order to get to this low figure, if you believe the Council’s spin machine (cost £3.1m), it is all down to ‘efficiency savings’, but when you get down to the bottom line the reality is cuts in Council services, such as £1/2m slashed from the Parks Budget. Now you might think that Parks are a good place to cut if money is tight but I would beg to differ. There used to be a thing called ‘civic pride’, a concept which seems to totally evade Greenwich Council, it is about making the place you call home the best that it can be, and for my money it is the most important thing you can do. It should be any council’s first priority to look after what you have got, it’s boring, it’s mundane, but you mend the roads, pavements and paths, paint the railings, get rid of graffiti and make your parks places local people can be proud of.

Unfortunately Greenwich has lost sight of this truth in a whirlwind of new labour double speak. Only the other day I was invited to the 'Greenwich Open Space Strategy Workshop' In which a highly paid consultancy (Atkins Planning Consultants) was to 'consult' with local groups about the future of parks in Greenwich, yet only days later we discover a £1/2m cut in the budget. What the hell is the point of paying consultants, when your actual strategy is to let things go to rack and ruin.

What is the point of spending £m's rebuilding the Borough's schools for instance, if the kids emerge from them into an unkempt barren decaying wasteland, which they will have no respect for or pride in.
I have long been of the opinion that where a council takes pride in looking after the environment, keeping things in good order in the long run this actually saves money as it reduces graffiti, vandalism etc. People really will start to take pride in where they live.

I think part of the problem in Greenwich is that we live in a one party state, where the ruling Labour group, having been in power for over 40 years, has lost sight of the things that really matter. The local Lib Dems are weak and ineffectual and the Tories are only interested in regaining Eltham at the next General election. Perhaps it is about time that local people who want to make a difference got together and gave this shambolic excuse for a local administration a run for its money at the next council elections in 2010.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lies, damm lies, and targets.

In a few spare moments at lunchtime I had a look at one of my favourite blogs, Charlton Average, who incidentally also posts rather erudite comments on the newsshopper website from time to time. In his most recent post he referred to a practice called ‘managed moves’ which I had never heard of before. Very briefly, it is where a disruptive child is transferred to another school as an alternative to exclusion. One effect of this is that a schools exclusion figures would appear lower. I also read today an article about school league tables and a plea from head teachers not to place two much emphasis on them.

This got me thinking about the use and misuse of statistics and targets. Does all this information actually do any good? When I was choosing my secondary school in the dim and distant past there were no league tables I just had a look round and went with my gut feeling and when I was told no by the Council by Dad went into bat for me, appealed and got me in to the school of my choice. I have to say I always had the up most respect for my Dad for letting me chose the school which suited me best.

Anyway I digress, the head teachers complaint was that just looking at the % of students who got 5 A-C grades would not, on its own tell a parent how good a school is, and they were making a plea for people to take a look at some of the new measures which take into account other variables. To put it simply if school A has lots of academically gifted girls from middle class families, who stay at the school all the way through from year 7 to year 11 and school B has a transient population of boys with a high % of special needs from disadvantaged backgrounds, then it should come as no surprise that School A is higher up the league table. The aim of the somewhat cumbersomely titled Contextual Value Added measure is to try to make the figures more meaningful by looking at the difference the school makes to its pupils from when they arrive to when they leave taking into account things which the school had little or no control.

What the head teachers however failed to mention was the way in which borderline C/D grade students are guided towards easier subjects in year 10, year 11 registers are purged to decrease the size of the cohort and help is targeted at C/D grade students to the exclusion of other pupils in order to inflate the headline 5 A-C’s at GCSE figure and move the school up the league table.

This brings me on to the figures for exclusions now these are a minefield, and probably tell us even less about a school than exam results! For instance does a high rate of exclusion mean a school has a strong head teacher who is determined not to tolerate any disruptive behaviour which stops children learning or is it evidence of the appalling antics of an uncontrollable mass of lunatic youths? Does a low exclusion rate indicate evidence of a well ordered peaceful learning environment or does it show a school so cowed by political correctness and the need to ‘give kids a chance’ that it is failing to deal with unruly pupils.

