Friday, March 30, 2007

Oh my God it's green!

We've decided to change the colour scheme around on this site after almost a year of having the standard white background template. If readers have any further suggestions then do email us about it. We've also the link to Labour in London.

No one from the Labour Party got back to us to tell us whether it was now the official website for Greenwich so we're going to assume it is. If anyone has other local sites they would like us to link just drop us a line. The email link is above.

The logo has been taken down, not because of threats of legal action but because we are working on a new design. Watch this space.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Greenwich Gravy Train - in full

It's been a busy week here at the GW Office, so much happening and so little time! We did promise that we'd let you all know what the outcome of the yearly pay rise round was. It's our public duty!

We got the whip out and made our below minimum wage maths expert do the number crunching and here are the results, ranked in order of value.
  • Chris Roberts: £51,191 (Leader)
  • David Grant: £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • John Fahy: £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • Angela Cornforth: £31,549 (£42669) (Cabinet or Deputy)
  • Peter Brooks: £31,549 (£42669) (Cabinet or Deputy)
  • Peter Kotz : £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • Maureen O'Mara : £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • Kanta Patel : £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • Jackie Smith : £31,549 (Cabinet)
  • Mick Hayes: £31,549 (Overview and Scrutiny Chair)
  • Alex Grant: £27,701 (Chair of Planning)
  • Spencer Drury: £27,701 (Leader of the Opposition)
  • Ray Walker: £25,062 (Chief Whip)
  • Norman Adams: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • Clive Mardner: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • Mary Mills: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • Danny Thorpe: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • Paul Tyler: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • John Wakefield: £19,575 (Scrutiny Committee Chair)
  • Harry Singh : £19,575 (The Mayor)
  • Brian Woodcraft: £15,451 (Leader of the Liberal Democrats)
  • Don Austin: £11,449 (Best Value Review Chair)
  • Beverly Jones: £11,449 (Best Value Review Chair)
  • Gary Parker: £11,449 (Best Value Review Chair)
  • Sajid Jawaid: £11,449 (The Deputy Mayor)
  • The Rest : £9,964 x 26 (Basic Allowance)
  • TOTAL: £844,024
  • These figure do NOT include the pensions contributions that councillors also receive.
So there we have it! Most readers probably don't realise how much Councillors actually get paid. Especially as - with the exception of Chris Roberts' position - it's pretty much a part-time job.

Many of these councillors have full-time jobs too, and some of them probably get in excess of £40,000 a year for them. We should be grateful though, apparently these figures only represent 66% of what they actually wanted to pay themselves, they were actually quite thrifty!

This does lead us nicely on to some wild speculation though. Of the 30 or so Labour councillors, there were 11 who didn't get given extras. Two of these lucky souls are going to find themselves thrust into the position of Mayor and Deputy Mayor, which one will it be?

Terry Hales, Bill Freeman, Barbera Barwick, Allan Macarthy, Denise Hyland, John Kelly, Clare Morris, Margaret Mythen, Steve Offord, Dick Quibell, Dr Jagir Sekhon OBE.

Who gets the cash and the silly costume? The Leader decides!


Monday, March 26, 2007

MP for Eltham intervenes on McDonalds?

The other day we asked where the MP for Eltham, Clive Efford, was over the matter of the local high street McDonald's desire to open until 5am. We also wondered whether his previous freebies from McDonald's might explain his absence. However, we've learnt this evening that he has personally intervened on the matter.

We're going to presume that his movement is in direct reaction to the local Tory PPC and Tory Group leader's decision to campaign locally on the matter (which is how we first became aware of the issue ourselves), as apparently he has personally asked McDonald's to withdraw their application. Whether they will remains to be seen.

Readers may wonder why we say this, but given that McDonald's are likely to be a major sponsor of the 2012 Olympics, and one third of the venues will be in Greenwich, we tend towards scepticism of the MP's power to sway.

However, we've also heard that last week the Council dismissed a 205 signature petition against the application out of hand claiming that there was no potential of impact on the lives of people in Eltham from McDonald's effectively being open all night.

We wonder whether the MP has checked with his Council colleagues on what the position is meant to be?

