Monday, July 31, 2006

Town Centre manager required

Another of the questions at the Council meeting last week was about the search for a new town centre manager for Eltham. The leader of the Tory Group, Cllr Spencer Drury asked what progress the Council had made in filling the position.

The short answer is, not very much. Basically, the Council said that they've now drawn up the job specifcation for the position and would be recruiting to fill the post in September. That's five months from knowing there was a position to fill to actually getting someone in it.

We're not quite sure why it should take so long. We're also a little worried that they've spent the last two months drawing up a job specification, surely HR should have something like that on file?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Youth reoffending rate at 100%

Well we've been reading through the papers we grabbed from the Council meeting so we could post at least once over the weekend. Stuck in the middle of the meeting agenda is a rather detailed document about Youth Offending, it's the kind of thing that puts most people off politics if we're honest with you. It's boring and contains far to many acronyms, our favourite of which is SQUIFA. We don't know what it means, but we're assuming it's something to do with drunk and disorderly behaviour as in, to be a bit squiffy.

What surprised us were the statistics on reoffending rates for the past year. According to the report, the rate of youth offenders that served a custodial sentence and went on to reoffend was 100%. Of the youth offenders given Community Service (like sweeping the streets etc), the reoffending rate was 85%. Amongst first time youth offenders, 61% of them go on to reoffend, and scarily, 37% of youth offenders in Greenwich reoffend whilst still waiting for sentencing on the last offence.

Unsuprisingly, the Council has set itself a target to "improve" these statistics this year. Having read the rest of the document, it appears that one of their solutions is to prioritise youth offenders on the local housing list? Here's a slightly more radical idea though. Why not stop wasting money on publicity, and direct the funds towards the cost of more policemen? Not uniformed civilians with no power, but warranted officers policing the streets. Just a thought.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Diminishing returns

Something which caught our eye from the Council meeting on Wednesday was a brillian example of the Council's fiscal insanity. Apparently, last year they spent over £17,000 advertising their "on the spot" fines for littering and graffiti policy, and are yet to even make 10% of that cost back in enforcement of the policy.

Such brazen waste of public money is exactly why we're worried about the blackhole in the Woolwich Crossrail financing plans. If the Council spent as much time actually doing things as they did trying to show us that they're doing things, we expect this site wouldn't have to exist.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reports from the Council Meeting will follow shortly

As some people might be aware there was a full Council Meeting last night. We went along for the first hour or so and sat at the back quietly. However, the place was so blindingly hot we only managed to last until just gone 8.

We did manage to pick up a few notes in that time and should be able to provide some reports within the next week. We would however like to apologise to all of you for not lasting the distance. Thankfully we're not obligated to stay there like the poor sods that got themselves elected.

Who needs a sports hall?

Last week the Council put another of it's infamous press releases out and this time it was about schools in the borough. Specifically it was boasting about how a recent Ofsted report had said a certain number of schools had improved greatly. In particular they cited the improvement of Christ Church Primary School in Shooters Hill.

The press release also claimed that the one negative in the Ofsted report was actually a positive. The council said that "[t]he report pinpointed the absence of some facilities that the school didn’t possess such as a school hall or a sufficient outside play area for the youngest pupils, but highlighted the fact that the school was deemed to be acutely aware of the situation and worked doubly harder to overcome the possible disadvantages."

What the release doesn't say is that the reason the Christ Church Primary school has no sports hall is because the Council does not consider it a priority. It also doesn't mention the fact that pupils had to eat their lunches in the open air a few years ago as their hall was deemed unsafe as a result of Council neglect.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Crossrail coming to Woolwich?

Initial reports from parlaiment appear to suggest that Crossrail is coming to Woolwich. In the report from the Crossrail Select Committee today they have stated that they were "clearly convinced of the essential need for a Crossrail station at Woolwich" and that they would be asking the promoters to work with Greenwich Council to integrate a station into the trapsort infrastructure.

Bizarrely the report appears to contradict the feasibility study Crossrail commissioned and says the promoter's "calculations of cost of this station showed it would provide exceptional value for money". The feasibility study in comparison was very clear that Crossrail felt a station in Woolwich would not be commerically viable - according to Crossrail there will be a £504m shortfall which the local public sector will have to subsidise.

