Greenwich seek to block public vote on local funding projects
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
In another show of transparency, the authority then decided to make funding projects exempt from public viewing.
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.