Sunday, 6 March 2011

Greenwich Council approves budget cuts

The big local news this week was, of course, Greenwich Council’s budget plans, which were approved last Wednesday evening (2 March). I was avidly following the Twitter feeds of @darryl1974 and @AdamBienkov, amongst others.

The Council unanimously voted through £48.6m cuts, agreed in recent months, and to be made over the next two years. A further reduction, bringing total savings of £63m, will be agreed at a future budget meeting.

One curious aspect which onlookers commented on was the relative lack of protest against the budget proposals, especially compared to the level of anti-cuts activity at the budget meetings of other Councils, eg. Lewisham (my previous post here) and Hackney. There was a small trade-union led protest, apparently of about 30 people, outside Woolwich Town Hall. Also, the public gallery for the Council meeting was only half full. It was good though to be able follow a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings (thanks presumably to Eric Pickles’ the new tweeting and blogging rules...)

Darryl has covered Greenwich Council’s budget extensively in his excellent posts at his 853 blog (how does he do it on quality and quantity, I just can’t keep up with my blog!) - for example, this one:  Greenwich Council cuts £63m without a whimper.

As a parent who will need to start thinking about secondary schools in a couple of years time, I was interested in the following comments reported from the meeting:

“Labour's Jackie Smith says free schools would deny resources from council-run state schools”

“Chris Roberts says free school organisers have told Greenwich council "your sort of children won't want to go to" their schools”.
On schools, I feel that we don’t need more choice or diversification of resources - we just need the schools we’ve got to be good, and for all children. I think that's best done by professionals and within a national, and local, framework. It is in the interests of a community for all its children to be well-educated not just the ones who get away to a grammar school in Bexley (a popular future landing site for the parents at my kids’ primary school - that’s why they’re all tutoring the hell out of their kids in some kind of tutoring-arms-race gone mad!)

And breathe. Back to the budget. Here’s how the reported it:

“Greenwich Councillors unanimously supported plans to cut spending by £48.6 million last night.

Council leader, Chris Roberts, presented the council budget to colleagues at the full council meeting at Woolwich Town Hall. He told councillors that it was “a robust budget” but issued the stark warning that there was a “ticking Tory timebomb” underneath it.

The proposed budget would protect the frontline, he said, but acknowledged increased charges for parking and allotments would cause concern for residents.” Continue reading

The News Shopper’s report also commented on the lack of protest, that the Leader of the Conservative Group supported the budget, and that no cuts would be made this year to the Maryon Wilson Animal Park, much to the relief of the 3,000 petitioners.

The next full council meeting is scheduled for 30 March at 7pm. You can submit questions by emailing by noon five working days before the Full Council meeting.


darryl said...

Thanks for the kind words - I think there's a lot more to come out yet. I think I'd have given the tweeting a go without Pickles' words - I did it from the Olympics planning meeting a year ago. But it at least gave me the confidence to do it without fearing a tap on the shoulder.

I'd like to try some different ways of doing it, but for now, tweeting seems to work best, though, especially since I found myself following Adam's tweets avidly while waiting for a mate in a pub in Islington a few months ago...

Audio or video would transform all this, though - but it's baby steps, particularly with a council that's very small-c conservative over opening up to wider scrutiny (partly because nobody's bothered before).

As for the quantity - well the devil's making work for idle hands at the moment...

Mary said...

Darryl - there are quite a lot of things I could say - but I am going to confine it to pointing out that Greenwich council meetings have been run with video links through to other buildings in the past - although, I agree, not recently.