Council cuts – Lewisham first, Greenwich next?

If you’re in Greenwich borough, it’s worth keeping an eye on events over the border in Lewisham, where elected mayor Steve Bullock has owned up to “shocking” cuts in the pipeline at his authority in an interview given to the News Shopper. With the Shopper taking the story as a dose of Dr Bullock’s medicine, it was left to further digging by Lewisham-watcher Cath Ronay on Twitter to reveal plans to close Blackheath Village Library (as opposed to the recently-refurbished Greenwich Council library at Blackheath Standard), while Deptford Dame highlights plans which look like making Lewisham’s streets filthier. A committee of councillors in the blue borough will discuss the proposals next week.

What’s not yet known is how Greenwich will respond to straightened times. Confidential documents leaked to greenwich.co.uk last year said £26.8m of cutbacks were in the pipeline. Council leader Chris Roberts took to propaganda weekly Greenwich Time last to warn the cuts would “cut to the core of essential local services”, but gave no further details as to his thinking. While it’s easy – and in too many cases, true – to argue that better management would improve many basic council services (street cleaning in parts of Charlton and Blackheath is pitiful, for example, with shifts simply not being completed); swingeing and ill-thought-through cuts aren’t going to help matters either. For example, library services in Greenwich – targeted in Lewisham’s cuts – still haven’t recovered from closures made in the 1990s, a legacy of which is the chaotic state of East Greenwich Library, finally having its leaks fixed after years of neglect.

In the absence of normal relations with any real local newspaper, it looks like Greenwich Time will have to be watched closely over the coming weeks for announcements.

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