Government issues final warning over Greenwich Time

Wellington Gardens, Charlton, August 2014

The prospect of a legal fight over the future of Greenwich Time has got closer after the Government sent Greenwich Council a final warning to stop printing its weekly newspaper.

Greenwich is one of 11 councils – also including Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Conservative-controlled Hillingdon – that have been warned they will face legal action to shut down their council publications to “defend the independent free press”.

Only Greenwich and Tower Hamlets produce weekly newspapers. Greenwich now has two weeks to show communities secretary Eric Pickles why he shouldn’t take legal action against the council – essentially, it’s an order to shut it down or face legal action.

The Government believes it has outlawed councils publishing newssheets more than four times a year. Greenwich believes it is still operating within the law by publishing Greenwich Time – see its full submission to the Government here, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – and is vehemently opposed to any attempt to end its publication. Despite the fact that it is one of just two councils that publish a weekly paper, it claims criticism of Greenwich Time is politically-motivated.

Last month, it was revealed the council had refused an offer from the publisher of the Mercury and South London Press to take over Greenwich Time.

It’s long been rumoured Greenwich may try to spin off Greenwich Time to try to avoid the wrath of Pickles – with Greenwich Leisure Ltd mooted as a possible publisher. But there’s never been anything on the record to substantiate these rumours.

In truth, the squabbling over Greenwich Time has been going on for so long, residents may have just become resigned to the paper’s continued existence.

But after many false starts, the fight may now really be about to begin.

12 comments

  1. Peter Cordwell

    It was never a “rumour” to us. We had meetings galore about Greenwich Time going over to GLL as an arm’s-length company (arms-length would have been funnier) but every suggestion we made to actually meet someone from GLL was diverted (funny that). As I’ve said many times, the GT staff was (and still is, I think) made up of experienced journalists whose only interest was in reporting community stories about people and groups who were doing good stuff in the borough, three of us coming from the Mercury where – among many other things – we campaigned against the National Front and helped get Charlton Athletic back to The Valley. The weekly spinning at Greenwich Time, which literally came to a head when Cllr John Fahy’s features above the neck were airbrushed out of the paper, made us want to vomit. Cllr Fahy hated GT with a vengeance but now, predictably, keeps mum on the subject – as he does on another issue symbolic to those bullying, shameful and tawdry times.

  2. Jane Barnett

    Does anyone read it. The news that matters such as Blackheath fireworks versus Mayoral jollies is carefully edited out. Gets recycled straight to bin in my house.

  3. Steve

    They don’t even bother delivering it to my street in Charlton any more – and yet we still contribute towards it.

  4. KD Beale

    I’m afraid, (despite Mr Cordwell’s defence), that I feel it’s Council propaganda and I recycle it as soon as it hits the mat.

  5. Peter Cordwell

    Mine wasn’t a defence, just an explanation of being stuck in a particular job (which in my case turned out not to be a job despite the hours I put in). We suggested a fortnightly forum to bring in other points of view but Squealer was having none of it. Is there a bright young writer out there who would like to research a book on the subject (working title: Silence Is Craven)? Tons of material from 853, me, many others and the News Shopper.

  6. Neil C

    It doesn’t seem like an obvious fit with GLL’s other portfolio – do they do anything resembling publishing at the moment?

  7. Darryl

    Nope – and especially considering how poor GLL’s communications skills are with Charlton Lido, it seems a very odd idea

  8. Pingback: Eight London Councils In Firing Line Over Freesheets | Londonist
  9. elthamwatcher

    Peter, if you think that Greenwich Time was anything other than Pollyanna Publishing, you must have had too much bromide in your council coffee. The most damaging element is that it was uncritical reporting posing as a proper newspaper. An insidious Newspeak, weird that as an Orwell devotee you couldn’t see that. Btw, as far as I could see John Fahy was as keen on it as anybody else but perhaps you know better. The lack of a very active local media (SEnine and 853 apart) creates a very real democratic deficit but having a soft-propaganda rag filling that gap was making it worse. If only GT was really just information, rather than just PR-opiate, it would have been a real contribution to the community. Sadly, the council actually believes its own propaganda and is unable of telling spin from substance.

  10. Peter Cordwell

    Sorry, only just seen this, Elthamwatcher. I’m up for a coffee and a chat if you are. Fascinating subject.