Green Party Response to Greenwich council’s 2024 budget cuts

The Green Party acknowledges the very difficult funding situation facing local authorities nationally. Greenwich Council needs to make £33m of cuts or savings in 2024/25.

We strongly oppose proposals that will hurt most those on the lowest incomes, such as cuts to children’s centres and local advice hubs.

Having reviewed the Labour Council’s budget proposals in detail, Greenwich Green Party challenges the Council to look to make alternative savings in these key areas:

reduce the number of consultants

There is a lot of room for achieving efficiencies in the use of consultants. It should be noted that consultants often approach the voluntary sector to give them contact with local people and ask for this for free, while charging the council substantial costs.

The council should: 

  • Reduce the number of consultants employed to run online surveys that reach a limited number of people
  • Use local voluntary services to reach local people through wider means
  • Pay less and get more as well as supporting local voluntary sector

Make improvements to commissioning

The council has a lot of duplication in its commissioning of services, and often smaller grants are scrutinised in detail while the largest grants are left unaccountable.

The council could:

  • Centralise commissioning to be more efficient and cost effective
  • Ensure expertise is consistent in commissioning
  • Develop monitoring that is proportionate to the funding given
  • Ensure that there is less duplication of projects by having this central team
  • Make projects such as Woolwich Works more transparent in its relation to the council

The council has recently carried out a consultation of the localvoluntary sector using consultants while Greenwich Advocacy for Voluntary Sector, our local CVS, the voluntary sector support agency is also doing a similar consultation. As they have a grant from Lottery this could have been done at no cost to Greenwich.

better ways of working

The council wastes a lot of money sending out information to the local parties that has already gone out through other channels, such as health services and the local community voluntary services (CVS).

The silo working of the departments means there is a lot of duplication that could be avoided and make savings. 

The council should:

  • Rationalise their communications team
  • Work better with partners in sharing information
  • Ensure more meetings are accessible to the public so direct dialogue is possible

Raise community infrastructure levy

Greenwich has one of the lowest Infrastructure charges in London.

As Murky Depths pointed out, even with proposed increases “a developer can build a student tower in Greenwich town centre with views of the Thames or beside the O2 and a zone 2 tube station and pay just £95 per square metre, in Newham it’d be £189 per square metre, Tower Hamlets £447.31 psm, Haringey £265 psm and Lambeth £400 psqm.”

The council should:

  • Implement a fair charge in line with other councils
  • Stop delaying this change with more consultations

Recognise the importance of Green spaces

Our parks and green open spaces should be first and foremost places for people of all incomes and our local wildlife to relax and thrive.

The council should: 

  • Make park maintenance the priority
  • Cut events that lead to damage to local green spaces
  • Stop using glyphosate to kill weeds (a contract that costs £397,350 for a 3 year contract) 

Prioritise vital services

It is crucial that we find better alternatives than cutting children’s centre and library budgets and front-line services that are making a real difference. It is particularly important that the Advice Hubs continue, as they are reaching people that don’t approach the council directly but who are oftenr desperate for help with debt, benefits and housing.

The council should:

  • Make the cuts to vanity project top-up funding
  • Do a better job of modelling the impact of savings achieved overall by investing in vital services, which will make clear why it is not cost-efficient to cut these

Greenwich Green Party accepts the difficulty of the challenge of local council cuts, but the current slate of proposals has room within it to make a bad situation less harmful by making better choices.

Although we do not subscribe to Conservative councillor Matt Hartley’s belief that the Council’s financial challenges can be addressed entirely through efficiencies, we do support his budget amendment (rejected by the council) to reduce communications spending and instead support the vital Advice Hubs and emergency support schemes. 

— Response written by Stacy Smith, Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich, with input from local Green Party members.

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