Averil Lekau on Twitter
Averil Lekau and fellow councillor Dominic Mbang were missed out of council coverage of their sleepout (photo: twitter.com/averil_lekau)

Town hall chiefs have apologised to two Greenwich councillors after a feature on a charity sleepout failed to mention that they took part.

Thamesmead Moorings councillor Averil Lekau and Woolwich Dockyard’s Dominic Mbang spent the night of November 19 on the steps of the council’s Woolwich Centre HQ to raise funds for homelessness services in the borough.

So far they and five other councillors have managed to raise over £4,000 for the Greenwich Winter Night Shelter and WSUP, which provides services for the vulnerable in Woolwich.

The sleepout was covered in this week’s edition of the council’s fortnightly paper, Greenwich Info. But while cabinet member for housing Anthony Okereke, former deputy leaders John Fahy and David Gardner, ex-mayor Linda Bird and newcomer Sandra Bauer got a mention, Lekau and Mbang were left out in the cold.

In addition, no mention was given as to how residents could donate to the appeal.

“To all my friends and family that sponsored me… I did participate in spite of being omitted by Greenwich Info,” Lekau tweeted, adding a photo of her on the steps of the council building.

Greenwich Info, which competes with independent publications such as SE Nine magazine for advertising, replaced the council’s controversial weekly paper Greenwich Time – which had a reputation for airbrushing out figures who were out of favour at the town hall – five years ago.

But a council spokesperson insisted the omission of Lekau and Mbang was a genuine mistake for which an apology had been offered.

“On 30 November the council ran an article in Greenwich Info, its fortnightly council publication, highlighting a charity sleep-out to raise money for Greenwich Winter Night Shelter and Woolwich Service Users Project,” a statement said.

“In addition, the council has promoted this fundraising effort on its digital channels and staff communications.

“An officer error led to two of the councillors who slept out not being named in the Greenwich Info copy and an apology has been given to those concerned. We will also print a correction in the next issue.”

Greenwich Info
Mbang (middle row, second from left) and Lekau (middle row, right) joined fellow councillors and wellwishers on the steps of the Woolwich Centre

The spokesperson said that a government code of practice prevented it from publishing the donation page, but that residents were encouraged to give money to the appeal.

“The lead organiser, Cllr John Fahy has thanked the council’s communications team for the publicity they have given to the initiative,” she added.

Lekau did not respond to a request for comment.

The seven councillors were hoping to raise £5,000 for the two charities – so far they have raised just over £4,000. Residents can push them towards their target at charitysleepout.carrd.co.

While councils are officially banned from publishing newspapers more than quarterly – a law which some continue to flout – Greenwich reached an out-of-court settlement with the government which enabled it print “regular and frequent” information so long as it did not “have the appearance of a newspaper, newssheet or similar communication”.

But Greenwich Info – mocked as Greenwich Binfo by critics because of its most likely destination in residents’ homes – has remained controversial, with critics calling it an ineffective waste of money.

Neighbouring Southwark, Lewisham and Bexley councils make do with quarterly publications, while Greenwich continues with a fortnightly once called “dull as ditchwater” by its former leader Denise Hyland.

Three years ago, a scrutiny panel of councillors threw out a £1.3m printing and distribution deal for Greenwich Info when three of them revealed that the freesheet was not being delivered to their homes. The paper was then estimated to cost about £300,000 a year.

However, council leader Danny Thorpe overruled them, and a report from council officers insisted that the councillors had been receiving the paper all along.

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