The Greenwich councillor in charge of overseeing last Sunday’s Run To The Beat half-marathon has admitted “errors” were made in the way the event, which closed off great swathes of Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich, had been handled.
Environment cabinet member Maureen O’Mara told a full meeting of Greenwich Council that “things could have been done a lot better this year in terms of speaking to residents”.
The event, a commercial enterprise held by sports management firm IMG and sponsored by Nike, took place for the fifth time last weekend, but the only notice residents had was a densely-worded list of road closures, with a map appearing separately in the council’s weekly newspaper.
Blackheath Westcombe Conservative councillor Geoff Brighty told the council that the race had been given the nickname “the siege of Westcombe” due to the lengthy road closures, effectively sealing off that part of Blackheath as well as other areas.
Referring to the answer given to an earlier public question on the race, Cllr Brighty said there had been no proper public consultation and any plans to review the race with IMG would just see the issue “kicked into the long grass”.
In response, Cllr O’Mara – whose full-time cabinet post includes overseeing Run To The Beat – said: “I now know more about Run To The Beat than I ever wanted to know about Run To The Beat.”
“But errors were made this year. It’s about speaking to residents about what roads will be closed, and giving them much more notice.
“This forthcoming session with IMG is not about kicking stuff into the long grass. If this race is to return to the borough, it needs to be with residents fully understanding what’s going to happen in their streets, and what’s going to happen with licensing.
“And we need to think – well, what does this bring into the borough? I certainly don’t want go through again, the anguish of the past four weeks. We have to be absolutely clear about why Run To The Beat is here in the first place.
“If residents say they don’t want it, then we’ll have to talk to IMG about that.”
She added only two complaints were made about the licensing applications for sound stages – although no consultation is needed for road closures if they get Government backing, which RTTB did.
“Run To The Beat seems to create more trouble than the [London] Marathon, so there are questions to be asked about how much earlier members and officers can engage with organisers.”
You can hear all of the exchange between Geoff Brighty and Maureen O’Mara here, although the quality isn’t great:
It’s all welcome – the serious question is what the area gets out of RTTB, and it’s debatable whether there’s any real benefit other than to IMG and Nike – but Maureen O’Mara’s concession that things had gone wrong came out in a torturous manner. The public question Geoff Brighty picked up on actually came from me, inspired by the responses I’d had from the posts on this blog. Curiously, O’Mara’s written response to me was very different – basically, bland council officer-speak which didn’t really answer the question.
When you ask a question at a council meeting, you get to ask a verbal supplementary question, so I thought I’d point out this out as well as the grumbles from her Labour colleagues too.
Nobody put me up to it – it just perplexed me that they’d been ignored, and hadn’t made much of a secret about their bad feeling about the event.
Funny how she changed her mind and admitted all kinds of errors within about 15 minutes of that exchange.
And that it took an intervention from a Conservative, not one of her Labour colleagues, for her to admit all kinds of things had gone wrong. It’d have been easier if she’d been more frank earlier on. Or maybe even listened to the party colleagues she falsely accused of putting someone up to ask questions on her behalf.
This stuff isn’t hard, is it?
But hey, as she told a planning meeting in the summer: “This is Greenwich, and we do not do this in Greenwich.”