Thursday, August 31, 2006
BNP leafleting in Stephen Lawrence ward?
Crashing back to earth we come...
Now, on a slightly more local note, we're wondering what is going on over at the Coldharbour and New Eltham blog. It doesn't appear to have been updated since July 22nd, surely something has happened since then? Or is everyone on holiday?
Where were the Peninsula Councillors?
After all, it's supposedly the Council that is putting the bid for the license forward, it's political leader ought to be present for such thing shouldn't he? Was he having a bathroom break when NewsNight were filiming?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Casino shortlisting process to be legally contested?
In a statement on their website in July they said that if they were not put on the shortlist they "would be obliged to consider what further course of action may be available to ensure fair consideration of our proposals". We're not aware whether any legal papers have been served yet to contest the shortlisting process, but it's all starting to look very bad for Greenwich.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Press refused access to Dome plans by Council?
AEG apology coverage
The coverage of our original stories (here and here) which were given prominence by an Iain Dale exclusive here, appear to be getting a lot of national coverage, so we thought we'd list them. And before anyone suggests we're milking it, can you blame us?
- BBC News
- Sky News
- The Guardian
- Another in The Guardian
- The Daily Mail
- Evening Standard
- The Times
- Also on page 2 of the paper version of the Daily Telegraph
Author of fake AEG document is a former senior Council officer?
Something however that has not been commented on in the press is that Rosa's previous employment was as Tourism Development Manager for Greenwich Council. Isn't it all looking rather incestuous?
Not that we're boasting but...
Onwards and upwards as a friend of our's recently said to us in an email!
Monday, August 28, 2006
Traffic is up, we know it won't last
One thing's for sure, we owe our thanks for this traffic primarily to the leading political blogger, Iain Dale, who - as we found out from our server logs - has heavily linked to our Casino stories here. He's also exclusively published the email we reported on yesterday evening. As a result, we appear to have had the spotlight shined on our site today, and the national press have all been having a good read.
Rest assured though, all this attention will not go to our heads. We'll continue in the same vain as before and leave the limelight to others. Whilst we're on the subject, we've heard a rumour that the full Council meeting for September may be cancelled due to there being no business. Obviously the Casino shenanigans probably guarantees it won't sit now! If it does though, we will do our best to be there.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
EXCLUSIVE: CEO of AEG Europe "unreservedly" apologises for false Casino document
Based on the email (which appears to have been cc'd to multiple recipients including Mary Ney, the Chief Executive of the Council), it appears the document in question on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport website was produced not by the Council, but by AEG (the Anscutz casino company and owner of the Dome). In the email thread response to the concerns of the Greenwich Chaplaincy, AEG Europe's CEO apologises "unreservedly" for the document which the Chaplaincy says is "simply made up".
So, what exactly is the Council's role in the bid that it's supposedly putting forward? If AEG have produced documents for the bid, are the Council simply acting on behalf of a private company that's controlling the show? Is the Council merely a pawn in a charade where the result has already been agreed by AEG and the ODPM? Does this explain why the issue has never been debated thoroughly in the Council chamber?
Perhaps Greenwich Council will issue a statement on their website explaining what's going on before the dead tree media pick up on this and ask much harder questions?
What about the other Casino documents?
The question we wondered was if it's happened with one document what's to stop it happening with another? For example, the document that's listed as being from the Police Borough Commander for Greenwich, Peter Lowton, is written entirely in the third person.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Have false documents been submitted to the Casino Advisory Panel?
In the email (which appears to have been sent to multiple recipients on the Council, the Department of Culture Media and Sport, and Anschutz), it is alleged that a document submitted to the Casino Advisory Panel (here), titled Greenwich Peninsula Chaplaincy was not written by the Chaplaincy.
The email says that the document "doesn't reflect the views of the Greenwich Peninsula Chaplaincy". It goes on to request that the document be removed immediately from the DCMS website, and be replaced with the Chaplaincy's published view of July 2005.
So now we not only have questions hanging over the planning permission granted on the pennisula, but we have allegations that false documents have been submitted to the Casino Advisory Panel. If the allegation is true, then there are surely questions that need to be answered. Who authorised the creative writing for a start?
Friday, August 25, 2006
Who needs a decent pension?
According to the documents produced for the Council's Summary of Statement of Accounts 2005/06, the pensions deficit for the Council is £279,792,000, compared to £282,411,000 the previous year.
Yes yes, we realise that implies it's actually got better to the value of £2.9m. However, compared to the 22% rise in the FTSE-100 over the same year it's rather pitiful really. We hope Council employees will raise the concern that the liability in their pension schemes is being outstripped by the rise in the market by an order of magnitude.
More missed targets
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Is there a by-election coming?
