Blackheath Fireworks display and People’s Day festival in Lewisham could be the next victims of council cuts as the authority tightens its belt in the face of further cuts from central government, a recent document found by East London Lines has revealed.
The Labour-run council is considering a proposal to “stop all funding for arts, development and events funding” within the borough. This would include Lewisham People’s Day, an event according to the council that has “been running for over 30 years and is the borough’s annual celebration encompassing professional and community performers”. This would save the council £69,000
Also facing a funding cut is London’s largest free Guy Fawkes display. Blackheath Fireworks’ site is both in Greenwich and Lewisham, in 2018 Greenwich council contributed £15,000 to the display. Blackheath Fireworks costs Lewisham council £40,000 each year. Various other “cultural events” that are supported financially by the council would lose funding – but these are not listed individually in the document.
In total the proposal – outlined in a council document looking at potential cuts across its services – would save £145k.
Lewisham Council said it was having to consider cutting from all areas of its budget in the face of a £30m shortfall.
Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan told Eastlondonlines: “When I became a councillor eight years ago, none of us ever imagined that our budgets would be continuously slashed by the Government so dramatically. Since 2010 we have had to make £165m cuts. Lewisham is now being forced to cut £30m but we have only been able to find £21m of cuts. We are having to plug the gap with millions from our reserves.’”
This would include the longest-running free festival in south east London – People’s Day and Blackheath Fireworks Display in November, both of these are hugely popular dates in the borough.
A council spokesperson added: “Lewisham Council has highlighted the level of cuts needed to local services – and the millions it needs to find from reserves – as the Government continues to cut its funding.
The Council is being forced to find further cuts totalling £30 million by 2021.
But it has only been able to find £21 million of cuts for the next two years and needs to draw on its reserves. At least £7.6 million will be required to balance the budget just for the next financial year (2019/20).”
Angela, a mother from Blackheath said: “Honestly I’m surprised. I’ve been taking my children there since they were young. It would be a shock to the community. I understand that the council need to make cuts, but this is silly.”
By cancelling funding for the events it would save the council £145,000 each year, it is not known whether Greenwich council would still contribute to Blackheath’s display as they have in the past.
The consultation is ongoing and the proposal is currently being discussed in scrutiny meetings, once agreed it will be presented to Egan on November 21. In its current state, there will be no public or staff consultation as to whether this should go through or not.
If confirmed then the cuts will be implemented by next year.
To fight further Government cuts the Council is launching a campaign to Save Lewisham Services and is asking for support as it calls on the Government to fund Lewisham fairly. Visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/savelewishamservices.
Blackheath community proposal can be found on page 56.