GREENWICH Council has sacked the chief reporter on its weekly publication - for the grave crime of writing a letter about Lewisham Hospital to his local paper.

Peter Cordwell, who lives in Lee, was sacked over the phone just hours after his letter praising the Lewisham campaign appeared in the pages of News Shopper and the Mercury.

The award-winning journalist, who has worked on Greenwich Time since 2001, also wrote in the letter of the need to oppose zero hours contracts and the closure of fire stations.

Union Unite, which is supporting Mr Cordwell, said the former sports journalist was himself employed on a zero hours contract - despite the council repeating its recent claims that it does not use them.

Onay Kasab from Unite said: "It's plain insanity and looks like petty vindictiveness.

"We've got somebody who works for a Labour council congratulating another Labour council for taking the government to court and winning. To sack him is ridiculous."

News Shopper: Peter Cordwell's letter appeared this week

Mr Kasab said the dismissal proved the dangers of zero hours contracts - where work is not guaranteed.

He said: "They can just turn around and say, there's no work for you here now.

"It's an irony that the statement the council previously issued about zero hours contracts came from the same council press office which sacked him."

Mr Cordwell, who wrote his letter in a personal capacity about the borough where he lives, appears to have fallen foul of Greenwich Council's authoritarian leadership, which uses its newspaper to maintain tight control over communications.

Labour councillors and workers are discouraged from speaking to other newspapers, and there was a marked silence from the leadership when Lewisham Hospital's downgrade was proposed - even when thousands of protestors marched through the streets against the plans.

A spokeswoman for Greenwich Council said: "This person is a freelance journalist who was contracted to contribute to Greenwich Time.

"The council does not use zero hour contracts and we cannot comment any further on the circumstances or details of any individual's work or contract with the Royal Borough of Greenwich."