The Council has also commented on this today, and from what we've learned they probably knew yesterday as the Communications Unit sent out an email saying there would be a photo opportunity today with the leader Chris Roberts, and the local MP Nick Raynsford to "celebrate good news".


Council invests in arms manufacturers

We've just spotted an interesting little article in last weeks Mercury. Apparently, Greenwich Council's pension fund has holdings in two UK based arms companies, two US companies and one in continental Europe, to the value of £8.6m. We wonder if any of them were Vosper Thornycroft?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Steam-rollering planning permission II?

According to a report published today in the News Shopper, the Council is "steam-rollering" through the plans for the restoration of the Coronet Cinema in Eltham. We can't help but notice the familiarity of that phrase.

Anyhow, as the article points out, the Council's justification for this shortened period of conusltation is because the changes to the original plan are only "minor", and a full consultation has already been carried out on the original plans.

As we understand it the changes relate to a small alteration in the elevation of the new building work already agreed for the site anyway. As such we don't think the Council's argument is particularly unreasonable.

We found it interesting that the local MP would be concerned that planning was being rushed though. After all, the building has been empty and derelict for some years now, any longer and it would be so decayed that it's Grade II status would be meaningless.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The truth behind our Council Tax rise?

In response to our post on Thursday, someone within the Town Hall has told us the Council managed to find almost £2.5 million in it's budget to cover bad debt, whilst simultaneously increasing the revenue from the Council Tax to around £650,000.

As it turns out, the bad debt wasn't anything like the figure allowed for meaning we could've quite easily had a freeze in Council Tax this year. Some might argue we could've had a Council Tax cut instead.

Either way, the bottom line is that the budget is in surplus whilst Council Tax has risen. Interestingly - as our Town Hall source pointed out - the increased revenue from the Council Tax rise neatly mirrors the required extra-spending in the Council's publicity budget.

It looks like the idea of taxpayers funding election campaign has already come to fruition in Greenwich.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Will anyone tell us about London City Airport?

At the beginning of June we posted about London City Airport expansion plans and the sale of airport. In that post we asked if any councillors were willing to let us know what the Council had to say on the issue.

After all, whilst the airport is not in Greenwich Borough it's only a river that separates the people of Woolwich and Thamesmead from the airport. What's more the forthcoming Tripcock Point development by Tilfen land sits almost directly on the end of the runway (perhaps it should be renamed West-Slough? Check out the aerial view here if you don't believe us).

Sadly - although not unexpectedly - no one from the Council has bothered answering our original request, so we decided we'd give it another go. This time however we've decided to contact them directly instead.

As regular readers will know, we've had a bit of a bee in our bonnet recently about the Register of Member's Interests. During our cold, lonely nights of digging around we discovered that the Deputy leader of the Council, Peter Brooks, is on the London City Airport Consultative Committee.

When we found this out we decided to email Cllr Brooks and ask him what the Council's position was on the proposed expansion and it's impact on the Borough. Sadly, he's failed to reply. We do however have reason to believe that there may have been an edict sent out not to talk us, so at least he's shown he's loyal and committed.

Who needs to talk to the public anyway? We're just annoyances!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Council's publicity budget doubles

According to a report in the News Shopper the cost of the Council's publicity machine has more than doubled in a year. The report states that in 2004/05 the press the Council spent £480,000 on its press department, however in 2005/6 this rose to nearly £929,000 (let's just call it a million). Interesting that the budget just so happened to leap through the roof in an election year.

Apparently the Council has spent nearly half a million on it's "web project", given that why do we still have to go to the library to read Agenda documents, why can't we download pdf documents? Rarely do we find ourselves agreeing with the Tories, but the quotes from their leader, Cllr Drury, certainly resonate with most of us here. Why is the council spending nearly a million per year on publicity whilst some parts of the Borough decay, the local hospital cuts jobs, schools close, and new school building projects run out of money which the Council is supposed to be covering?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More on the Register of Interests

We've received a letter (via email) from someone claiming to be the former councillor for Plumstead, Pete Challis (we say "claiming" as we have no means of establishing if it is really is him). In it, he has demanded that we issue Cllr Alex Grant with an apology for our story regarding the Register of Member's Interests.

