Greenwich Councillors unanimously supported plans to cut spending by £48.6 million last night.
Council leader, Chris Roberts, presented the council budget to colleagues at the full council meeting at Woolwich Town Hall. He told councillors that it was “a robust budget” but issued the stark warning that there was a “ticking Tory timebomb” underneath it.
The proposed budget would protect the frontline, he said, but acknowledged increased charges for parking and allotments would cause concern for residents.
“It is a budget that will come under increasing strain as Tory policies bite hard. When the poor shift out of central London because they can no longer afford their housing costs, they will land in boroughs like Greenwich in need of affordable housing, schools and social care.”, said Cllr Roberts.
The speech by the Council Leader drew applause from his Labour colleagues, including the Deputy Mayor, and was labelled “the finest I’ve heard in this chamber” by Cllr Don Austen.
Over £7.5 million will be cut through “management de-layering” and over £3 million has been found in back office savings. A pay freeze for employees will save almost £1.5 million and £2million has been cut from grants to the voluntary sector.
The council will “endeavour to keep open” all of its Sure Start centres and protect leisure centres. The council has stated there will be no cuts to the library service – although this claim has raised eyebrows in Kidbrooke.
Responding to the Budget on behalf of the Conservative Group, Cllr Spencer Drury praised the “tough decisions taken by the cabinet” and said they “deserve our support in this chamber”. Any disagreements they did have would be “quibbling around the edges” of what was a “substantial package of cuts.”
The council is anticipating that £63 million worth of savings will be required by 2015 as part of their Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) with most of that front-loaded into the next two years.
The meeting was notable for the lack of protests that have been witnessed at other council meetings in London and elsewhere. A small group of trade union demonstrators congregated at the entrance to the town hall but their protest remained out in Wellington Street and there was no sign of it in the chamber itself.