Council Leader's £2,000 junket to Casino owners

Conservatives have called on Council Leader Chris Roberts to give further answers about the possible Casino development at the 02 Dome, after he was forced to admit he visited the United States at taxpayers' expense and met with representatives of the Dome's owners, AEG.

  

In written answers to Cllr Nigel Fletcher, Cllr Roberts admitted that he has had several meetings with AEG.  These included a 'study visit' to AEG's Staples Centre in Los Angeles in December 2003, which cost taxpayers £1,500, excluding travel.  The Council was unable to confirm the travel costs in the time available, so the actual total could be closer to £2,000.

Cllr Roberts also dodged a question about whether there have been any meetings or contacts between the Council and central government regarding the proposed casino.  He used a narrow technicality of the way the question was phrased to state that there have been no such contacts because there is no such application.  Councillors were unable to question him on his evasive reply as the Mayor closed the Council meeting before Members' questions were reached.

Cllr Nigel Fletcher (pictured, right), Greenwich Conservatives' spokesman on Culture and Community, said, "It's no wonder people think the Council is being secretive about the casino if this is how they behave.  I asked Chris Roberts months ago to give details of meetings he has had with AEG, and he failed to do so.  Now he has been forced to make an embarrassing admission that he's been on a junket to America at our expense. 

"These are legitimate questions of concern to local residents, and if we're serious about supporting this major development we must show we have nothing to hide.  But with Council meetings being cancelled and Members' prevented from asking questions when we do have them, there is a lack of basic accountability. 

"Cllr Roberts' written response to my question about meetings with government is plain childish obstruction.  He should take the opportunity now to be open and up-front with the people of Greenwich."