Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fancy going to a Charlton match?

The other day we highlighted the tale of the Red Bull Race tickets that was originally posted by Charlton Average. Since then we've had an email tip off suggesting that free tickets for things are quite common in the Council.

According to a mole, the Council offices often receive free tickets for Charlton Athletic Football matches in the post. Apparently the presumed intention is to give them out to the likes of old peoples homes, children's home and other worthy "community groups".

However, our mole suggests that the tickets usually disappear quite quickly, and we must admit that we've never seen the Council boasting about how its treated the more unfortunate in the Borough to a nice day out at the Valley to watch Premiership football (Championship now shurely?). We're now left wondering where the tickets might go?

This is of course little more than scurrilous gossip, and we have no evidence that its even remotely true, but we're sure a few inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act would be able to find out if it was. We would do it ourselves but we'd have to give them the address of the office.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Whipping the Mayoralty

This is the new Deputy Mayor, Steve Offord who's just taken the post and has thus become Mayor-Elect for next year as a result. The Deputy Mayor, like the Mayor, is supposed to be a politically neutral role of course, however as we found last year it isn't. The Mayor's Office simply does whatever the controlling group tells it too, and is effectively a puppet for the headbangers and loonies that run the Borough.

Is Steve Offord going to a be puppet when he has to deputise for the Mayor on committees and in Council? Unlikely because, in a truly surreal twist of fate he's also the Deputy Whip for the Labour Group. He's actually one of the puppet masters, not the puppet.

We just want to clarify this for our readers. The Deputy Mayor - who is meant to politically neutral when chairing different meetings and committees - simultaneously has the role of cajoling, coercing and/or threatening his comrades on the Soviet to vote in the right way. Democracy in Greenwich is an absolute farce.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Which "community groups"?

There are a growing number of blogs in the Greenwich area these days, and one of them is called Charlton Average. Like our esteemed organ it is an entirely anonymous site and is not afraid to ask some awkward questions about things which go on in the Borough. Yesterday they made a very astute observation about the forthcoming Red Bull Air Race which will be occurring over the Greenwich Peninsula.

According to Red Bull, they have allocated a number of free tickets for local residents in the three boroughs involved, and have asked the local Councils to distribute them. On the other side of the river, Newham and Tower Hamlets have decided to have a lottery with their allocation, but Greenwich has not.

In fact, Greenwich haven't even made a big deal of the event in their in-house propaganda newspaper Greenwich Time which is so unlike them. What they didn't plan on it seems was Red Bull giving out the direct line to Pravda-Central in the Council Offices and telling people to call Michele Ingram and apply for tickets.

Sadly Michelle's phone doesn't get picked up by a person anymore and is on permanent answerphone with a message indicating that tickets are being given to "community groups" in the first instance before the "general public". Conveniently they don't say what these community groups are.

Time to make a few phone calls. If anyone knows what's going on with the tickets and feel the need to share the news discreetly, you know what to do.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Sod the canapes, we're going to the pub!

One of our readers has been kind enough to send us a copy of the running order for the Mayor Making Ceremony that we were going to to go to on Wednesday. The shirt was ironed, the tie was pressed, and we were all ready for free wine, canapes and back-biting speeches from each of the party political leaders of the Borough.

Sadly after reading the running order we've discovered that in the name of "saving time" the Council has decided to ban the Lib Dem and Tory Opposition leaders from speaking at the ceremony. Instead there will just be a speech by the Glorious Leader, Chris Roberts, then the new Mayor, Sajid Jawaid, and then, if his incoming speech last year is anything to go by, an incoherent ramble by the outgoing Mayor, Harpinder Singh. There will also be prayer by an Imman too.

It appears the local Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Hindu and Jedi Community havn't been invited to speak though. We understand this of course, after all, the Jews run Hollywood and control the World; the Christians are crusader imperialists; the Sikhs just like to get hammered at weddings; the Hindus are evil polytheists and the Jedi with their lightsabers are far too dangerous for the Painted Hall. Islam on the other hand has never so much as squashed a fly! Diversity, huh? Don't you just love it?

Given such anti-democratic suppression of fellow councillors (coupled with selective religiosity), we've decided we really can't be arsed to go anymore. At least it would've been mildly amusing to see the look on the different politicians' faces as each subtly slated the other, but it looks very much like we'll have to sit through a Council back slapping session with some theocracy thrown in for good measure.

Thus, the phrase "sod that we'd rather go to the pub" rang around the office when the news was broken. We'll just keep our fingers crossed that the ceremony costs slightly less than the £30,000+ it did last year.... but we don't hold much hope.


Greener Greenwich?

"Improving, preserving and enjoying the area around us" that's what the Council say. The following pictures were taken in Anglesea Road this morning.

They clearly know how to party hard in Frederick Place as well. Ice cream anyone?

We owe our thanks to an eagle eyed resident for these ones. Do keep them coming in.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy belated Birthday to Us

Something that we forgot to mention the other week was our birthday celebrations. It's been just over a year since we set this site up and in that time we've had immense fun and enjoyment. There was a time a few months ago where we were considering canning the whole thing, then one of our sources said that if we did, it would make them very pleased, we couldn't have that now could we?

