Greenwich pique at London cycling tsar

Greenwich Council is refusing to deal directly with the man appointed by London mayor Boris Johnson to deal with cycling matters in the capital. Disgraced former journalist Andrew Gilligan has over the years made many enemies, but the visceral reaction in Greenwich to his appointment as London cycling commissioner is completely out of order.

I quote from an answer in tortured prose to a formal question to the borough council from Anthony Austin, coordinator of Greenwich Cyclists. The response was delivered by Denise Hyland, cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and skills…

“In relation to the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner, this is a part time post awarded to a Greenwich resident who is a journalist who has blogged and written about significant issues of public policy within Greenwich and it is our view that he has an irresolvable conflict of interest. The Leader of the Council met with his boss, the Deputy Mayor for Transport to agree that liaison on cycling matters would continue to be, as previously, through the officer networks and where necessary at senior political level.”

As a resident of this region of London I have for many years followed the in-action of Greenwich Council with regard to cycling and other sustainable transport matters, and as a result am sufficiently familiar with the individuals concerned and their various personality disorders. Little shocks or surprises me, but this latest fit of collective council pique beggars belief.

In some ways the reaction is understandable, and it is entirely in character when it comes to Hyland and her boss, outgoing council leader Chris Roberts. That said, personality foibles and political precedent does not justify such outrageous behaviour on their part.

Greenwich is run as a quasi-stalinist fiefdom, but as a “royal borough”, home to 200,000 souls and in possession of considerable material wealth, it is in good standing with the political establishment. As such one expects a high standard of behaviour from its elected representatives, with differences of opinion, however sharp, kept in check for the sake of good management and public relations.

For Greenwich Council to refuse to deal with Andrew Gilligan is grossly unprofessional, and I am minded to refer the case to the council, and if needs be the local government ombudsman, as one of dereliction of duty on the part of its senior political officials. Theirs is an act of petulance that risks bringing Greenwich into London if not UK-wide disrepute.