Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Scrutiny Panel did not 'approve' the O2 suite decision

We should first make the point of thanking a reader for bringing this one to our attention. According to the BBC last week, an "all-party Scrutiny Panel approved the decision to purchase the [O2] suite on 18 June." This refers to the call-in of the decision by three Labour councillor that we reported the other week.

However, the BBC's statement, which they were presumably given by someone at the Council is not strictly accurate, or indeed true. The Call-in sub-sommittee did not approve the decision at all. In fact, the committee had no power to do so and the decision itself was never in question according to the call-in's own meeting agenda.

What the sub-committee did do was say that they wanted to review the use of suite more often than had been originally decided by the Cabinet. There was no approval of the actual decision to purchase the suite. We just wanted to clear that up for people.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Even part-time work is troublesome for the Council it seems

We thought we'd let our readers know just how hard our councillors are working for their massive salaries. News reaches us that last night, the monthly Safe and Stronger Communities Panel met and the chair, Clive Marder (£19,575 per year) couldn't even be arsed to turn up.

Apparently when the meeting began on schedule at 19:00 there were just four or the twelve councillors on the committee present. All of them were opposition councillors, three Tories and one Lib Dem.

After much panicking and running around the building by officers looking for someone to chair the meeting they managed to find Councillor Gary Parker (£11,449 per year) to chair it. We should point out here that the councillor should have been in the meeting anyway.

Local democracy in action, don't you just love it?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Snouts in the Trough exposed!

What an interesting thing we listened to this morning on BBC London. The Vanessa Feltz show had not only the Glorious Leader, Chris Roberts, on it, but also the leader of the Tories Spencer Drury. We can't deny we feel slightly responsible for it, after all, the Daily Mail did run a story story today with the headline "Council spends £95,000 on luxury box at new Dome".

The Glorious Leader was on the radio charging the Tories with hypocrisy saying that they themselves had taken free tickets for the Dome. Later on at the end of the show the Tory Leader Spencer Drury said he had turned the offer of tickets down as it would be hypocritical. So who was it taking the tickets?

It appears it was the Tory Culture spokesman, Nigel Fletcher. The councillor had accepted the tickets after opposing spending the money on the box. A tad hypocritical no? We did enjoy the defence he posted on his blog a few hours ago, basically it's a load of crap. Apparently he only took the tickets in order "to see at first hand who these [community] groups were" that the Council said would benefit from the tickets. If that's the case why wait until you got mentioned on radio before saying anything?

Putting the Tory culture spokesman's hypocrisy aside for a moment though, we did enjoy hearing the Glorious Leader telling Vanessa that he wasn't going along to see Bon Jovi anyway and so was "clean". If that's true, why is he - as Nigel Fletcher points out - on the guest list along with Councillor John Fahy and the Deputy Leader Peter Brooks?

Could it be, just maybe, that on Friday night he was going, and mysteriously something that happened on Saturday made him suddenly decide he wasn't? After all, Councillor Fletcher would still be going too if the story hadn't broken. They're all guilty of having their snouts in the trough, and they're "livin' on a prayer" if they think they're not.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Official: Council aims to get worse

It really is amazing what we've found in the Council's Corporate and Performance Plan. These are the sort of documents that, whilst available to the public, no one ever reads because they're assumed to boring. We can't deny that analysis is true but they're also a goldmine of some of the more absurd and bizarre that goes on in Greenwich that you won't see in Greenwich Time.

Take for example street lights. We all love them, they're really useful, they light the way home when we've stumbled from the Trafalgar Tavern. Sometimes they don't work though, and the Council is responsible for fixing them which they duly do as part of their targets and performance.

In 2005-06 the Council set themselves a target of fixing broken street lamps within two days of being identified. What they actually achieved was a fix time of 2.35 days, which we think is quite good really. After all, a target is meant to be achievable but is not, necessarily, something that will always be achieved.

