Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why Livingstone shouted at Roberts?

As some may recall the other week we wrote about the Council leader, Chris Roberts, receiving a dressing dwon from the Mayor, Ken Livingstone. That story clearly upset someone at the time.

The reason we're mentioning it again is because we think we have a good idea why the incident with the London mayor happened in the first place. It appears that Chris Roberts has gone against the Labour Group on the ALG and opposed the transfer of planning power to Livingstone from Government.

Of course, whilst we, at this time at least, actually agree with Roberts, we've noticed he's the only Labour ALG member to have made public statements against Livingstone on the matter. Far be it from us to detract from Roberts' desire to be non-partisian, but we do wonder if maintaining a position in the now Tory dominated ALG may have been a greater driver for him.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Greenwich fails to collect £4.9m in Council Tax

Why is Greenwich Council so bad at collecting Council Tax? According to figures from the GMB Union it is among the bottom 20 Council in the country (see note 3 in link). During 2005/06 the total Council Tax that was not collected was £4.9m. That's nearly £5m of tax the Council is NOT collecting.

What we thought particularly ironic was that the figures are on the GMB site and apparently - assuming we've got our facts right - they just happen to be the last people to employ Chris Roberts before he foisted himself on to the taxpayer of Greenwich.

Of course there is a much wider point here. If the Council is failing to collect such large sums of money, why have there been yearly increases in the Council Tax to gain extra funds that are a fraction of the arrears? Perhaps the Council should concentrate on arrears rather than regular rises?

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The case of the disappearing web pages

We're naturally suspicious of the actions of Greenwich Council as our readers have probably figured out, especially since the email from the Legal department. So imagine our surprise when, researching the borough's GCSE results we discoevred that the press release we linked to in our recent post had mysteriously disappeared.

Thankfully, Google rather neatly caches everything it finds so the original can be read here still. We've also noticed though that the GCSE results are not the only press release to disappear, if you click on the Great Get Together link in the Google cache page it to is missing. In fact it looks like about a weeks worth of releases have simply vanished.

Could it be that the "Maintenance" work over the weekend accidentally deleted them? If a weeks worth of press releases have been lost, what else has been lost? Accurate leaseholder service charge adjustment figures perchance? Will we shortly see a press release about missing press releases?

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We do hope they can count

Apparently the Council's Accounting department will be despatching the service charge adjustments for the 3,983 leaseholders in Greenwich on Thursday. We've seen a copy of the letter that will be sent out, and frankly it doesn't sound like the Council is particularly confident it's got it figures or documentation right. It stresses:

"Every effort has been made to ensure that the accompanying documentation is accurate and I hope that you have received the correct information. However, should you receive incorrect documentation please return it to my office address detailed above."

If anyone reading this is a leaseholder do let us know if the information they send you is inaccurate. We'd be interested to know how many of the 3,983 leaseholders query the figures they're sent.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Greenwich Council spin at it's very best

When we set up this site we told the News Shopper that we wanted to "cut through the spin". We believe we've done that quite well in addition to the other stuff like legal threats, national media exposure and general gossip. Assuming we're to trust our traffic statistics there is an appetite out there for this site, the Council offices are no longer the highest percentage of the readership.

We've always known the Council places a higher priority on it's press management than anything else, an example of which can be seen in the GCSE results on their website. The spin on the results is quite subtle, but it's still there. If you visit here you will see that the GCSE results had a "slight drop on the previous year’s results". They link to the results table here. Now compare that results table to the one for the A-Level results here.

Isn't it interesting that the Council chose not to show this years GCSE results in comparison to last years? The odd thing is that we're pretty sure they were there a fortnight ago. Clearly someone wasn't happy about that, after all they make the claim of a "slight drop" laughable.

You see, whilst the entire country's GCSE averages went up, Greenwich's went down. Obviously they don't want you to know that though. If they did let you know then we'd need to change our logo strapline again in case anyone confused this site for theirs.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blogosphere heavyweights lend their support

We've just noticed that the man responsible for inspiring this blog, Guido Fawkes Esq, has commented in the post regarding the Council's legal team contacting us. We'd like to thank him for his kind words of support.

