Murky Depths

News in London and beyond

Abbey Wood, Greenwich borough

Greenwich seek to block public vote on local funding projects

Abbey Wood park

Greenwich Council’s cabinet look set to block the public voting on how and where £618,268.55 recieved from new developments should be spent.

Funds for local improvements are from the Community Infrastructure Levy , which sees 15 per cent of income from new developments across the borough allocated to local areas. CIL income totals tens of millions each year.

15 per cent for local projects is the minimum amount an authority must spend by law. In Greenwich borough it’s been branded as “Greenwich Neighbourhood Growth Fund”. Other authorities such as Lewisham have opted to go beyond the minimum and spend 25 per cent locally but Greenwich are sticking to the lowest amount.

Previously under Section 106 – a precursor to Community Infrastructure Levy some areas in Greenwich borough often avoided seeing any income at all.

New Charlton housing such as this brings tens of millions of pounds each year

A reason not to proceed with a public vote are partly given as recent problems with lockdown, though the report notes issues arose back in February: “it was intended that the shortlisted proposals would proceed to a public vote in February 2020, with funding awards to be agreed at March Cabinet. Unfortunately delays prevented this timeframe from being achieved”.

It does not state what the delays were.

It then states:

“The restrictions subsequently imposed following COVID-19 have meant that it has not been possible to undertake a meaningful public vote and the timeframe for releasing the funds has slipped further.

“Completing the public vote would add around 3-4 weeks to the decision making process and allocation of funding. Given the inability to complete a meaningful vote and the fact that the release of these funds will provide support communities that have been badly affected by COVID-19, it is proposed that the public vote be removed from the decision-making process.”

Its not just housing that brings money to the authority

It’s unclear why a public vote could not have been conducted over recent months. This isn’t the first round of funding and systems are in place to enact an online vote.

Staff may be working from home but this follows a pattern seen with emergency TfL funding over recent months in terms of consultation and engagement. Other authorities across London managed to set up consultation websites. Greenwich did not. It still hasn’t revealed what many of its bids to TfL contained – and has seen most fail to secure any cash.

New Woolwich towers

In terms of projects from CIL income there is little in the council report, though Abbey Wood misses out in this round of funding with the report noting:

“The proposal in Area 4 to renovate the toilet block at Bostall Gardens was not shortlisted, on the basis that Cabinet previously agreed that this site should be disposed of. It is understood that there are ongoing discussions
regarding Bostall Gardens.”

Abbey Wood park

In another show of transparency, the authority then decided to make funding projects exempt from public viewing.

I’ve followed each round of funding and awards have never been restricted. Though they have now removed last year’s list included on a council report. Details can be found elsewhere here.

Back to this year and we have no public vote and  no public knowledge of which projects will see funds. The recent past cannot fully explain why delays were present at the start of this year and why they are not releasing a list of projects now. Even if one or two needed redacting – and that’s a big if – others could be included.

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6 Comments

  1. Derek Small

    Removing and deleting stuff that should be public knowledge at least and public choice to influence/change decisions at best, is tantamount to that used under Communist regimes propaganda tactics.
    Murky what exactly was the original intention of this funding for the community? is it restricted by law/statute for specific purposes to improve local environments? If so it must remain public knowledge and at the very least public being allowed to consult, regardless of delays incurred.
    Are RBG just intending to use it to top up spending where they are short of funds from central Govt? ie We’ll never see ANY actual benefit it’ll just be lost in the quagmire?
    We really need to fight both this hiding of data and the making of it legally legitimate to hide it. Its nothing less than removing democratic freedoms. RBG need replacing and a strong campaign fought to replace them at first opportunity.

  2. Ashley

    All these Greenwich Labour councillors are chronically Inept, not interested and lack any resolution for change, for much needed improvements and investment. So much could be done to rejuvenate this great Borough.

    Something needs to be done!

  3. East Greenwich Crusader

    I’m not usually inclined to defend our Councillors but in this case it really has nothing to do with them apart from their responsibility for passing some overly complicated and ill-thought out rules for using Community Infrastructure Levy money. The responsibility for the current fiasco lies with Council Officers who pulled the plug on the current round of bids in March and have refused to engage with applicants ever since. The voting process has always been a joke – organised groups like churches and schools can get the vote out while smaller projects will struggle. In any case, it’s irrelevant in areas like East Greenwich where there is more money than projects and the money has had a big rollover each year. The CIL money is intended to compensate communities impacted by development but it is quite difficult to do this while the builders are still working. Incidentally, CIL is in the public domain and the 15% easy to calculate so I can’t see it disappearing into the system unless the auditors are very remiss.

    • Derek Small

      I too agree with you both Ashley and CDT, but thanks EG Crusader for the analysis, as I am oblivious as to the inner workings of council and councillors and their roles and responsibilities.
      I’m sure the ‘average man/woman in the street’ is too. We vote locally in the knowledge that Labour is 99% likely to win in Greenwich anyway with their majority, though hopefully that could be eroded if other parties ever put up a worthy candidate in a tough borough to crack. But how many constituents actually understand local political workings? (or care?)
      We need more openness (the opposite of whats happening on a national level with Johnson/DC/Gove and Co.) and maybe use the propaganda sheet posted through all our doors to give us all some unbiased information both good and bad on how and what our elected officials are doing and what their duties involve. Maybe a page on ‘A day in the life of a council official/councillor’! (don’t laugh out there!) We have a similar weekly feature (or had before lockdown!) in the travel industry weekly trade papers. Extend it to public service, maybe we’d even get to see what DCummings does with his day other than perpetrating the destruction of our long fought for democracy?

  4. CDT

    I was born and bred in this Borough and totally agree Ashley,

    We do live in a great Borough (Greenwich) and a lot more could be done to improve it with the right management and investment to rejuvenate our Borough.

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