I couldn’t be at Wednesday night’s Greenwich Council meeting, having been otherwise occupied for much of this week. So, instead of watching councillors
row over debate our council tax bills, I was on the sofa with a laptop, the England match, and a chilled glass of Dioralyte. There’s a lot of it about, you know.
There were no raging Trots in Woolwich Town Hall, though – another tranche of cuts was nodded through, with council tax bills frozen again. The debate sounded interesting from what I read on Twitter. You won’t be reading a word of it in next week’s News Shopper, by the way – the paper which complains “Royal Greenwich” is the most undemocratic in the country once again couldn’t be bothered to send a reporter to the town hall. The People’s Republic of Lewisham had its meeting on Wednesday too, and its sole reporter on duty had to make a choice between Catford and Woolwich. Still, all good for Newsquest’s profits, eh?
When I mentioned the Shopper’s no-shows last month, I suggested that maybe you – yes, you – could help rectify this democratic loss by asking questions the local press or politicians aren’t getting answers to. One 853 reader did just that, and scored a bullseye. Take a bow, Daddy Timmers.
Question from Tim Freeman, Greenwich, SE10 to Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Council.
How much money was spent on the Royal transformation of the borough by the council?
What is the breakdown of this spend (i.e. advertising & media, fireworks, new road signs, new stationery etc)?
I thank Mr Freeman for his question.
The strategy for ‘transforming’ Royal borough [sic] was to create as much impact as possible at minimal cost. This was achieved by doing all design work in- house, delaying some renewal work until the new status was effective and developing new products to have the longest possible usable life.
The borough boundary signs that were erected 12 years ago have been replaced. The previous Boundary signs were dilapidated, some had collapsed and were in need of urgent replacement. The renewal programme was delayed so that the change to Royal Borough could be done as cost effectively as possible.
The cost of the new Borough Boundary signs was £21.8K. This is significantly cheaper than the cost of replacing the previous signs as a much simpler design has been used. The lamppost banners that have been installed in town centres cost £41.4K. The cost of new street signs only placed in selected areas was £19K.
Across the Royal Borough there is an agreement that we will avoid producing new stationery. Existing stocks are being used up and the bulk of letters will now be produced on letter templates which have been designed in-house thus avoiding pre-printing costs.
The cost of fireworks displays in the three town centres on three successive nights was £32.5K including music, lighting and displays. This was offset partially by contributions from sponsors to the general celebrations.
Which makes a total bill so far of £114,700. Now, some of this stuff would have been done anyway, banners look nice, and I like fireworks. It’s something Mr Freeman feels very strongly about, though, and it’s the sort of discussion we should have (I don’t see any new royal borough signs in Charlton yet) so good on him for getting it out of the council. It’s worth pointing out that there’ll be more figures to come, of course.
That’s the same council which was “unable to provide a cost” to local journalists a month ago. He also did better than Lib Dem Assembly candidate John Russell, who only yesterday complained about the council’s lack of knowledge. Should have gone down the town hall, John.
So, there you go. Asking questions at council meetings isn’t just for the angry, the lunatic, or the politically-minded. And it gets results.
Of course, perhaps this should be something that elected councillors should be querying, but maybe they were too delighted with those free certificates to ask any serious questions.
But how much did those certificates cost? A whole four pence each, replied Chris Roberts to a query from, er, me, explaining that they’d been done on a colour photocopier. I’ve actually got to pause and applaud that, although I do know that in future, I’m getting my photocopying done down the town hall, rather than in Staples. They should have given out certificates to everyone who turned up on Wednesday night, I reckon.
Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher wasn’t impressed with my question:
Well, quite. Doesn’t he know we’re all in this together?
Here’s all the questions put in advance to the council, together with written answers. Here’s the decisions taken. If you want to put a question to the next meeting (on 28 March) then make sure it’s with firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on 21 March. More details here. Be nice to them.