Greenwich’s Opposition Conservative councillors have published a full Alternative Budget, which will be the subject of several votes at Woolwich Town Hall on Thursday evening (23rd February).
Their proposals include a new Empty Shops Action Fund to help fill vacant premises in shopping parades across the borough, a tripling of the Council’s stock of mobile CCTV cameras used to combat anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping hotspots, and plans for a £100 Cost of Living Payment to nearly 16,000 households on the very lowest incomes.
If Conservative councillors’ comprehensive plan – which has been fully costed and independently validated by Council Officers – is rejected, they say they will push for a second vote to limit Labour’s planned 4.99% Council Tax increase by 1 percent.
While the Conservatives now have only three councillors to Labour’s 52 – with no prospect that they can win any Budget vote at the Town Hall – several Conservative proposals in previous years’ Alternative Budgets have since been adopted as Greenwich Council policy. These include the borough’s 100% Council Tax Support scheme, financial support for young care leavers and investment in local parks.
This month the list is joined by the re-instatement of the Town Centre pavement jet-washing service, which Labour councillors cut in 2020 – a u-turn which has come just 12 months after Labour councillors voted against a Conservative Budget plan to restore the service. This year’s Conservative proposals calls on the Council to go further and extend jet-washing to the borough’s smaller communities, including Eltham’s Westmount Road shops, New Eltham, Mottingham, Middle Park, Charlton, Blackheath Standard, East Greenwich and Thamesmead.
Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of the Opposition on Greenwich Council, said:
“The new Labour administration’s first Council Budget doesn’t do nearly enough on many of the big issues facing Greenwich residents. We need the Council to do more to revive our shopping parades, tackle anti-social behaviour and get to grips with damp and mould in council properties. And Labour councillors need to do much, much more to help those on the very lowest incomes through the cost of living crisis.
“That’s why we have produced a full Alternative Budget this year, that fixes the flaws in Labour’s plan. Our proposals are full to the brim of new policy ideas for improvements in our borough that could be implemented tomorrow. We will be campaigning for these ideas in the months ahead, and pressing Labour to do more to remove continued waste and inefficiency, which is costing Greenwich taxpayers dearly.
“There may only be three Conservative councillors left to hold Labour to account at the Town Hall, but all three of us are determined to do just that – and to force this new Labour administration to take action on the issues that are important to residents.”
Fully-costed proposals in the Conservative Group’s Alternative Budget - include:
- A new Empty Shops Action Fund – offering financial incentives for would-be small business owners to enter tenancies, and covering the costs of using new Rental Auction powers being introduced in the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – and extending the reinstated pavement jet-washing service to the borough’s smaller communities
- Tripling the council’s stock of mobile CCTV cameras with 20 additional units, to tackle anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and fly-tipping hotspots
- Plans for a £100 Cost of Living Payment to 15,925 low-income households – who are not helped by Labour’s plans – once the Council delivers the first £1.7m of its planned efficiency savings during the 2023/24 financial year
- A comprehensive Damp and Mould Experience Survey of all council tenants across Greenwich, to ensure the Council has a complete picture of the scale of damp and mould in council properties
- Enhancing the parking and traffic schemes consultation process, to ensure that all residents have access to consultations held under the Council’s new Transport Strategy – over and above statutory requirements
- Introducing a Greenwich ‘Snow Friends’ volunteer scheme – modelled on the highly successful scheme run by Conservative-run Bromley Council – which supports residents to help keep smaller residential roads clear of ice and snow to complement the Council’s clearance work on busier roads
- A new Funeral Costs Support Fund – to help mitigate the Council’s 24% increase in burial fees
- A Pension Credit take-up campaign to help ensure older residents claim more of the £millions they are eligible for.
- Adding £1 million to the Council’s Risk Reserve over the next four-years – ensuring a more prudent approach to managing the Council’s finances
Conservative councillors say their proposals can be funded by a £1.1million package of non-frontline efficiency savings, including tackling several examples of “continued waste and inefficiency” in Labour’s Council budget.
These savings include reversing Labour’s controversial plan to increase the Council’s communications staff – set to cost local taxpayers more than £1million over the next 5 years – and replace the Council’s outdated and ineffective ‘Greenwich Info’ fortnightly taxpayer-funded magazine with more targeted communications with residents. Other savings proposals include cutting the cost of local politics by reducing the size of the Cabinet that runs the Council, and bringing public funding for Trade Union ‘facility time’ down to the average for London boroughs.
Thursday’s Budget debate comes a week after Conservative and Labour councillors clashed over Labour claims that central Government funding had been cut – when in fact central Government funding for Greenwich has increased by £40.3 million since 2019, with an £18.8 million rise going into the 2023/24 financial year.
The Opposition’s full, 40 page, 10,000 word Alternative Budget proposals – the most comprehensive the Conservative Group have yet put forward at the Town Hall – are available here.
The agenda for the meeting can be found here and the meeting can be watched online from 7pm on Thursday 23rd February here.