What does consultation mean?

“Very little”, seems to be the answer in Greenwich, says Blackheath Westcombe’s Conservative Councillor Rhodri Harris.  Take five recent examples of bureaucratic action taken without real consultation, and with little thought about the consequences for local people.


Blackheath Village

Roadworks in the Village are the responsibility of Lewisham Council who are supposed to discuss them with Greenwich Council, since the Village is split between the two boroughs.

Lewisham recently decided to implement a 20mph zone and carried out limited consultation with residents in its area.  Greenwich consulted no one.  Then Lewisham announced that it would close the Village completely during the day from October to Christmas to carry out the work.  Not even local traders were asked their views about this and the inevitable disruption to their Christmas trade.  They, not surprisingly, were incensed.

When Council workmen arrived to start the work they were met by a protest organised by Village traders, and were forced to retreat.  Only then did the Council discuss implementation with those affected.

As Rhodri commented: “You may think, as I do, that putting a 20mph zone in streets where achieving 20mph is usually impossible, is a strange use of public money.  But even if you don’t, you must condemn the complete closure of the Village without discussion, particularly in the run up to Christmas”.

Post Office closures

Sub-office closures in the Blackheath Westcombe ward, and now in Charlton and Kidbrooke, as well as the downgrading of the Crown office in Greenwich, have all been subjected to ‘consultation’, and have all been bitterly opposed by residents yet it appears to have made no difference whatever to the Post Office’s plans.

Hornfair Lido

Despite widespread opposition, Greenwich Council has closed the borough’s only remaining lido, without notice at the beginning of the summer.  They cite ‘health and safety’ reasons, though the disrepair is a direct consequence of a lack of Council maintenance over many years.

Those who have followed the lido saga in recent years know that some council officers have wanted to close it for some time and now, cynics might say, have given themselves the excuse - however much the lido means to local residents and swimming groups.

North Kent Line

Railway officials announced a proposal in February to stop all direct daytime services to Charing Cross from Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations.  They consulted ‘stakeholders’ - i.e. the Council, but specifically not local rail users.

The Council didn’t notice and so made no comment about this during the consultation process.  Suddenly, in June, the Council woke up and wrote a very belated letter of objection.  On past form, this is unlikely to cut much ice.

Rhodri is disgusted: “Whether or not you approve of this change, and I do not, it will be highly inconvenient for many local people, particularly commuters.  It is therefore astounding that rail users, the people who pay for the service, have had no opportunity to express a view.  It is especially regrettable that the Council, who had the chance to speak for them, let them down”.

Trafalgar Road

The installation of three new sets of traffic lights within a few hundred metres in Trafalgar Road has caused predictable chaos with massive queues stretching back towards Greenwich and Woolwich for much of the day.

Before putting them in the Council conducted consultation with a small number of residents in the immediate vicinity, ignoring completely the interests of businesses and road users who were, inevitably, going to be the most inconvenienced.  Surely consultation should be conducted, even in the Council’s terms, with all those with a ‘stake’ in the outcome.