No news yet on how today’s spending review will affect Greenwich borough directly – the council had been expecting cuts of 40% to its funding. But here’s some things that struck me from today’s announcements that will have a particular impact locally.
Firstly, social housing rents are to rise. This could have a devastating effect in this part of SE London. Arrangements for current tenants won’t change, but in the future rents on social housing will now be 80% of the average market rent. It’s unclear what “average market rent” will actually mean – average for London? inner London? by borough? by postcode? – but the differences are stark.
A two-bedroom flat with Charlton Triangle Homes costs around £455/month, a similar property rented privately in the same estate will set you back £1,040 a month. A one bedroom, ground floor council flat in Shooters Hill Road, Blackheath is currently on offer at £385/month – a similar place is on offer privately for £795/ month.
There’s also likely to be a number of new people looking for homes in this borough following the cap on housing benefit announced in June’s budget – with London Councils predicting tens of thousands of families will have to up sticks and move out of accommodation in central London.
It’s unclear what the effect the deep cuts in the social housing budget will have on ongoing and planned developments, such as further work on the Greenwich Millennium Village, the Ferrier Estate regeneration, the long-delayed Heart of East Greenwich, and the even-more delayed plans for Woolwich’s notorious Connaught Estate, as well as Morris Walk and Maryon Road on the Charlton/Woolwich border.
Local councils’ budgets will be hit, with cuts of 28% spread over four years. No news of how this will affect Greenwich – and full details won’t be known individual settlements are finalised in December – but for a flavour of what this means, here’s what Lewisham mayor Sir Steve Bullock told the News Shopper this afternoon: “The impact on local government is as bad if not worse than I expected and that will impact on a whole range of services. There’ll be people elsewhere in the building pouring over this. People will be waiting for emails to arrive from different government departments. That will then give us the detail that let’s us make sense of this.”
However, councils will now be free to spend most of their money wherever they like – much local authority funding is currently “ringfenced” for certain departments. This makes me wonder whether Greenwich will put more money into building council homes – something it’s been very keen to do – and cut back elsewhere.
Crossrail goes ahead, but with completion delayed until 2018, and with further delays to the opening of outer stations. It’s not clear whether this means the branch to Woolwich and Abbey Wood.
And, of course, rail and bus fares are up. If inflation stays the same, train fares are likely to rise by 7.8% each year – no details announced yet. Boris Johnson has announced single bus fares on Oyster will go up to £1.30 (the daily cap is up to £4). Bus cash fares are up to £2.20. There’s big rises in the cost of one day travelcards/ fare caps, the zone 2-6 ticket is withdrawn. If you live in zone 3 and occasionally commute into central London, you’ll be walloped by the withdrawal of the 3-zone daily peak travelcard.
What’s happened already? Greenwich Council wants to freeze staff pay for four years and is halving its funding for voluntary bodies. Funding for Blackheath fireworks has been pulled – leaving Lewisham with a £36k shortfall which it’s now trying to fill with eBay auctions.