First Significant Signs of Council Cuts
I’m not going to go on at the sort of length I could about these, to be discussed on Thursday evening – Darryl at 853 has done a much better job than I could ever do, but I know that if I don’t even mention them, I’ll just get loads of post.
Of course the council’s in a bind. It has to lose £65m and this first tranche is only going to lose about a third of that, but try telling that to the people who will be directly affected by it. The park-keepers (who I’m suspecting aren’t on a massive wage to start with), the voluntary groups and the (gulp) food safety officer (’cause of course all our takeaways and restaurants are in tip-top shape. No mice/cockroaches/filth in any of them. Personally, I’d up the fine for filthy eateries to subsidise that particular chap/ess…)
Of course we’re none of us immune – whether we pay extra to park our cars outside our houses, lose petting the Maryon Wilson animals or fork out an extra 30p if we get caught short around Cutty Sark (has anyone ever used that loo? There’s a brilliant one in Discover Greenwich and good old fashioned pubs when that’s closed. Besides I have a possibly irrational fear of automated bogs. The only time I ever used one was when they were first invented. I walked into a teeny cabin, dripping with disinfectant from the spray-round after the last user, the door closed ominously behind me and Michael Jackson started singing Thriller. Maybe they’ve improved now, but I’m scarred for life.) But some people and services are going to get it worse than others and some seemingly innocuous savings are worrying indeed.
Take the one about cutting down on planning meetings by increasing the number of objections an applications needs. This worries me a lot – as does a related issue (but clearly not in the mind of the council) the loss of the World Heritage Site Manager. Now, to be honest I didn’t know we had one of those, but if the sort of nasty stuff that happens to our World Heritage Site is happening on his/her watch, then, given the close proximity of the Olympics and unscrupulous ‘hotel’ developers, what monsters from hell would let loose if they went – especially if the council are relaxing their grip on planning?
At first sight, the loss of an ad-rep on that useless waste of trees Greenwich Time seems like a no-brainer. But hang on – isn’t the whole justification that the council gives for keeping it that it “pays for itself” through advertising? If there are fewer people persuading businesses to part with their cash, then guess who’s going to ultimately foot the bill? And while we’re on the subject, does this ‘pays for itself’ thing apply to distribution costs too? During the snow, my post failed, Special Delivery failed but my copy of Greenwich Time turned up on the doormat like the proverbial bad penny. If I were Royal Mail I’d be looking closely at poaching those guys…
And this is just the frivolous stuff. I’m not even going to start on the serious cuts that will affect the lives of really vulnerable people. I do find myself wondering though, how the council can justify holding a box at the O2 (unless they’re making a profit on it, which I doubt) and keeping flash mayoral dinners when more than doubling day-care charges. Just who are they trying to impress here?
Thing is, it’s easy to take pot-shots at a list like the one you’ll find at 853 – and that’s just his favourites – I confess the actual documents were such hard going I allowed Darryl to do the hard graft. I don’t envy the council having to make these choices. But even though he’s losing one assistant does Chris Roberts really need three more?