In less than a month local elections will take place in Greenwich and other London boroughs. Candidates are walking the streets, leaflets are being dropped and voters wooed. 853 has listed the full range of candidates.
So whilst local politicians push leaflets and manifestos now is a timely reminder to look back and see what was said four years ago by the party that has been in charge since then across the borough – Labour – and what has happened.
Firstly, lets look at the contentious current issue of local environmental quality.
What did Labour’s 2014 election manifesto in Greenwich say on this issue?
Healthy? Safe? Clean and attractive? I think we can chalk up many failings on that front.
Car-centric retail parks have continued to be approved since 2014 with resultant income from developers to improve local areas generally not spent.
In terms of the environment around housing, entire estates have been neglected for years. In fact, the Housing Department has seen numerous failings and missed targets which have persisted.
The 2014 Labour manifesto stated:
Again, another fail. The public realm in many places ranks as some of the worst in London. Greenwich town centre is probably the only area where quality is good across the board, and that drops off a cliff as soon as leaving the very centre and approaching Deptford or east Greenwich.
The repercussions of such poor quality streets, estates, shopping parades and general public realm impacts heavily upon the amount of people walking and cycling with resulting problems of poor public health.
In east Greenwich pocket parks are being consulted upon (and it’s welcome to see details up online) but it’s barely touching the surface of systemic public realm design failures.
Google Streetview shows the area above – in Abbey Wood – to be like this since at least 2012. Other nearby areas are similar and I have been contacted by residents who have notified the council for years on these issues, many times, and nothing has happened.
Rubbing salt in the wounds
Labour campaigners and candidates have taken a fair few pictures of themselves canvassing on the same estate. So how can they, or the Housing Department, miss this?
This is the same estate where TfL gave Greenwich Council £120,000 to spend on improving the main road in financial year 2017/18 yet no work has been undertaken, nor even any consultation.
Let’s look down the road on the estate. This fencing surrounds public land and the council maintain the grass:
Broken fencing goes on for a couple of hundreds metres. It’s an eyesore and dangerous. Fly tipping is common beside it. Given that poor maintenance encourages other antisocial behaviour it’s no real surprise.
And here are Labour councillors and campaigners on a spot not too far away.
There is plenty of support on the Abbey Wood Estate for our candidates @CllrDHyland @AMCo1 & Cllr Mardner. One gentleman even insisted on being in our group photo (2nd from right) #labourdoorstep #VoteLabour #Abbeywood pic.twitter.com/Tlywf3cM3D
— Abbey Wood Labour (@AbbeyWoodLabour) March 24, 2018
To be fair the council did replace many areas of fencing yet large parts lie untouched.
Surely they cannot be ignorant of poor conditions across the estate?
One of the few areas where money does always seem to be found is for random wooden bollards thrown up with no apparent rhyme or reason.
But it’s not just estates. Areas that are at the heart of towns are also ignored with numerous funds to improve town centres not being used. They include:
- New Homes Bonus cash (£13.7 million this year)
- Section 106 income from developers (£37 million unspent and £174 million incoming)
- TfL money (£3.5 million last year with much still unspent)
Asking questions on these issues usually results in a wall of silence from Labour Greenwich councillors.
On the flip side, Abbey Wood did see £75,000 from Greenwich Council for Wilton Road (though its not finished) which was match funded (£75,000 from Bexley Council and £150,000 from the Mayor of London) and Greenwich Council recently allocated £2.5 million for Plumstead High Street alongside £2.5 million match-funding from the GLA.
Back in 2014 the authority said they would use Meridian Home Start to build homes. Yet over the last four years the numbers built using Home Start are tiny compared to many other Labour councils in London, with future plans far more modest than other areas.
Central government restrictions on local authority borrowing mean Meridian is one of the only tools to build many homes and quickly. It isn’t being used anywhere near enough.
Instead huge sums are being used to push prices of existing homes higher through spending £65 million buying existing homes off the market – which the council’s own figures show is the least cost-effective option by some margin.
Poor conditions with private rentals is another huge and increasing issue. Greenwich Council eventually implemented licensing of Homes of Multiple Occupation in Autumn of 2017 (though only 2.6% of landlords had registered by the end of January).
This was years after many other London Labour councils implemented measures, and even now they havn’t taken the further option of licensing all private rentals in the worst 20% of wards for known issues.
With the next election under a month away the same things from 2014 are being said and heard again. But will anything change?
Will any councillor address these issues and failing departments? For years they’ve not addressed systemic and chronic failings.
Election literature this time around again points the finger at the Conservative government. In many cases they have a point, but there’s little on how they will use their own powers and funds to improve the life of local residents.
Passing the buck all the time isn’t an answer. And not when other Labour councils in London show what can be done.
In coming days and weeks the site will look at current manifestos from the main parties and how challenger groups are emerging, including independent residents parties such as the newly formed Plumstead Party.
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