Democracy cancelled in Greenwich

The Labour mayor of Greenwich, Cllr Harry Singh, has cancelled this month's meeting of Greenwich Council citing "lack of business".  In addition this week's 'Audit and Risk' and 'Safer and Stronger Communities' panels have also been cancelled.  Residents of the borough may be surprised about the lack of business, given how some of the Council's recent activities have been subject to national news coverage. 



Cynics might suggest that the Labour Council are now scared of being held to account, either by opposition councillors and members of he public at a full Council meeting, or through the overview and scrutiny process.


Leader of the Conservative Opposition, Cllr Spencer Drury (pictured, right) has written to the mayor to express his outrage:


Dear Cllr Singh,


I write to express my outrage at your decision to cancel the Council meting timetabled for the 20th September.  As you know the Conservative Group and the two Liberal-Democrats had asked for the meeting to continue despite a lack of formal business from the Council organisation itself. 


The cancellation of this meeting indicates a certain disrespect for the council tax payers of this borough.  The last Council meeting was 26th July and the next is not timetabled to be until 29th November – a 4 month gap.  As Councillors, one of our duties is to attend Council meetings to represent our residents and if there is no full Council meeting for one-third of the year, how can we do that?  Many residents will quite rightly ask ‘Do the Councillors do enough to deserve the £9,000 salary that they receive each year?’ 


I also feel obliged to question your impartiality on this issue.  On Monday night, I saw you emerge from a meeting with leaders of the Labour Council group and when I questioned you about the likelihood of a decision on the September meeting, you said I would find out the next day.  The next day, the cancellation of the meeting was announced.  It appeared to me that you had consulted with the Labour leaders on this matter, but had made no attempt to consult with me as the Leader of the Opposition group.  This is simply wrong.  Each year, your group assures us that the Mayor is impartial, but I feel this decision contradicts that claim.  You met with the Labour Party, but not the Conservative Party.  Why?  This is a question you should answer.


Finally, the full Council meeting is an opportunity for the members of the public and Councillors to ask questions, for deputations to be received and motions moved to change the Council’s policy.  While there was no formal business, the Conservative Group had prepared a motion regarding Safer Neighbourhood teams and police numbers.  In view of the massive increase in the rate of burglary and gun-enabled crime in the borough this motion needs to be debated sooner rather than later.  The Labour Cabinet should also answer serious questions about the decline in achievement in Greenwich schools and the fall in the Council Tax collection rate. 


I feel your decision to cancel the Council meeting is a betrayal of our democracy.  It is wrong to cancel the meeting simply because the ruling party feels it does not have sufficient business to justify its Councillors making the effort to come to the Council Chamber.  You should have made a decision that is in the interests of all the people of this borough, who ultimately pay our wages, not in the interests of your own party. 


I am formally asking you to reverse this decision and call a Council meeting for the end of September.


Yours sincerely,


Spencer Drury
Leader of the Opposition
Cllr for Eltham North