3 March 2009

Greens slam Mayor's 'short-sighted' budget

Greens said today the Mayor's budget lacked vision on jobs and climate change and risked harming vulnerable people by cutting their services when they most need them.

Green councillors' 'alternative budget' would have insulated 25,000 homes in a move they said would create new jobs, cut bills and slash greenhouse gases.

It would also have reversed the Mayor's cuts to family support services, for looked-after children, for children's cycle safety training and tactile paving for blind people.

But the Labour Mayor and other parties voted against the Green package. The Mayor pressed ahead with service cutback plans and the Lib Dems - who had criticised the cuts in recent weeks - caused a surprise by not proposing to reverse them.

Green Party group leader Cllr Darren Johnson said:

"The Mayor's budget lacks vision and he missed a golden chance to adopt the Greens' plans for large-scale insulation work that would create new jobs and cut CO2. Lewisham needs to invest in the future and this budget falls woefully short."

Green Party group budget spokesperson Cllr Ute Michel said:

"Last year we warned against the Mayor's eye-watering fee increases for holiday play schemes. Figures have confirmed huge falls in attendance, and our poorest children were no doubt the biggest losers. Now he risks harming vulnerable people again, including senseless cuts to family support just as recession puts extra pressure on families. We could not support this short-sighted budget."

The Greens said they had balanced their budget proposal, showing it could be implemented without raising council tax above the Mayor's planned 2.5% rise.

Their plan would pay for free insulation in 25,700 private homes across Lewisham. A new £1m 'revolving' fund could also be dipped into by householders wanting to fit renewable energy equipment. The loans would only be repaid when the home is sold on, and the money would return to the fund so others could access it. The Greens also proposed £1.5m to retrofit Victorian council homes often neglected because their solid walls make eco-refurbs complicated.

The Greens also proposed:

* Cash to allow the Mayor to use compulsory purchase of much-needed homes left empty

* £1.5m to allow the council to start implementing the London Living Wage for low-paid contract workers

* Money to roll out the popular 'brown bins' garden waste collection trial to almost 20,000 homes

* Reversal of cuts to the council's 'Climate Change Innovation Fund', restoring the £23,000 but directing it to pay for hundreds of new street trees across Lewisham

* Reversal of cuts to services for Looked After Children

* Reversal of cuts to priority childcare places

* Reversal of cuts to health promotion work with disadvantaged groups

* Reversal of cuts to local highways works including tactile paving and dropped kerbs for the disabled

* Reversal of cuts to road safety cycle training for children

* Reversal of cuts to the council's scrutiny committees which hold council decision-makers to account and suggest improvements to policy

* Reversal of cuts to bursaries for talented young Lewisham musicians

* Reversal of cuts to food safety checks

* Reversal of cuts to conservation area reviews

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