Grateful subjects of the Royal Borough of Greenwich will, if they’re lucky, be getting the photomontage above on their doormats this week – yes, the centrespread of propaganda weekly “Royal” Greenwich Time features council leader Chris Roberts greeting the Queen by the Cutty Sark.

No luck for his stooge, mayor Jim Gillman, who’s meant to be the borough’s “first citizen” and so represents us – the long-serving councillor is just the Dear Leader’s fancy dress accessory as he grabs centre stage. The sacrifices the devoted have to make, eh?

The cost of the royal borough rebrand has already gone into six figures, but it’s worth taking a closer look at one particular event held to celebrate the occasion. You or I weren’t invited, but it’s a valuable insight into whose say matters in the “royal borough”. On 5 February, Greenwich Council held a reception in the Royal Naval College, costing £10,484.

Of 89 guests invited to the dinner, 77 were men, and many represented companies doing big – and in some cases, controversial – business in the borough, many of which will be applying for licences and planning permission for projects – or will have rivals doing the same – in the near future.

Many of these had already enjoyed a free nosh-up from the council at last May’s mayor-making ceremony – and it’s a a fair bet they’ll get another one at the next one in three weeks.

The invitations included:

…and so on. Other invitees included former culture secretary Tessa Jowell and Tony Blair’s old flatmate Lord Faulkner. You can see the full list here – there’s a few names we’ve touched upon here before.

At a time of cuts, when Greenwich Council is constantly pleading poverty, is this such a good idea? One Greenwich Labour person told me that events like this were necessary to negotiate deals that would benefit the borough. Yet most of these firms are multinationals – surely Tesco isn’t going to operate its Woolwich store any differently from its Lewisham one because it’s had a free dinner?

With streets filthy and basic services in a bad way, I can think of better ways to spend council taxpayers’ money than on buying rich businessmen dinner. And what about New Wine’s Dr Tayo? Did he give one of his sermons to liven up the party?

Greasing up to the Queen and businessmen – with a day to go until the mayoral election, I wonder what Ken Livingstone would make of what his Greenwich Labour colleagues are up to?

13 replies on “Greenwich Council defies cuts to feed hungry businessmen”

  1. So let me get this right. Frank Dekker who has done absolutely nothing for the borough, who has brought over young dutch teenagers to work for free under the guise of work experience , who has an office in the borough for about 24 months , who is not a taxpayer or voter , who resides in the Netherlands and who if rumour is to believed will not deliver any tall ships as the cash is running out , gets an invites while 100’s of Greenwich Businesses who work hard and deliver great things for the community get ignored? Huh? Who would have believed it?

  2. Gawd bless ‘er.

    Is it just me or does Chris Roberts start to resemble Slobodan Milosovic more and more as the years of unchallengeable leadership take their toll? The pic looks more like a state visit to Belgrade circa 1987 than the South London municipal Maundy Thursday lash-up it actually was.

    Perhaps we’re all missing a trick and this is actually socialism with a human face in one borough. It may yet end up with a trial in The Hague though.

  3. Oh, come off it Darryl. The borough has to promote itself to companies as a place to put their business ventures, potentially creating hundreds or thousands of local jobs, and £10k is not a vast amount of money to spend on it.

    Yup, many businesses have questionable sides, as do many media ventures, councils and other organisations. So what do you expect the council to do? Exclude any business from our boundaries if anybody has ever raised so much as an eyebrow about their operations.

    Or just invite 89 local plumbers, dry cleaners, jobbing builders and car repairers, all of whom are no doubt scrupulous in the way they treat their clients. But are never likely to hire more than a handful of local residents.

  4. But these organisations have already placed their business ventures in Greenwich borough. They’re already here.

    Why do they need further buttering up when the council can’t even keep the streets clean?

  5. I don’t really get your take on this. Personally I would be alarmed if the Council didn’t organise such events. As Alan says, the Borough has to promote itself, including to those who are already here (and who might be considering whether to expand their operations). £10,000 is not an unreasonable amount to spend on this. The event also presumably fosters connections between different businesses – not just between business and council – which is good for the local economy. Maybe you could question whether they do enough to reach out to the right businesses – particularly those that don’t have such an established presence. But I wouldn’t criticise the fact of the event.

  6. Can’t businesses foster connections between themselves without our council tax paying for it?

    I’d also say that an event like this places into question the Council’s neutrality on deciding planning and licensing applications. For example, where would Tesco expand? By killing off local shopping parades?

  7. councils dont kill off local shopping parades – locals who dont use local shops or bad business owners kill off local shops…. if they deliver a services people will pay for it.
    who does all there shopping locally without going to a supermarket?, its only when the local butcher closes that locals say “where’s my local butcher” ( with asda bags in there hands at the time )
    as the above quotes say local authorities have to promote there local areas, its part of there job ( as well as the more obvious visual things we expect of them – sweeping the streets etc. )
    if they didnt there would be just as many complaints that it didnt do enough to bring jobs to the area –
    perhaps they should of taken these people to a park and bought them all mc d’s to save a few £?!

  8. Once again, these firms have already signed deals. They do not need wooing to the borough. They are already here, and in two cases are doing work which is not as good as first promised.

  9. Darryl I don’t agree with your politics but I think you do a bloody good job holding our elected officials to account. You obviously put in a lot of effort for very little reward, but on this I agree with Adam and think you’re veering towards the cynical and snide.

  10. And that reward is being called “cynical and snide”, clearly.

    So you’re happy to see your taxpayers’ cash go to a dinner for a homophobe?

  11. £10,000 is over a sixth of the cost of running the Maryon Park Animal Park for a year, perhaps they should have taken them there. Chris Roberts’ brigade are busy trying to destroy local industry while sucking up to the rich – what could be more cynical and snide than that?
    I do all my shopping without going to a supermarket, unless you count the co-op. I saw how many local shops were put out of business by the New Cross Sainsbury’s, and was treated like criminal by the Peninsula branch security. Would you like to work in Sainsbury’s or learn a real trade? Service industry is a contradiction in terms.

  12. This will not change the situation of the bororugh at all £10,000 spent on a lavish reception?
    Why did the council not just visit the companies and sell themselves in a bid for free?
    Ludicrous joke – £10,000 is a LOT of money – multinationals have a repsonsibilities the operate their profits in, councils should not be kissing behinds to promote a transparent excuse.

    Go to the companies and plead your case stop wasting money building within elite circles for self promotions!

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