Following on from the article I wrote last week, featuring a letter written by a reader on the local issues with litter and fly tipping, I have subsequently had quite a few Emails from other readers, two of which have granted me permission to reproduce their thoughts below, on the condition that both of the authors remain anonymous. The first author writes:- "I was interested to read your letter from a reader about the cleanliness of our Streets, particularly the contrast if you visit Sidcup or Bexley Village of other areas around where the majority vote is Tory, you only need to see where the Tory Majority are seated across the borough to see the contrast in services provided to residents. Living in Brook Street Northumber Heath, you can see the neglect on every street and kerb or gutter along the street. Complaints to Bexley reporting the lack of street cleaning of maintenance go unanswered or you get given a Reference Number to follow up with a named member of Council Staff, but emailing them querying why things are not being done, are either fobbed off or just ignored. There is I acknowledge of the people around us being a bit careless with where they discard their waste, but I have seen passing cars chucking stuff out of the window, including still lit dog ends and fast food wrappings, all of these end up on the street and with high winds blowing down Brook Street, often on our front garden or steps. Much to our annoyance. It is a daily reality that we daily pick up such rubbish and put it in appropriate bins, but we appear to be the exception. But we pay exactly the same Council Tax as the more affluent parts of the borough, but are given second class treatment. There is probably a comparison to be made between the Tory Voting and Labour Voting areas in the borough and the amount spent on providing services to us in the North of the Borough. Apart from the Council's pet projects to level up the North and South, particularly the Exchange, all I see is a levelling down of services, and if it wasn't for the actions by local businesses and supermarkets who are active in maintaining at least their premises and frontages, we'd probably be a lot worse off. Another issue is fly tipping on land held by Orbit. Bexley in its wisdom when it sold the council houses in Brook Street, also passed the responsibility onto Orbit to run (as owners of private land). We have had a number of fly tipping reports made, several from drive-by workmen with tippers, who drive through alleyways with their backs raised, depositing their waste as they go. On more than one occasion in recent years we've had this happen and Bexley Council has done nothing to investigate or enforce. passing the buck to Orbit who are slow to react and do little more than sending a man and van after a few weeks to shovel up what they can, but often leaving broken glass, nails and screws on the ground. We are blocked out of our garage adding even more to the congestion of parking locally. I am afraid that I have no faith in Bexley as a Council to do anything to level up, only level down all the more. This is background, but genuine concern for unequal treatment dependent upon how you vote". Some interesting and thought provoking observations, I feel. The second anonymous author writes:-"I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of your anonymous contributor. As someone who worked in Sidcup and lives in Abbey Wood I confirm that there is most definitely a North South divide when it comes to street cleaning, environmental services and highway maintenance to the detriment of the Northern part of the borough. For many years I reported large amounts of litter strewn along the grass verge on Brampton Rd. between the junctions with West Heath Rd. and Woolwich Rd. on the Bexley side. Nothing was done about it. It became more apparent every time the verges and surrounding hedges were clipped revealing rubbish dumped over many years. It always baffled me how one council dept. could do their work revealing rubbish that needed to be removed, but either not bothering to inform street cleaning, or worse, nothing was done if they had. A few weeks ago when driving along the same route then along Longleigh Lane and down Lodge Hill it became apparent that grass verge and hedge clipping had taken place also revealing rubbish dumped over many years. I reported this to Greenwich council who I have to say quite quickly started to collect the rubbish. Please note Bexley". What do you think? You can Email me in complete confidence to my usual address - email@example.com.