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Ignorance is Strength" should be the Greenwich motto

Should our readers wish to know what is happening at full Council meetings (there is one this week) you can get the Agenda from the Council. However, don't expect prompt action. The Council did have a brief flirtation with making the Agendas available online at its website but it appears to have canned that idea in March 2006 (that's the last Agenda available).

Since March 2006 there have actually been at least six full Council meetings but they've not bothered putting the Agenda up for the world to see. We do understand why though. If they were to make them available, then the shower of shit that runs Greenwich would also be showing the world that they didn't bother having any meetings at all for about four months last year.

Readers can still get an Agenda though, you have to either write to them (this results in receiving the Agenda after the meeting - we know!), or go to the rubbish libraries that the Council let us proles have. Did we mention that the Audit Commission said the libraries services in the Borough got worse last year? Don't expect to see that in Greenwich Time though - anything negative is removed from your sight, never forget that.

We have managed to glance over this week's Agenda though and we did it without intercepting a Councillor's mail. The most interesting part for us is that they're deciding how much to pay themselves. Wouldn't we all just kill for a job where you could set you're own pay rise? Bottom line? They're going to get pay rises across the board, we shall let you know how much as soon as they bother to write it down, the table in the Agenda has been mysteriously left blank you see.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Woolwich Crossrail overspend to be paid for by local business tax

Readers may have noticed the news that Woolwich is going to get its Crossrail Station. We were first alerted to this news on Wednesday but wanted to take a moment to digest it fully. We're afraid to say that unlike the fanfare from the Council and the local MP we are less than impressed.

When we first started posting about Crossrail we noted the feasibility study carried out by the operator that put forward the argument that there was a half billion pound (£504m) shortfall in building the station. When the Government initially rejected the station it said that this was due to it costing £270m. Yesterday, this figure was almost halved again to £160m and Woolwich suddenly gets a Crossrail station.

How have they managed a reader might wonder. How has the cost of a station dropped so much, and so rapidly, against the rate of inflation? Well it hasn't. The deal has been simply to change the budget and hope for the best. We guarantee when, and if, the station is ever delivered it will cost at least the original budget rather than the deliberately reduced one, and it will be local businesses in Woolwich that will be paying for it through a new business tax which is on its way.

Why would a small business want to operate in Woolwich when it's going to have to pay extra taxes to cover the overspend that the Council have so cynically tried to mask with budget manipulation?


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Abbey Wood Strategy to be dispatched against John Roan?

Yesterday we posted about John Roan School and the fact that Council has decided in its infinite wisdom to move it to the polluted cesspit called the Greenwich Peninsula. We've also heard a rumour that the Council is trying to play hard ball with the schools governing body. Word reaches us that there have been indications that the Abbey Wood strategy may be dispatched to deal with the situation.

What is the Abbey Wood strategy we hear you ask? Well this is where the Council, not getting what it wants, stop supporting the school and deliberately brings about its slow physical decay. The result is that eventually there is no choice to move because the place is left in a mess.

Ironically of course when the incompetent education mandarins at the Town Hall (who have been accused of "maladministration" by representatives of the Church of England in the past) take their hands off the steering wheel, the school results actually go up whilst the building's fall down around the kids.

Should anyone feel they wish to support the John Roan school then they do have an online petition for people to sign here.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Does McDonalds have a hold over Labour's Eltham MP?

On Monday we posted about the prospective parliamentary candidate for Eltham, David Gold, having a blog. We've now had the editorial team reading through the site and, besides David Gold losing his mobile down the toilet we spotted this post about McDonald's in Eltham wanting a license to open until 5am.

According to what looks like a brand spanking new Eltham North website, David Gold and the leader of the Tory Group, on the Council Spencer Drury went out in Eltham last Saturday because of this issue seeking signatures for a petition. We're not sure why Eltham needs a McDonald's open until 5am given it has no pubs open to that time, but then we're not experts. There are lots of students in the area though.

What we found ourselves wondering though was where the Labour MP Clive Efford was on this issue. Eltham is his constituency after all so we'd expect him to have an opinion on it. We took a look at the news section on his website to check but sadly drew a blank.

