Greenwich Council’s cabinet have been looking at the authority’s communications strategy including changes to its agreement with local newspaper “The Weekender”.
What do you mean you’ve never seen The Weekender. You know the one – seen in libraries and, err, that’s about it. The one that was reported to have dropped scrutinising the council after pressure from the authority?
According to 853, “Greenwich borough’s newest local paper scrapped its news coverage after Greenwich Council objected to “negative” stories and considered withdrawing its advertising”.
The council now seek to possibly continue an agreement with the title but see more space to put out its PR under the guise of editorial content:
The council are also considering using other newspapers for putting out notices. Would that explain the softly softly approach some local old-school papers give to the authority? Basically reprinting glowing press releases telling half a story at best.
Its own papers
The authority previously came in for much criticism for spending public money producing a weekly “newspaper” named Greenwich Time which not only provided legally required notices but slanted editorials and articles painting the authority in a positive light.
Out of hundreds of councils across the country just two – including Greenwich — were doing so weekly until forced to stop by central Government.
They then launched a fortnightly replacement named Greenwich Info. It’s dialed down the propaganda though it still contains highly slanted information.
For example, the latest copy heavily covers a health initiative. But action on the issue? Little seen. This is an authority that is 31st out of 32 in London for spending income from new developments on improving streets to encourage walking and cycling.
There’s a huge bunch of issues their own papers naturally ignore. Whenever queries come in about allocating additional money they already have, the common response is deflection and throwing the metaphorical hands-up by blaming either TfL or central government cuts. Neither of which factor much into their own choice to ignore certain areas. This is income they already have and relative freedom to allocate as they see fit.
Projects that do go ahead relating to better streets and public spaces are often only because TfL, the GLA or other authorities agree to part fund. Nothing wrong with that, but Greenwich very rarely do things off their own back in addition.
Wilton Road in Abbey Wood only saw improvements as others were willing to chip in. Other parts of the town have been ignored if it means Greenwich would need to fund themselves – and that’s despite vast developments being approved in the area. Almost no money is being allocated to the town from S106 or CIL.
Even accounting for funding the fit out of Crossrail’s Woolwich station box, income is extremely high thanks to being at the top of development leagues not only in London but across the UK. This is an authority seeing vast sums coming in. It’s above entire cities such as Birmingham and Manchester. In the top 10 of 350+ across the UK.
The authority also spends the bare minimum on parks and green space via income derived from the Community Infrastructure Levy. Just 15 per cent while other councils allocate 25 per cent. Of course in its own outlets it portrays this as wonderful and caring. The scheme does do great work – but on a small scale due to only using legal minimums.
When it comes to income such as Section 106 from new developments the council has allocated just 0.3 per cent towards improving parks and open space. Crucial social infrastructure ignored. Staff on the ground do good work but those above in charge of allocating funds see parks as unimportant.
Actions speak louder than articles in propaganda papers.
The authority also insists on working with local groups if even small amounts of money from CIL is to be allocated. A problem in areas of high deprivation and where many people lack English language skills and engagement is an issue. A frequent example I hear about is elderly Nepalese people using parks in Abbey Wood and Plumstead for gardening. No formal group = ignored. Surely the most deprived and hard to reach areas shouldn’t be overlooked like this.
Its a different story when it comes to both funding and engagement in other London Labour councils. Over in Southwark not only do they allocate 25 per cent of CIL income to local areas – above Greenwich’s legal minimum of 15 per cent – but the also use S106 for large projects in parks and discuss and publish those decisions at regular planning meetings:
This has never happened in Greenwich borough. Of course their own media doesn’t report that. The same was seen at another recent Southwark meeting:
Whilst Greenwich borough (and others) miss out on similar improvements across many run-down estates and parks, it does have a healthy online news scene – much borne out of tired old press and propaganda papers. And it will do what the authorities own PR doesn’t – nor much “dead press” papers – and that’s continue to keep an eye out on what’s going on.