E-mails unearth Labour involvement in supressing report

A file of internal emails obtained by the Conservatives suggests that the Labour Leader of Greenwich Council, Chris Roberts, was directly involved in the decision to withhold a key report about the Casino plan for the Dome, and in handling media enquiries about a Conservative Councillor's request to see it.

Cllr Nigel Fletcher, Conservative Spokesman for Culture on the Council, was refused permission when he asked in May this year for a copy of a report prepared for the Council by consultants PWC on the impact a casino would have on the area.  The report has only now been released to him with the confidential sections deleted, after a delay of five months.  

An official originally told Cllr Fletcher in May "A decision has been made by the Leader in consultation with the Chief Executive, not to release the report" but the Council's Chief Executive later wrote to Cllr Fletcher to correct this, claiming: "The decision on such matters is not taken by the Leader but would be dealt with by [the Head of Legal Services] and myself".

However, the emails obtained by Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act show Cllr Fletcher's request was referred directly to the Leader, Cllr Roberts, as soon as it was received on Friday 15 May, with the council official requesting "Could you let me know if you want Cllr Fletcher to be sent a copy of the draft report?". 

Further emails show council officers consulting Cllr Roberts over how to handle media enquiries about Cllr Fletcher's request, at one point asking him "Would it be fair to say it's not the property of the Leader and that it's not simply up to you Chris to release it?". 

Cllr Fletcher said, "These emails show that the decision to withhold the Casino report was politicised from the very beginning.  The correct process for handling my request seems to have been interrupted by intervention from the Leader and his advisers.  Their unwillingness to disclose information went further than I believe was necessary, and made it look as though they had something to hide.

"I and my Conservative colleagues strongly support the Casino application for Greenwich, but our prospects risk being damaged by the Council's secretive attitude as exposed by these emails, which add to the already murky allegations about the Government's involvement in the process."