Could this explain the recent, and somewhat mysterious, Labour campaigning in Charlton that we were mailed? Does this also explain why Kidbrooke and Hornfair councillor, Norman Adams is attending surgeries in Charlton as well as his own ward?
There really is nothing more enjoyable than wild speculation to liven up the day!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Murky waters in East Greenwich?
According to today's Evening Standard (Tuesday). AEG, the Dome's owner/developer and Casino running company, have been forging ahead with the building work of the Casino inside the Dome structure even though planning has not been approved for that work, or a license for gambling being given.
As the erstwhile and diligent Indigo at Moody Blue has pointed out to us, the original - and only - planning permission granted for the site does not mention the requirement or building of a casino structure in it (1). In fact, that document outlines many other things that were given permission to be built on the Greenwich Pennisula by the subsidiary company of AEG, Meridian Delta Limited (MDL).
Without us wishing to go over it all again, the allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister are that he somehow smoothed the way so that AEG would secure the license for the casino from the Casino Advisory Panel (CAP). However, if the allegations are true it's fair to say that the scandal posed a problem.
What's interesting is that Indigo may have found what is to be the solution to that problem in the Council's recent submission to the Casino Advisory Panel. In that submission they said:
"only part of the scheme will be developed without the casino – there would be no exhibition space, no theatre, no hotels, and a smaller range of outlets. The full scheme is dependent on the inclusion of the casino as an integral and complementary leisure activity ..." (2)
This clearly contradicts the planning applications of 2003, which made no mention of a casino being essential to their construction. We should also point out that Greenwich Council didn't even have a democratic mandate for its casino proposals until recently when a cross party motion was passed by the Tories and Labour. We've been told that at the time even the Deputy Leader of the Council called gambling a "social evil".
This leads us to ask ourselves two questions. Firstly, why would Greenwich Council wish to obtain advantage by what appears to be deception at the CAP? And secondly, why did the Council leader, Chris Roberts, forge ahead with this scheme without first seeking the democratic mandate of the Council? The only reasons we can think of, are that the answers to both might be linked.
Could the Council have over-egged it's case to ensure that Greenwich is seen to win on the basis of need rather than a guarantee already made at a Texan ranch? What better way to solve the problem facing Mr Prescott on the issue than to give the Casino Advisory panel a fait accompli on it's decision? As to the Council leader's actions, might they just be straight forward ingratiation by a lower politician towards a higher one because of career ambitions (which he undoubtedly has)?
One thing's for sure it seems; we just can't help but feel that this saga at the Dome goes alot higher than the leadership of Greenwich Council.
(1) Greenwich Council Planning Board, 30 October 2003, paragraph 4.2
(2) Casino Advisory Panel Greenwich Answers
There's missing targets and then there's Greenwich
According to our source, the "Monthly Performance Report" states that "the target is to reduce current arrears by £500,000 by the end of the financial year. This requires a monthly reduction of over £40,000. There was an increase of almost £67,000 rent arrears during June 2006."
Don't expect to see these figures publicised in a press release.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Where are the websites?
Now we realise we may have been harsh when we reviewed their sites. But the fact they went down very soon after our review was published and they remain down nearly two months later does worry us. Surely we're not that influential are we?
Update: The Council website appears to be back online. They must've had a serious problem for it to be offline for so long.
Update 2: A kindly anonymous poster with a reading comprehension problem has informed us that the problem with the Council's website was a flood in the datacentre. What they didn't mention was how the flooding might've occured. We do have a theory though.
Get a life, get a Greenwich education?
Now, aside from the irony that the first word in the sentence isn't capitalised, we thought we'd just post the link to the league tables which suggests getting a Greenwich education might not actually be the best route to getting a life.
Note: We fully realise that pointing out grammatical problems is a dangerous game to play, especially when we make untold typning and grammatical errors ourselfs.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Cabinet member breaches code of coduct
This said, we've just noticed the rather interesting story in the News Shopper which points out that Cllr Maureen O'Mara broke the code of conduct by failing to declare an interest in the planning application for Borthwick Wharf and Paynes Wharf in Deptford.
The planning was granted but, as the article by the ever lovely Samantha Payne says, the Council has since decided to quash the permission. Besides this being an obvious admission of guilt, the Deputy leader of the Council, Peter "Kidbrooke Destroyer" Brooks said to the paper:
"Cllr O'Mara is a well- respected member of the council and was recognised as an excellent chairman of the planning board for a number of years. She has a sound reputation for adherence to good standards of governance. This situation is much regretted but the council is pursuing action to address the three points of challenge and re-process the planning application."
In other words, Cllr O'Mara keeps her job and it's business as usual. Perhaps our readers might like to report her to the Standards Board. You can get the Complaint form here.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Let them eat cake!