This couldn't be because McDonald's provided him with travel, accommodation and hospitality to Portugal during UEFA's Euro 2004 tournament could it?

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The John Roan Campaign

It appears we are not alone in our distrust towards the Council. As some will know, the Council is currently trying to get the John Roan school to move to a location on Greenwich peninsula so that it can flog the land off and build lots of expensive flats. Then all the parents will have to take their kids to school through the congestion zone - clever huh?

Anyways, we've been informed of a website that has been set-up to stop this happening called The John Roan Campaign which holds some interesting facts about the place the Council wishes to move the school too.
  • The air is so polluted that it will be filtered on its way into the building
  • The site is so small that the only available play space is a caged area on the roof
  • The school will be in the middle of an isolated construction site for 10 years or more
  • The location is directly opposite the gasholder works, on land that the HSE believes is unfit for housing and schools
  • Four other schools in Greenwich are being rebuilt on site: why not The John Roan?
Coincidentally, local councillor Mary Mills has recently sent out a mail to her mailing list telling everyone that the pollution isn't a problem "honest guv". Why the need for filters then Councillor?

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Candidate link additions

A week or so ago we were asked to add a link to a new blog on the block. It belongs to the prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Eltham, David Gold. Given we already link to all the MPs websites, and the now defunct Labour Party websites*, we're going to add the link to the sidebar.

The reason we've taken a while before posting it is that, in the interests of fairness, we wanted to find out if the Lib Dems had an equivalent candidate and site - or any candidates for that matter. We've been reliably informed that they don't but have started their selection process. Hopefully they will send us the link whenever a site is up and running.

Should anyone wonder why we didn't contact the Labour Party, we've taken it as read that the incumbents will be running, and we link to them already (although we still have a feeling that Raynsford is going to step down and make way for Len Duvall as the food chain dictates).

* We have removed the Labour Party links as they continue to be dead. Can someone - anyone - from the Labour party email us and tell us the new links? Is it officially this new site Labour in London now or do you have localised sites?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thames Gateway bridge coming soon

Should anyone be under the impression that soon there will be a shiny new river crossing in Thamesmead we just one to bring your expectations crashing down with a bump. Whilst the Council say the decision will be taken in "early 2007" we doubt very much that it will happen before the local elections in May and the ever so tedious "national leadership battle" is over.

Some readers may think we're being cynical about this, but given the Minister in charge of the decision at the Department for Communities and Local Government conceded on Tuesday that she had no idea when the decision will be taken, you'll forgive us for expecting the bridge to be complete by about 2030.... at the earliest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Building Spin for the Future

Building Schools for the Future, for those that don't know, is the Government project that provides funding for rebuilding lots of secondary schools. It's being carried out in waves with a number of authorities acting as guinea pigs pathfinders to "take the first steps and provide valuable lessons for all subsequent projects." Alternatively that could be "cock up and take the blame" but that would be cynical of us.

Anyway, according to the Council, BSF is "worth £2.2bn a year", which may be true, nationally, in Greenwich it's actually worth capital funding £169 million (including ICT).. well.. maybe. That's the amount of money that Greenwich will get if it ever submits its final business case.

As we've said before, nothing will happen if they don't submit on time, and this is precisely the reason they've tried to rush through the compulsory purchase order of a vicarage and a pub in Plumstead. Their own incompetent tardiness as led them into a situation where they've been accused of maladministration.

If Greenwich ever does get the cash we're sure that the defense procurement/battleship builders that the Council have tasked with doing the work will come up trumps. Apache helicopter landing pads on the roof and runways for Harriers will abound, no doubt supplied by the arms dealers that the Council invests staff pensions funds in!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Olympic legacy? Don't patronise us

Some of our readers may not be aware of this, but our Council, along with all the others in London, belongs to the Association of London Government which has it's own in-house magazine called the London Bulletin. Here at Greenwich Watch Towers we read it regularly and, in between wiping the blood from eyes, we occasionally see something amusing that deserves comment.

