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Greenwich Council leader slammed by ex-Greenwich Time freelancer over sackings
GREENWICH Council's leader is a "school bully" whose thirst for self-promotion stretches to replacing images of children with pictures of his own face in the local authority's paper, it has been claimed.
The claims come after Greenwich Time journalist Peter Cordwell was sacked for writing to News Shopper supporting the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign - an issue Greenwich Council's leadership stayed silent about.
Following the sacking, deputy editor Rod Kitson also lost his job when an argument saw him kicked out of the town hall after demanding to have a union rep with him during a meeting with bosses.
In a letter of support for Mr Cordwell, Greenwich Time's former designer Graham Tuckwell hit out at the sackings and the way leader Councillor Chris Roberts would not allow stories in the paper "without his absolute say so".
News Shopper understands this included changes to a special 'souvenir edition' in 2010, when the news came that Greenwich would get royal borough status.
Greenwich Time sent a photographer to Mulgrave Primary School, Woolwich, to take a front page picture of excited pupils celebrating with flags. But an angry Cllr Roberts insisted his own face should be on the front page instead.
Mr Tuckwell, who stopped his work for the paper in 2009, said: "Chris Roberts, as we learnt over the years, runs the council offices pretty much like a school bully would organize his lackeys in the playground to intimidate the defenceless.
"The paper had a complete new look and was rebranded as GT, but the old dictatorship remained and Peter and his team found it increasingly impossible to run any stories without the vetting of the communications team with orders from Roberts.
"Peter’s valiant efforts to deliver a stronger and more accessible paper was always stopped in its tracks.
"Our job now was to deliver the council’s key messages and nothing else.
"Comments from ordinary councillors who were doing great work in their own wards were non-existent and of course there was never a word allowed from the opposition."
He added: "By far the worst part of the job was to see people in a local government position, a position of trust, behaving so badly. By far the best part of the whole experience was that of working with the brilliant Peter Cordwell."
Cllr Roberts' editing of the paper, which goes against government guidelines on local authority publications and is branded propaganda by critics, appears to make a mockery of the reason councillors were given for Mr Cordwell's departure - to avoid claims of political bias being made against Greenwich Time.
In an email sent to members earlier this month, Deputy Leader Councillor Peter Brooks wrote: "The only action the council has taken is to advise Mr Cordwell that we will not use his services and this has been done in order to protect the council's reputation from allegations of political bias in relation to GT."
'Comments do not hold substance'
A spokeswoman for Greenwich Council said they "utterly refuted" Mr Tuckwell's comments.
She said: "There are strict guidelines under which any local authority publication has to operate and the Department for Communities and Local Government is clear that the content of local authority newspapers can only cover council and community matters.
"This is why much of the content of the newspaper covers council issues and stories."
She added: "As Mr Tuckwell's job was simply to lay out the paper there was no direct contact between Mr Tuckwell and council leaders so any personal comments made do not hold substance."
On the royal souvenir edition she said: "These claims about entirely standard and reasonable editorial decisions are ridiculous.
"This edition of Greenwich Time was produced more than three and a half years ago and marked the momentous news that the borough was to receive the honour of being bestowed Royal Status by the Queen during her Diamond Jubilee year.
"The front page story reported the announcement made in the House of Lords – which the Leader witnessed. The main front page image was a library shot of one of the iconic views of the borough.
"The front page text carried a quote from the Leader of the Royal Borough and, as is standard practice in newspapers, the quote was accompanied by a small head and shoulders photo of the person making it.”
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