Thursday, November 30, 2006

Coming soon to a blog near you....

We'd just like to assure our readers that we intend fully to go through all the questions that were asked and answered in writing at the Council over the coming weeks. You will all have to bear with us of course because there are so many of them.

We should also add that whilst we were not directly mentioned in the Chamber, there was a tacit implication towards us and so-called "negative" stories. This is most likely due to our recent serialisation of the Council's cuts to services.

Apparently these are not cuts though, they're efficiency savings. Doubleplusgood we say.

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It's like the "People's Republic of Greenwichgrad"

Well it seems that the "Glorious Leader" of the Council, Chris Roberts, is certainly chuckling to himself this morning at the way he closed down the ability of any opposition questions last night at the full Council meeting.

Through the use of an obscure procedural rule, Robert's puppet, Mayor Harry Singh, apparently moved all the Councillors questions to the end of the meeting and then closed the meeting before questions could be discussed citing standing order rules relating to the length of a Council meeting.

The word on the street is that the Lib Dems and Tories were apoplectic at what's been described to us as a "stitch up". One of our other Town Hall snitches said the political manoeuvring was reminiscent of the Politburo controlling the Dumas under Brezhnev. The words "People's Republic of Greenwichgrad" even crossed their lips.

To be perfectly honest we're not at all surprised by this. The Council, and specifically the ruling Labour Group, has already cancelled two Council meetings in the last few months. The fact that they would refuse to engage in something so distasteful as democratic accountability isn't particularly shocking in that respect.

Sadly, we get what we vote for.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Councillors prepare for long night

Word reaches us that there is a long night ahead in the Council chamber. Our Town Hall snout tells us that there have been over 50 written questions submitted to the Council from the opposition parties alone. We wonder if the public question will get a look in given that each Councillor has the opportunity to respond to their answers.

This is what happens when you don't bother having Council meetings for nearly six months.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Council forgets to tell Church about compulsory purchase of Vicarage?

What is it about Greenwich being linked with upsetting the clergy? It's been brought to our attention that last week at a Cabinet Commmittee meeting, the subject of a compulsory purchase was supposed on the agenda.

Apparently, the plan was for the Council to compulsory purchase the Prince Albert pub on Plumstead Common and the Vicarage next door. The reason for this proposal was that the Department of Education has apparently refused to give Plumstead Manor any money unless it expands, hence it is explanding sideways rather than on to the waste land behind it (go figure!).

However, the plans appear to have been scuppered after a letter from the Archdiocese of Southwark to the Council which essentially said, and we paraphrase our source, "why didn't anyone tell us about this plan to compulsory purchase our property?"

We're now left wondering if the Council has re-employed people from AEG?

Update: We've just heard that the Archdiocese actually used the word "maladministration" in its letter in reference to the actions of the Council. Who'd a thought it?

Update 2: This story has caused a little fluffy of emails it seems. One of our emailers tells us that present at the meeting was a Comprehensive Performance Assessment Inspector who will be assessing the Council during the coming week.

We've also been told that when the announcement was made regarding the Archdiocese, the leader of the Council, Chris Roberts, effectively told the Cabinet the CPO would be pulled and no one in the Cabinet uttered a word. What's the point of a Cabinet system if the Cabinet doesn't say anything?

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Leisure facilties facing quality assurance cuts

Anyone who uses the so-called leisure services in the Borough will know how horrendously dilapidated they've become. Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) are the company which run these services - "into the ground" some might say - and many would think they do so with impunity already.

Sadly the Council appears to be planning to further negate responsibility for ensuring the quality of these services as it plans to cut one of it's Leisure Client monitoring posts. A cursory glance at the state of GLL leisure facilties in the Borough suggests that the Council should be increasing the number on this team, not arbitrarily cutting it. But who are we to argue, we;re just voters.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Council admits parking fines are about "income generation"

The next time you hear or read the Council tell you that parking enforcement is about reinvestment in transport and law enforcement rather than generating revenue, remember this story.

In Appendix 2 of the Council's final budget report there is a page entitled "Income Generation" which proposes an increase in traffic wardens and gives details of how much it intends to make out of different areas in the Borough from parking tickets and other enforcement charges over the coming year.