On the back page of this months issue, there is an interview with young Councillor Thorpe from Shooters Hill. He was asked whether he thought the 2012 Olympics would have a long-term benefits to London and he said,
"Definitely. As one of the host boroughs, we have already started work on the legacy we want to create and think that the Olympics will further increase our position as one of the key tourist destinations in London."
Now we agree with the first word largely, but we couldn't help but laugh at the claim that Greenwich had started work on the "legacy". After all, when they're not selling off sports ground they've been leaving them to decay resulting in their popularity with junkies.

However, the reason we found it so funny was that on the adjacent page to the interview was a section titled "Sporting Life" which showed the percentage of people by Borough who regularly participated in sport across London, it then placed the boroughs nationally in three groups. The top 25%, the middle 50% and the bottom 25%.

Do we really need to tell you that the borough working hard on the Olympics legacy is placed in the bottom 25% of the country for sport participation? In case you don't believe us, here is the pdf, just go to page 18.

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Tut tut... such hypocrisy!

For anyone wondering what is going on with the "casino", it ain't over yet! AEG, the owners of the O2, have apparently made a complaint ahead of the House of Lords Select Committee investigating the process that led to the shock decision to award Manchester the first super-casino license. They are claiming that documents submitted by Manchester Council to the Casino Advisory Panel had false statements in them.

Yes that's right dear readers, the company that submitted fake documents to the CAP itself and was then forced into a humiliating apology which made the front page and was carried across the national news for a day, have complained that Manchester did it too. The phrase "it's not fair, they didn't get caught" is no doubt ringing around Westminster as we type!

In other news, Tutankhamen is not really coming to Greenwich. The thing that everyone thinks is the mask on the posters is actually just a ten inch or so miniature coffin used to store King Tut's liver.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Inconsistency and incompetence go hand in hand

Regular readers will recall that the Council was accused of "maladministration" by the Archdiocese of Southwark back in November on the matter of a compulsory purchase order for its Vicarage, and also the Prince Albert pub in Plumstead. The order was so that Plumstead Manor school could expand.

As it transpired the reason for the CPO, so the Council said, was so that the school would have more playing field area for its ever-increasing student faculty. That's the school on Plumstead Common, right on Plumstead Common, and right next door to tennis court facilities, basketball courts etc for those that do not know. The Council argued that those facilities were not sufficient for the school and it needed its own enclosed playing areas.

The reason we're re-hashing this story is because last week, the Cabinet member for Yoof, Jackie Smith, told the full Council that another school in Greenwich, John Roan, benefited from the largest playing fields in the Borough "although they are not on-site". Excuse us for being awkward but if it's good for the goose why is it not good for the gander as well to use the off-site facilities that already exist?

Could it be because the Building Schools for the Future money that is being made available by the Government is time locked with a deadline? Could it be that the Council's enviable competence has meant they have had to rush through a half-baked budget proposal for the Treasury which includes the CPO just to meet that deadline? Surely not?

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Whatever happened to white dog poo?

It may sound puerile but this really is a question we've been asking ourselves in GW Towers over the past week. We're sure anyone over the age of about 25 can probably remember the sight of white dog poo on the grass verge. The reason it disappeared is, we think, rather obvious. There was a blitz against dog poo by local authorities up and down the country and a cultural push to make dog owner clear up after their pooches.

Why, you may be asking, are we talking about dog poo? Well, it seems that white dog poo may be heading for a come back in Greenwich this year. Last week's Council meeting threw up the little known fact that there is actually nothing the Council can do to tackle those who let their dog relieve itself on the footpath or our (limited) open spaces.

There was it seems a local Bye Law that allowed for prosecution but it expired last year. Our readers will be glad to hear that the Bye Law - when it did exist - was so effective it secured the prosecution of a grand total of zero offenders. Apparently this was because there were rarely any witnesses to the act itself - which is understandable as, let's be honest, you'd have to be pretty strange to want to watch a dog empty its bowels.

Never fear though, for whilst all dog owners can currently allow their four legged friends to defecate all over the Borough with impudence, the Council is looking at "options" available to it which will include a "strategy" for solving the problem. The Council expects to "allow authorised officers to issue on the spot fines to offenders" and it will be a "co-ordinated response".

