Woolwich riot: The report Greenwich Council tried to hide
So it seems a good time to share with you a document I had a bit of trouble obtaining – an internal report into how Greenwich Council handled the aftermath of the disturbances.
The report was compiled for the 40 Labour Party councillors – the 11 opposition Conservatives only asked for, and got, a verbal report.
With suspicion over the council’s role in painting over the “Woolwich wall” – the hoardings at the destroyed Great Harry pub – I put in a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the Labour report as soon as I’d got wind that such a document existed.
Greenwich initially turned me down, declaring that an “updated” version of the report would soon be made public. Knowing Greenwich’s reputation for secrecy, and suspecting it was just trying to shoo me away and had no intention of ever publishing this report, I asked the council to review my request. Finally, Greenwich’s head of legal Russell Power agreed I could have a paper copy of the “updated” version of the report.
This was just after Christmas – personal upheavals over the past few weeks mean I’ve been sitting on this for a good few weeks. (Which probably makes me as bad as them.) But to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that report’s actually been made public. You still won’t find this on the council’s website.
There’s no real skeletons or shocks in here, the report confirms that the mysterious Powis Street Estates was in charge of painting over the wall, but surprisingly, Greenwich was aware of its intentions for a week and asked the company to hold off so it could take photographs of the wall. If this information had been shared at the time, perhaps Greenwich Council would not have come in for such heavy criticism.
But again, it’s symptomatic of “Royal” Greenwich’s ineptness at dealing directly with the people who it is supposed to serve. As you’ll see in the report, the council’s priority was in speaking to businesses – dealing with worried residents simply wasn’t on the agenda.
One thing that is worth noting – the report says the council was bidding for money from the London mayor’s Outer London Fund to help Eltham after the riots. But it was the only south London borough not to get a penny out of Boris.
It’s worth taking a look at the report, though. Does it match up with your memories of last August? The claim about the wall being a target for “foul and offensive language” certainly doesn’t accord with what I remember of it. But I’d like to know what you think – and whether you think SE18 is recovering from the riot.