As Greenwich Council and the local press celebrate the return of the Tall Ships event to Greenwich and Woolwich this weekend (nothing comparable for Eltham during the year you’ll note), I do find myself thinking questioning whether this is a good use of Council resources.
There are two issues here for me; the most obvious being the poor choice of spending millions of pounds on bringing the Tall Ships to the north of the Borough when the Council are simultaneously making cuts to a wide range of services. I know the council claims that the Tall Ships are good for the economy of the Borough, which to some extent is true, but it seems to me as an Eltham Council Tax payer, it isn’t that good for my part of Greenwich and I’m still having to pay for it. In fact I simply can’t see how Council taxpayers get any returns from this event at all – the Council doesn’t seem to charge the Tall Ships organisation (a private company I believe) for anything at all, despite acting basically as an advertiser on its behalf (see whole page spread in Greenwich Time below or on the Council website).
On the other hand, if I considered that the Council is right to spend taxpayers’ money on this event, I still don’t think they are getting the best deal for Greenwich out of it. According to the Council website there are 15 ‘Tall Ships’ around this weekend and they publish a full list of those they expect. There is no mention of one of the largest tall ships in London at the moment, the Chilean navy’s Esmeralda which has four masts and is 113 metres long. Her visit seems not to be part of Greenwich Tall Ships as she’s in West India Docks (north of the river) where people can visit her. As far as I can see this visit by the Esmerelda is at absolutely no cost to Tower Hamlets tax payers. In addition the Lord Nelson, which is accessible for people with disabilities, is docked there too at present (something it often is) – once again without needing to be bribed by the local Council.
While I hope everyone enjoys the Tall Ships and I am reassured that it is wonderful fun, I really do have trouble stomaching Labour’s claim that difficult choices need to be made when one of theirs is to spend millions of pounds bribing ships to come to Greenwich without a nearby Council having to do the same. This isn’t a difficult choice – a Tall Ships vanity project or more spending on the vital services which so many people across our whole Borough really do need.
This post was initially published on Spencer Drury’s Your Councillor site in August 2015