At the same time we've also noticed in the logs that Iain Dale has linked to us regarding the recent threats from the Council as well. We'd also like to thank him for his support and for highlighting the Council's attitude towards those who choose to use green.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Council legal department threatens us

It appears that the Council has had enough. We've received an email from Russell Power, the head of Legal, demanding that we stop using a logo similar to the Council's and, bizarrely, the same font and colour. Apparently, the use of "a rectangle shape with three lines running through it" as well as using "the same colour" and "the same style of lettering and the same size of font" makes it look like the sites are linked.

Russell, bless him, has written to Blogger so no doubt we shall receive an email from them shortly. Apparently the primary concern is people might think there is a "link between the Council and [the] blog".

Clearly the last story about Chris Roberts getting shouted at by Ken Livingstone must have made Roberts so angry he got on the phone to Legal. We hope the IT department has enough monitors to cope!

We have taken what Mr Powers has said and acted accordingly though. You will see above that there is no longer a rectangle, you will of course also note that there are only two lines and they are NOT the same as the Council's. We've also changed the legend to ensure no one get's confused. We're not going to change our use of the font though as it's a standard font available everywhere, as for the colour, we quite like green.

We're glad the Council takes fair comment and freedom of speech so seriously.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: London Mayor rants at Council Leader?

Regular readers may have noticed a slight slow down in postings over the past few days. Sadly, unlike many of our elected councillors, we have to actually work for a living rather than having the Council Taxpayer help us out, hence we've been busy.

That said we do have some exclusive news just in. According to our source in the Town Hall, the leader of the Council, Chris Roberts, attended some sort of dinner this past week at which there were Council leaders from across London, as well as the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

At this event we've been told that Ken Livingstone let off a volley of abuse and derision at Chris Roberts on a number of key issues. From what we've been told words along the lines of incompetent and rubbish were levelled at Roberts. From what we've been told Roberts simply took it all and didn't even try to defend himself.

We're not sure which is worse. Being so weak that you can't come back at Livingstone, or having the pot call the kettle black.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Former parliamentary and council candidate banned from casino meeting

It's been brought to our attention that the Council effectively banned a former council and parliamentary candidate from a meeting which was discussing the Casino. In October 2005, Chris Le Breton was asked to attend a Greenwich Pennisual Partnership meeting by the Bellot Street Tenants Association. At the meeting we've been told that Mr Le Breton asked a question about the casino to the Anscutz representation.

Following his attendance he was contacted by Andrew Parry, who works for the partnership and council. Mr Parry informed him that the meetings, which discuss the future of Greenwich as well as just the Casino, are not open to the public. He was then told he could not attend again.

According to its brief, the Greenwich Penninsula Partnership "works very closely with local communities and runs a consultative forum". Perhaps that ought to read that it "works very closely with the people it wants to and bans local resident group representatives who disagree with it"?

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Did the ODPM lean on the Council?

According to a comment posted by former Lib Dem councillor, Mark Pattenden, here, the Council cancelled the Decemebr meeting when the only ietm on the agenda was the Casino question. The Council leadership apparently claimed that discussing rhe casino was a waste of everyone's time and opposition councillors would be allowed a copy of the report they were submitying to the DCMS after it was submitted.

Why would the Council refuse to discuss the installtion of a massive super casino in the Borough with the elected representatives of the Council? Was there pressure from above at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that the report submitted to CAP was not coloured with negative arguments by those opposed to the casino? What role, if any, did Rosa D'alessandro play?

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Did Peter Brooks meet privately with the CAP?

That little thing about a casino on the North Greenwich penninsula just doesn't seem to want to go away. As many will know, Greenwich finally submitted its case - publicly - to the Casino Advisory Panel. Present from the Council at the CAP were Mary Ney, the Chief Executive, and apparently the Deputy Leader, Peter Brooks.

Whilst officially, Greenwich's submission was heard in public, we've heard a rumour that Cllr Brooks allegedly made overtures - in private - with the Panel. If the allegation is true it certainly casts more uncertainty over the integrity of the Greenwich bid.

