Monday, May 29, 2006

The Tilfen Land Connection?

According to the GLA's Standing Register of Member's Interests the former Leader of Greenwich Council, and Labour GLA member for Greenwich and Lewisham, Len Duvall holds a non-executive directorship at Tilfen Land.

Tilfen Land are a property developer founded in 1999 and are significantly involved in Greenwich regeneration work. According to the website its project include the Woolwich Schoolhouse development, Woolwich Trade Park, West Thamesmead Business Park, Gallions Hill and White Hart Triangle to name but a few.

What's more, when you hit the Track Record section of Tilfen's website it is headed by a photo of three people, one of which is the Deputy Leader of the Council, Angela Cornforth.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Council Leader suppresses Super-Casino Report

The Leader of Greenwich Council is suppressing a report by PriceWaterHouse Cooper on the impact of a "super-casino" in Greenwich.

The report, which is mentioned on page 5 of the Council's submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, provides detailed analysis of the positive and negative impacts that a casino on the pennisular would have.

However, when one councillor requested a copy of the report, an officer in the planning department responded via email saying:

"A decision has been made by the Leader of the Council, in consultation with the Chief Executive, not to release the report as it contains commercially sensitive information. I am therefore unable to supply you with a copy"

We can't say we're happy with this response by the Council. We fully accept the argument might apply to low-life bloggers and hacks, but surely a report into such a radical development in Greenwich should be - at the very least - available to the elected representatives of the Council?

EXCLUSIVE: New Lib Dem Cllr attacks "boastful" Roberts

Newbie Liberal Democrat councillor for Middle Park and Sutcliffe, Paul Webbewood, has hit the ground running by verbally attacking the Council leader Chris Roberts.

According to our source, Cllr Webbewood says in an email that the Mayoral Inauguration ceremony on Wednesday (lightheartedly commented on by us here), "did not show the Council at its best to our guests". He goes on to blame this on Chris Roberts' decision to give an "unnecessarily boastful and tendentious" speech, forcing the leaders of the opposition parties to give speeches which sturck a "discordant note".

Cllr Webbewood, we just want to let you know that we agree with you. Although we have to admit that we'd essentially switched off before Roberts finished speaking, and then found ourselves lost in the sublime fresco for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Mayoral Inauguration

Last night we managed to get ourselves a ticket for the inauguration of the new Mayor, Harry Singh at the Painted Hall in Greewnich. We're not going to lie to you, it was tedious.

What we did find particularly odd was when the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Paul Tyler opened the proceedings. He welcomed our Members of Parliament, clearly no one had told him they were all six miles down the river voting on the Government's Education Bill (two rebels, one toady).

Once the hello's were over we were subjected to a long and very dull speech from Chris Roberts. It should be said there were a few moments where are our eyes popped open in shock at what we heard. The admission that Greenwich was an unhealthy place to bring your children up in especially perked us up.

The piece de resistance for us though was when Roberts started ranting on about the Nazis and World War II. Why would this grab our attention? Well the night was also a 40th anniversary celebration of the twinning of some Borough in Berlin and a delgation was in the audience (invited to speak later on).

We have visions of later conversations along the lines of "don't mention the war, I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Groundhog Tennis Day!

Today, the Council issued a press release titled "Anyone for Tennis". Apparently they're having a big drive to promote tennis in the month before Wimbledon, and it'll all be kicked off with a programme called "First Serve" at the tennis club in Eltham Park.

Now, as some readers may recall, the Council had a similar pre-Wimbledon flirtation with tennis back in 2004. Back then a Council initiative was going to submit a bid with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to build an indoor tennis centre on the site of the old Eltham Lido.

A quick look at Eltham Lido today shows it's still closed and full of rubble. Given there's been no statement about the result of the LTA bid we emailed one of our contacts to see what actually happened. To cut a long story short it appears that the LTA bid may have never actually been submitted.