When you then start to get targets introduced on the level of school exclusions, as happened in the 90’s then all sorts of bizarre and unfair practices start to crop up. The first is that pupils who have no right to be in a classroom with normal children can’t be kicked out because the school would look bad on paper, never mind the fact in reality the school is going down the toilet! When those targets are then also related to different groups within the school it gets even more stupid, you get the situation were let us say a teacher is assaulted by a pupil, if pupil is from group X they will be excluded because that group nationally is less likely to be excluded, whereas if the pupil is from group Y they won’t be because that group has a higher level of exclusion, I have even witnessed the situation where a Head teacher was overjoyed to be excluding a pupil from group X because it then gave her a chance to get rid of someone from group Y, because the % of group Y excluded would not now look so bad for the school.

On the other hand I would not want to return to the 80’s were these things went almost entirely unmonitored, I well remember a Catholic school I worked in at the time, in which the management would actively provoke children that they viewed as difficult to do things that would get them excluded. This was not because they were particularly difficult; just they were a bit more hard work than the rest of the kids because they had more problems. I have to say I found some Catholics rather unchristian.

So I don’t know the answer, yes people should have information about schools, yes it should be in context, but then does it become too complicated to be meaningful? Yes schools should be measured, accountable and set targets, but does that then lead to distortions which render all the information at best meaningless and at worst lead to damaging and unfair consequences?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

As some of you may have noticed I now sometimes post a blog on the newsshopper website. Sometimes a variation of the blogs here and other times something completely different, as they say. Now the newsshopper website is home to some pretty strange creatures, especially the blogs, maybe I will fit in quite well I hear you say, one such creature seems to spend his whole life on the site and lives in Bexley (as in the area, not the whole London Borough). He spends much of his time insulting people and indeed whole areas he considers beneath him and this got me thinking about what some people in Bexley are actually like and I reproduce for you my blog entry in full. Hope you find it amusing and your comments are, as always, welcome.

'Much mudslinging has occurred recently on the nature of so called ‘horrible areas’ and the inhabitants there of. I do not propose to comment on such areas but I think we should take a look at the characters of some of those slinging the mud.

Bexley is a rather unpleasant and dreary place, in the main inhabited by narrow minded bigots, who are quick to assert their superiority over others, but are rather slow and dim witted when it comes to producing evidence to back up their puerile assertions. In the main they read newspapers like the Daily Mail, if of course they read at all. They do this because it is devoted to reinforcing their narrow minded ‘little Englander’ attitudes and hatred of all things foreign. In the main the inhabitants often have a little more money than average, but all too few of them have had much in the way of higher education. That said, many have passed tests which prove they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the streets of London.

Their council is well known for its shamefully harsh treatment of the poor and disadvantaged, the aim of this is to ensure that those people who have a lot of money, do not have to part with very much of it in tax, because those in Bexley know that paying your fair share of tax is just not cricket and that it is the less well off who should shoulder the greatest burden of taxation. Not that the council is averse to spending money, indeed they are planning a bright new shinny civic centre to proclaim the glory of Bexley, but have no fear they will fund this proclamation to the world by selling off community facilities in one of the ‘horrible areas’ like Slade Green, to their friends in the building industry.

Their greatest heroine is Margaret Thatcher, whose humble background, together with her ability to marry money makes her a role model; they revel in her greatest quote,
‘There is no such thing as society.’
As they feel it gives them carte blanche to blame the less well off for their predicament and absolves them of any responsibility to help those around them. They applauded when she went on to say that all that mattered was your family, which is why they so much like their local MP Derek Conway, who made sure his family did very well indeed.

They love to buy the same things as other people, but in shops which charge more; this they feel proves how much better they are than poor people. They also love the Queen and the aristocracy, indeed so much so that some of them even pretend that they have been ennobled! Quite why anyone would wish to pretend to be inbred with a limited intellectual capacity as much of the British aristocracy are, is quite beyond me, but each to their own I suppose. However delusion is one of characteristics of the residents of Bexley, many of them do not even know which County they live in, they think they live in the country, in Kent! This is despite the fact that Bexley has been a London Borough for over 40 years.

All in all I think that Bexley, that strange little piece of 30’s infill, surrounded as it is, by far more interesting and exciting neighbouring areas, will continue to be where people go and live in order to wait for death. Bemoaning the world around them until Lucifer finally answers their prayers and takes them to the place where they really deserve to be.'

Friday, February 22, 2008

Inappropriate slogan

Spotted this lorry blocking one carriageway of Plumstead Road yesterday as it completed the installation of the new speed camera and I have to say ‘keeping traffic on the move’ did not strike me as the most suitable motto for this particular business, perhaps ‘robbing unwary motorists who bother to tax and insure their cars and have them registered at the correct address and aren’t using cloned number plates’ might be more accurate. This is perhaps a trifle unwieldy; maybe someone else could come up with something pithier. Or indeed, are there other organisations whose slogans are similarly inaccurate?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I saw a 16 year old boy dying in the street yesterday, he had been stabbed. He is the fifth London teenager to be murdered this year, and it’s not even the end of February.

