Council meeting off as Greenwich grapples with Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions

Council chamber
Woolwich Town Hall’s council chamber has sat empty since March

Wednesday’s full meeting of Greenwich Council has been cancelled at short notice after London moved into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions last week.

All 49 councillors had been meant to gather by their webcams for the virtual meeting, which residents had submitted questions to. But the meeting was cancelled on Tuesday, shortly before its agenda was due to be published.

Town Hall business has been conducted remotely since the middle of March, and while most meetings were suspended during the lockdown, the council had managed to resume something approaching business as usual after the summer break.

But while neighbouring Lewisham held a meeting last night, Greenwich said the “special circumstances” of the Tier 2 restrictions, putting the capital on high alert, meant its meeting was off.

A spokesperson told 853: “The mayor agreed to the cancellation of the meeting of council on 28 October under paragraph A1.12 of the council procedure rules in the council’s constitution. This states the following: ‘the mayor may, at his/her discretion, vary the date and time or cancel a meeting of the council due to lack of business or other special circumstances’

“The ‘special circumstances’ agreed by the mayor was the introduction of tier 2 to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there were no substantive or urgent items of business scheduled for this meeting.”

Keep your distance sign
Coronavirus cases continue to grow across south-east London

The cancellation means that residents who have asked public questions will have to wait to get an answer to their questions on the record. Last month’s meeting, which was punctuated by bad-tempered exchanges between leader Danny Thorpe and opposition Conservative councillors, saw technical difficulties accommodating members of the public in the Zoom chat, meaning there was not the time to get through the 35 public questions. This led to frustration from council leader Danny Thorpe (watch here).

“As entertaining as this is, I’m not really sure the people of Greenwich think this is the best use of everyone’s time,” he said. “We’ve tried our best in this new virtual world but we may have to make some adjustments.” However, ceremonial mayor Linda Bird said she was “not willing to give up on allowing public questions”.

September’s meeting also saw Thorpe tell councillors that the “epidemic in London is as developed as it is in the north”.

The most recent weekly figures show Greenwich on 81 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, the fourth lowest figure in London and above only Croydon (77), Lewisham (74) and Bexley (72), although numbers are still climbing. The highest rates are in Richmond-upon-Thames, with 153 cases per 100,000 residents.

London moving into tier 3 – meaning the closure of pubs and bars, and with official advice to stay in the local area – remains a possibility. On Tuesday, Croydon’s cabinet member for health, Janet Campbell, told her colleagues that council officials dealing with the pandemic were meeting twice weekly as “we anticipate our move to tier 3”, Inside Croydon reported.

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