“Games bosses woo Greenwich with free tickets,” yells today’s Evening Standard, with news that Greenwich Council has been given “thousands of tickets” for “a top-class horse-riding event in the park”.
Actually, news about the Olympic test events in early July was all announced three weeks ago, but then news of south-east London has traditionally reached the Standard in a similar way to a dispatch from the deepest, remotest jungle. That said, it didn’t get a huge amount of coverage back then. (I was laid up with a cold and couldn’t make the launch, unfortunately, although it wasn’t as if I’d been invited…)
Confirmation on just how Greenwich Council will dish out these tickets is awaited, and I’m sure the park’s neighbours will be watching closely.
But how are things going preparing Greenwich Park for the Olympics, and how can you feed into the discussions about how we’ll cope with a huge global sporting event on our doorstep? How can you find out what’s being said?
It’s not as easy as you’d hope. Local consultation is being conducted through the Local Societies Consultative Group, a body set up by Greenwich Council after the equestrian events got planning permission twelve months ago. The group is solely for “local societies” – that’d be the Friends of Greenwich Park, the Greenwich Society, the Westcombe Society, and the Blackheath Society. If you don’t pay to be a member of any of these bodies, you’re shut out of these meetings.
You can find out bits of what happened at these meetings if you dig into the Friends of Greenwich Park website, but there’s no minutes published anywhere, even though this is a group set up by Greenwich Council about an event of huge public significance.
Well, until now, that is. After putting in a Freedom of Information Act request, I can present to you…
Local Societies Consultative Group minutes, 11th November 2010 (Word document)
Local Societies Consultative Group minutes, 17th January 2011 (Word document)
I should warn you that there isn’t any real scandal in these documents, unless you can find something I can’t see. But what surprises me is that none of the nine Greenwich councillors who represent the wards adjacent to the parks are involved in this process – yet these are the people who really represent us, not the societies. Why is this? After all, as I found 18 months ago when I was barred access to a meeting put on by LOCOG for these self-selecting groups, they’re not exactly the most open of bodies.
According to Greenwich Council, there have been no meetings since, and there are no plans to publish the minutes of these meetings on the council’s website.
So, the next time this group meets, and if someone wants to find out what happens, the council will have to go through the cost and aggravation of answering a Freedom of Information request to publish something which really should be in the public domain anyway.
Why all the secrecy? If there’s nothing to hide, why not just publish these minutes on the council website, and be as open about the Olympics as possible?