It hs though been a crazy year for us that kicked off the day after the last elections. Before the end of that month the Dome/Casino story had begun to develop and the local press picked up on the site which increased the traffic which is healthy and stready.

In August we got this story into the public domain, resulting in this and this. We have to say that was a strange day, we were in a bit of daze seeing all the papers talking about our story, and then to see the TV news covering it as well and the Today programme it just seemed like a dream. The egos in the office grew that day to be sure (and they're still growing never fear).

We soldiered on though, and kept chipping away at the Council's PR machine. Eventually the Council threatened us with legal action over our logo (yes we're still working on the new one), and this threat had nothing to do with this story two days earlier.

We've had our open critics though, but unlike the Council we don't avoid their criticism and will happily publish it. The Council even made an implicit reference to us in November. We also brought the news of the Council plans to cut services although we had to apologise when our figure was £18 million too low.

In February we brought you the news that a congestion charge was coming to Greenwich, and we remain convinced the situation is being stitched up to ensure that the zone comes in. We certainly hope that we've provided our readers with a service that was previously lacking in Greenwich over the past few years, and just so the Council know, we're not going anywhere.

One last thing though, we've managed to blag our way onto the list for the Mayor Making ceremony this Wednesday. This will of course annoy the Council greatly. When we wrote about blagging our way in last year we hear it caused consternation from the Chief Executive, Mary Ney.

Hopefully the canapes will be better this time round, and we pray the leader's speech won't be as dull as dishwater. Still, we always have the sublime fresco to look at should it become too bad. Don't forget to read our archives.


Worrying news for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

What exactly does the future hold for Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich? It seems that the deal which saw the hospital built means that if the NHS wishes to pull out of the 60 year PFI contract, the contractor, Skanskt and Innisfree will have the right to use the land and buildings for whatever it pleases until 2126.

For those wondering how PFI, or what they like call Public-Private Partnership actually worked it is quite simple. The Government cuts a deal with a private contracter who agrees to build the hospital and then rent it back to the NHS at a cost. This is why the QE is in so much debt, it cannot even cover the rent and interest so is continually losing money.

In fairness to the Coucnil they have no power whatsoever over the local NHS provision. However, they do have the power to make their voices heard on our behalf. Yet they refuse to do it, and have said nothing about the financial state of the QE or the potential of it being closed because of crippling debts. Much like their refusal to talk to about the NHS report into the poor state of health in the Borough.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

In praise of open government!

As MPs vote to stop us finding out what is going on, we think it worth mentioning that there is one small bastion of clear information left at Greenwich Council. It is the Neighbourhood Services Policy and Performance Unit.

Most will have never heard of them of course, but they produce a monthly report which we occasionally get to see. It actually tells those who get it (which includes most Councillors) what is going on - assuming they bother reading it of course and we doubt most of them do! This months highlights include:

1: The reduction in rent arrears which the Council hopes to reduce by £500,000 this year has actually gone up by £23,000. Of course this is better than before, but how has this been achieved? Not by reducing current tenants arrears (which is up by almost £100,000 over the year), but instead by a sudden huge reduction in the former tenant arrears? Do we think they have tracked these people down? No we don’t, we think they have written it off – or given it away as it could be termed! Hurrah for almost meeting a target in the most cynical way!

2: Another target Greenwich almost met was to answer the phone within 15 seconds – not all that tough you’d have thought. Our office answer machine cuts in before we get to that point! However, their target is only to answer 70% of calls in the 15 seconds and guess what, they only managed 69.1%. Even when they set themselves a low target they still fail to meet it!

Anyway, we want to thank the Information Policy and Performance Unit – we doubt you’ll be able to keep sending out the report for much longer, but we hope you keep your jobs. You're the only ones in the Council who tell people what's really going on – we’re sure Greenwich don’t want that sort of information around really.

This posting is therefore dedicated to the Information Policy and Performance Unit. We salute you, you are heroes!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Blackwall Tunnel Debate in Parliament

We thought we'd point people in the direction of the debate last night in the House of Commons. All the local MPs were there except for Nick Raynsford. Bob Neill, the MP for Bromley who kicked off the debate said he thought Greenwich Council were correct to say that TfL did not consult with them even though they say they did.

We have it on very good authority that Bob Neill is wrong. A meeting did take place between TfL and Greenwich in January where the planned closure of the tunnel was discussed. You can read the full debate here

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Hokey-Cokey Council Meeting

Last night was the Annual General Meeting of the Council. It lasted half an hour. We can't deny we found it highly amusing. The agenda was pretty straightforward. They all just turned up to vote and confirm the different Cabinet positions, committee chairs, etc that were being dished out. In other words, it was the night many were officially confirmed in their stupidly high salary part-time jobs.