Apparently we got it wrong because we didn't look at "the actual register of interests" which is available to view by making an appointment with the Head of Legal Services. In the "actual register of interests" Alex Grant has apparently stated he was employed by Greenwich Labour Party up to the election. According to petechallis05, Cllr Grant is surviving on his income from the Cllr's allowance and the money he receives for being the Chair of the Planning Board (shouldn't that be registered as a remunerated position?).

Given the above we'd like to take this opportunity to not apologise to Alex Grant. As was clear in our post yesterday. We made no accusations at Cllr Grant, we merely asked questions of curiousity. As such we have nothing to apologise for. On the issue of the "actual register", we'd like to take to thank petechallis05 for exposing the fact the Council has inaccurately published the Register of Member's Interests online. Sir, we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.

There is something else the erstwhile informant Pete pointed out to us though. According to him the Tory councillor Chris Taylor has not submitted any new interests to the "actual" Register since 23rd May 2005. However the non-actual register online says it was updated and signed by Cllr Taylor on 5th June 2006.

Can someone from the Council get in touch with us and tell us which Register is correct on this point and, more importantly, why there appears to be two registers?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Street recycling bins. Nice in theory, but good in practice?

A quick look on the Council website today shows that the news story of the day for them appears to be the launch of new street recycling bins. Now we at GreenwichWatch are actually a bunch of green tree-hugging hippies so we think this idea is a really good one, encouraging recycling is very important.

However, we also have practical heads on our shoulders and doubt whether the bins will actually be successful. Cleansweep, the company that's responsible for emptying the bins, doesn't do it often enough to ensure that kebabs and chilli sauce won't end up in the wrong side. Still, if there is chilli sauce in the paper compartment at least it might stop it going up in smoke when a hoodie drops a fag-end in one.

Announcement: Upcoming Public Meetings

A resident has contacted us regarding a couple public meetings coming up in Greenwich and asked if we could publicise them. We are of course more than happy to oblige.

Tonight (Tuesday 18th July) there is a meeting about the Pole Dancing club proposed for The Plaza in East Greenwich. The meeting is at Lovell Hall at the Christchurch Forum at 8pm.

In two days time (Thursday 20th July) English Partnerships are organising a meeting about the Greenwich District Hospital site. Apparently there is very little publicity around this one but it will be at The Forum, Greenwich at 7pm.

We're not quite sure what the Thursday meeting will be about, as to our knowledge the hospital site is going to be a new singing all-dancing leisure centre as part of a wider strategy to close down the other leisure centres it's been running into the ground for the past few years. Perhaps this is the beginning of the "consultation" where the end result is already decided?

The Register of Member's Interests Revisited

Back at the beginning of June we noted that the Register of Member's Interests for the Council seemed to be taking a long time to be available online. It finally appeared a week or so ago and we've been gradually trawling our way through them whenever we have a spare minute. For anyone wondering, Cllr Cornforth has not registered any interest in Tilfen Land. Her picture does remain on Tilfen's corporate website though.

Having said this what did catch our attention in the Register was the entry for one Cllr Alexander Hugh Wentworth Grant. Besides the very public school sounding name, according to the entry, the young married father has no form of employment, and in fact holds no positons that remunerate him in anyway.

This makes us wonder if he's filthy rich and so doesn't have to work? Or if he's submitted a false entry to the register? Anyone know what he does?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Some interesting minutes

At the last Council meeting, Council leader Chris Roberts ferociously attacked both of the opposition whips (Cllr Glover for the Conservatives, and Cllr Webbewood for the Lib Dems (who does he whip?)) for their alleged behaviour at the General Purposes Committee (GPC) meeting the previous day. Essentially, he suggested that the whips stamped their feet, and went on to give the impression that both had behaved like small children.

