FUNDING of £580,000 for a series of festivals has fuelled debate over the way Greenwich councillors are approving, behind closed doors, millions of pounds in spending.

Greenwich Council cabinet members are increasingly using a change in their constitution to individually approve funding for a variety of schemes.

From festivals to expanding five primary schools and buying a college building, a string of vital issues have been dealt with this way in 2012 alone.

A £2m computer system replacement project is also set to be signed off this month.

Conservatives say it means issues once published in cabinet committee agendas and available for scrutiny are being decided on without any debate.

Greenwich Conservatives leader Councillor Spencer Drury said: “At cabinet committees there was at least an opportunity to turn up and say ‘I don’t like this’.

“They felt that was a waste of time - I felt it was a more democratic option.

“Now there are a large majority of people who simply have no idea what’s going on.”

Agreements are published on a poorly-signposted section of the council’s website called ‘Decisions’ and only scrutinised further if the opposition ‘calls them in’ for a meeting.

The issue came to a head last week after Councillor Nigel Fletcher called in the festivals spending, signed off by cabinet member for the Olympics Cllr John Fahy and revealed by News Shopper last month.

It included a £50,000 grant to the forthcoming Peninsula Festival, despite Cllr Fahy previously saying no public money would be used for the event.

Councillor Fletcher said the funding would never have been discussed unless he called it in.

Cllr Fahy told the meeting all the money was from a previously-agreed ringfenced part of the Olympic Legacy fund.

He said: “With the Peninsula Festival, we’ve been able to arrange with them significant community involvement.”

The councillor added: “We believe it’s good value for money.”

A council spokeswoman said: "All decisions taken individually by cabinet members are published on the Royal Borough’s website and are available for comment by members before the decision is made.

"The constitution was amended by full council in June 2010 to reflect the new scheme of delegation."

Is Greenwich Council the most undemocratic local authority in the country?

:: Councillors have been instructed not to speak to the media and to instead direct all queries through its press office.

:: The council is extremely slow and vague when responding to queries from News Shopper -Greenwich Time is used to promote the council’s agenda and its weekly publication ignores government guidelines suggesting it should only be published quarterly.

:: In July 2010 Greenwich Council took 109 days to respond to an inquiry from the Local Government Ombudsman - well beyond the required 28 days.

:: In June 2011 the council was accused of organising an "information blackout". It had failed to make clear the timetable for the closures of the Woolwich and Greenwich foot tunnels, was the last London borough to make public its plans on buying Olympic tickets and only put up posters one week in advance of a library closure.

:: In August 2011 News Shopper discovered that since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005, Greenwich Council had failed to respond to 39 per cent of the FOI queries it received within the statutory 20 working day requirement.