Greenwich politicians in denial about Crossrail and developer funding shortfall

Over recent weeks the latest figures have been gradually released showing income received by local authorities in 2020/21 from the Community Infrastructure Levy, which funds key services in local areas.

As the figures come out it’s become clear that Greenwich are once again seeing far less income than others, continuing a trend seen since the fund commenced in 2015.

Developments since 2015 bring in CIL – or at least should do

This is far from a comprehensive number of councils which have revealed totals for 2020/21 and I’ll be keeping tabs on all London boroughs as they reveal details, but so far the list looks like this:

London Boroughs

Southwark = £13,514,695

Hammersmith & Fulham = £12,577,930.52

Newham = £5,518,389.34 (Excludes much of Stratford)

Islington = £4,264,139

Merton = £4,120,006

Haringey = £3,098,985

Olympic Legacy Development Corporation = £2.2m (covers area around the Olympic Park in Stratford)

Waltham Forest = £1,616,848.47

Redbridge £1,330,000

Greenwich = £1,016,563

Outside London

Dartford = £7.1 million

Continuing pattern

This follows on from last year (and most years since 2015) with Greenwich at or around the bottom of all London authorities:

TfL report highlighted Greenwich in previous year

Despite this clear and ongoing problem some Greenwich councillors appear to deny it’s an issue.

Linda Bird (Labour – Eltham North) tweeted that highlighting the issue and the impact that minimal income has on meeting Crossrail payments and impacts upon other areas was “misleading” and “distracting”.

It’s certainly not misleading to highlight that Greenwich have long standing relating to securing income from Community Infrastructure Levy funds and new developments in the borough and have missed targets on overall income (£9.7m v £27.5m between 2015 and 2021). They could well do so again which threatens reaching their repayment target for Crossrail costs in Woolwich.

An extract from the authority’s own report CIL report released in December 2021 show they do still owe £8 million to TfL:

It shows a remaining balance of £8,082,747 owing to pay off the Crossrail tab. And why is that important? Key areas have and will not see money until that deadline is met.

The incorrect tweet was then liked by other Greenwich councillors including the council leader Dan Thorpe (Labour – Shooters Hill) who has overseen this problem for some years without any noticeable changes, Kidbrooke and Hornfair councillor Odette McGahey (Labour – Kidbrooke and Hornfair) and the most recently elected councillor in the borough Pat Slattery (Labour – Greenwich West). Requests for clarification from Pat Slattery went unanswered.

Greenwich CIL income

Despite being shown the evidence in the December 2021 report showing a remaining balance of £8,082,747, Cllr Linda Bird doubled down and was still claiming the £8m figure and subsequent lack of funding for other key areas was misquoting and misguiding people:

Spending

So what can CIL income normally be spent on? Well, it can be used for a wide rage of projects, from health, education, estates, public realm and town centre improvement, transport and much else besides.

An example of how funds can help various areas from Merton’s latest report

Councils have a wide scope of different areas to spend funds, with Dartford last year allocating most to a road project while Brent invest in colleges and medical centres:

Healthcare improvements in Brent from CIL

Despite Dartford’s main chunk of funding going on a road upgrade, sizeable sums are also going towards a nature trail and pedestrian improvements in other areas.

In Greenwich meanwhile, the borough has (somewhat unfairly) had to pay £15 million for Woolwich Crossrail station. However, given they’ve seen so little Community Infrastructure Levy revenue since 2015 and missed their estimated income they look unlikely to make the repayment deadline. In addition, such small income levels ensure many other areas of potential spend have seen no funding and will continue to see no funding. This may be an inconvenient truth to the ruling party, but it’s happened and will continue to do so.

Streets improved using CIL in Brent. No such luck recently in areas such as Plumstead and Thamesmead

One reason is that back in 2015 Greenwich chose a low CIL rate to levy to developers. It’s £70 per square metre for new homes in much of the borough and £40 psqm in the east. Those levels are below many other London boroughs.

They then failed to revise rates upwards as seen in other boroughs since 2015. That’s despite estimating in 2015 they would receive £27.5 million by 2021 to pay off Crossrail and leave income for other improvements and it became clear by 2018 that was unlikely at those low rates. By 2021 they’d received £9.7 million.

Many boroughs not only feature how much collected but how much in demand notices. Greenwich do NOT include this in their report

The £27.5m target from 2015/16-2020/21 was actually a low total by London standards. Many councils see that in a year.

Brent, for example, have seen £90 million in total since 2015/16 – and this isn’t including this years figures which they havn’t yet released

Brent’s CIL income in 2019/20 was £27.2m. they could pay off entire Crossrail bill and have £17.2m left over based on one year’s income alone

By last year it was clear things were amiss in Greenwich. £1.3m last year and £1m this year is relative peanuts when London boroughs are seeing tens of millions.

Greenwich Council’s Scrutiny Panel decided to have a look back in September 2021 and a cursory examination featured in a council report revealed issues. They found £1.8 million not collected by using basic techniques such as Google Street View. It also showed they lacked staffing to manage the issue. CIL rules permit additional funding for staffing but Greenwich never used the full five per cent for CIL administration as many authorities do.

An example of Waltham Forest CIL spend

A report drawn up for councillors also contained misleading data painting the borough in a better light by not using like-for-like time periods.

At the time of the meeting comparable figures were actually Greenwich at £8.4 million and Lewisham at £15.9m.

