Tag Archives: cuts

Blackheath Library hurtling towards Tripoli

It’s a great quote, and highly appropriate for Blackheath. It also chimes very nicely with the quote from pinefox’s blog shown below. Pretty much sums up almost everything I feel about living in London. So go and march on Saturday.

When libraries, pools, parks close, when civil servants are fired, we are told it’s unavoidable; there’s no more money; books must be balanced, debts paid. It sounds grimly plausible. But then a military scenario appears out of the blue, unpredicted, unexpected, a contingency not part of our plans and budgets. Not a contingency that we urgently need to respond to, like a German invasion force or asteroid heading for St Albans. No real threat is posed to British people or territory. The distance from London to Tripoli is, wait for it, 1,448 miles – a distance greater than the length of the UK or France. But here all the hard-headed economic calculation, supposedly uncircumventable, is shelved. The cold-eyed realists become sentimentally expansive. Infinite riches are promised to keep military jets in the air.

Cheaper Than Bombs

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Blackheath – where a boundary became the cuts frontline

New 853blog Blackheath – where a boundary became the cuts frontline – excellent post about the great wall of Blackheath. Can’t help wondering if there isn’t a little more tin-foil-hat-conspiracy-theory to be dug up behind the library cuts though…

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Do not cut here

Blackheath Library Read-In Protest
Great poster from the Sydenham Library blog. Come and read extracts from your favourite book in Blackheath Library on 5th Feb, from 2-4pm, as part of the library protests against the cuts.
From the Sydenham Library blog:

We are holding the read-in in conjunction with other libraries across the country. We feel it’s wrong to close essential front line services like this which benefit the whole community.

If you feel the same way please let people know. We hope to see you there.

More info on the Blackheath Village Library Users Group site.

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Anti-Cuts Protestors in Lewisham Town Hall

This is what democracy looks like in Lewisham
From BBC News:
Lewisham Town Hall protest broken up by riot police

Twitter photos

(photo above from GuidoTallman) – quote “This is what democracy looks like in Lewisham”.

“And the scene outside Lewisham Town Hall this evening … ” Sue Luxton (Green Party):
And the scene outside Lewisham Town Hall this evening ...

Councillor Jenni Clutten: “Guy Hanging from Projector”:

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Greenwich refuses to fund Blackheath Fireworks

Fireworks being prepared on Blackheath by twitter user niponravel
As mentioned on greenwich.co.uk, Greenwich Council has decided that it cannot afford to co-fund the Blackheath Fireworks with Lewisham Council. I guess this is just the beginning of the cuts to come…

Last year’s fireworks being prepared on Blackheath by twitter user niponravel

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Lewisham Council ask for donations towards Blackheath Fireworks

In a charmingly quirky press release (“Penny for the guy”, and “damp squib” puns ahoy), Mayor Bullock has asked that people contribute towards the fireworks on Blackheath.

Given that financial fund managers are partially to blame for the mess the country is in, it seems beyond ironic that a fund management company are partially sponsoring the fireworks:

“This year the event will again be generously backed by independent fund management company GLC Ltd, who have been involved with the Blackheath Fireworks display since 1994.”

Long-time readers may recall that the Bugle has never actually made it to the fireworks, due to bugle-Dad being born on the same day that Guy Fawkes decided to blow up parliament.

It’s not that I mind Lewisham asking for money for this. It’s just that I find it hard to discover any examples of them running anything better than Greenwich. And here we Blackheathens are, straddled between both, waiting to see where the axe falls next.

A penny to the next person who finds me a good news story about Lewisham, and I’ll promise not to burn an effigy of Sir Steve on November 5th…

http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/NewsAndEvents/News/PennyForTheGuy.htm

(Thanks to Eva for spotting the story).

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No Assembly Required

Speech Bubbles at the Blackheath Assembly
I attended a Blackheath Assembly for the first time yesterday. Held in the bright, airy hall of St. Matthew’s Academy (school), with a very post-modern crucifix hanging over us, it started out looking quite promising.
Introductions, agendas, the obligatory local plod telling us to lock our windows when we go outside- the usual things.

