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£1.5 million for parks: A look at Greenwich Council’s budget plans in 2020/21

Crumbling park buildings

Greenwich Council this week launched details of budget plans for the forthcoming financial year starting in April 2020.

They’ve also released a consultation alongside. Let’s see what it contains and try to put some of it into context. It covers money to support those receiving Universal Credit, council tax relief, money for parks and more.

Crumbling Plumstead Gardens

It kicks off by highlighting heavy cuts faced by local Government imposed by central Government. It totals £130 million. The council however do not state new sources of income such as money related to housebuilding. One of those funds is called the New Homes Bonus which was introduced in 2011. By 2020/21 it will have brought a total of £87 million:

  • 2011/12 – £924,000
  • 2012/13 – £3.15 million
  • 2013/14 – £5.8 million
  • 2014/15 – £7.6 million
  • 2015/16 – £10.8 million
  • 2016/17 – £13.5 million
  • 2017/18 – £13.7 million
  • 2018/19 – £12.2 million
  • 2019/20 – £11.1 million
  • 2020/21 – £11.9 million

Other sources of income such as Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy related to new developments also brought in sizeable amounts. Last year saw £3,494,119 in CIL income unspent and around £1.5 million from S106.

The council’s parking department has suffered chronic problems which has resulted in budget shortfalls totalling over £12 million since 2010. They’ve missed budget targets which are already some of the lowest across all of London.

A common site every year. The same statement about initiatives cut and pasted each year

Interestingly, documents revealing these long term problems have just been wiped from the councils website.

Those sources of income – or missed sources due to departmental problems – are not included in the preamble to this consultation. It’s all the more baffling that lethargy with parking problems and spending developer income should occur as central Government makes life harder for councils. Under CIL rules the authority can allocate more money to administration of spending than they actually are.

Parks

This site has long covered lack of investment in parks. Last year just 0.3 per cent of Section 106 income was allocated to parks – many of which have seen little investment for many years including years before the financial crises and cuts.

Park building

Recent spending on parks via the Community Infrastructure Levy was restricted to the Neighbourhood CIL portion which caps spend at just £30,000. That was while £3.5 million in the CIL strategic fund was left unspent last year.

£1.5 million is therefore an improvement but given income from new developments, and how much is unspent, the total still appears to be a relatively small sum in context. To give one example, Southwark Council approved £700k on green spaces and play areas on one estate last week just a day after Greenwich stated they could not do the same.

Transport

The authority state: “In transport we are looking to invest more in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, car clubs and measures that discourage car use and enable people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”

This is what we’ve heard many times for many years. Despite the rhetoric, when it comes to allocating money from new developments and car parking towards streets that encourage people to switch to walking and cycling for short journeys, the authority are 31st out of 32 in London and last among Labour Councils.

Approach to Ikea from Westcombe Park station

Submission of funding to TfL for 2020/21 through the Local Implementation Plan was always going to be interesting to see if that would change. It hasn’t. Greenwich Council are allocating zero from those areas towards better streets. This is far, far less than every other London Labour Council. No other council is allocating zero towards better streets and public spaces from those key sources of funds. It actually pushes Greenwich down from 31st last year to 32nd across London this coming year.

How that tallies with the statement in this consultation isn’t clear.

Encouraging people to leave cars at home for short journeys is a crucial tool to reducing pollution. To do so means improvements at every estate, town centre and across all corners of the borough, and not just at flagship projects. Yet it’s one area the authority seem extremely reluctant to invest – against the prevailing mood across the capital.

Supporting the vulnerable

Other measures include offering 100 per cent council tax relief for the poorest and most vulnerable. The consultation states:

“At the moment, working-age residents in receipt of council tax support still need to pay at least 15% of their bill. We would like to increase the maximum level of support up to 100%. This is one of the key recommendations made by Greenwich’s independent Fairness Commission and could save some of our most vulnerable residents up to £200 per year.”

Woolwich Town Hall

Universal Credit is now firmly in place in Greenwich borough. The heavily criticised scheme, which went extremely over-budget, has been blamed for increasing hardship for many. The council are looking to assist those in need. They state:

“Last year we set up a temporary Universal Support Team which has offered assistance to over 600 households. We are proposing to make this team permanent and agree to provide £750,000 for our emergency support scheme which helps our most vulnerable residents in times of crisis.”

Welcome changes?

Helping those most in need will be welcomed by many, as will money for parks. As stated though, this is still a relatively small sum given the level of income from new developments and other authority spending. A welcome step forward, but given how many parks have been neglected it won’t go too far.

