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:
- Tony Fletcher and Shane Worth of Tesco, which built the council’s new HQ in Woolwich and is now building a huge superstore next door to it, whose business practices have been condemned by Labour at a national level.
- Jay Marciano and Rosa D’Alessandro of O2 owner AEG
- Clive Lynton of Stonehurst Estates, the company behind the unpopular development on Greenwich Pier
- Frank Dowling of Inc Group, which runs many of central Greenwich’s bars
- Stephen Cradick of Cradick, agent for the mysterious Powis Street Estates, which owns much of the land in the centre of Woolwich.
- John Anderson, chairman of Berkeley Homes, which is building Kidbrooke Village on the site of the council’s old Ferrier Estate. Chris Roberts owns a home built by Berkeley on the Royal Arsenal development.
- James Blakey of West Properties, whose planned cruise liner terminal in Greenwich is running two years late.
- Mark Sesnan of Greenwich Leisure Limited, two weeks before Greenwich Council’s cabinet voted to hand over control of the borough’s libraries to GLL.
- Dr Tayo Adeyemi, pastor of the Pentecostal New Wine Church, whose sermons claim homosexuality and abortion “destabilises the family”
- Three representatives from Cisco Systems, which is investing in a “digital enterprise hub” on the Greenwich peninsula.
- Frank Dekker of Orange Connections, behind the Peninsula Festival and Sail Royal Greenwich
- Representatives from the Charlton, Blackheath, Greenwich and Westcombe Societies
- Two figures from the British Equestrian Federation and others from LOCOG and the Olympic Delivery Authority
…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?