Last year’s fireworks cost £104,000, Lewisham says. It and Greenwich stumped up £37,000 each, with outside sponsorship covering the remaining £30,000.
So, by withdrawing support from 2010’s event, Greenwich is looking to save in the region of £37,000. At the time, Greenwich said: “The council is committed to maintaining front line services and has a strong track record of identifying efficiency savings…”
But could Greenwich have found that money elsewhere, without dipping into front line services? Well, it’s confirmed that this May’s mayoral inauguration ceremony, held in the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College, cost almost £29,500, with the sum being met in full from the council’s coffers.
The full sum, for those counting the pennies, was £29,472.75. The figures come from Freedom of Information Act requests sent to the two councils.
Obviously, this gives us a £7,500 shortfall, although we do know Greenwich has just shelled out on two costly PR campaigns for the 2012 Olympics. Lewisham tapped up local businesses – including the Clarendon Hotel – to get some of the extra money for this year’s. Let’s face it, if the will had been there, Greenwich Council could have found that money.
What happens at the mayoral inauguration? Well, as you’d guess from the name, it’s where the new mayor opens up their year’s duties. But it doesn’t have to be held in a lavish ceremony at an external venue – a mayor can simply be confirmed in office at a council meeting. But Greenwich uses its mayoral inauguration to wine and dine the great and the good – and for council leader Chris Roberts to deliver a big speech. Last year’s was so big, it even made the front of Greenwich Time…
Yup, providing the council leader with a chance to say that, for the front of his propaganda rag, cost Greenwich taxpayers nearly £30,000. Wonderful. All councillors are invited, but many don’t bother showing, either objecting to the cost or finding the whole thing a bore-fest.
So, funding a private party so the council leader can impress the great and the good, against contributing to a family event which delights 80,000 people each year?
Tough choices, indeed.
Lewisham has set itself a fundraising target of £35,000 to cover the shortfall left by Greenwich, but either way, it’s now underwriting November 6’s display so its council tax payers will be funding the cost of Greenwich’s withdrawal, whether in making up the money left over or by donating cash themselves. It’s now suggesting residents hold parties for Hallowe’en or make and sell pumpkin soup to raise the cash.
How sad that Lewisham’s residents are being asked to dress up to save Blackheath’s fireworks, all because Greenwich Council preferred to hold its own fancy-dress party instead.
To donate to Lewisham Council’s Blackheath fireworks appeal, visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks.
(WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Perhaps Greenwich could have found the cash from the £500,000 it blew on sacking 12 HR staffers, before recruiting 11 new ones… although it’s worth pointing out there is another side to that story.)