Caught on tape: Greenwich Council leader bullying cabinet member
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts verbally abused one of his cabinet members by voicemail and threatened to strip the councillor of their job in a row over the Run To The Beat half-marathon – yet the council’s Labour group is yet to take action against him, this website understands.
Roberts left the four-letter verbal barrage on the voicemail of the cabinet member after the councillor raised concerns over this year’s race, which the council leadership pushed through without promised consultation with local residents.
The cabinet member suggested in an email to Labour councillors that any decision over the 2014 Run to the Beat event would be left to whoever was in power after May’s elections – after which Roberts has said he would stand down as leader.
But Roberts responded by leaving a message on the senior councillor’s voicemail threatening the removal of their portfolio, adding that the representative should “get it through your fucking thick skull”.
The voicemail has been widely shared both within the local Labour party, and outside of it. But over two weeks after first being made aware of the voicemail, Greenwich Council’s Labour group chief whip Ray Walker – an ally of Roberts – has so far declined to investigate the incident.
Verbal abuse of a fellow councillor is against both Greenwich Council’s rules, plus Labour Party regulations.
But the voicemail’s existence being widespread knowledge – this website has had this confirmed by multiple sources – the cabinet member concerned is reluctant to take the matter to the London regional Labour party, for fear news would leak and cause embarrassment to the wider party.
While this website is not naming the councillor involved, it is surely in the public interest – and the Labour Party’s wider interest – that Chris Roberts’ bullying of his fellow councillors is discussed openly.
Roberts is notorious for threatening councillors who step out of line. Earlier this year, Blackheath Westcombe councillor Alex Grant declined to stand again over the “culture of bullying” and “sinister threats” within Greenwich Council’s Labour group.
But the existence of the voicemail is, for the first time, tangible proof of how Roberts bullies and abuses Labour councillors – who have no effective way of blowing the whistle on such behaviour. Roberts is widely believed to be reconsidering his earlier plans to stand down as council leader next year.
The voicemail furore comes as Roberts seeks to crack down on any form of dissent from his councillors ahead of May 2014’s election. Multiple sources have told this website that Labour councillors have been treated to a tirade against the evils of social media, while a clampdown is planned on Labour councillors emailing officers to investigate issues without first going through cabinet members.
What’s not widely understood is why Chris Roberts, who steered the council through last year’s Olympics, is so anxious over the relatively trivial matter of the staging of a half-marathon, run by international events conglomerate IMG.
The fear of doing damage to the wider Labour Party permeates the council’s Labour group – many of whom have spent their lives in the party, and socialise within the party and related groups such as the Co-operative party. This situation has enabled the leader to get away with his harsh treatment of those who question him.
Publishing details of this voicemail will almost certainly have consequences. But to stay quiet about this bullying is to be complicit in it, especially when details of this voicemail are so widely known. Some will see this an example of anti-Labour bias – yet it is in the public interest that the dominant party in Greenwich borough treats its public representatives fairly.
Perhaps now others will speak out and take action – and those higher up in the Labour Party will get it into their “thick skulls” that they have a problem in Greenwich which needs fixing.
1.50pm update: It’s been suggested to me that concerned readers may like to contact the Labour Party directly to ask what it is doing about bullying in Greenwich Council’s Labour group.
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