Greenwich Time ticks on – but could it have been sold?

Greenwich Council’s cabinet members lined up tonight to lavish praise on its weekly newspaper before giving it the go-ahead to continue – but only after it was revealed discussions had been held about selling Greenwich Time to commercial operators.

Leader Chris Roberts said there was an “overwhelming” financial case to carry on publishing 50 times a year, in defiance of a new government code which restricts councils to just four issues of their newspapers.

The cabinet unanimously agreed to back a report endorsing the paper, some of which has been blocked from public scrutiny because of concerns over commercial confidentiality.

But Conservative councillor Matt Clare asked a series of questions referring to the confidential part of the report – including a request for further details about talks over GT being “acquired as a going concern”, which he said he had been pleased to hear about.

However, most of his questions were ruled as being unable to be heard in public, and the meeting broke up with no discussion of the “confidential” matters. Therefore, it was not revealed what discussions took place, or with whom, or how much the council could make from selling the borough’s most widely-distributed newspaper.

The report says the council saved £1.8m over the year in advertising costs by publishing 50 times a year – although once again, the figures which show this are not being published publicly.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has threatened authorities who break his code with a judicial review, but council officers say his code does not have the force of law behind it. However, Greenwich has made several changes to GT in recent months, dropping a TV guide and adding the council logo to its masthead.

Pre-election: A March 2010 edition of GT

Critics have called the paper “propaganda”, with editions published before the 2010 election aggressively promoting council initiatives, alongside a now-axed masthead saying the paper was “campaigning for an even greater Greenwich”.

Many of the cabinet members put on record their appreciation for the newspaper, pointing to the role it plays in informing council tenants of available properties.

Community safety and environment member Maureen O’Mara said she had always been “taken aback” by the “screaming and shouting” of those opposed to the paper. “I still don’t understand it,” she said, adding she had watched council tenants “come in every Tuesday to see what properties they could bid for”.

“It’s very mean-spirited to complain,” she added.

Housing member Steve Offord said he would be “very sorry” if Greenwich Time disappeared, while deputy leader Peter Brooks said council tenants in neighbouring boroughs had to visit libraries to find out about vacant homes. “My neighbours speak very highly of Greenwich Time,” the Thamesmead Moorings councillor added.

Education member Jackie Smith said Greenwich Time reflected the positive contribution the children of the borough made, “while the rest of the media only covers young people when things go wrong”.

“We are able to give a balanced view of what’s going on,” she said.

Regeneration, enterprise and skills member Denise Hyland said the paper was distributed to all homes and “celebrated the lives of people in the borough, is informative and cost-effective” while commercial freesheets (the Mercury and News Shopper) were only interested in targeting more affluent residents.

Chris Roberts said he did not blame commercial publishers for their “tighter distribution”, but claimed they tended to avoid council estates, citing the News Shopper reporting zero deliveries to the estates west of Well Hall Road, Eltham – but over 4,500 to the privately-owned homes to the east.

“For me, finance, cost savings and distribution make the case for Greenwich Time overwhelming,” he said.

Of the two freesheets which cover the borough, only one, the Petts Wood-based News Shopper, sent a reporter to cover the meeting.


  1. ok – so what else did they discuss last night. Must have been other items …… wasn’t the New Heart for East Greenwich one of then???

  2. Personally I’m delighted the majority of the Mercury and Time news items are from the surrounding boroughs. They are mostly bad and makes me feel happier that its not happening in my back yard. Cheers me up no end.

  3. @Collo – you don’t want to read the ‘Angry people in local newspaper’ blog then:

    I think a local story of the ‘woman bitten on bum by a rat while on loo’ is there somewhere…

  4. @scared of chives. my faith in local papers is now restored.

    It sounds like it was a horrible experience but you to say that story has it all, puntastic names, a disabled person in an attacking pose. a shoddy council service, and finally a killer toilet brush.

  5. Of course, there are probably no angry people in Greenwich at all – and there are certainly none in out beloved GT – we’re all wetting ourselves with excitement about the Olympics, delighted with Chris Roberts’s new tie, loving the the fact no one ever gets hurts, burgled, trips over bins left on the pavement by binmen etc…

    It’s all smiles, smiles, smiles at GT!!!

  6. Hang on there’s a budget for ‘Heart of East Greenwich’?! What is that paying for exactly and who is paying it? Has a developer come on board with the council? I think I read somewhere months ago the ugly, grotty, and large road junction there was to be revamped, possibly later this year. Any news on that?

  7. It’s not a council development, it’s a Homes & Communities Agency development – the budget is for the construction of the council service centre/ library/ swimming baths planned to go inside it. £30.4m, since you asked, largely funded by the sale of the Greenwich Industrial Estate on Norman Road and land at Blackwall Lane/ Commerell Street.

    The H&CA appointed Hadley Mace as developers earlier this year – no date for construction set in the papers (unless I’ve missed something).

    No idea on the road junction, unless Mary knows better…

  8. Thanks for the info. That seems like good news all round. The saga over that site has dragged on for so long during the ‘boom’ years that I had given up much hope on anything happening soon.

  9. Oh help! no I don’t know about the road junction – there was a TfL plan some years ago which was junked. I will revisit it and see what – if anything – is planned.

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