The problem we have with this is we've seen the minutes of the GPC meeting. According to them it only lasted three minutes. It was opened at 16:30 and closed at 16:33. Given that Cllr Roberts chaired the meeting and probably spent 30 seconds opening it, followed by another 30 seconds closing it, that would leave Cllr Glover and Webbewood with about a minute each to behave like children.

We have to say, we're really very impressed that they managed to wind him up so much, and so quickly in two minutes that he felt compelled to mention it in a full Council meeting (it's taken us a few months to just get a reponse from someone from the Eltham Mafia). Cllrs Glover and Webbewood, if you'd be willing to share your secret do let us know.

There is of course a wider issue here and that's the apparent short fuse of the leader of the Council. If - as it seems - he lacks the patience required to look after small children, perhaps it's best he avoids school visits in the future?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Council unveils plans for new Civic Centre.

Ever since Tesco first announced their intentions for the area, we've waited with baited breath to see what they'd come up with, and now the wait is over. A report in the News Shopper, states the Council have finally submitted plans for the 20,000sqft Civic Centre which will be built on Wellington Street.

The report also quotes the Cabinet member responsible for modernisation, Deputy Leader, Cllr Angela Cornforth. In the report she says that the "scheme will fit in with our proposals for the regeneration of the Woolwich area" and that it's "intended to bring to the area expanded community facilities including a new library, new homes, and retail opportunities, which will further enhance the area and will be welcomed by people in the area."

Cllr Cornforth is correct. As "people in the area" we do welcome some new development in Woolwich. We do have concerns though about the amount of effort and funding going into Woolwich at the expense of other parts of the borough. Some parts of Charlton for example could be used as war movie sets.

There is of course one burning question we do have about this development. If planning permission is granted (is it even likely it won't be?), will Tilfen Land get to build it?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You can't beat scurrilous gossip....

Gossip always livens up the day and we've certainly been hearing some. Amongst our recent mails it seems that Chris Roberts - the leader of the Council for those that don't know - is not universally liked.

Now, obviously we realise we only receive mail from people with an axe to grind (political, professional or otherwise), but some of the stories we've heard have still made the office chuckle even with that disclaimer understood.

As such, we're really curious to know more about a mysterious incident at Charlton House in 2005 involving a cup flying in the direction of senior female ethnic minority cabinet member.

Any takers?

Residents take on Council over pole dancing club

It's been brought to our attention that protests are afoot in Greenwich in response to a recent license granted for a pole dancing club in "The Plaza" on Trafalgar Road. From what we've heard the original license application was for alcohol and food only and was happily waved through. However, an ammendment was then made to the license requesting "dancing" be included.

The residents of the Plaza were invited to a meeting regarding these ammendments on the 6th July and the result was that the successful license application was sustained on the grounds that there were no "legal" reasons it could be refused. The ammendment also changed the entrance of the premises so that punters would use the residential area of Rodmere Street instead directly opposite the Cycle Discount Store. Residents now have 28 days to appeal and are having to seek legal help and more importantly funding for it.

Now, you might be wondering where the ward councillors were in all this, given it was always going to be a contentious issue. Well we know that at least one of them was probably at the LGA Conference in Bournemouth during the July 6th meeting, we're can't be sure about all of them though. Residents did however contact Cllr Mary Mills who passed the problem on to her ward councillor colleague, leader of the council, Chris Roberts.

In the letter response from the Council leader - which Greenwich Watch has received a copy of - Chris Roberts says he shared the residents "shock at the decision taken last week to locate a lap dancing club in such a prominent position". The Council leader goes on to say that "as local councillors we will be keen to do all we can to work with local residents on this matter".

There are two questions we want to ask here. First, if local councillors are keen to work with residents on the matter, why did residents have no knowledge about it until the 11th hour when it was presented to them as a fait accompli? Second, if Councillor Roberts was genuinely "shocked", what does that say about his grasp on the significant issues occuring in his own ward?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Councillors behaving badly!

According to information received, there's been a little bit of boasting going on by close colleagues after some drunken antics by one extremely senior Cabinet member at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth.

Apparently, this senior Cabinet member from west of the Borough had such a serious hangover they missed key sessions and managed to verbally abuse a newly-elected female colleague from Eltham in full view of everyone present.

