Greenwich Council avoids publishing Olympics Games ticket information
THERE'S more chance of you winning the 100 metres final in Rio than finding out which Olympic events Greenwich's top councillors went to this summer.
Using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, the London Assembly Liberal Democrats have been attempting to discover since May how many tickets Greenwich Council took up, how they were paid for and who went.
In answer to the first request, Greenwich Council listed the 500 tickets it had for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, worth £27,570, but did not say how they were paid for.
A second FOI request in July asked for further information on who these tickets had been allocated to and how they were funded.
The vaguest of answers finally arrived this month - five weeks after the statutory deadline.
It showed tickets had been taken by the mayor and deputy mayor, leader Councillor Chris Roberts and cabinet members Cllr John Fahy, Cllr Denise Hyland and Cllr Peter Kotz, along with residents, schoolchildren and trustees for the Starting Blocks organisation.
But it gave no details of how the 500 tickets were divided up, merely saying politicians only used them for official duties.
On payment, the answer stated: "No Royal Greenwich money was used to pay for Olympic tickets.
"Tickets were sold to the public and others at cost or met from income from sponsorship or other related sources."
The council's defensive stance over something other London boroughs have happily made public - councils like Southwark have published their tickets online - was slammed by leader of Greenwich Conservatives Councillor Spencer Drury, who said his own recent FOI request on Eltham High Street parking charges had arrived three months late and was "inadequate".
He said: "I am afraid that secrecy and evasion are embedded in this Labour council's DNA - they are unlikely to change unless there is a dramatic rejection of their policies and attitude."
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said that Government cuts meant there were less resources to deal with increasing numbers of FOI requests.
He said: “In the case of how we allocated Olympic tickets, we disclosed all the information asked for, including the names of councillors due to escort civic delegations to Olympic events, based upon the information available at the time of the requests.
"The Royal Borough also enabled thousands of local residents to enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy watching the Games in their own borough, without spending a single penny of taxpayers’ money.
"We achieved this by selling on the vast majority of the tickets we secured to residents at cost price, by securing sponsorship money from our partners and by reinvesting advertising income we secured from Olympic authorities in Greenwich Time.”
Keeping their council
Greenwich Council has a reputation for secrecy.
- In July, public questions were banned from its full council meeting because officers were said to be too busy with the Olympics.
- Back in March we publicised how more and more decisions worth millions of pounds are being made behind closed doors and not scrutinised in public unless they are 'called-in'.
- During this year's leadership challenge, Labour councillors criticised Cllr Chris Roberts for his lack of openness on cuts and policy.
- Last August News Shopper discovered that since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005, the council failed to respond to 39 per cent of the FOI queries within the statutory deadline.
- In June last year it was accused of an "information blackout" over the closures of the Woolwich and Greenwich foot tunnels and plans on buying Olympic tickets.
- In July 2010 Greenwich Council took 109 days to respond to an inquiry from the Local Government Ombudsman - well beyond the required 28 days.