Greenwich Unison were outside shouting and protesting about their pay cuts whilst the snouts in the trough munched away on hundred of thousands of pounds worth of "expenses" by show of hands. It was a bit like the hokey-cockey in fact...
"They put their left hand up, their left hand down, up, down, up down, shake it all around. They take the easy money and they spend it quick! Even though inspectors say they're shit!"
We'd like to thank our below minimum wage teenage photocopy boy for coming up with the above jingle.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Council ignores its failing and waves through damning report

At the end of April this year, the Council Cabinet held its Best Value Performance Review. The purpose of this review is to use standard measure to compare itself with other Councils across the country.

We imagine people will not be surprised to hear that Greenwich is rubbish. On over a third of the measure Greenwich was below the average which placed it in the bottom 25% Councils in the country.

We've already mentioned the Audit Commission before, but we've now learned that in ten of the indicators that they consider, the Council had failed to improve in two years and in some cases was actually going backwards, especially on the matter of clean streets it seems.

We've had a number of emails from readers about this matter, especially the fact that rubbish is dumped in the Woolwich and Thamesmead area and never gets picked up. Apparently as summer approaches the foliage covers it up until winter arrives. The result is things like this.

Should readers be wondering what the Cabinet said about their poor showing in the Best Value Performance Review, they waved it through without comment or discussion.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: London Labour Party promotes porn on its website

Readers may recall a month or so ago we mentioned that whilst the local Labour party websites had been down for some time there appeared to be a new London-wide website called Labour in London so we linked to that instead. We emailed them to confirm whether it was the new website but never actually received a response.

It appears though that, like previous more local incarnations, they are not taking their web presence very seriously. In the "Your Say" section it looks like any semblance of moderation is non-existent and they've been hijacked. The results? Lots of adverts for "hot teen pussy", "big tits" and a free prostitute search engine to name but a few.

At some point in the not too distant future we expect the comments will be removed (especially after some of the good ladies and gentleman of the Fleet Street find out), so we decided to grab a screenshot of all the comments in their detail, just click the pretty picture on the right. We know this is not "Greenwich related" but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a giggle could we?

UPDATE 12:45PM: Normal service has been resumed at the website (see below) for a comparison of how it now looks.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Agendas online.... almost

Back in March, we commented on how the Council appeared to have stopped posting the Full Council meeting agendas on its website since March 2006. Amazingly, between now and then they've decided to upload the agendas... well sort of. They're only putting up the front page of the agenda which lists what is going to to be discussed in title form. Clearly we don't need to see the gory details of the meeting. If we did we'd all see the crazy decisions that the incompetent sods make on a monthly basis.

Perhaps though we shouldn't complain. After all, when you go to "Home -> Committee Papers Archive" you are not presented with the Greenwich Council website anymore. Instead you get the front page of the Microsoft Content Management Server 2002. If they can't even make their website work properly what hope do we have for getting full documents made available to the public?


Friday, May 04, 2007

TfL still surveying about the congestion charge?

In our last post we mentioned that we think the way the Council is handling the traffic in Greenwich is dodgy. In our view it seems as if they are deliberately allowing ever worse traffic congestion in Greenwich in order to justify a congestion charge which they have been pushing for. At last week's Council meeting, the Deputy Leader, Peter Brooks, said that the results of TfL surveys of the area in relation to congestion charging were not available but would be in a month or so.

What Councillor Brooks didn't mention was that the reason the results are not available is because the surveying hasn't even been finished yet. TfL are still carrying it out. This means they are carrying out surveying on congestion in Greenwich whilst they and the Council have simultaneously allowed a congestion easing scheme to be shut down.

Engineering greater congestion and then surveying people and saying "do you think there is a problem with congestion?". We're willing to make a prediction. When the results come back we will be told that the people of Greenwich overwhelming want a congestion charge zone because traffic is so bad. As soon as that happens the decision about the tidal flow will be reconsidered.

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Council lies about Blackwall tidal flow meeting with TfL?

At last weeks full Council Meeting, a question was asked about the scrapping of the tidal flow in the Blackwall Tunnel. As we've already made clear, we think the timing and impact of removing the tidal flow smells dodgy. Given this we read with interest the Council's response to a question about the scrapping of the system.

According to the Council leader Chris Roberts, the Council "was not consulted by TfL over the decision to end the Blackwall Tunnel contraflow arrangement". However, we've learned that in fact TfL did consult the Council, and they did it in January, months before the tidal flow was closed.

On January 18th 2007, TfL met with the Council's Deputy Leader, Peter Brooks for the purpose of discussing the tidal flow closure. The leader of the Council's claim that they were not consulted sits on very stony ground as a result.

What concerns us is that even though the Council knew that the tidal flow was being closed in January they did nothing about it. They didn't even issue a statement informing the residents of the Borough, many of whom relied on it, that it was going to be closed.

At the end of the day we think it all boils down to this. Either (a) they're liars? (b) they're totally incompetent? or (c) possibly both?


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leadership changes at the Council

Word reaches us that there may have been some changes in the leadership at the Council. Peter Brooks, who was the Deputy Leader of the Council along with Angela Cornforth is now the only Deputy Leader. The Tory leadership remains the same apparently. The Lib Dems only have two councillors so no change there then.

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