Under the title of "Ferrier residents feast of fun" the Council have put out a release promoting an event this Saturday on the Ferrier Estate. Apparently, according to the Council member responsible for the incompetence surrounding the Ferrier Estate (Deputy Leader Peter Brooks), it will be a chance for residents to "celebrate" Kidbrooke.
Yes, that's right, residents are being asked to celebrate the fact that the Council has neglected their estate and left it to rot over the past decades. They're being asked to celebrate that their hard work and desire to own their own home is being taken away from them with a derisory offer of compensation. They're being asked to celebrate the total lack of communication that the Council has given them in it's so-called "Kidbrooke Vision".
It's almost as if the Council believes that if it throws a party with some free food it can make up for its years of incompetence and abject neglect. If it wasn't so tragic it would be funny.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Our Council leader, the sheep
On June 14th - according to the agreed minutes - Cllr Fletcher put forward a supplementary question about the Public Hall which asked "why" the policy regarding its use had changed. In response, the Council leader, Chris Roberts, said that it was because it had to "operate in the manner [the Council] demands of any other licensed premises in the borough". No mention of complaints from the self-important in his original response we note.
However, on the basis that it's all about licensing, how come the Director General and the nightclub opposite still have licenses? Presumably the Council has been filming in order to establish which premises the urinators and vomiters come out? Or maybe, Chris Roberts was just making it all up as he went along? would it be the first time? - ed
The best part of Chris Roberts' response came at the end though. In an absurd act of contradiction, he said it was important the "users of the Hall do not abuse the amenities of residents". What amenities Chris? You're denying access to them. Here's a radical idea from us to you Chris. How about you start leading and stop following?
Friday, August 11, 2006
Councillor "gagged" over Casino Bid report
Cllr Fletcher, as he mentioned in the Comments section on this site, contacted the Council to find out what was going. It is Cllr Fletcher's view that the public has a right to see this report which he himself has seen on a confidentail basis. However, in a letter from the Council he's been told,
"the report was prepared by PwC on the contractual basis that the information in it should not be made publicly available... They confirmed that they would reconsider granting consent to disclosure, once the bidding process had concluded... PwC have since restated their objection to disclosure of the report."
We have to say we think this argument is utterly bizarre. If Greenwich Council commissioned and paid for the report then the intellectual property is surely with the Council not PwC? Especially as the document relates to a matter of public significance and public policy. What's more worrying is that a councillor has now been allowed to see but has been, in his word, "effectively gagged" from discussing it's content which he beleives ought to be in the public domain.
We would though like to draw our reader's attention to what we said earlier in the week about publication happening after the formal Casino decision is made by the Government, and the Council's response that effectively confirms our cynicism.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Deputy Council Leader contradicts himself over Ferrier Estate
As we've mentioned before, the Council insists on saying that each homeowner is being offered "market value plus 10% home loss and disturbance allowance". This sounds like a very respectable amount until you discover that in many cases the so-called "market value" for a three bedroom flat is apparently only £65,000 or thereabouts.
Interestingly to us, in their most recent response they appear to contradict the “market value" claim within the same paragraph. Cllr Brooks say the Council has offered to those selling up for the supposed “market value plus 10%”, "access to shared ownership schemes in the borough" and also "reversion to council tenancy with no loss of compensation".
If they were offering market value why would people need shared ownership? Genuine market value would mean they could buy again at market prices. The fact they’re options do not allow for that shows there isn’t an ounce of honesty in the Council's claim. Still, we must acknowledge the Council's generosity in saying they wouldn't cut the derisory payment if residents chose to become council tenants again. Aren't they kind?
If any of our readership is involved in the Ferrier Residents' Action Group we'd love to hear from you. We imagine you have some tales to tell. Click here to email us.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The Casino story. Gone, but definitely not forgotten
Back then, the Council's response was it was establishing with the 3rd parties mentioned in the report whether they were happy for the information to be published. Interestingly, in response to a question from Cllr Fletcher, the Council made the rather dubious claim that PcW say the "information in the report is their property and confidential to them". This seems rather odd for a report paid for by the Council.
One of our readers, the Plumstead Commoner decided he/she would make an FoI request as well, and they've updated us on it through the Comments section here. Basically, it appears the Plumstead Commoner was told that they should receive a response by around July 17th. However, they're yet to receive anything.
As is pointed out, there's no statutory deadline for a response when the public authority has decided it needs an extension to consider the public interest balance. Perhaps Cllr Fletcher can provide us with an update on this as well because it seems to us like the Council is prevaricating somewhat - possible with the hope that people will forget about the requests? Far be it for us to be cynical, but we wonder whether the answer will only come after the formal Casino decision has been announced by the Government.
Monday, August 07, 2006
A reminder of how this site works
We post stories that we think are relevant about the Council, or other things happening in the remit of local politics. If you think that what we've posted is inaccurate, unfair or whatever then you have the power to let the world know that by adding a comment to the post. Some people have sussed this out quite well, such as Cllr Webbewood and the Woolwich Pioneer, others however have not, for example, the person known to us as petechallis05 who insists on emailing us.