In a similar vein to the "Anti-smoking Inspectors" that will be patrolling our pubs from the summer (more on that later), we are it seems about to get Dog Shit Inspectors with the power to issue fines to people that probably won't pay them anyway. This does of course assume the inspectors witness the dog doing it, perhaps they will have video cameras too? (this is getting a little too scatological don't you think? -ed)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

What they didn't say in Greenwich Time

We think, perhaps, they forget to say that whilst sheltered housing may be a good option for older people they've also essentially put ten sheltered housing projects on notice for closure including the one they're advertising a place in.

Don't worry though, they won't allow anyone to take the place that isn't at least 80 as the plans on the table are clearly designed on the basis that they won't close anything until all the residents die. Readers might think we're being flippant, but that's the clear sub-text of the Council's proposals that got waved through Cabinet the other week.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Calm down Councillor, it's just a joke

For those that read our little taster yesterday on the highlights of the Budget meeting we'd now like to expand on one of those areas. As readers will recall we said that the young and excitable Cllr Danny Thorpe got err.... excited. Why people may ask? Well it all stemmed from what can safely be called a mild bit of "political piss-taking" at his expense (and we make no apologies for our use of the word "piss", it's a free country (sort of)).

Normal practice in Budget meetings is that most people get a chance to say a few words. On Wednesday however democracy was again canceled, and it was only the two opposition leaders that really got to make any points against the Budget. It was one of those speeches that sent the councillor for Shooters Hill into a lather which resembled a, shall we say, excited canine facing certain doom in Pompeii. We've seen calmer headless chickens frankly.

The lighting of the touch paper occurred when the Tory leader, Spencer Drury, made reference to the Council Leader's penchant for seeing Tory leadership challenges when other Tories made good speeches (quite possibly true). Cllr Drury then alluded to this level of paranoia in the Dear Leaders psyche as the reason why so many Labour Cllr's give poor speeches in the chamber. Otherwise they find themselves whisked off to Middle Park and Sutcliffe to face defeat by Cllr Webbewood for daring to to be an independent autonomous human being.

He went on to point out that Cllr Thorpe was a shining example of this inability to formulate a decent speech and made a prediction that he would "leap to his feet", then go "red in the face" and start blathering on about things that happened before he was born. This would be followed by him sitting back down looking pleased himself. This was, said Cllr Drury, precisely why Cllr Thorpe is safe from the nightmare of Middle Park and Sutcliffe for some time.

At this point, and with no word of lie from us, Cllr Thorpe leapt to his feet, went red in the face, and started blathering on about things that happened before he was born. During his tirade we also think he might have committed the offence of slander against Cllr Drury (but we would need a transcript to be sure). Hopefully Cllr Thorpe has a decent lawyer, after all, the Tories mustered Carter Ruck during the election when Cllr Grant allegedly libeled one of the Tory candidates.

For us the most amusing part of all this was to see Cllr Thorpe's own fellow ward councillor, John Kelly, shaking his head in dismay as the young whippet chased his own tail as if it were a bitch waiting for his amorous overtures. This incident really was the highlight of the entire evening for us. There is little more enjoyable than seeing politicians rattled to the point of excruciating idiocy.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Budget Meeting

Avid readers may be waiting for reports from last night farce full Council meeting where the Budget was debated. This is a yearly event where so much rubbish is said by the leading group about why it has to make us all pay more for services that don't exist.

Unlike previous Council meetings in the past few months there were notable differences. This one wasn't cut short and guillotined. Full reports of the detail and the information revealed by the Question and Answer session will follow shortly, so for now we'll just give you a taster.
  • The Mayor wasn't there (bad neck after looking upward to his political master so we heard)
  • The ruling Labour group appear to have filibustered the event to close down debate.
  • The excitable Cllr Thorpe got excited.
  • The Dynamic Duo were static.
  • We're all going to get red top bins for organic waste which take about six weeks to fill.
  • We lost the will to live.
More detail to follow shortly. We did hear an amusing bit of scurrilous gossip last night that suggests the Leader of the Council may have once preferred wearing blue rosettes to red one when out on the stump.