A Council Meeting of Agreement?

At December’s full meeting of Greenwich Council (15th December) there was superficially a lot of agreement between the Labour and Conservative Groups about the items on the agenda.  However, in reality this meeting was most probably the calm before the storm as the level of cuts required to deal with the legacy of Gordon Brown’s government starts to hit home.


The items on the agenda were all agreed by Council, however, only the one dealing with the freezing of incremental payments and travel allowances was in any way important.  The Conservative Group chose to support this, with their Leader, Cllr Spencer Drury explaining that the financial crisis required difficult decisions to be made.  Cllr Drury also highlighted the need to monitor the impact of the change to essential car user allowances to ensure that there was no impact on the level of support to the most vulnerable in our community.  Finally Conservatives also regretted the fact that full consultation responses from the unions were not included in the report, although in response Labour Leader Chris Roberts did suggest that these responses had not been averse to the proposals being made.


The other main item on the agenda was the letter from the District Auditor giving an overview of the Council’s financial health (which was viewed as good).  Commenting on this, Conservative Leader Cllr Spencer Drury focused on the good performance of the counter fraud team in Greenwich (which also supports Bromley), Conservative concerns over the financial health of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich and the Labour Council’s mismanagement of the Building Schools for the Future programme.  He concluded by noting that the £4.8m overspend on social services was actually more than this when one off measures were taken into account and that dealing with an ageing population and the number of children in care would continue to represent a real challenge to the Council in the future.


The item on the agenda which attracted the most public attention (other than public questions) was the response to petitions presented, with speeches from many members of the public on items as diverse as a village green in Eltham South, the new layout of Woolwich market, the litter around Kidbrooke School and the failure of the Council to cut back nettles around a ball park. 


Other items on the agenda which passed without comment were the Treasury Management reports and a brief report on re-establishing the management of the Margaret McMillan Field Study Centre, which seemed to have been forgotten about for more than ten years.


The meeting concluded with a motion from Conservative Eltham North Councillors about the return of at least one block in Sowerby Close to over 50s tenants only.  The motion would have been proposed by Cllr Dermot Poston, but unfortunately he had a fall and was unable to attend the meeting.  In his absence it was proposed by Cllr Nigel Fletcher and seconded by Cllr Spencer Drury.  Cllr Fletcher made clear that these had been over 50s blocks in the past and there had been some confusion about allocations recently, but he hoped that this motion would clarify the situation.  The motion was amended by the Labour Cabinet Member for Housing who accepted that the allocations review for housing would look specifically at this issue and report back in the New Year.  Cllr Fletcher accepted this and hoped it would move the situation forward for residents of Sowerby Close.


However, behind this agreement, there were many clashes over questions, where among other items:-


  • Cllr Geoffrey Brighty raised the performance of South East trains
  • Cllr Fletcher the webcasting  of Council meetings
  • Cllr Glover the lack of consultation over appointments to Council bodies
  • Cllr Wilson the installation of fire and smoke alarms in Council properties
  • Cllr Drury raised the lack of progress in dealing with Hornfair Lido
  • Cllr Fletcher raised the spending on the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
  • Cllr Drury raised the pedestrianisation and gyratory plans for Greenwich Town Centre.


More updates on the issues asked about in members questions will follow over the Christmas period.