We're more than happy to receive email from our readership. However, when it comes to our posts, if you have a comment to make on them then use the Comments section, it really isn't difficult. Please don't email us to demand corrections or apologies, it's pointless. You'll just annoy us and make it even more likely that we won't do what you ask.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
It's the same, only different
As we're sure our regular readers will recall, Cllr Webbewood commented on our post about the "Great Get Together" back at the beginning of June. He said that he was "somewhat peeved that the decision to scrap Time to Listen seems to have been made immediately before the Election, without giving the new Council the opportunity to discuss the issue." Our suggestion was to ask a question and so he did.
The answer from Chirs Roberts certainly makes for interesting reading (although it's not quite on a par with another answer he gave that night). Basically, in response to the question of, when, and on what authority, "Time to Listen" was discontinued, the council leader said - and we admit we paraphrase here - that it has not been discontinued, it's merely changed its name, format, location and size.
Interestingly he didn't mention cost. Perhaps, Cllr Webbewood can find out how much the "Great Get Together" costs compared to "Time to Listen" (assuming they can be compared of course given that the leader says they are the same thing only different)?
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
It's all about reading between the lines
Of course, rarely does something please everyone, and the letter received by the Mercury and News Shopper show that to be a truism. In both publications there is a letter from the former councillor, Pete Challis, complaining about the planning process. It appears that the loss of those 7 days which the Council reasonably justified are a threat to the very basis of democracy. When it comes to politics though, there's usually more to things than meets the eye, and we suspect that may well be the case here.
Putting it simply, we wonder if the former Councillor is being driven more by a personal grudge against the Council leader, Chris Roberts, than a genuine concern for the Coronet? As some might be aware, during the last Council, Pete Challis was councillor for Plumstead and a former Cabinet member. We've been todl that back in 2004 he found himself disciplined for voting against the leading Labour Group's whip and so seriously fell out with Chris Roberts.
This was followed by the nail in the lid of his local political coffin - for at least four years anyway - when the Labour Group appears to have de-selected him from Plumstead and made him stand in Middle Park, where he promptly lost to Cllr Webbewood by one vote. All this certainly puts the letter into a different context. It might even suggest that hell hath no fury like a local politician scorned.
Update 1: Cllr Webbewood has posted in the comments section about the split in the voting. We note that all those Councillors against were Labour with the exception of the Chair, Alex Grant. This fit's in with the information we've been told over the past two months that cited a Labour split between an Eltham faction on the one side (those against the planning), and a Greenwich and Woolwich faction on the other.
Update 2: Pete Challis has contacted us via email stating that he was not disciplined in 2004, he does not say he wasn't disciplined though. He also says he's never voted against the Labour Group whip, we're pretty sure he didn't vote with the group over the City Academy policy though. Pete does not deny he fell out with Chris Roberts, but he has denied that he was de-selected from his safe Plumstead
A litany of nonsense
Firstly, the Council leader confirmed that the changes were made due to complaints from people living in the local area. What however we found most interesting was the list of reasons given for the changes. In fact they’re so interesting we're going to go through each of them here.
1: Apparently, there’s a problem with people "drinking, urinating and vomiting" in Market Street. Given the road is directly opposite the Director General is this really something that can be attributed to the public hall? Does the public hall get regularly hired out to groups of binge drinker and those that publicly urinate?
2: There is apparently lots of loud talking and closing of car door "well after" the 11pm closing time. If it's well after the closing time how can it be linked to the hall? Again, the Director general is across the road.
3: There was a problem with vehicles driving the wrong way down the one way street. Well doesn't that sound familiar? Why can't the same high-minded principle of enforcement be applied elsewhere in the Borough?
4: There is illegal parking on the street. Correct us if we're wrong here, but isn't Woolwich Police Station on Market Street? Oh no, hang on, it's only open Monday to Friday, 0700 to 2000 and Sunday 1000 to 1800.
5: There were also a number of complaints about "lack of adequate cleaning of street". Yes, that's right. The failure to clean the street is not the fault of the Councils, it's the fault of the people that hire the public hall. Why on earth didn't we see that?
It gets better though; Chris Roberts went on to say that the changes to opening times had "assisted in reducing, though not entirely eliminating the problem". Could that possibly be because the reasons given are spurious nonsense and would happen regardless of the times the hall was hired out?
We did, however, get to the crunch of the matter in the leader's response to the second question on the subject. He said the "cost associated with managing noise nuisance and anti social behaviour" was problematic. So there you have it. It's too expensive to deal with anti-social behaviour and noise nuisance on a street that is not more than 200m long and has a police station at one end.
And people wonder why we set this site up?