What exactly had to be said to the CAP in private that could not be expressed in public? If true, who authorised the Deputy Leader to arrange this meeting? These are questions that could of course be asked at full Council, if the Council was having a meeting that is.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nothing to discuss you say?

For those unaware, Greenwich Council operates a Cabinet system of local government. In that system one councillor each year is inaugurated as the Mayor and should be chosen from across the political spectrum. The Mayor's role, whilst ceremonial, is also non-political and embodies the concept of impartiality. Well, that's what's supposed to happen but this is Greenwich.

A good example of the problem as come to light in the last week where the Mayor, Cllr Harry Singh, has cancelled the full Council Meeting for September after, what looks like, a private discussion with the political leadership of the Council. We're not sure what's worse really, that the Mayor's Office is utterly compromised by politics, or that the Council has decided that they don't need to meet and discuss any issues.

For anyone wondering, the next time the Council will meet in the Chamber, according to the schedule, is on the 29th November. The last full Council meeting was the 26th July. When that happens it unlikely there will be another meeting during 2006 which will take the total meetings for the year to, by our reckoning, five. Apparently the justification for this is that there is nothing to talk about!

What they actually mean is that there's too much to talk about, and most of it's not good. If they cancel the meeting then they close down discussion of awkward issues of the past two months. For example, we have the utter failure of the IT systems; we have the rather minor worries surrounding the casino bid; calls from Parliament for a Standards Inquiry into the Council by the LGA; there's the incredibly poor performance of Council pensions; the dramatic failure to hit rent arrears targets, not to mention a serious failure to register interests.

We wonder if we can withhold a percentage of our Council Tax on the basis that if there's no Council business they don't need the money? No, we didn't think so.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Oh what a twisted web they weave...?

It's been brought to our attention that there's a petition doing the rounds about Hervey Road Sports Ground in Kidbrooke. Unlike so many sports grounds these days the Coucnil actually owns Hervey Road yet you'd not think that if you took a look at it. From what we've heard it's quite popular with smackheads these days.

The petition - to restore the sports grounds to a usuable open space - has been started by the two Tory councillors in Kidbrooke, Graeme Coombes and Andy Jennings. Sadly it seems the other ward councillor, Labour's Norman Adams, doesn't really get involved much in the area. He failed to turn up at the recent Safer Neighbourhood meeting apparently. Maybe he was scared of Kidbrooke at night?

It would certainly be a shame if another of the Council's open spaces was left in this state. However we've put out feelers out and there may be another reason the Council has let the area slide so drastically. Obviously this is nothing but rumour and conjecture, but it's been suggested that a special needs school from Plumstead may be moved on to the site. That narrows the field down to Willowdene school by our reckoning.

Interestingly Willowdene has quite a large sports field attached to it which, if we're cynical, would make prime housing development land. The sale of such land would certainly help the Council out as they're apparently quite short of the necessary cash to build their Civic Centre.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

The license application for the Ship Pub

We have a little update regarding The Ship pub in Plumstead. It appears that the application for a license is probably genuine, however no application has actually been submitted as of yet. What do we mean by that? It looks like the applicant has obtained the necessary documentation pack from the Council but possibly misunderstood the process.

Thus they've assumed that all they need to do is put the notice up and that consitutes an application. However, it might also be that the application has simply been lost in the post.As some will recall the Council advised recently that sending mail to them was not a guaranteed form of communication because Royal Mail is appalling bad.

The long and short of it is that any of the groups saying that they're putting petitions together have more time to get signatures then they think. The 28 days notice does not begin until the Council acknowledges it has received an application.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

City Airport expansion draw closer, yet the Council remains silent

The questions surrounding the future expansion of City Airport remain this week after the airprot's owner, Dermot Desmond, put the airport officially up for sale at an estimated 650m price tag (CitiGroup are potential buyers according to business reports).

As we've reported previously, there are extensive expansion plans for the airport, and Greenwich Council have been utterly silent about the impact of those plans on those in Thamesmead, especially anyone buying a new property on Tripcock Point which is less than a mile from the end of the runway.