We're presuming the target of two days was set for 2005-06 because, in 2004-05 they managed to have a fix time of 2.06. We shan't dwell on the fact they got slightly worse as the difference is marginal. We will ask you though, what do you think, given that they're currently fixing street lights in 2.35 days, what the target for 2006-07 is? Perhaps two still?

Well you'd be wrong. No, the Council has decided, according the Corporate and Performance Plan, that the target for this year should be three days. Yes, that's right, their target this year is to actually get worse at something. We have to admit it's difficult to satire something like this when they do such a good job for us.

Of the few things that Greenwich Council is actually good at, the Council has decided - in its uniquely bizarre and infinite wisdom - that it must put a stop to it. We hate sounding like Richard Littlejohn, but you really couldn't make this sort of thing up.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We've all let the Council down

For many of you a quiet night in might include a glass of wine and the TV but for us committed lunatics at Greenwich Watch only a copy of the Corporate and Performance Plan will do (okay a beer too but we’ve got to lift our spirits somehow).

A copy of this document which lays out targets for the Council has been handily passed to us and it reveals that not all great works of fiction need words – numbers are often just as imaginary. Our favourite numbers this evening are the results of the residents’ survey which reveals how badly let down the Council is by us, the voters!

According to a survey the percentage of residents who agree that ‘The Council involves residents when making decisions’ has dropped from 51% to 44% and the percentage who think that people can get on well together in their local area has fallen from 77% to 69%. How should the Council respond to this? Do another survey of course stupid!

It seems we're now paying for TNS (some company that apparently does surveys) to do another survey to figure out why the number has dropped. Might we suggest some ideas - Plumstead Manor Compulsory Purchase order, lack of consultation on John Roan or closing the contra-flow Blackwall Tunnel without telling anyone for starters?

Perhaps, if they actually tried listening to people the number might go up. Alternatively it could just be us stupid residents who don't realise how great the Council is.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Labour councillors rebel against leadership over O2

Readers may recall last week that we mentioned the Council's plan to spend nearly £100,000 of their budget on a corporate suite at the O2. At the beginning of this week you'll all be delighted to hear that it was waved through at the Cabinet Committee in a meeting that lasted less than half an hour.

But wait, what is this we hear? Are the minions of the Council leadership rebelling? Last night it seems that three Labour councillors decided to "call in" the decision of their Cabinet masters. They wanted the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to check the decision.

Councillors Mick Hayes, Janet Gillman and Danny Thorpe are the rebels, but why are they doing it you may ask? It seems they feel that the decision should not have been waved through by the Cabinet and they want to have a say on it too. What they will say will says remain unknown and will be interesting to watch.

Might it be that the sub-text will be "we'll let you have this if we can have cheap concert tickets too?" One thing we have learned is the Council is thinking of making money from the suite by selling the available tickets it has in the box - we believe this is alternatively called "diversifying into ticket touting" (isn't that illegal - Ed?)

Update: Should anyone be wondering, the "rebellion" last about 20 minutes and the rebels basically said, "we just wanted to look at the proposal too, carry on"

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The John Roan Campaign

As part of our role as a public noticeboard occasionally we thought we'd bring a meeting being held tonight to your attention. The John Roan Campaign will be holding a public meeting at The Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich (between the Arches Leisure Centre and the old hospital), at 7.30pm until 9.30pm (Thursday 14th June).

The campaign says that "the meeting is a chance to find out about the move and why we feel that the school is being sold short. More importantly, it will be a chance for you to air your concerns and to suggest what should be done next to challenge the move."

Whatever one may feel about the proposed move of the John Roan School, the manner in which the Council is going about it does, for us at least, leave a lot to be desired.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How low is low pay?

We've often wondered what "low pay" actually is. Is it £10,000 a year? £12,000 per year? Well thanks to a helpful Labour councillor we now know. Or should we say we now know what she thinks "low pay" is defined as.

Apparently, low pay is defined as "£3,000 a year - or less". This is what a female Labour councillor who we shall not name for legal reasons told the branch secretary of Greenwich UNISON, Onay Kasab, when she also explained she only cared about "lower-paid women workers".