We wonder whether the booze was expensed?

The "Greenwich Blogosphere" grows some more

It appears the Tories are all getting on the blogging bandwagon. Slow down guys, we can't keep up! In addition to Cllr Nigel Fletcher and Cllr Andy Jennings, we now have the Coldharbour and New Eltham Noticeboard from councillors Mandy Brinkhurst, Chris Taylor, and John Hills. We've added them to the local blogs listing as they've been updating it regularly - we hope they will keep it up and allow comments.

All this new blog activity had us wondering if the Labour Party websites that have been offline since we commented on them might be about to be reborn with blogs for each of their wards as well? Surely someone out there in the Labour Party can tell us what's going on? Just click here and tell us.

More pronouncements on health

It would seem that the Council is definitely on the defensive since the damning indictment of it's record on the health of the Borough was released. As we noted last week, the Council leader wants us all to take exercise to save him embarassment and now another Cabinet member appears to have weighed in.

Cllr John Fahy - who recently failed to get the Council to replace the "decaying" windows on sheltered housing - has made a big deal about the "importance" placed "on the health of children". However, as the Government's NHS profile for Greenwich shows, the Council has seriously let the Borough down. Frankly, Cllr Fahy's comments are, a little too late.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Council mulls over FoI requests for PWC Casino report

We've just had word that the Council is consulting the third parties mentioned in the PriceWaterhouse Cooper report on the super-casino before it makes any decisions on the Freeedom of Information requests they have received.

We stress, requests, plural. It seems the Council havn't just had the one Cllr Fletcher said he would be making. As a result, the Council has been forced to make contact with PWC, AEG and Kertzner to get their feedback on releasing the report for everyone to see.

To be perfectly honest we're not surprised there have been multiple FoI requests. In recent days virtually every major newspaper has been reading our stories about the casino report suppression, and Cllr Fletcher's letter to Chris Roberts. We expect the Council is probably not enjoying the attention. Especially - we imagine - if the Council was to find itself a player in the donwfall of a Deputy Prime Minister.

YOU make us what we are

Don't forget that this site relies on information from its readership. If you work for the council; are a councillor; or just a resident who feels they're not being listened to, then contact us. As we've said before, we'll publish what the local press won't.

Remember, we don't have deadlines, and we don't have to worry about advertising taken up column space. You contact us, and we publish. We're always discreet, and no one is on the record unless they choose to be.

Contact us and tell us what you know

Monday, July 10, 2006

Steam-rollering planning permission?

We've just received an email suggesting that the planning application for the Coronet Cinema in Eltham is being steam-rollered through by the Council. Apparently a planning application has been submitted by the developers (Cathedral Group) and the consultation period for the public to provide objections is just 14 days.

This is despite the Council website saying all residents will "have 21 days after [an] application is published to send in your comments to the Council."

Whatever is going on we wonder?

Begging strategy for Hornfair Park

We've just found out that another of the late petitions to the last Council meeting was one for Hornfair Park. The petition called on the Council to restore the pavillion and public toilets in the park.

The Council's response to the petition was an interesting one we thought. They said that that a detailed "Management Plan" was prepared in relation to Hornfair Park and would be available in the "forthcoming weeks". We're a little concerned that the answer - whilst sounding promising - is rather vague on timescales. Have they not heard of Microsoft Project?

We're more concerned with the finer detail of the response though. It says that the Management Plan will be used as an "inward investment tool" to "attract external funding streams" and that money would be used to "fund the priority infrastructure projects for the park."

Now we're the first to admit we might be a tad cynical, but to us that translates as, "we're going to write a begging letter because we're not willing to pay for things we accept are priority needs". Don't misunderstand us here though please. When it comes to local Government funding there's nothing wrong with a little bit of begging for cash. What is wrong is dressing it up in politicese and thinking we won't notice. We're not idiots after all.

One final thing that's bothered us is what seems like a lack of support from the ward councillors present in the Council Chamber when the response was given. Whilst new councillor, Grahame Coombes had sent his apologies for the evening so had a good excuse. We've been told that the Labour councillor Norman Adams and his Tory colleague Andy Jennings both left the chamber during the discussion of the petition. Neither made it back in to give a comment about the Council's response.

