According to letters unearthed by a Freedom of Information request, Hackney Council planned a last minute letter to be sent to Mayof Sadiq Khan signed by various Labour councils in order to stop him signing a £1 billion PFI-type contract to build the Silvertown tunnel, but was rebuffed by Danny Thorpe in Greenwich alongside Waltham Forest Council.
According to the article, Newham and Lewisham were “willing” to back Hackney.
It’s well worth reading the story which offers a fascinating and intriguing insight into the workings of different councils.
In Greenwich, Danny Thorpe didn’t sign as he thought it would give ammunition to “political opponents”.
This is bound to raise eyebrows with Greenwich Labour divided over support behind the scenes for some time. Shortly after refusing to sign the letter, with the council awaiting their own response from Sadiq Khan to Greenwich Council’s last minute appeal to halt the tunnel after years in support, Sadiq Khan approved the scheme.
Hackney asked Greenwich if they had received a reply from Sadiq Khan, but no reply to their question was forthcoming – at least in the letters released in the request.
Critics state that party political games and tribalism could have taken preference over the well-being of the borough.
The Conservatives in Greenwich also support the tunnel so it’s unclear what “political opponents” would have gained – and Sadiq Khan has a huge lead in London-wide polls for the next Mayoral election.
No answer has ever given as to how 30 per cent more traffic heading into Greenwich can be accommodated on a road network already at capacity. Every question on the subject is either unanswered or turned to address northbound congestion and ignore southbound through the borough.
Greenwich Council along with Sadiq Khan have trumpeted improved bus links after Silvertown is complete, though with 30 per cent more traffic on Greenwich streets buses will be heavily affected by increased congestion. One fear is more traffic heading to Rotherhithe which remains free, thus causing Greenwich town centre to see greater congestion.
As I covered last week, a bus lane in the borough is due to be removed in 2020 on a stretch in Deptford between Greenwich town centre and Rotherhithe. TfL’s own data predicts slower bus journeys. Greenwich Council did not raise the topic in reply to TfL’s consultation.
Greenwich one-way system is also due to be removed.
The “political opponents” line in correspondence is eye catching. Viewing decisions and actions through this prism appears a recurring theme. Political jousting seems deeply embedded if public meetings are anything to go by. Questions on borough specific issues often enter it and answers aren’t easily forthcoming.
Last week questions were asked on why so little developer income from Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy goes towards improving parks and public spaces to improve social infrastructure and encourage healthy living in Greenwich borough. Greenwich are behind every other London Labour council – whether left wing or centrist.
The council leader went on to talk about central Government cuts and how developer income isn’t a replacement – but no one had stated it was. All councils have seen severe cuts – yet Greenwich is still last in the capital for adding developer income to annual TfL funds – and substantially behind many other Labour councils even accounting for commitments such as Woolwich Crossrail costs. All London Labour council’s are ahead of Greenwich – whether on the left and Corbynites or centrists. There’s few answers as the why Greenwich is so different.
If questions are seen as coming from “opponents”, or actions giving power to “opponents”, then responses or actions are rarely likely to be forthcoming.
Perhaps the “political opponents” are local media and the press for covering issues? If so it’s concerning that politicians see scrutiny as “opposition” or “smearing”, as the Eltham Conservative candidate’s office recently labelled coverage of his political record after overseeing park sell offs in Erith.
As for the last ditch attempt by Hackney to unite London boroughs in a consistent public front, we’ll never know if Greenwich Council signing that letter would have carried weight given Sadiq Khan approved the deal on 25 November.
TfL and Greenwich Council were also due to launch a consultation in November about a resurrected Greenwich to Woolwich cycle lane after it was previously cancelled, with improvements to the notorious Woolwich Road flyover also on the agenda after again being axed by Sadiq Khan, with numerous separate smaller projects by Greenwich Council dating back to 2010 never going ahead. The latest due to start in November is again delayed.
The timing of some of those planned announcements, which was hampered by the general election purdah, is also perhaps of interest.
To read the article and see more correspondence between councils in the lead-up, click here.