Is that a double fault?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The sliding scales of energy efficiency

Greenwich Council likes to tubthump about its own "success", and it's "energy efficiency" ratings are no exception. In a press release last Friday they made much about having some of the "most energy efficient" homes in London. The cause for this celebration was a whopping 2 point increase in the Council's average SAP rating (Standard Assessment Procedure) to 69 points on the 120 point scale.

SAP ratings are the Government's recommended system for measuring home energy efficiency. It's essentially the energy cost rating of a property, and is calculated against space and water heating. The system's based on something called "SAP2001" and has a scale which starts at 1 (poor) and goes up to 120 (excellent).

The average SAP2001 rating across the country was between 80 and 100, which certainly puts the 69 point rating of Greenwich Council into a little perspective. More importantly though is that SAP2001 was actually replaced in April by SAP2005 which has a 100 point scale instead.

We think the real achievement here is publicly announcing how good you are at energy efficiency by using the wrong measuring scale.

Compare and contrast

There is certainly a marked difference between what Greenwich Council say they're doing, and what we can record with a Nokia on a Sunday afternoon. We recently received one of the Council's infamous pravda-esque press releases in our mailbox, and it's fair to say it inspired this post. When you initially read it, the spending on housing improvements really does sound pretty spectacular. The Council says that last year it "spent a record £35m million on new kitchens and bathrooms, improving another 3000 of the council’s 25,000 properties". Pretty impressive stuff huh? Thing is, on the basis of their pronouncement that works out to a spend of £11,667.66 per home. Now, anyone who's spent a Bank Holiday in B&Q's will know that £11.5K is one hell of a generous budget for a kitchen and bathroom.

As it happens, being ordinary people, we've seen some of these new kitchens and bathrooms they've installed across the Borough, and to be frank, they're not worth £11K. Even if you factor in labour costs the price tag just doesn't wash. That leaves three possibilities. Either, the Council really has bought superb quality kitchens and bathrooms and we just happened to see the cheap ones; they've been seriously ripped off by dodgy builders (wouldn't that be unsual?), or the figure is a complete misrepresentation.

Given it's politics, we think the last option's the most likely.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The plight of Queen Elizabeth Hospital

As many will know, Queen Elizabeth Hospital is in serious financial trouble. It is currently running with an £11 million deficit, and it's also struggling to find the £15 million it owes to the Private Finance Initiative which funded it's construction.

A quick glance at the records of Hansard suggest the Department of Health has absolved responsibility for the hospital, stating that it's the responsibility of the south east London Strategic Health Authority.

However, what is far more worrying is the total lack of representation coming from the Greenwich Council leadership about the plight of the hospital. We've been searching through the archives of the local press and can't find anything.

We do realise that the Council has limited ability to solve the problem, but you'd think they'd at least be putting forward the overwhleming view of the electorate on the crisis. After all QE is the Borough's primary in-patient facility.

St Paul's Academy funding problem

A few hours ago the News Shopper ran a story about the planned closure of Abbey Wood School. As the article points out, Abbey Wood school is earmarked for closure in 2009 and will be replaced/merged with a new city academy, St Paul's. However, the £20 million St Paul's has hit a bit of cash flow issue and building work has been suspended.

We were curious what the cause of the funding crisis actually was, so we got in touch someone we knew to find out. Apparently, an official bean counter in the chain thought the inflation rate in the UK was 0% and would remain so for the lifetime of the building project. Clever huh?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Crossrail at the Commons

A quick look on the Council website and it's obvious that the issue of the day is Crossrail - 17 years in the talking, another 10 years in the making (probably).

The reason it's taking such prominence is because the Council's petition is included in the current committee stage of the Crossrail Bill at Westminster (scheduled for the 9-11 May). Today we've read that petition and we're now eagerly awaiting the publication of the Committee's proceedings. We'll be scouring the transcripts when we get them as we're sure many of the objections the petition raises are bargaining chips in the "Crossrail for Woolwich" campaign.

The campaign does have it's work cut out though as Crossrail have produced a feasibility study which essentially concluded that it was not commercially viable - in other words, if it happens the shortfall will likely come from the taxpayer.


Local leisure centre saved?

