Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Great Chinese Take-Away

The Great Leader in the People's republic: Cllr. Roberts looking very much at home in a proper communist state. This picture is of course from the 'fact-finding' visit our dear Council Leader and Cllr. John Fahy undertook on behalf of the Borough to Beijing, to look at Olympic venues and see how they are preparing as host city. The Greenwich delegation certainly didn't slum it - according to reports from one who accompanied them, there were 'guards of honour saluting at attention to greet us at a couple of events' and 'we were treated to a full banquet of genuine Chinese cuisine each day in stunningly beautiful restaurants.'
Time will tell if this experience has a lasting effect on Comrade Roberts' ego, but there is a serious point to this. Was sending Councillors and officers on this trip really the right use of taxpayers' money given the current round of cuts that are being implemented to services? Particularly as one of the victims of those cuts is none other than Greenwich's Chinese Community School, whose head teacher made an impassioned plea for help at the last full Council meeting. Oh, the irony.
As an Olympic host Borough, we clearly have things to learn from other cities who have hosted or will host the Games, and I am not against the Council funding visits abroad - we have good twinning links with other Boroughs for example, and I have myself been on such visits.
But appearances are very important, and I think the cost of this trip falls into the same category as the cost of hiring a corporate box at the O2 - whilst it may just be possible to make a case for the expenditure, it hardly looks like a politically sensitive use of taxpayers' money, does it? We know it was controversial in Labour ranks too, and was allegedly the subject for much debate at their Party group meeting before it was agreed on. I doubt if the above picture will be comfortable viewing for many of the Leader's colleagues.

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