I am not going to attempt to explain the knife and gun culture which seems to place so little value on human life, nor am I going to suggest remedies, plenty of other people have been doing that. What I do want to nail on the head is the way that an appalling act of senseless violence is used by some people to blame away all of society’s ills on immigrants.

The first thing to say is that I have no idea where this boy was born, or for that matter where his attackers were from, all I know is that he was dying when I walked past him on my way home from work. So as far as I or anyone else knows immigration has nothing to do with this murder. That inconvenient little fact however does not stop some people from seeing the words black and Plumstead and coming up with the word immigration.

Once the word immigration is mentioned then along comes other derogatory words such as scrounger, criminal etc. So I thought I would have an objective look at immigration, I was told by one person in the comments section of the newsshoppers that ‘the majority of immigrants are only here for the benefits. So I did a bit of research and came across an report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) published in September 2007, it made for interesting reading.

Here are a few of the inconvenient truths from the report, if you were born in Ghana, Zimbabwe or Poland you are more likely to be working than if you were born in the UK. If you are from Nigeria, Kenya, India and a whole lot of other places you are likely to be better educated than if you were born in the UK. The average person born in the UK works 36.5 hours a week, someone from Nigeria puts in 38.5 hours, a Ugandan 39.5 and a Pole does 41.5 hours. If you are from Jamaica or Uganda or India you pay more income tax than someone from the UK. If you come from India or Sri Lanka or Ghana you are less likely to be on Income Support than people born here. If you are from Pakistan or Kenya or India you are much less likely to have a council house.

I could go on, the fact is that the majority of immigrants are here to work, are working hard and paying their taxes, the reasons they are here are that 1) They do the jobs that UK citizens don’t want to do like looking after the sick and elderly. 2) They do jobs where there are skills shortages often because some people born in the UK didn’t work hard enough in school. 3) They take jobs because there is a proportion of the population born here that doesn’t want to work and has no intention of doing so the ‘I’m on benefits brigade.'

Now I am all for having a reasoned debate on the costs and benefits of immigration, but what I can’t stand is blaming everything on a group that is different to you. All groups have problems and difficulties, some groups problems may go deeper than others, but rather than mudslinging at others let’s all have a look at our own communities with a critical eye and see what we can do to make them better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Let me know what you think

Another young man murdered in Plumstead

At about 4 pm today a young man was chased and attacked and stabbed by a gang of youths on the corner of Invermore Place and Walmer Terrace on the Glyndon Estate. the air ambulance arrived at 4.30, but the youth did not make it. I do not have any more information than this, and it would be wrong to jump to conclusions as I do not know all the circumstances. but this is the third young man murdered in the area in the last 9 months, no one is going to tell me that crime is currently under control.

  • BBC report
  • Saturday, February 16, 2008

    Hurrah for half term!

    Glad to see the kids are getting a break from school, gives them a chance to let off some steam and have a bit of fun. I have heard a few comments bemoaning the up coming holiday but I think the antics of a few anti-social elements amongst today’s youth should not blind us to the positive energy and contribution to society by so many of our young people. What concerns me far more is the hugely negative influence on society and appalling example set by, miserable, scrounging, inconsiderate old people.

    Now before anyone jumps down my throat I am not tarring every geriatric with the same brush, some like my Dad who’s 80 have a positive upbeat take on the world, he is still working, trying new things, is not afraid of the modern world, he is a confirmed silver surfer for instance, no it’s the wingers who get my goat. Let me explain.

    Take free travel for instance, why do working people have to pay higher fare’s so these scroungers can ride around for nothing, clogging up the buses and trains. Most old people can perfectly well afford to pay, they haven’t got a mortgage to pay, a lot of them don’t even have to pay for a TV licence, and if they don’t have the money it’s because they couldn’t be bothered to make adequate provision for their retirement, so they expect a lifetime of fecklessness and indolence to be rewarded by free travel at the taxpayers expense. I say make them pay; not bothering to work hard and save should have consequences. I well remember as a child when bus passes ran out at 4pm, being elbowed aside by these malingers, for whom any notion of queuing went out the window when faced with the prospect of losing their freebie. We now have the insane idea from our, non driving Ken (aged 62) of letting the over 60’s travel before 9.30 clogging up already heaving public transport with their Zimmer frames and other assorted mobility aids.