Lewisham income. Total since 2015/16 was £15.9m at time of meeting, though Greenwich officers told could cllrs they were at £8m and thus lagging Greenwich.
Misleading council report

Greenwich officers stated they had secured more revenue than neighbouring Lewisham, though that was only achieved by including the latest year’s figure for Greenwich and ignoring Lewisham’s latest year. If that was included, Lewisham were ahead by around £4 million.

CIL spend in 2020/21 in Waltham Forest

So there’s clearly a lot of issues here. The website IanVisits recently covered the Crossrail shortfall. He was quite kind to Greenwich in my estimation, as it looks like Greenwich may struggle to make the Crossrail payment by 2023. The latest Greenwich annual CIL report shows they’ve paid £8 million of the £15 million total, and have £4 million unallocated CIL income since 2015 they will use to top that up. That leaves around £3 million to pay in a year. Given they saw just £1 million last year and £1.3 million CIL the year before, will they make it?

For most authorities £3 million from CIL income wouldn’t be too difficult to find based upon average annual income since 2015, but most never pushed for such low rates to be levied to developers, failed to then revise them and then allocated inadequate funds for administrating the fund.

Hammersmith & Fulham

Which now brings us back to the past couple of days and may explain why this clear failure over so many years continues. Some Greenwich councillors appear to be in denial anything is wrong when Conservative councillor Spender Drury quoted IanVisits.

The default move is to blame central Government cuts. Few will argue cuts have been highly damaging in a wide range of areas, yet what most council’s do is fight against them while seeking all available sources of income to mitigate where possible.

Islington Council’s CIL funded projects

For Greenwich Council’s leadership it’s often a case of complain and yet do little to mitigate via a major potential source of revenue in the Community Infrastructure Levy. It’s baffling. At a time services are stretched they’re not capturing what can help at such a difficult time. If we look a similar London boroughs and income since 2015, it’s a shortfall of tens of millions.  Receiving the London average since 2015 would have seen Crossrail long paid off and tens of millions now available for a whole swath of areas.

Tree planting program funded by CIL in Islington borough

Santander cycle expansion perhaps? Or greater investment in parks and estates. Greenwich are currently spending £1 million on parks after decades of neglect in places like Plumstead. A well managed CIL could have doubled it. Tripled it. There’s plenty of poor quality green spaces still around such as Abbey Wood park. A borough-wide tree planting programs is underway in Islington and Brent, for example, using income from developers.

I’ve recently covered Greenwich drawing up another carbon report, with one aims being to improve pedestrian routes. Like previous reports, it rarely translates into actual investment. It could have if they managed this fund well.

Offputting underpass from 2,200 new homes to shops and railway station

Even if Greenwich now attempt to revise up low CIL rates it could take up to 18 months. When all is said and done tens of millions of potential income has been lost affecting every single area of the borough and just about every public service there is.

If we think of what good is being done in the borough with libraries, tree planting, park projects and more, it’s frustrating to think that could be greatly increased with improved CIL income. The means are there to do it.

Future improvements in Islington from CIL income

That this has gone on this long, and that even today some councillors in the ruling party attempt to deny what their own council reports state is a sad indictment of years of failure. Rather than question or query some blindly state highlighting the issue is “misleading”, stick fingers in ears and blah blah blah their way through.

The other major source of income which I regularly cover – Section 106 – is not making up for it either in terms of income or where that’s allocated.

As more councils release their latest CIL totals I will collate into the table. Will any London council be as low as Greenwich?

 

 

 

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “Greenwich politicians in denial about Crossrail and developer funding shortfall

  • January 9, 2022 at 9:56 pm
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    You’d think right that a Labour council would be busting a gut for more income?! Looking at those numbers and other Labour boroughs ARE bringing it lots of sums to benefit everybody. Bloody hell even the tory and lib dems councils are showing them up.

    I remember asking if we could have some more trees near us and better lighting at night. It wouldn’t break the bank. No we were told. No money at all. No wonder is it if £9.7 million is the sum total since 2015 against near £100 million in Brent and Southwark?

    Ultimately the poorest lose out from this “Labour” council adding to Tory cuts though ineptitude. Is this even a Labour council in anything but name? If it was they’d actually DO something.

    Reply
  • January 10, 2022 at 11:00 am
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    You report on things like this and other related issues time again. At this stage you have to assume that Greenwich council is either incompetent, corrupt or most likely both.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2022 at 12:47 pm
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      I do and the reaction of cllrs burying head in sand says it all. It did go before Scrutiny Panel with Officers then portraying Greenwich in better light by using dodgy comparisons. It needs more scrutiny. Even tomorrow there’s a planning app before Planning Board and Planning Dept have put the site in wrong CIL zone. Basic stuff

      Reply
  • January 10, 2022 at 8:13 pm
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    There aren’t enough people in Greenwich council who know what they are doing or understand complex policies. Lest we forget, being a local councillor is an unpaid position and requires no expertise. When it comes to decision making, most councillors will go along with the suggested agenda.

    Reply
  • January 12, 2022 at 9:45 pm
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    anonymous, not correct. The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Good Growth will get over £33,000 pa.

    – All councillors get a basic £10,415 for a part-time position, with additional sums added for positions of responsibility such as chairing a scrutiny panel (£10,046), being a cabinet member (£22,562), being the ceremonial mayor (£10,046) or leading council (£53,508) or the opposition (£18,540).

    Councillors are expected to be intelligent local people who know enough to interrogate the professional advisors. The problem is that local authority staff jobs don’t attract and retain expertise and their advice is poor. And that our one party borough has no opposition, and a leadership who have ambitions and priorities outside the borough’s interests.

    Reply

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