I have recently had several readers comment to me that in their opinion, the Woolwich Ferry might well not exist, as the service has been intermittent or non - existent since the new boats were launched. Before the pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020 about 20,000 vehicles a week were using the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889. Pre-Covid-19, an estimated 2.6 million passengers also used the ferry annually. Records of a ferry across the River Thames at Woolwich date back as far as 1308. The documentation from that date refers to the waterman who ran the ferry, William de Wicton, sold his business and house to William Halle, for £10. In 1320 the ferry was sold again for 100 silver marks. There is no further mention of the ferry during the years that Woolwich rose to prominence as a royal dockyard under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Much later, in 1810 the army established its own ferry that ran from Woolwich Arsenal to Duvals Wharf. In 1811 an Act of Parliament was passed to establish a ferry across the Thames from Woolwich at the Old Ballast or Sand Wharf, opposite Chapel Hill, where the dockyard then terminated. The ferry became known as the western ferry and was run by a company that called itself The Woolwich Ferry Company. The Western ferry continued to operate until 1844, when the company was dissolved after a history of inept management. The current free ferry was set up in the 1889 and has run ever since, though recent developments cast some doubt as to how much longer this may continue. Commuters using the Woolwich Ferry are facing three months of travel disruption as workers strike after what they claim is ‘years of mismanagement’. The 24-hour strikes started on Monday, January 3rd, and be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the end of March. Unite the union, which represents 58 ferry workers claimed there has also been a failure to agree a new pay and reward scheme. They also said there is an excessive use of agency staff and failure to provide adequate health and safety training to new employees. The union said these are issues which have arisen since TfL took back control from the discredited Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd in January last year.
Many technology writers incorrectly state that social media began with the World Wide Web. This is in fact incorrect. Social media existed nearly a decade before the worldwide web became a thing; it was just that it existed in a far different form. Whilst trained and qualified people have been able to operate as Radio Amateurs for many decades, many saw this as an elitist and exclusive club who only technically minded were able to join. Another form of communication was needed to cater for the majority who did not wish to go down the technical route of becoming a Radio Amateur. It is now 40 years since citizens band CB radio became legal in the UK , although fans of CB radio had been illegally operating for many years prior to the legalisation, which took place in November 1981. For many people with an interest in communication, they were able to get a CB radio set as their main Christmas present, and then started operating legally in January and February of 1982, when the hobby really took off in a big way. Before legalisation CB uses youth sets imported from the USA which is the Amplitude Modulation (AM) system the sets were illegal to use in the UK, and the department of trade and industry cracked down hard on users found with these illegally imported American radios. UK CB sets used Frequency Modulation (FM). It is hard to imagine now, but the legalisation of CB radio was a huge issue. Take up was incredible. CB radios were widely available in the high street in stores such as Currys, Rumbelows and even Woolworths. To be legal in the UK you had to buy a CB licence from the post office which was renewable annually. The licence was dropped in 2006 when it cost £15 a year. CB users seem to come from all ages and all walks of life and social backgrounds for the first few years. The channels were very busy indeed. CB radio gave many people a voice and perhaps widened their horizons in all sorts of ways for people of that generation. The CB radio boom translated into record numbers of users taking up licenced Amateur Radio by passing the Radio Amateurs examinations. In many ways, CB radio became a feeder for those who wish to progress onto a full Amateur Radio licence. Nevertheless, CB radio was the first social network, and many local radio clubs were established where CB operators could meet in person. Many friendships, and indeed marriages resulted from this. Although now less popular that it once was CB radio has seen a renaissance during recent lockdowns, allowing those isolating or isolated to communicate across the air. Farmers. 4x4 clubs and radio enthusiasts still use CB radio and they are now joined by schools and hospitals, delivery companies, event organisers, and a host of new and traditional users. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay at home advice meant that many people who felt bored and somewhat lonely, and who had used CB radio equipment back in the 80s, but encouraged to venture into their store cupboards and lofts to dig out the old radio kit and start using it afresh. Something which had appeared outdated had now been given a new lease of life. What do you think?
A new ITV drama series, ostensibly set in London, has recently been filming in Dartford. The new series is called Trigger Point, which follows a fictional bomb disposal team dealing with a series of terrorist improvised explosive devices planted on the streets of London. The show follows a similar concept to the ever-popular BBC series Line of Duty and features a star-studded cast. Much of the show was filmed in and around Dartford. Producers filmed on the Dartford Marshes, which included a police chase and a crime scene. The show features Dartford Clay Shooting Club, around three miles away from Dartford town centre. Viewers may also recognise the town's Joyce Green Lane among the action.
