Just spotted something which shows the glaring difference between life in Greenwich borough and in our neighbours in Lewisham. Take Lewisham Council’s recent decision to introduce a borough-wide “drinking control zone” to give police powers to confiscate alcohol from anyone seen drinking in the street.
It’s spurred a News Shopper story, featuring this reaction from a chap in Catford:
Chairman of Rushey Green safer neighbourhood ward panel, James Dobson, says there should be tolerated zones for street drinkers.
Mr Dobson, said: “Personally I think it’s a job half done. The drinkers aren’t going to go away. They will just ignore the order.
“It’s a complete and utter waste of time.”
The order was made after Lewisham started a public “consultation” by inviting Brockley Central readers to share their views, spurred blog posts from Transpontine (“is SE London now Straight Edge London, by order of the mayor?”) and Deptford Dame, and then further coverage from East London Lines and Brockley Central when it was confirmed.
However genuine (or not) the consultation was, you can at least see an area where events are debated and people are (to an extent) kept informed.
So couldn’t Lewisham’s troublesome drinkers take their cans and stagger off up Lewisham Road, past the Sydney Arms and into the booze-soaked uplands of Greenwich borough? Well, no, because a drinking control order also applies in Greenwich. But did you know anything about it?
It was unanimously voted in at a Greenwich Council meeting at the end of March, to almost no publicity whatsoever – with the local newspapers not represented at the meeting, the only mention it got anywhere was three paragraphs at the end of this greenwich.co.uk report. You can find the full decision at item 15 on the minutes of that meeting. Apparently it was an urgent item to deal with that unpredictable and sudden event, the football World Cup. The order took effect on 13 April, with the publication of a public notice in propaganda weekly Greenwich Time – with not a peep anywhere else, including the News Shopper, which is getting so exercised about the ban in Lewisham.
I was at that meeting and remember thinking something was up – and not just because it’s a law that requires you to have an awful lot of trust in the police not to abuse. If I wasn’t buried in election issues at the time, I’d have mentioned something here. But according to Lewisham’s press release, “before the implementation of any DPPO, the Council is required by law to consult with the public”. So where was Greenwich’s consultation*?
A strange brew, indeed. I’ve long had a theory that Greenwich Council could one day pack up its business, convert everyone’s council tax into £20 notes, and bugger off with the lot in a huge convoy of lorries marked “COUNCIL TAX FOR CUBA” and nobody would be any the wiser. The strange tale of Greenwich’s drinking control zone proves that might be more the case than I first thought.
(*UPDATE: A paper circulated to the council meeting outlines the details of Greenwich’s consultation – a public notice in Greenwich Time, discussions with police and letters sent to licensees and neighbouring councils. A low-key one, then, as opposed to the full press operation launched upon the same proposal by Lewisham.)