Greenwich Council cuts latest – what have they got to hide?

Last week I mentioned how Greenwich Council seems to be at great pains to hide the full details of its cutbacks from its council tax payers – confirming the £62m it’ll have to shed over the next four years, but with little public mention of what’s planned so far.

A number of council staff are already starting to feel the pinch – with letters dropping onto doormats this week announcing that their contracts will terminate on 31 March, warning that if they don’t accept new, reduced terms from 1st April they’ll be out of a job.

Remember – measures planned so far to trim £21.4m from the budget include cutting grants to voluntary groups, scrapping funding for the animal centre at Maryon Wilson Park, permanently pulling out of the Blackheath fireworks display, hiving off the youth service and the Greenwich Heritage Centre, hiking car parking charges, and bringing in volunteers to run mother and toddler groups.

These will be rubber-stamped at the next full council meeting, on 26 January. But search for details of these on the council website, and you’ll end up with this anodyne statement detailing nothing. The same goes for weekly propaganda paper Greenwich Time.

All of which makes you wonder what Greenwich is employing a communications team for – local government PR Charlotte Stamper says, quite rightly, “cuts will come as even more of a shock if we can’t tell people about them”. But in Greenwich, it seems to be the council leadership stopping the communications team from, well, communicating properly.

The veil of secrecy even hangs over tonight’s overview and scrutiny meeting – these are the people who got first sight of the cuts at their meeting last month. So, can we see the minutes for last month’s meeting?

Er, no.

One of the most important council meeetings for years, and we’re not allowed to see the discussions which took place for two months? What has Greenwich Council got to hide?

It’s not like this went totally unreported – the Mercury’s excellent Mandy Little was there….

On Thursday concerns were raised by members of the council’s scrutiny committee over the impact on adult care services and parks.

Councillor Eileen Glover was worried that the introduction of parking charges in “secondary” shopping centres, such as New Eltham, could seriously affect small businesses.

Cllr Janet Gillman was among those concerned about the future of the animal care centre in Maryon Wilson Park, Charlton.

So why is the council dragging its heels on publishing these minutes? As we go into a process which will change the shape of the services we use for ever, don’t we have the right to see what the councillors we elected are concerned about?

4 comments

  1. It really hit home how different it is with Greenwich Council when I went on the Brent Council website the other day http://www.brent.gov.uk/. A Labour controlled council of a similar size it has an easily accessible ‘cuts’ page detailing exactly what’s going on and how you can have your say. In fact, it makes me feel physically sick how different we’ve got it.

  2. it does look as if some councils are being more open both in their opposition to the cuts, and in their handling of them – it gives me the impression that the decision makers in greenwich council have chosen where they want the cuts/hikes to fall, and want as little dialogue as can possibly be avoided.

    at the meeting on 26/1 will it be the proposed £21430000 of savings that are signed off, or the whole £62000000?

  3. The £21.4m. The council has to agree the “tax base” for the year ahead.

    I think you’re spot on – Greenwich would rather not have to bother with the tiresome business of actually engaging with people. It’s pretty common in boroughs which where one party has become entrenched in power, sadly.

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