Now we're sure there was a perfectly good reason for why they left. Perhaps they both needed the loo. However, we can't imagine what sort of impression it left on the resident petitioners who'd come to the meeting.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The fate of the Co-op Building?

Last Wednesday, Inspector Sands mentioned that he kept hearing rumours that the old art deco Co-op Building in Woolwich was going to be pulled down as part of a wider plan to develop a new shopping centre. We'd not heard this rumour, so we decided to dig a little and see if it was true.

What we've been told is that as yet there are no active planning applications submitted relating to the Co-op Building. However, the freeholder, Powis Street Estates, is in the process of working with Wilson Bowden to bring about a mixed development of retail and residential units on that area of Woolwich. Given that the redevelopment of the Co-op Building would be included in that.

What does that actually mean? Well, we've also found out that flood damage remedial work and asbestos removal has been carried out in the building, which might suggest it's going to be restored in any redevelopment rather than pulled down. We'll have to watch and see.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Four year wait for replacement windows?

You may remember that recently one of us mentioned that the Council's spin is that they're renovating the Borough whilst the reality for some is very different. Well, at the last Council meeting our point was beautifully illustrated in a response the Council gave to a petition brought forward by the councillor for Woolwich Riverside, John Fahy.

The petition called on the Council to replace the windows in the sheltered accomodation block, Len Clifton House. In response the Council acknowledged that Clifton House - which is home to a signifianct number of senior citizens - was in serious need of repair. It acknowledged the window frames were "decaying", there were "visible gaps" in the ageing timber cills, and that the seals were "failing". There were also "eight softwood fire exit door" that were "decaying due to external weathering". The response concluded that remedial work would be scheduled sometime in the next four years.

We do question whether a four year maintenance window on an accepted "decaying" property marries with the Council's claim that sheltered houing is a secure and friendly environment. There's also the question of why softwood was used for external fire exit doors originally? Is it any wonder they're knackered?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Time Travelling Kidbrooke Councillor

A few weeks ago we mentioned that Cllr Andy Jennings had set up a blog for the Kidbrooke with Hornfair ward. Back then we welcomed the addition of such a blog and said we'd monitor it closely to see if it actually got updated. At the time Cllr Jennings said to us that he was "new to the blogosphere" but would have "something up and running soon".

True to his word he has done that and the blog appears to have taken on a whole new life. True to our word we've added a link. We do have one slight concern though, Cllr Jennings appears to have engaged in some time travel. The stories seem to have been back-dated so they tell a narrative from the beginning of May. This is a handy feature in Blogger where the date of posts can be set, it's particular useful if you want to push a post to the top again.

However, in this case it seems to have been used to create the impression of a blog that's been constantly updated for two months. This is something - as we're sure Inspector Sands will confirm - is not the case and defeats the point of a blog - especially the blog of a public servant who knows he's being watched by people like us, did he think he'd get it past us?

Don't get us wrong here though. We think it's good that Cllr Jennings is taking the time to engage with the electorate in Kidbrooke through blogging. We're just not sure if creating a false reality on the blog is a good foundation for building trust.

P.S. We've also linked to Councillor Fletcher's blog as he seems to updating that regularly too.

Update: Cllr Jennings has replied in the comments with his explanation

Prescott, the Dome, a Casino and Greenwich Council

We've been holding off writing anything on the problems facing the Deputy Prime Minister and what the implications may, or may not, be for Greenwich's bid for the the super-casino. After blogs came under fire last night on Newsnight we thought we'd leave it a little longer before we commented.

However, we just found out that the Opposition Spokesman for Culture on the Council, Nigel Fletcher has written to the leader Chris Roberts on precisely this subject. Cllr Fletcher has asked the Council leader "what contacts or discussions [he] or Council officers have had with Mr Prescott or his officials on the specific subject of the Anschutz bid."

In his letter, Cllr Fletcher's goes on to point out that should Greenwich win the bid for the casino license it will be tainted by suspicions of "private influence" by the Deputy Prime Minister, unless the Council shows it is "more forthcoming than Mr Prescott has been in volunteering such information willingly".

