You might have seen by now how Greenwich Council is bidding to bring the Tall Ships Race to the borough in 2016 – and how leader Chris Roberts led a five-strong council team to Riga, Latvia a couple of weeks back to meet and greet the great and the good of the tall ships world, with council taxpayers picking up the £5,500 bill for their trip to the Tall Ships Conference.
While the trip’s already sprouted one success – the borough’s been asked to host a regatta in 2014 – it’s raised eyebrows among councillors; most didn’t know about the bid until Roberts returned from Riga. And why did it take five people – including chief executive Mary Ney, Roberts’ spin chief Katrina Delaney and cabinet member Peter Kotz – to make the journey, at a cool £1,140 each?
And as the Tall Ships Race would start from Woolwich rather than Greenwich, couldn’t the council’s buddies at Berkeley Homes, which is developing the Royal Arsenal site and would benefit from the attention, have coughed up the costs? Or the backers of Sail Royal Greenwich, pictured above at its launch last year, which started this enthusiasm for hoisting masts on the Thames?
As their neighbours in Lewisham display unity over the threat to Lewisham Hospital, Greenwich’s Labour councillors have been left wondering quite what their leader is up to once again.
Still, that might not be the worst of it. You can watch the video of the Riga conference here…
Skip forward, beyond the bit about the bar running out of booze, to 17min 20secs in, where a Dutchman introduces how he works with young people… by dancing to Rednex’s novelty 1994 hit Cotton-Eye Joe. And then at 19 mins 20 secs in, where he gets all the delegates to join in.
Did the Dear Leader and his jolly crew shake their funky stuff? Time to keep a close eye out for photos…
As trade unionists and Labour Party members march to protest against the government’s cuts, it’s emerged one of Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts’ most loyal lieutenants has been given a 25% pay rise.
Communications boss Katrina Delaney has been given her reward for years of keeping him and the council out of trouble by being promoted to a new role as “director of culture, media and sport”. The position was not advertised to the public, and the decision has not yet been published on the council’s website.
Delaney, who as assistant chief executive (communications and community engagement) oversaw the council’s rebranding as “Royal Greenwich” earlier this year, sees her annual pay go up from £100,000 to £125,000. You can see the job ad here, as well as the job description.
I’m told from within the town hall that taxpayers will ultimately save money, as her new role is part of a restructuring which does away with other positions.
But it’s ultimately a recognition of the work put in protecting Greenwich Council’s reputation, while other councils – particularly neighbouring Bexley, the yardstick many in the council test themselves against – have been bogged down in rows with the public.
Greenwich has managed to avoid this by simply ignoring people – whether they are members of the public, journalists, its own councillors or other elected London bodies – and pressing on with its own agenda, regardless of what others may say.
A good example came earlier this week. According to opposition leader Spencer Drury, councillors have been told Greenwich is continuing refusing to fund the Blackheath fireworks because “we have not been asked” – despite the fact Lewisham Council has just launched another appeal for funds. Greenwich always does things its own way, and doesn’t reach out.
Indeed, it even sets its own agenda by publishing its own weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time, putting a glossy spin on the council’s achievements before other media outlets can get to them. Aided by an feeble local media – and the fact that many outlets would rather chase after Conservative councils’ wrong-doings – it largely works.
Of course, all this breeds resentment on the ground, particularly in less high-profile parts of the borough – there’s some gems in this News Shopper story about Abbey Wood.
On a professional level, she’s saved the council’s hides a few times. Journalists like to get two sides of the story – so when one side of the story takes days to get back to you, some are often deterred from pursuing the story.
But such a strategy can only go on for so long – as we’ve seen in the foot tunnels fiasco, which the council has ignored for months, only for it to blow up in its face. Releasing a bland press release on a Friday night also failed to hide the story – even the Evening Standard covered it – and BBC London News is covering the story in its bulletins today, featuring some bigmouth from Charlton.
And perhaps if people stick around to follow the foot tunnel story, they might find more to dig around. Who knows what “hidden structures” might be found beneath the council?