Council staff and anti-cuts campaigners are planning to picket Greenwich’s controversial mayor-making ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College next week.
The Greenwich Save Our Services group says it will demonstrate outside the event on 25 May, which the council is going ahead with despite cutting £48m from this year’s budget, including cuts to funding for youth, children’s and voluntary services, as well as the Blackheath fireworks and Maryon Wilson animal park in Charlton.
A similar ceremony in the Painted Hall last year cost council taxpayers £30,000, although this year’s costs are not confirmed.
Other boroughs – such as fellow Labour borough Camden – hold their ceremonies at their town halls at minimal cost.
The Unite union’s Greenwich branch secretary, Onay Kasab, said: “This is a disgusting waste of money at a time when the council claims that it hasn’t got enough money to fund jobs and services. While members of my branch don’t know if they will be able to put food on the table the councillors will be living it up and we’ll be paying for it. That money should used to fund services like libraries, care for the sick and elderly, schools and parks.
“Council workers will rightly see this as a slap in the face. We will be protesting to tell the council that we will not accept these cuts and to demand that they stop wasting our money.”
Greenwich Save Our Services spokesperson Paul Callanan added: “This is an absolute travesty. We have seen the biggest attacks on education in generation and the council wants throw a party. And to rub salt into the wound they are holding at a campus that faces the closure of a popular philosophy course.
“While youth unemployment stands at almost one million and graduate unemployment is at 20%, the councillors will be gorging themselves on food and drink. This shows just how out of touch they are.”
Politicians from across the political divide have condemned the ceremony – except for the 40 councillors which make up Greenwich’s ruling Labour group.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Brian Woodcraft said he had returned his invite to the ceremony, with a note reading “I do not see how it is justified to hold this event… this amount could be better spent elsewhere”.
Greenwich Council has not responded to requests to comment on the ceremony, although cabinet member for culture John Fahy said via Twitter on Tuesday morning that he thought the “decision of the Council to hold the inaguration of the Mayor at the Painted Hall is the right one”.