The popular Blackheath Fireworks risk turning into a damp squib after Greenwich Council “reluctantly” decided to withdraw funding, leaving partners Lewisham Council to find the extra cash for the event to go ahead.
The annual fireworks display, which attracts an attendance of about 80,000, has until now been jointly produced by Greenwich and Lewisham councils but with large cuts to their grant from central government anticipated, Greenwich has pulled out of this year’s display in order to protect “front line services”.
Greenwich’s decision not to fund the popular pyrotechnics display has left Lewisham Council requiring public donations to meet the shortfall to allow the event to go ahead.
Lewisham council announced its appeal earlier this week, with Mayor Bullock commenting: “I don’t want to see this event cancelled without giving people the chance to show their support. Just £1 each from every one who attends would ensure that the skies sparkle as usual over the heath this year.”
Local blogger, Darryl at 853, was quick to spot that Lewisham’s announcement conspicuously failed to mention their traditional event partner, Greenwich Council.
Greenwich Council has now confirmed to Greenwich.co.uk that they have decided not to contribute to the funding of the event.
A Greenwich Council Spokesperson said:
“The Council has reluctantly taken the decision not to fund the event this year, having been advised to anticipate up to 40% cuts to its grant, representing some £70m when the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review is published on 20 October. The Council is committed to maintaining front line services and has a strong track record of identifying efficiency savings, which has enabled us to freeze council tax in six of the last 12 years. “
Back in October 2008, it was Greenwich councillors who were worried that Lewisham may withdraw funding from the event. Blackheath Westcombe councillor, Alex Wilson, raised the issue after there were local news reports that Lewisham could pull out. In response Councillor John Fahy, Cabinet Member for Culture & Olympics, stated that councillor Wilson should not believe everything he read in the newspapers.
Visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks if you would like to contribute.
Updated 17th September
Blackheath Westcombe councillor, Alex Wilson, has responded to the news with this comment:
I think that Greenwich Labour have been looking for an excuse to stop paying their share of the funding for Blackheath Fireworks for years and are now using Government cuts as cover. I think that this has been done without probably considering all the options. I am worried that Blackheath is going to see the bare brunt of the cut backs in spending whilst Woolwich remains untouched.
Two other points come to mind when I think about the Blackheath Fireworks.
Firstly, the safety of the public, fire and health officials often state that they would rather people go to professionally organised events rather than risk using fireworks at home, if this event is not provided then it is likely that there will be more fireworks parties happening at home and so therefore at greater risk of accidents.
Secondly, on the night of the fireworks both Blackheath Villages and Blackheath Standards shops, restaurants and pubs are able to attract a large number of customers, this helps to fuel the local economy.