    Which brings me on to the menace of doddery old buggers shopping on a Saturday, why the hell are they getting in the way of working people with limited free time, when they have all bloody week to shop, its just anti-social behaviour pure and simple. If they can’t show some consideration for others, I say slap them with an ASBO and keep them locked up at home for the weekend. The worst are the ones with the mobility carts, they are usually on them because they have had their driving licences taken away, because they are a danger to the rest of us, often because their eyesight is shot, so what do they go and do, drive round on the pavement, frequently uninsured, I have even seen one talking on their mobile phone! It’s wrong and something should be done!

    Then there are the cheats and scroungers who defraud the rest of us, these are the people who hide their savings in order claim things like housing benefit, don’t think just because someone is old it makes them honest, I know of OAP’s up to this not so little scam, they have money squirrelled away in accounts here there and everywhere, buy only declare one account to the council, so suckers like me have to pay their rent. Then there are the middle class home owners gripping about having to sell their home to pay for their nursing care, once society finally gets the chance to get them of the streets. What these selfish gits are saying is that the taxpayer, you and I should shell out hundreds of pounds a week when they can perfectly well afford to pay themselves, where the hell is the dignity or fairness in that? You hear them bleating that they have saved all their life, but that quite frankly is crap, what happened is that their houses rose in value because for years they restricted the building of new homes to protect their own vested interests, pushing up the price, they didn’t work for a penny of it, they took advantage of the less fortunate who didn’t own a home to line their own pockets. So having saddled the younger generation with enormous mortgages they want to push up their taxes as well.

    Then there are the moaners, the ones who think everything about the modern world is awful. Who hark back to the days of child labour and rickets as if it was some sort of golden age? Those malcontent's who thing the internet is the work of the devil, condemn every young person as a hoodie chav, complain about every aspect of the modern world and fail to see the good in anything, even as they enjoy their highest ever living standards receive the best ever health care for free, ride around the buses and trains for nothing, even watch TV without paying, unlike the rest of us. They tell you how they worked all their lives and paid for their pension, another lie, their tax went to pay the pensions of a few old people, now there are millions more of them, groaning and grasping for more and more freebies, well I have a message for them, if everything is so bloody awful, do us all a favour and expire now!

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Is Plumstead a toilet? 3

    (but not doing too well in Plumstead)

    I had this response to my previous post, from anonymous, ( I wish people would use a name or pseudonym or something as you can end up calling someone Ann for short, which is all very well, but you just might end up getting the gender wrong!) Anyway Ann wrote in response to my previous post..

    'Any statistic can be slewed to support any argument.

    What I would say in response to the increased reporting of crime in the Plumstead and Glyndon Wards is that the Safer Neighbourhood Teams have invested considerable resources to tackling recidivist offenders with a high local profile.

    By doing this they have encouraged residents to come forward and report crimes rather than turn a blind eye or to continue to live in fear.

    I think that many people failed to report crimes through fear and intimidation in past years, the Police and especially the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams are working hard to help residents feel safer and more confident about coming forward.

    Let’s look at the crime stats in 3 years time when I believe we will see a downturn in reported incidents, not because people are frightened to report crime but because crime has in fact reduced due to effective targeted policing.

    I would prefer high crime stats which reflect a new found confidence in the Police rather than low crimes rates because residents are too scared to report incidents.'

    Aside from the fact that this sounds very much like it comes straight from the Met's PR Dept. I agree that statistics of reported crime certainly don't tell us the whole story about crime in the area, but they are a better starting point than having no actual evidence at all to put forward a case. I am also aware that evidence from the British Crime Survey are more reliable measures of the levels of crime, but such information is not available for a borough, let alone a ward level.

    However I am afraid that your logic is rather flawed, because to follow your argument, this must mean that in most of the rest of London where reported crime has fallen this presumably is because local Safer Neighbourhood Teams have failed to tackle recidivist offenders with a high local profile and therefore local people in those areas are now failing to report crimes through fear and intimidation, hence the fall in recorded crime.