The meeting was very specific. We weren’t encouraged to ask questions about the library closures (there’s a meeting about Library Closure on 28th July at 7pm, at the Leemore Centre, Clarendon Rise, Lewisham SE13 5ES). We were told that only issues relating to Blackheath should be discussed. One person asked where he should raise Lewisham-wide issues “I don’t want any of the libraries to be cut”. No clear answer.

Then came The Presentation. It rapidly became clear that this Consultation Exercise had only one purpose- to demonstrate that Lewisham Council should be perceived by its citizens as fundamentally skint. Liz Dart, who had the unenviable task of conveying this message, through the artistic medium of Microsoft PowerPoint, did her best. “I don’t think any of us went into the public sector wanting to close services” was a memorable line.

The presentation was very clear. This is a UK-version of the shock-doctrine approach. Expect “Radical Change” to “completely revolutionise” how services are run.

Voting Machines.  Less useful than some paper and a pencil.

Voting Machines. Less useful than some paper and a pencil.

Then the Electronic Vote began. This was a disaster from start to finish. Think of it as a series of questions along the lines of:

Question: “How would you like us to kill your cat?”.

A: I like my cat, kill someone else’s cat.
B: Perhaps I could volunteer to kill other people’s cats?
C: I think people with cats should kill their own cats, without the council paying.
D: Maybe it would be OK, if you just lopped off one ear of that cat instead?
E: I have another idea.

(This is a facetious example. Lewisham council loves cats. I hope).
The full set of questions can be read here (PDF file) or very poorly OCR’d version here (sorry). The online version, which uses slightly different questions, can be found at the incredibly patronisingly titled Our Lewisham Our Say page.

It’s worth mentioning that the good people of Blackheath were having their views (un)represented by about 46 middle to old aged men and women, a sea of white middle class affability, who looked as though they might have been more at home in a daycare centre or a pub quiz.

All of the questions were framed in such a way as to make the “don’t cut anything” option appear unreasonable.

The questions often appeared to be aimed at helping Lewisham Council work out what choice of words would best convince the public for the need to cut services. For example, if the council wants to reduce spending on roads, should it try to convince you by saying:

“We need to be greener- roads are less important in this new Eco-tastic Age”.

Or should they say:

“Roads should be funded by Bad People who park in Bad Places”

When the voting began, it became obvious that whoever had set the quiz up hadn’t checked that the answers on the paper were in the same order as the answers on the screen. Bearing in mind that several members of the audience clearly had trouble with the electronic voting system, it became necessary for the “quizmaster” to read out every answer, and to try to urge the audience not to look at the paper handouts.

As one lady pointed out- “whoever set this quiz up expects their pay cheque to be correct at the end of each month. This is a schoolboy error.”

Here are the answers on the page:
Answers on the sheet
And here are the completely different order of answers on the screen:
Completely different answers on the screen
(Incidentally the quiz button machines are made by Turning Technologies – take note, they went catastrophically wrong halfway through the presentation, although that’s probably because the laptop was complaining about the Windows Profile being full).

It’s a good point. No debate was held as the vote results were displayed. There was no time to discuss them. The presenters had no answers for the few pertinent questions asked by the audience. A great one was “What proportion of the council’s budget is spent on salaries over £65,000?“. No clear answer.

The entire exercise could have been handled more efficiently using pencil and paper. The use of endless PowerPoint presentations and electronic voting systems feels as though it represents the general cruft and wastage within the council. “We do it this way, because that is how people present things”. A person standing up at the front and simply answering questions would have been far more effective than this.

The sheer number of unelected, unrepresentative bodies mentioned during the talk defied belief. For example, the policeman showed us some crime maps (below average in Blackheath and dropping). “If you want to see more accurate maps, join the Blackheath Ward Panel – anyone can join”. When someone in the audience asked “why can’t we see the accurate maps”, the answer was “they contain sensitive information”. Either they are fit for public consumption or they aren’t. Why should they be shown to a tiny unrepresentative group?

Then there is the self-nominated Coordinating Body. Anyone can nominate themselves to be on this group, and they meet four times a year, to set the agenda for the next meeting. Blackheath Village Residents Group aren’t on the list. Blackheath Society isn’t on the list. Having been to the meeting, I suspect that this is because they’ve realised that these meetings are something of a joke. A faux-democracy card-shuffling exercise, designed to give the illusion of power to a few bored individuals, who are going to either hand all of our public services over to the private sector, or just shut them.

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