We certainly agree with Cllr Fletcher's concerns about the potential impact the Deputy Prime Minister's situation may have on the casino bid. Is it even possible for Greenwich to win the bid now? We'll just have to wait and see.

Party Political Website Review

We've decided to do a whistle-stop review of each of the local political party websites. Our site is about new technologies after all, and the web is an undoubtedly powerful tool for activism of all sorts, from the mildly moderate to the insanely extreme. As such we thought we were perfectly placed to pass judgement on their web offerings.

Greenwich Green Party: Yes, they have a website! It's well laid out and it's not displeasing to the eye. Sadly it's "Archive" only appears to contain information for April 2006. Since then not a thing. Funny what happens when there is no election on.

Greenwich and Woolwich Labour Party: Make it stop it hurts our eyes! Seriously, this site is horrendous to look at. To their credit they did update it just before the local elections with the new photos from their electoral addresses.

Greenwich Conservatives: Very similar to the Green's site in its layout. But who the hell designed the banner logo? It's virtually impossible to read the blue text against the image. It does appear to have been updated recently though.

Eltham Labour Party: Why do they keep using scrolling text? Scrolling text is - to be blunt - very wrong. In fact, in the wrongness stakes it's more wrong than that which is very wrong indeed. Added to this it doesn't look like it's been updated for over a year.

Greenwich Liberal Democrats: Structurally this site looks like most other Liberal Democrat websites. Sadly the "dynamic duo" have failed to update the site since just before the election.

So there you have it, that's our opinion of the party political websites in Greenwich. If we've missed any do let us know. What's the bottom line? Update your sites regularly and tell us what you're doing.

Update: For those who don't read the comments, within an hour of this post being published both the Labour Party websites went offline. At 18:30, Thursday, they were still offline. Obviously it's just a coincidence.

Update 2: The Labour websites remain offline this morning.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A "pivotal" role?

This morning we noticed a news item on the Council's website that says the Council leader Chris Roberts has been elected Chair of the Thames Gateway London Partnership. As it stands we're still trying to figure out exactly how these "partnership" work so we're not going to expand on that.

Instead we wanted to mention something we noticed in the article. It says that the Council leader "played a pivotal role in London’s successful bid for the 2012 London Olympics." Pivotal? The Council is not seriously suggesting that without Chris Roberts the London 2012 bid would've failed, are they? At best it's disingenuity at worst it's delusions of grandeur.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Playing the Race Card?

When we started this site we said we wanted to report the stories that the local press was either not willing, or able to run. One such story is something that happened during the local election campaign in Blackheath and Westcombe.

In the campaign for the ward the local Labour councillor and candidate Alex Grant put out a leaflet which alleged one of the candidates for the Conservatives had expressed "extremist" and "poisonous" views. The leaflet referred to an article written by the Tory candidate, Peter Whittle, in the Sunday Times, and attributed a sub-editor's comment to Mr. Whittle. The false allegation was then repeated at a hustings.

From what we've been able to find out, letters were exchanged between the libel lawyers Carter-Ruck and the local Labour Party. The result of this correspondance was an agreement that no more of the libelous leaflets would be delivered and a retraction leaflet would be delivered to all the properties that had received the original.

On election day, Mr Whittle missed out on becoming a new councillor by just under 100 votes. It's impossible to know for sure whether the false allegations in the leaflet, and its repetition at a hustings were responsible. What does worry us significantly though is the apparent news blackout on the story in the local press.

We assumed that it would have been mentioned by the press recently as the issue was raised in the last Council meeting. As we understand it, an obscure procedural motion was called which allowed the leader of the Tory Group, Cllr Spencer Drury to make a speech which called on Cllr Alex Grant to resign. The procedure meant that only the Council leader Chris Roberts had a right to reply. Sadly there is no transcript of the proceedings but we're told that Cllr Roberts strongly defended Cllr Grant.

To be perfectly frank we're not sure what's worse. The use of a libelous smears, the lack of press reports, or the Council's leader support for the offending councillor.