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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Caught on tape: Greenwich Council leader bullying cabinet member

with 20 comments

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.

Greenwich Council leader and bully Chris RobertsBut 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.

20 Responses

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  1. Readers might also like to ask Nick Raynsford if he thinks this sort of behaviour is ok too: http://www.nickraynsford.org.uk/

    Clare

    30 September, 2013 at 1:56 pm

  2. Uggh, this sounds ugly.
    My immediate reaction to such a strong reposte to what seems a sensible question, would be to think that some wrong doing had been done. If this happened in my company, I would be asking for personal connections to the organisation be investigated and the persons finances examined.
    I would at minimum suspect that some inappropriate promises or agreements to have been made with the organisation, and therefore the person is so emotional as they are worried that things may not go the way they expected.

    Never-mind such language would not be tolerated in all workplaces and the person strongly disciplined, or let go.
    Obviously we don’t know the full details, there may be a personal aspect to this and tempers may have blown, but – gulp, glad I don’t work there !!

    John Norman

    30 September, 2013 at 9:30 pm

  3. This is the party of Ed Balls, Gordon Brown and that drunk spin doctor (actually take your pick in this category). The Labour party are an evil bunch, they always have been.

    Richard

    1 October, 2013 at 9:45 am

  4. Richard, that may be your opinion but the reality here is that this Labour controlled council has mutated, as healthy cells mutate into cancerous cells. It has nothing to do with the national party and any such claim is simply sensationalist noise.

    You would do us all a service by concentrating on the ways of our council and emphasising the need for a CAT scan followed by the requisite radiotherapy.

    Bob

    1 October, 2013 at 10:13 am

  5. Bob, the local behaviours are tolerated as they are tolerated at the national level. Having grown up in a Labour mining stronghold I would suggest that this type of behaviour is pretty standard. The Labour Party makes the GOP look inclusive and friendly.

    Richard

    1 October, 2013 at 10:37 am

  6. Clearly you’re in search of a cure for cancer and while that is wholly commendable, we need to concentrate on this local outbreak. Otherwise we can’t move forward – you’re simply diluting the toxicity of this particular case. Surely you must see that?

    Bob

    1 October, 2013 at 10:42 am

  7. The really corrupt, nasty Labour buggers were traditionally in Scotland, of course – which has contributed to the rise of the SNP.

    But Tory councils can be like this too. Bexley’s pretty much like Greenwich through the looking-glass, while Barnet is well known for some nasty behaviour.

    Chris Roberts’ behaviour has obvious parallels with Gordon Brown, but much of the problem is to do with the political system we have – and by our own apathy and “well, what do you expect?” cynicism, we tacitly encourage. Posting comments on the web is the easy bit.

    As ever, Labour members are welcome to tell us what action they are taking to root out bullying.

    Darryl

    1 October, 2013 at 10:55 am

  8. I simply cannot believe that this has not leaked to the press- where are our investigative journalists nowadays? Somebody surely who hasn’t ‘vested interests’ in protecting the Labour Party before the forthcoming local elections must know of this appalling outburst and have passed on the info to the media? covering up stories such as this encourages more such behaviour of course.

    derek small

    1 October, 2013 at 11:55 am

  9. […] Greenwich Labour is still not acting over its bullying council leader, the party’s national leader Ed Miliband is having abusive problems of his own, having to […]

  10. Do we think that Chris Roberts has probably seen enough of his “The Thick of It” box set?

    Perhaps he should switch to something tamer, Last of the Summer Wine should prove a much happier choice for residents and councillors alike!

    Darren

    1 October, 2013 at 6:23 pm

  11. […] of bullying against Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts made on this website are being investigated by the London Labour Party, it’s emerged […]

  12. […] existence of the voicemail was revealed on this website on Monday, but now the News Shopper has published the voicemail and and identified its recipient as being the […]

  13. […] aftermath of Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ bullying voicemail took a new twist over the weekend after hopefuls who want to be the next MP for Greenwich and […]

  14. […] who has referred himself to the council’s standards committee over the notorious “get it through your fucking thick skull” voicemail, have not been mentioned in Greenwich […]

  15. […] September, this website revealed the existence of a threatening voicemail from Roberts left on cabinet member John Fahy’s mobile phone where he insisted that the decision on […]

  16. […] The programme also featured Roberts’ abusive voicemail to cabinet member John Fahy, the existence of which was first revealed on this website. […]

  17. […] has also been accused of bullying after leaving a threatening voicemail for cabinet colleague John Fahy – which the News Shopper reported last week has resulted in just a warning from the Greenwich […]

  18. […] Roberts is chair of a charity, Greenwich Starting Blocks, which is given free places by IMG. The recent threatening voicemail featured Roberts insisting his administration decides whether 2014′s race takes place, rather […]

  19. […] “I will remove your portfolio, you will have no portfolio, and you can be doing nothing… Get that through your fucking thick skull, John,” Roberts told Fahy in the voicemail, the existence of which was first revealed on this website. […]

  20. […] dramatic one, as the row over Greenwich Council’s pavement tax came to a head, and allegations over the leadership style of Chris Roberts were raised. But how to get hold of a decent […]


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