The Council's silence is certainly odd, as its Deputy leader, Peter Brooks, is not only supposed to represent the ward for whom an airport explansion would be a blight, but he's also an authority member on the London City Airport Consultative Committee. You would've thought that given he holds his seat on the basis of a minscule turnout he'd be more concerned about the potential impact his silence might have on the matter.

Presumably - if it's anything like the Casino bid at the Dome - it will end up being presented as a fait accompli sometime in the future. The question really is whether it will happen before, or after, all the property being built in Thamesmead has been sold. No doubt when the time comes the Council will blame Newham for the negative equity impact on Tripcock Point.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Is Plumstead Common about to get its very own pole dancing club?

It's been brought to our attention that one of the other Greenwich bloggers, Plumsteadshire, has posted regarding the Ship Pub on Plumstead Common Road. Apparently a license application has been submitted to change the usage of the pub into an "exclusive" late night establishment. The place will have bricked up windows and the license requests 'dancing' as usage. Does any of this sound familiar?

Sadly, presumably due to the poor state of the Coucnil's IT system, the license application which was submitted on Spetember 1st is not available online yet. A comment in the Plumsteadshire post by another local blogger called Last Boy Scout says that local residents have started putting a petition together.

Clearly the fact that the pub sits on a road which separates two wards any petition will need to involve the support of all councillors on both sides. We would email them but they don't reply to us as they're not allowed to anymore. However, we suggest anyone that has a problem with what appears to be yet another unsavoury establishment in a local community sends them an email post haste. The two wards are Shooters Hill and Glyndon

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Vote Blue, Go Pink!

It would seem that a certain blogger we first spoke to this time last week has had a little watch of Greenwich himself. A reader emailed us to point out that Iain Dale had posted an entry about Greenwich Conservatives.

Apparently, as a play on the "Vote Blue, Go Green" slogan the Tories had at the local elections, three of their councillors have decided to change it to "Vote Blue, Go Pink", as they plan to hold regular monthly surgeries for the gay and lesbian community of Greenwich. We've been told there was a graphic as well although we cannot see it on the site.

It's rather clear that the readership of Iain Dale's blog don't particulary like the concept and we can't deny we have a bit of sympathy with their views. We're a bit confused as to why the gay community needs their own surgeries. What next? Disabled only surgeries?

According to Cllr Chris Taylor (see his comments here), the surgeries have come about after extensive surveying in the borough. Interestingly he says that there is a large gay community in the "North of the Borough" so they've decided to hold the surgeries in the south of the borough in Eltham. Now that's joined-up thinking!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Council reverts to "paper system"

According to our spies the Council IT sysrtem is in absolute state. It's in such a state in fact that the Advice and Benefits Service is now officially reverting to a "paper based system". Apparently the Document Management System (DMS) aka "very big disk" has failed and recovery of individual items will be unnecessarily time consuming.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pete Challis writes to the Mercury again

We couldn't help but notice that former councillor, Pete Challis has written another letter to the Mercury moaning about the Coronet cinema redevelopment in Eltham. This time however he's decided to take a different tack and is claiming that the Town Hall is hiding things.

According to the letter, he made a Freedom of Information to the Council demanding all written correspondance and emails in relation to planning work in Eltham since March 22, 2005. He goes on to say that:

"The documents I received revealed a plan for Catehdral to develop a store to Lidl's specifcation at the Coronet and then swap with Lidl for its site in Eltham High Street. Those plans had not been revealed to elected members until that documentation arrived"

Sounds pretty daming doesn't it? The problem though is that anyone who pays attention to the dirth of political literature coming through their doors knows that accusation is a blatent act of disingenuity.

You see, in the the local election campaign in May, the office of the local Eltham Labour Party was putting out literature that talked about exactly that development and potential swap. The suggestion that such facts have only come to light thanks to the dilligent investigative prowess of a former councillor are, frankly, nonsense.

Given the above we find ourselves asking the question: Does Pete Challis have a hidden agenda?