It is clear from the document that the Council will require traffic wardens to hit required targets for the tickets they issue in order to meet the revenue demands. Why can't they collect Council Tax with the same vigour.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quick Correction and Clarification

The other day we said the Council "planning to make £7m worth of cuts to services in the Borough over the next four years". It appears we made a mistake. It's £7m of cuts this year, with the four year figure being closer to £25m. We apologise for our transgression into Guardian-esque cock-up and assure you all it won't happen again. Ironically, we actually did the Council a favour by getting it wrong the first time round. It made it look a lot less worse than it actually is.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The rent arrears are rising

Back in August we posted about the disasterously poor performance of Greenwich Coucnil when it came to collecting rent in its own property. The Council has a target to reduce the current arrears by £500,000 by the end of the financial year, which requires a decrease of £40,000 per month.

According to the September Performance Report which we been reading through, the Council have actually had an increase in arrears of just over £20,000 a month. If that thrend continues they'll have managed to increase the arrears by around £250,000 by the end of the financial year.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Now they're cutting the IT budget. Are they mad?

The distinction between insanity and policy in Greenwich Council is very much a fine line, but never has it been more blurred than in the Council proposals for the IT department. As we reported some months ago, and the local press has followed up on in recent weeks, the Council's IT systems are horrendously unreliable and utterly dated.

Given this, the last thing you'd expect is a £45,000 budget cut resulting in a reduction in numbers in the Information Systems department. And yet this is exactly what the Council i splanning to do. According to the Council "further IT development" will negate the need for the position they will be deleting. We think past evidence on matter of IT suggest that will be very unlikely indeed.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Council plans £7m cut. Children's Services to be hardest hit

According to Overview and Scruitny Committee documents we've seen, the Council is planning to make £7m worth of cuts to services in the Borough over the next four years. This includes cutting £1.9m of funding from Children's Services and £1.8m from the Adult Services budget. If they managed to collect Council Tax properly this sort of cut wouldn't be necessary.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Council to cut and privatise AntiSocial Behaviour Teams

As much as we'd love to write about something exciting like drugs use amongst Council workers, or the borderline alcoholism of certain councillors, sadly such stories don't exist, so you'll just have to make do with cuts to the Borough's services instead.

The latest cut to come to our attention are plans to cut the Antisocial Behaviour teams. In a classic piece of managementspeak they plan to "restructure" the teams, but anyone with a brief experience of the real world of work knows what that means. After the cut they plan to effectively privatise the teams by selling their services to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in the Borough.

Yes that's right, not only are they cutting the numbers in the AntiSocial Behaviour teams, but they're then going to sell their services to Landlords. So much for community safety being a priority.

Update: Someone was whining in the comments about this being a misleading post. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee documents are very clear. The ABSTs are to face a £60,000 cut in their budget which will be paid for through management restructuring. The teams services will then be sold for purposes of "income generation" to RSLs.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cause and Effect

14th October - Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander says "NO" to Crossrail in Woolwich on cost grounds.

2nd November - Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander says he'll "rethink" Woolwich Crossrail.

7th November - Leader of Greenwich Council, Chris Roberts announces that Greenwich wants to be guinea pig in Douglas Alexander's congestion charging project.

To be confirmed - Woolwich Crossrail back on the route with funding provided by congestion charging revenue in Greenwich?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

AEG makes Dome environmentally unfriendly?

According to an anonymous email we've received the vast majority of the eco-friendly aspects of the original Millenium Dome have been removed by Anschutz on the grounds of cost.

The original Dome's rain water collection system which provided the necessary water for cooling and touilet flsuhing has been removed. And the original energy saving local power generation have also been removed. The email alleges that all these changes were made purely on the grounds that they were too expensive to run.

We wonder how this will match up with the Council's claim to be promoting energy efficiency and green strategies in the Borough?

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Council worker given "final warning" after racism incident

A story in today's Mercury has been brought to our attention. Allegedly an unnamed trading standards officer at the Council called someone "nigger" in a house that was being raided. According to the report the unnamed officer was "issued with a final warning and has kept their job". Final warning? What were the previous warnings for we wonder?