Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts refused to answer a question about the trouble-hit Peninsula Festival at Woolwich Town Hall last night, despite the authority funding the event with £50,000.
Greenwich has paid the festival cash to provide a big screen showing Olympic events on its site close to the Pilot pub, but other elements of the events – such as a Dutch campsite and a beach by the Thames – have failed to materialise.
The meeting had already been rescheduled to allow councillors to visit the launch of the Sail Royal Greenwich tall ships event later today, and had also been cut short, with no questions from the public permitted, even though it was the last meeting before the Olympics.
Mayor David Grant told councillors – who also received invites to Monday’s opening ceremony rehearsal – that “many members would have to be or want to be somewhere else” on the original meeting date.
Opposition Conservative leader Spencer Drury has denied suggestions his party agreed with the Labour leadership to block questions from councillors and the public.
One of his councillors, Nigel Fletcher, tried to use a motion about council finances to slip in a question about whether the festival still represented value for money.
But Roberts refused to answer in public, instead telling the Eltham North representative that he would send a written answer instead.
Festival organisers are now racing to get their site, “Area 12”, ready for Friday’s opening day. Late last night, a big wheel was illuminated, while cash machines and portable toilets have already appeared on site.
The lack of questions saw a depleted attendance in the public gallery – indeed, I’m piecing this together as I couldn’t be there.
Indeed, I also missed a one-man rebellion by Labour councillor Alex Grant, objecting to the process under which the council appointed a new member of its standards committee, which will adjudicate on complaints about councillors.
After an ad appeared in council weekly Greenwich Time just 10 days ahead of the closing date, five applications were received, but the council decided to reappoint Sir Michael Pike, who had previously carried out a similar role with the council.
While the process has caused considerable disquiet among Labour councillors, none of them supported his rebellion, and he is likely to face disciplinary action for defying the leadership.
Thursday afternoon update: Here’s the non-answer from Chris Roberts to Nigel Fletcher:
However, his council doesn’t exactly seem to be confident about its £50,000 investment on its website – there’s no mention of the Peninsula Festival on a listing of local big screens. Like the Blackheath big screen, it’s been consigned to outer space…
And here’s some of the work on Area 12 last night, erecting a dome…