Just to put that into perspective, this councillor from Greenwich thinks that if you earn more than £57 per week you're not low paid. Perhaps this is why she is happy to nod through all the massive pay cuts to Council staff whilst she takes a pay rise?

Incidentally, we've heard that there will be yet another strike protest by UNISON tomorrow night outside the town hall. We have to say it's all rather odd. What with strikes over staff pay cuts and pay rises for ruling councillors, an observer might be confused into thinking it was Tory council.

We actually feel sorry for the controlling group a little bit. It can't be much fun having to enter a building whilst your natural supporters call you class traitors. Still, they could always ask for a back door to be opened to let them slip in unnoticed right?

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Neighbourhood Fix It

Given how appallingly bad the Council's website is, and the fact that its level of interaction is restricted to online polls with loaded questions we thought we'd "offer a solution" (we hope Sash is listening) for all those people that want to get things in their Neighbourhood fixed but get no joy when dealing with the Council directly.

MySociety have a site called Neighbourhood Fix It where you put in your postcode, local the area that has a problem on a map, and then send an email about it through the site. MySociety save data on responses.

Obviously we're still happy to receive your photographs which show how the Council often does nothing to solve problems that are plainly evident. We just thought we'd post a link to a "solution" just to annoy the whining Charlton fan.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Council cuts school building budget by £3m

We expect many of our readers will remember the posts we did about the compulsory purchase plans of the Council about a pub and Vicarage in Plumstead. Readers may also recall that the Council later designated the pub it wanted to pull down as a local landmark.

The news now is that the compulsory purchase is very much going ahead so that Plumstead Manor School can expand. However, we've learned that the expansion has been cut by £3 million, meaning they won't be getting a Performing Arts Block anymore.

We're not aware of how much the compulsory purchase is going to be, but we have a funny feeling that it might just be £3 million. What does all this mean? It means that the Council was so incompetent it failed to even consider the budgetary implication of purchasing a pub and Vicarage on its plans.

The result is that the "School for the Future" is not actually going to be sufficient for the future that they've planned. On the plus side this was agreed in an open and democratic Cabinet Committee meeting where a massive three Cabinet members could be arsed to turn up.

Never fear though, poor attendance won't be an issue again. They also agreed at that meeting that future decisions of this sort would be taken by the Glorious Leader, Chris Roberts. They were being paid for part-time jobs, now they getting paid for quite literally doing nothing.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Council to buy corporate suite at O2?

What's this we've spotted in some of the papers just printed by the Council for next weeks agenda? A discussion about whether the Council should spend just shy of £100,000 a year on a plush corporate suite in the O2 overlooking the flashy new arena?

We think we may have to join some community groups so we can get tickets.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Will the councillors for Thamesmead please stand up?

The 10th-biggest mortgage lender in the UK has pulled out of Thamesmead. GMAC RFC, part-owned by General Motors made the announcement the other week that it would no longer provide mortgages to any properties in Thamesmead because it considered it too great a risk because of already rising negative equity.

Why is there rising negative equity in Thamesmead? Could it be because it is now one of the capitals of Europe for mass international fraud rings linked to Nigeria? After all, the former chairman of the Nigerian Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC), Chief Opia, now lives there after allegedly siphoning off millions from the aid programme before coming here.

Don't expect the Council to acknowledge any of this though. The councillors for Thamesmead Moorings pretend that it's all just peachy in their ward (but they don't live there). The reports of alleged torture rooms and rising gun crime are quietly ignored.

Who is the owner of the Thamesmead developments though? It starts at the top with leaseholders purchasing their lease from larger companies who have purchased larger land leases from the freeholders. Who are the freeholders? Well it depends where you look, but vast swathes of the area are ultimately owned by Tilfen Land.

Tilfen Land? Could this be the same Tilfen Land that has a paid non-executive director that used to be the leader of Greenwich Council, and is now the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and is also the partner of one of the councillors for Thamesmead Moorings? Perhaps the news of lenders bailing out of the area might motivate them into action? The business impact could be huge when no one is able to buy the property.

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