Word reaches me that nationally, Morrison's supermarket are reducing the number of staff assigned to checkout tills. The reason for this is stated to be for "efficiency", but personally I have my doubts. Only last week, I discovered that a previous policy by Morrisons to retain staff beyond their retirement date has now been quietly dropped in some stores. One checkout lady who has worked in the Erith shop for over ten years told me that her final day with the company was last Monday, despite her desire to carry on working for at least a couple more years. As customers have noted, the increase in the number of self service tills in stores has apparently come at a cost to the conventional checkout service. I know that some people prefer self service checkouts, and that is entirely their right. Personally, I am vehemently opposed to self service for a number of reasons; firstly it has been demonstrated that the average time to complete a supermarket self service transaction is up to three times as long as one carried out by a staffed till – and that is without allowing for system errors. Secondly, why would you have a dog and bark yourself? Quite often the checkout person adds to the whole retail experience, and can problem solve on the go. Elderly people, or customers with small children can also find self service stressful. On top of this, the supermarkets only introduce self service as they think it will reduce their staffing overheads, as would appear to be the case in Erith Morrisons. This has proved to be a false economy, as although the number of checkout staff is reduced, the number of supervisors and security operatives has to increase – who tend to be paid a higher rate than the checkout staff. This particular matter has caused Wilkinson’s to remove them, as they discovered that the self service tills actually cost more by the time all the overhead costs were factored in; they were also finding the incidence of thefts and under age purchasing were on the rise. Self-service counters cost about £9,000 each, including installation, and manufacturer NCR estimates that they pay for themselves in about 15 months. A third more tills can be squeezed into a store and checkout staff can be deployed elsewhere. But the devices — and their frequent complaint of “unexpected item in bagging area” — are disliked by many shoppers, who argue that retailers are asking customers to do their work for them and that it reduces interaction with staff. NCR argues that the counters cut prices. “Staff can be redeployed to the shop floor, so it can actually improve service,” A claim that has since found to be incorrect in a very many cases - the number of staff is commonly reduced. NCR believes that it is benefiting from modern social change, especially the growing convenience market. People are making more shopping trips, for fewer items — hence the spread of convenience outlets to meet demand — a phenomenon attributed by analysts to the breakdown in the nuclear family and traditional working patterns. NCR believes, moreover, that shoppers’ desire for healthy and fresh food and a growing desire to have cravings satisfied immediately have also driven the convenience boom. In my opinion, part of the whole shopping experience is the service and interaction with the staff - and as has been previously proved, the auto tills are not very secure. In fact, the whole chip and PIN security system is indeed threatened, as I have written about in the past. I refuse to do the supermarkets' work for them - and I detest these impersonal infringements on our shopping experience. Back in 2017, a report was published by the Criminology Department of the University of Leicester on self service checkout tills. The report found that installing self-service checkouts raises lost revenue by 122 percent. Some of it is accidental – people forget to scan items, or get confused by instructions; other times shoppers get so frustrated with self-service kiosks that they feel justified in not paying. But the report stated that mostly people shoplift because the technology makes it so easy. Mobile phone scanning technology is just as vulnerable – the study found that at the end of a typical shopping trip, up to ten percent of items had not been scanned, leading to “shrinkage” (loss through wastage or theft) of about 3.9 percent of turnover. Unfortunately the technology makes it very difficult to prove that customers are deliberately stealing. One retailer admitted they almost never prosecute people. For that reason supermarkets are now introducing tagging systems so un-scanned items trigger alarms. Supermarkets such as Morrison’s in Erith have now expanded the number of self – service checkouts so that now half of all tills are of this type. Finding open, traditionally staffed checkouts are becoming a challenge to locate. I have always wondered why you have to pay the same price for an item when it is purchased via a self – service till when compared to a traditional one – after all, you are doing work on behalf of the supermarket, and surely this should be reflected in a cheaper cost? If I wanted to operate a till, I would get a job at Morrison's.
The end video this week features transport YouTuber Jago Hazzard, and his history and analysis of the issues that Thamesmead has had with a lack of planned public transport. Hi video, entitled "The Frustrating History of the Thamesmead Rail Link" makes for fascinating viewing. Do give it a watch, and send your feedback to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.