Greenwich Council has admitted it is refusing to deal with City Hall’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan because he has criticised the authority in his work as a journalist.
Cabinet member Denise Hyland told a council meeting there was an “irresolvable conflict of interest” because he had written about “public policy” in the borough.
Greenwich is the only one of London’s 32 boroughs to have refused to speak to Gilligan, who launched plans to make cycling in the capital easier and safer earlier this year.
Hyland’s admission that the council wasn’t speaking to Gilligan came two days after a cyclist was killed in a collision in Lewisham, just outside the borough boundary.
In a written reply to a question from Greenwich Cyclists co-ordinator Anthony Austin, she said the council was engaging with TfL over the Mayor’s Vision For Cycling – just not with Gilligan.
“I can confirm that Officers have met with senior representatives from Transport for London to discuss the Royal Borough’s priorities and how they relate to both the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling and the funding packages available. The meeting was extremely constructive with Transport for London indicating that they were very supportive of the work the Borough has undertaken so far and confirming they would work with us to bring forward future proposals in line with the Council’s agreed priorities.
“In relation to the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner, this is a part time post awarded to a Greenwich resident who is a journalist who has blogged and written about significant issues of public policy within Greenwich and it is our view that he has an irresolvable conflict of interest.
“The Leader of the Council met with his boss, the Deputy Mayor for Transport [Isabel Dedring] to agree that liaison on cycling matters would continue to be, as previously, through the officer networks and where necessary at senior political level.”
Gilligan, who lives in west Greenwich, wrote regularly about issues in the area in a column for Greenwich.co.uk for two years until 2010 and has also touched on local issues in his work for the Daily Telegraph. Abrasive and provocative, his targets included the Olympics in Greenwich Park, market owner Greenwich Hospital, the Inc chain of bars and restaurants, and this very website as well as the council (“forty-watt burghers“).
But Gilligan’s criticisms of Greenwich are nothing compared with his trenchant attacks on Tower Hamlets, whose elected mayor Lutfur Rahman he brands “extremist-linked“.
However, Tower Hamlets council seems to have a thicker skin than Greenwich – it’s co-operating with Gilligan on the cycling plan. Indeed, even TfL’s top brass are having to swallow their pride to work with someone who repeatedly dubbed it “Transport for Livingstone”.
Whatever your views on Gilligan’s skills or failings as a journalist, it’s pretty clear that he got to council leader Chris Roberts. In 2010, Roberts yelled “chicken run, my arse!” at an election count following a Gilligan story about him doing a ‘chicken run’ to a safer seat.
With this background, they were never going to be best buddies. But the leader’s ego means Greenwich is set to miss out on improvements which could make the streets safer for all road users, providing many with a new way of getting around the area.
Indeed, even Bexley Council has announced it’s bidding for “mini-Holland” funding to try to significantly boost the low levels of cycling in its borough. Cyclists in Greenwich will have to wait until at least the next council election in May before such enlightened thinking is seen on the streets of the self-styled royal borough.