It should at least improve some, which will push more people to become active, assist youth sport and games, act as focal points for communities and increase peoples pride in their local areas – and for that the outlay is more than worth it.

Even the best maintained parks are still rough. This wall is not in great nick up close

What I’m most dubious about is spending to get people out of cars, improving streets and encouraging walking to help cut pollution. Firstly, there’s no spending amount mentioned. We’ve been here before after hearing promising words.

The failure to allocate any money from S106, CIL or parking income this year through the Local Implementation Plan in addition to TfL’s annual funds doesn’t bode well. To slip from 31st to 32nd tells its own story. All the more so when the borough is in the top five boroughs in London for new housing and thus receives more income than most – even accounting for Crossrail commitments.

Vehicle dominated Peninsula roads

There needs to be a seismic change in both the Housing Department and Highway Department’s understanding of what makes a safe, attractive and appealing street or space for pedestrians. They show little to no understanding. Couple that to the borough’s political leadership showing little interest in funding change – and don’t expect much this coming year. Lots of talk and reports but few funds for action seems the name of the game so far.

I’d love them to prove me and many others wrong.

Click here to view and comment on plans – and offer suggestions.

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. EthicsGradient

    Excellent to see they’re taking this approach; considering the sociopathic government we’ve ended up with …

    “Other measures include offering 100 per cent council tax relief for the poorest and most vulnerable. The consultation states:

    “At the moment, working-age residents in receipt of council tax support still need to pay at least 15% of their bill. We would like to increase the maximum level of support up to 100%. This is one of the key recommendations made by Greenwich’s independent Fairness Commission and could save some of our most vulnerable residents up to £200 per year.””

  2. CDT

    I agree EthicsGradient. I also see what to see improivements to parks and open spaces so people can get out and abut more for walks and exercise.

    However, some pathways on open sapces and car parking areas in parks need street lighting installed to make these areas safer.

  3. EthicsGradient

    Absolutely. All good points. The security and safety of residents, whether in estates or on the streets in general should be a priority.

  4. a2c

    Well I am glad they aint makin it arder for us drivers to get abahrt. We aint all able to walk far with our ealth problems n with carryin eavy shoppin the car is the best way to get abahrt. Ere are instead of attackin ourn why don’t yourn look at wot causes more pollution like all them eavy goods lorries drivin rahnd our gaff n all them engines left idlin when parked up. It aint right n thass wot theirn should be tacklin with enforcement n thass all there is to it.

  5. EthicsGradient

    Sounds like Ronnie Corbett doing one of his faux cockney accents.

  6. Greenwich Park Fan

    I’d love to see my namesake open longer hours during the winter months.

  7. CDT

    Although a Royal Park Greenwich Park, iGreenwich Park s one of the jewels in the crown that helps make our Bourough (Royal Borough of Greenwich) a great place to live.

    Although the Borough as seen a lot of decline over the years in some areas which have been reported on this site by Murky and fellow local journalist 853.

    With the right investment in these areas and people working together and listening to each other this can be a great Borough again wherever in the Borough you live.

    It is important to get the views of residents of the Borough on certain matters affecting the Borough.. Then we can all work together to get these issues resolved.

  8. EthicsGradient

    Greenwich Park is getting some great investment via the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Royal Parks (£4.5 million): http://www.friendsofgreenwichpark.org.uk/index.php?page_key=News#331

    As far as Greenwich Council, in West Greenwich I saw earlier that St Alfrege park is being refurbished, which is great news.

    It’s the smaller, less prestigious and non-tourist centric spaces that need attention; those that improve quality of life for residents if they’re maintained well.

  9. CDT

    I agree EthicsGradient. The refurbishment of St Alfrege Park is good news for West Greenwich. If the smaller, less prestigious and non-tourist areas around the Borough were also improved this will go a long way to towards improving the quality of life for residents if well maintained and kept clean and tidy.

    Open spaces are important as more and more residents live in blocks of flats which are often built close together.

  10. Graham

    There is actually a consultation open until Monday 27/01/20 (Next Monday so not much time) to have your say on the Council’s budget for 2020/21..

    You can find it by going on the Royal Greenwich Website or at http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/Budget 2020.

    This is an ideal opportunity to give your views to the Council on matters that really concern you with regard to cuts to services and the Council’s public spending in the Borough.

    I hope as many people fill this consultation in as possible. As it is important that the council listen to residents and take their views in to account.

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