    I am afraid that the person has either fallen for the spin coming from the police or is in fact spinning for the police, that any increase in recorded crime can be explained away as evidence that the police are doing a great job in giving us the confidence to report crime and that any fall in recorded crime is down to the police in doing a great job in reducing the level of crime. You just can't have it both ways. I have never met anyone in Plumstead (and I have lived here for 21 years) who is too scared to tell the police that their house has been burgled, yet burglary is up nearly 20%, ditto their car has been broken into, up 15%. Drug offences presumably are not in the main dependant on reporting by victims and they are up by 40%. I presume that the increased reporting of Homicides is also down to our new found confidence in the police, as I expect a few years ago young people were being gunned down all over Plumstead, and that we just didn't bother to mention it to our local bobby on the beat.

    An equally plausible case could be made for the increased crime figures not reflecting the true scale of the increase, certainly the last time I reported a crime in Glyndon ward the woeful response by the police would make me hesitate to bother to dial 999 again. This incident took place at 8.30 pm at a bus stop on Plumstead Road. A slightly built middle aged Asian lecturer who was going home after teaching his evening class was viciously attacked by a gang of youths and was left bleeding on the pavement. I phoned the police immediately and on two further occasions, despite the fact that Plumstead police Station is less than 500 metres away not one policeman was able to attend the incident, I was told 'it was a busy night'. No police arrived at all and I had to leave at 10pm having waited in vain for an hour and a half. If the police are unable to deal with assaults on wholly innocent people by gangs of youths how much low level crime must be going unreported?

    As for the effectiveness of local safer neighbour teams in influencing the level of crime in the area I think you should take on board this direct quote from the chair of the Glyndon panel of the local SNT;

    'The Safer Neighbourhood team (of which I chair the Glyndon Ward panel!) certainly don't frankly seem to make much difference - they are undermanned have no night shifts and are based in Thamesmead and one vehicle shared with another team (oh yes and of course only three of them are actually police officers with powers of arrest . . . oh yes and once any of those three actually make an arrest they are then off the street for several hours)'

    All in all, on the balance of probabilities I am afraid to say that the increase in drug offences, which is massive, is probably linked to the rise in gun crime and homicide, the increased number of houses being burgled, cars being broken into and people being robbed. Even the local chair of the SNT in Glyndon thinks that the SNT is making little difference to the situation, because they are inadequately resourced.

    So I absolutely stand by my final comment.

    'Either the police are inadequately resourced to deal with the problems confronting them or they are failing to manage their resources effectively to bring about the falling crime levels seen in other parts of the capital.'

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    Is Plumstead a 'toilet' 2

    (but not doing too well in Plumstead)

    Following on some of the discussions as to what Plumstead is like I thought I ought to try and get some facts to go with all the gut feelings out there so to try and get a bit of informed debate going I took a look at the Met's crime figures. The first thing to say is that crime in Plumstead, is about average for London, there are places that are a lot worse, and some that are a lot better. That said, there are some disturbing trends that indicate that unlike London as a whole, crime in Plumstead is getting worse.

    Recorded Crime in London fell last year by 6.1%, but Greenwich was one of only 4 Boroughs where crime increased. Information on some crimes can only obtained at a borough wide level, but some of this does not make for comforting reading, the number of Homicides doubled (from 4-8) at least 2 of which were in the Plumstead area (in Barnfield Road and another just off Herbert Road). Motor Venicle crime increased by 15% in Greenwich compared to a 8% fall across London and Gun enabled crime went up by 32.8%, compared to a 11% fall London wide.

    When you look at ward Data, although there is a ward called Plumstead it does not cover the whole area, indeed much of Plumstead Common is in fact in Glyndon ward, there are also bits of Plumstead in Shooters Hill and Woolwich Common wards. However I have looked at Plumstead and Glyndon, just to get an idea if there are any trends. What I found out was rather disturbing.

    The good news was that there were significant falls in Criminal damage, down 19.4% in Plumstead and 14.9% in Glyndon and smaller falls in Violence against the person of 9.6% in Plumstead and 4% in Glyndon but set against this, there were very large increases last year in some of the crimes which concern people the most. Burglery rose by 19.4% in Plumstead, with a smaller increase in Glyndon. and robbery went up by a whopping 28.7%. Some of these increases may be down to the other significant change and that is the huge increase in Drug offences in the area, up 40.6% in Plumstead and 19.8% in Glyndon.

    So it seems that despite all the hoo ha from the Met about safer Neighbour teams and falling levels of crime, they don't seem to be doing too good a job around here. I think we all need to be kicking up more of a fuss. Either the police are inadequately resourced to deal with the problems confronting them or they are failing to manage their resources effectively to bring about the falling crime levels seen in other parts of the capital.

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