According to information we've received Greenwich Council have promised a local campaigner they are going to find the necessary money with Greenwich Leisure Limited to keep the centre open. Rest assured we will be looking into this and seeking confirmation.

We suggest the first money spent should go on changing the signs so they no longer use the "0181" area code, after all it was only replaced by 020 in the last century.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Vote 2006: We were there for you

Well the election is over which means that this site might actually have something to talk about now. There is actually a Council of elected representatives in Greenwich once more... the question is how many of them will actually do anything more than talk? Anyway, for those interested here's a little bit of commentary from the count which we sneakily managed to get ourselves invites too!

The BNP: These people were milling by the Eltham West count. As troglodytes go they were par for the course really. There was some concerns that they might come through the middle and win the ward but they came fourth in the end and we didn't have to see Greenwich across the news. Thankfully Raynsford and Efford didn't make stupid comments about the BNP to the press (that's not to say they don't regularly make stupid comments about other things of course).

Fight in Plumstead: We witnessed a fight nearly break out between the Plumstead independent (former Labour man) Harbajan Singh and some guy who - quite frankly - looked like he'd slept on a park bench then been dragged through a hedge for good measure. It appeared that the excitement of holding their safest seat of Plumstead was too much for him. Councillor Cornforth tried to keep him under control with the "Handbag of Doom" though... she looks so delightfully Thatcherite with it, we must remember to point that out to her the next time we meet.

Is Danny Thorpe a blubber? It appears that the Tory's push for Shooters Hill didn't pay off. They did however reduce the Labour majority from about a 1000 to less than 200. We did spot Danny "yoof services" Thorpe looking rather worried outside at one point. It looked very much like he'd been crying... bless. We predict those tears will flow much more next time. To be honest, we've not really had much dealing with Thorpe, but he does strike us as an intellectual pygmy amongst the other Labour councillors. From what we've heard some of the Labour group think the same, but far be it from us to start scurrilous gossip. If you want to get an "on message" response then Thorpe is your man.

Blackheath and the race card: It looks like Alex Grant's decision to publish libelous material about one of the Tory candidates paid off. We've seen the blogosphere talk about this over the past week. Alex Grant was - it would seem - so scared that he was going to lose (which would of course be very bad for his career up the greasy Nu Labour pole) he decided to call one of his opponents a racist. Whilst he did retract the accusation after Carter Ruck got involved it looks like it had the desired affect on the postal vote. He managed to hold on, but the Tories made a gain. Rest assured that we will be watching Alex Grant very closely over the coming years.

50% turnout? WTF? Eltham North managed to have a turnout of 50%. The result was that the three tory incumbents secured their seats very comfortably. Spencer Drury (who will presumably be the next Tory Group leader) managed to secure the highest personal vote of the night with over 2,300. We think that can be explained as the PPC effect (Steven Toole in Plumstead being the exception that disproves our rule as he got hammered by three unknown tories).

Middle Park: This one was at the wire when we left the count and it looks like there is a recount scheduled for today. We're hoping that Pete Challis doesn't win simply because we find him an odd man to look at. Thankfully though local politics isn't a beauty contest. If Challis does win Middle Park it will certainly wind the Labour Cabinet up. They only put him in Middle Park to get rid of him. We'll be happy either way. If he wins we get column inches out of him, if he doesn't we can just make snide references to "men of the past". Update: Challis lost, we're gutted, honestly. 2 Lib Dems and 1 Lab.

Kiddbrooke undeclared: This one was looking good for the tories when we left this morning. There were certainly a lot of smiles from their candidates but it may have been lack of sleep and glass half full attitudes keeping them going. We will update this one as soon as we get the details. We may even have some gossip about it, you never know! Update: Tories gained two here from Labour.

On reflection: Most of the other results were as everyone expected. Labour has had a stranglehold on Greenwich for so long that some places just weigh the vote. It's such a shame because in places like Charlton the Greens were the only people actually campaigning, and Labour still won.

You have to wonder why the electorate in the Borough keep returning people that don't actually do much for them. Still... we're here to moan about that now.

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