Now we can all hear Greenwich Council’s leader act the bully

airbrush_greenwich_time

“Let me be clear to you, if you do not want to take decisions in the remainder of this administration, I expect you to resign from the cabinet.

“I’m not having you playing these games. I will remove your portfolio, you will have no portfolio, and you can be doing nothing.

“But we are not deferring decisions. Get that through your fucking thick skull, John.”

Listening to Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts verbally abuse cabinet member John Fahy by voicemail, it’s less the swearing that shocks – it’s the threat to terminate a colleague’s career.

The 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 cabinet member for health, and sometime leadership rival to Roberts. (Clip from the News Shopper via Audioboo – contains industrial language.)

Plaudits to senior reporter Mark Chandler for getting hold of the concrete proof of the unacceptable way that Roberts treats his fellow councillors.

News Shopper Greenwich editionIndeed, this week’s print version of the News Shopper had already called on the Labour leader to resign after detailing how Roberts demanded Fahy be airbrushed out of a Greenwich Time story in May 2012 – something highlighted on this website at the time (see pictures above).

“It was just the normal spite that’s part of the bullying culture that was prevailing at the time and no doubt still is,” Greenwich Time assistant editor Peter Cordwell, sacked by Roberts last month, told the Shopper.

Greenwich Council denies Cordwell – given the boot for writing to local papers about the Lewisham Hospital campaign, which Greenwich Council conspicuously failed to back – was a member of staff. But this website understands Cordwell, who is taking his case to an industrial tribunal, was given holiday and sick pay, as well as annual leave and a council mobile phone.

Roberts’ temper may well have cost the council dear – and not for the first time.

What happens next? Will Chris Roberts go? Will he hang on? Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing’s clear – the bullying problem at Greenwich Council does not stop with Chris Roberts.

A bully can’t act alone – and there will be other people who will have facilitated his behaviour, even passively by turning a blind eye to his actions. And it may well be that the local Labour party may feel under attack and could close ranks.

But it’s striking that it was Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander who blew the whistle by referring allegations to the London Labour Party. Where were the MPs which represent Greenwich borough? What did they know, and if they did know things, why didn’t they act? And where were our councillors?

Voters in Greenwich borough owe Heidi Alexander thanks for her actions. She acted where our own MPs and councillors didn’t. They have a lot of questions to answer.

This comes at a wretched time for the local Labour party – with selections ongoing for the Greenwich & Woolwich parliamentary candidacy, and May 2014’s council election on the horizon.

But brushing the legacy of Chris Roberts’ bullying under the carpet will do nobody any good. Labour figures need to be brave and mount a proper investigation.

Nationally, leader Ed Miliband is rightly being widely praised for his dignified yet determined stance against the harrassment he and his family has faced from the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. Now the party should really be practising what it preaches and investigating the harrassment faced by councillors and others in Greenwich Council’s Labour group. To quote its own campaign, it needs speak up for decency in local politics.

If it doesn’t, there are more stories waiting to come out. Many have been knocking around the council for years. And with proof of Roberts’ actions now in the public domain, they may appear in far more prominent places than this website, or a local paper.

Labour should have dealt with the bullying in Greenwich Council long ago. At least something’s happening now.

But if it doesn’t act to properly deal with a rotten culture, and the individuals who perpetuate, tolerate or condone it, it risks suffering further humiliation further down the line.

12 comments

  1. Peter Cordwell

    Yes, we’re really lucky to have Heidi Alexander as our MP in Lewisham. She could just as easily have been the kind of politician we have become used to in Greenwich, where the most sought after post is Cabinet Member For Keeping Your Head Down. Plaudits indeed for Mark Chandler and this website too. Dare I write a letter to News Shopper about it? (Grateful thanks to all the good people who have supported me over the last six weeks).

  2. lucyneville2013

    If the local Labour Party is too scared to deal with this kind of thing, what on earth does that say about their political abilities?

  3. Jill

    Mr. Fahy has been helping residents of Royal Arsenal fight Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing regarding the insane energy charges Berkeley negotiated with SSE. Residents are not allowed to change their energy supplier for 20-25 years (no one seems to know the actual length) and SSE are allowed to charge whatever they want.

    No one else seems to care, including Nick Raynsford, that residents are being forced to pay over £1.40 a day in standing charges that they were not informed about prior to habitation.

    As new phases of Royal Arsenal are now being tendered for energy services, Mr. Fahy has openly challenged Berkeley to renegotiate the entire deal with SSE for the benefit of residents (many of whom are in social or shared ownership homes that are supposed to be classified as ‘affordable housing’). These charges are crippling most residents.

    Additionally Southern Housing have miscalculated service charges for 2012 and have sent demands to residents asking for an additional £400-£500 each! Mr. Fahy has challenged this mismanagement on our behalves as well.

    Notwithstanding his own personal circumstances of course, Royal Arsenal Residents will lose an important voice of support if this treatment of Mr. Fahy is allowed to continue.

  4. Joel

    Does make you wonder about Cllrs who are now running for selection as MP in Greenwich and Woolwich, and their unwillingness to stand up against this. Suspect they kept a low profile so they would have a easier ride for the MP selection

  5. Chris

    Mr Fahy has always struck me as a man perfectly capable of fighting his own political battles, so a bit of swearing at him on the phone doesn’t really worry me, he would have heard a lot worse I’m sure.

    But we need some context. What was the threat about? What decision(s) does he want to defer?

    Sorry if I missed it, still dopier than normal after my op.

  6. Paul C

    I am sure Councillor Fahy can handle the odd use of the ‘F BOMB’. But far worse is the idea that a councillor cannot make a suggestion about decision-making for future events without being threatened with being stripped of his portfolio. And now Mark Chandler from News Shopper is reporting that the complaint that was handed to the London Labour Group has been referred to… [wait for it folks]… the Greenwich Labour Group, chief whip Ray Walker specifically. So Councillor Roberts mate will be deciding if there was any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, blanket silence from senior members of Greenwich Labour.

  7. Plumstead Resident

    I didn’t realise that Councillor Fahy was fighting Berkeley Homes over energy costs. He certainly gets my support on that.

    Sadly, many managers make climb their way up the organisational ladder by bullying people but it’s simply idiotic for him to record such a message on someone’s voicemail! He’s clearly lost the plot.

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