A new report before Transport for London’s Finance Committee next week once again lays bare how little income Greenwich have obtained from developers to improve services despite a flurry of new builds in all corners of the borough.
Greenwich are last among Labour councils and almost last amongst all councils for collecting Community Infrastructure Levy funds in 2020/21 – with only those councils who recently adopted being below as this extract from the report shows:
Only outer London Havering were behind – and even then TfL state this was because they only adopted their rate in late 2019. Greenwich borough is seeing rather more development than Havering.
This isn’t new. Last year Greenwich were just as bad:
The authority have been very poor for collection since 2015 when they adopted the current levy.
In a report before councillors in 2020, council staff attempted to portray the borough in a better light while not including like-for-like figures of boroughs before a scrutiny meeting.
The report used the then-current year’s income in Greenwich to compare with earlier years in neighbouring Lewisham – thus making the borough look better than its neighbour. Like-for-like showed Greenwich behind.
Systemic failure to gain revenue was a key problem for the council’s previous elected leadership. During a time of severe cuts the authority failed to obtain revenue to support services – and made excuses on a regular basis while offering no clear timeline for change.
The council’s former leader was still offering excuses in recent weeks despite the Planning Inspector’s 2015 report making it clear that the authority chose to adopt a very low levy towards developers in most of the borough. Earlier this year other councillors were denying there is an issue.
While the Planning Inspector did insist on lower rates in the east of the borough where Housing Zones were to be established, a Viability Report leading up to the 2015 adoption of rates made clear Greenwich could have gone far higher in prime areas such as Greenwich town centre within the World Heritage Zone and beside the Thames to benefit residents.
Instead they chose a very low rate to levy upon developers borough-wide aside from the east in 2015 according to the Planning Inspectors report in order to “avoid divisiveness” and make it “simpler to understand and implement”. Ironically that has seen less income from developments in wealthy areas to help poorer parts of the borough.
Many other boroughs in London offer different rates in different areas – and reaped the rewards as millions of pounds were obtained. Somehow developers and other councils managed to do that without being bamboozled.
Greenwich then failed to adjust rates in 2018 as they had committed to do in 2015 – despite falling well short of their own estimated income levels.
That has ensured millions lost for improved services borough-wide.
There’s now a new leader in Greenwich – Cllr Anthony Okereke – who has promised to look into the issue.
Let’s hope for a clear roadmap soon, as for every month that passes without revised rates more potential revenue is squandered. The process isn’t quick as it requires consultation (which hasn’t begun despite the council stating things were in progress almost a year ago), viability reports and then submission to the Planning Inspector.
All the while various developments across the borough move ahead and income is being lost. Next week an east Greenwich development looks set to be approved. That’s more income lost in a time of central government cuts.
This week I covered plans for redeveloping the former town hall in Greenwich and extending the site for housing. That’ll be more revenue lost given an incredibly low levy rate given this is an area in Zone 2 with excellent transport links a short walk away and located in a World Heritage Zone.
Chances for improved town centres, youth clubs, estates, play space, health, education, cleaner streets and much more have been lost due to years of failure.
Greenwich sitting plum last for London Labour councils – and almost last for all councils in the capital – is a sad testament to years of failings under previous leadership which has cost all residents massively.
TfL’s report again lays bare how big these failings are as the borough trails tens of millions behind others, but it could get worse. There’s now a big chance major developments featuring more than 1,000 homes will pass before rates are altered costing further millions. This includes the B&Q redevelopment in Greenwich. The longer the wait, the more is lost.