Are Councillors making good use of their ward budgets?

I’ve increasingly come to realise that I need a holiday when I start reading the appendices of Cabinet reports, seeking the things that have been hidden in the hope no one will make it that far.  This old ‘Yes, Minister’ trick is still surprisingly effective as buried in appendix H of the ‘Cabinet Performance Report – High Level Objectives’ which was considered at Cabinet at the end of June was a table which revealed the way local Councillors have used their ward budgets.

Cabinet High Level Report Ward Budgets

The ward budget scheme was one I strongly supported as Leader of the Opposition, although this one was considerably bigger in scale than the one we  proposed.  Each ward was allocated £30,000 over the four year period before the 2018 Council elections to spend on local causes which it thought worthy of support.  Not only did this give local Councillors the ability to actively improve their wards but it also gave local electors a way of judging whether their Councillors were supporting causes close to their hearts.

 

So the publication of the way ward budgets have been spent gives voters across the Borough the chance to see what their Councillors have been doing over the last three years and probably the opportunity to ask them to get it right if there are funds remaining to do this.  I guess that there are three ways of measuring the performance of Councillors:-

 

  • How much of the £30,000 has been spent? (Although this does not reflect the quality of the projects)
  • How many different projects have each ward team backed?
  • What were the projects and do voters like them?

 

The first two are clearly simply numerical measures; the third is a matter of judgement for each individual voter.

 

So look at the first two, we can see that Kidbrooke with Hornfair Ward have spent the most of their budget (89%) compared to Thamesmead Mooring who have allocated only £1,356 or 4.5% of their ward budget.  The average is 45.8%.

 

Ward Total Approved Amount Remaining Ward Budget Percentage Spent
Thamesmead Moorings 1355.62 £28,644.38 4.5
Woolwich Riverside 1450.00 £28,550 4.8
Middle Park and Sutcliffe 3400.00 £26,600 11.3
Plumstead 3455.62 £26,544.38 11.5
Charlton 6677.00 £23,323 22.3
Peninsula 7400.00 £22,600 24.7
Eltham West 8045.87 £21,954.13 26.8
Coldharbour New Eltham 9950.00 £20,050 33.2
Blackheath/ Westcombe 12618.20 £17,381.80 42.1
Greenwich West 17383.00 £12,617 57.9
Eltham South 18245.10 £11,754.90 60.8
Abbey Wood 20973.50 £9,026.50 69.9
Shooters Hill 22650.00 £7,350 75.5
Woolwich Common 23177.00 £6,823 77.3
Eltham North 24311.10 £5,688.90 81.0
Glyndon 26000.00 £4,000 86.7
Kidbrooke and Hornfair 26658.97 £3,341.03 88.9

 

A second measure might be the number of projects approved, which is as follows:

 

Ward Number of Projects Approved
Middle Park and Sutcliffe 2
Peninsula 2
Thamesmead Moorings 4
Woolwich Common 4
Woolwich Riverside 4
Eltham West 5
Glyndon 5
Shooters Hill 5
Blackheath/ Westcombe 6
Greenwich West 6
Coldharbour New Eltham 7
Eltham South 7
Kidbrooke and Hornfair 7
Plumstead 7
Charlton 8
Abbey Wood 10
Eltham North 14

 

Again, as with the amount of money spent, this is an imperfect measure as a lot of low cost measures might be better than one large cost one.

 

It might be worth bearing in mind that for most wards (except Glyndon, Greenwich West and Kidbrooke with Hornfair); the Greenwich Foodbank Van was a contribution to a cause which works across the Borough.   As the person who co-ordinated this bid in Eltham North, I was extremely grateful for the support of all Councillors (regardless of party) on this important cause and particularly for ex-Councillor Wynn Davies’ work in bringing everyone on board.

 

Which brings us to the last point, which is whether the projects represent wither good value for money or reflect the priorities which residents have?  Personally, I am proud at the range of causes Eltham North Ward has supported and the way Labour and Conservative Councillors have worked to draw bids from across the community.  The causes we have backed are listed below:

 

Eltham Arts – Winter Festival 2016

Restoration and Improvement of Eltham War Memorial

Greenwich Foodbank Van Bench to celebrate 10 years of Friends of Well Hall Pleasuance
Eltham Park Festival Greenwich Food Bank – Extra Grant Funding
Boys Brigade Equipment Eltham Arts – Summer Music Festival
Eltham Arts Winter Festival – CD Eltham Park Festival 2017
Centenary Book Progress Estate Playwell Playgroup – Developing Communication Skills
Junior Park Run

Girls Brigade trip to Lego and purchase of Parachute for Practical Sessions

 

While I know Linda, Wynn, Charlie and I have all got different, personal priorities; I think this represents a really good range of interests and groups across the Ward.  We signed off another bid for the Gordon School last night and I am hopeful we might be able to fit in a last bid to make good use of the last few pennies.

 

Of course, I am sure everyone will have a different view – you can check out your own ward if you don’t live in Eltham North Ward at http://committees.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=21069#mgDocuments. Bear in mind that across the Borough the majority of funds (54%) remain unspent, so it might be worth submitting a bid to your Councillors if you have some ideas.

 

So overall, as the person who first bought this proposal to Council, I think the ward budget scheme has been a really successful way of allowing Councillors to support their local communities.  I hope it continues after the 2018 elections, but I guess we will have to wait and see what the manifestos say.