Greenwich’s next mayor wants to axe £30k ceremony
Cllr Gillman, who represents the Kidbrooke with Hornfair ward for Labour, had been due to be the subject of the “mayor-making” event at Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College in May.
His wife, Janet Gillman – also a Greenwich councillor – told a residents’ meeting on Monday that he had asked officials to hold the ceremony at Woolwich Town Hall instead.
“It has a touch of ‘let them eat cake’ in these times,” she told the gathering of locals in her Charlton ward.
“It is an awful lot of money, and Jim has submitted that he would like it to be done in the town hall.”
The Gillmans are among Greenwich’s most experienced councillors, with Jim given a merit award by the Labour Party in 2009 for 45 years of service.
“The rewards of giving time and effort to the Labour Party is not for what you can get out of it yourself but the differences you can make for your community,” he said at the time.
Most merely have a short “mayor-making” ceremony before a regular council meeting, but Greenwich has been using the Old Royal Naval College for the inauguration event each May to launch the council’s plans for the coming year, with leader Chris Roberts giving a speech. In 2009, this speech was given front-page billing in the council’s weekly newspaper Greenwich Time.
But even members of the council’s ruling Labour group are not keen on the event, and many decline to attend. Opposition Conservatives have also criticised the ceremony. Last year’s event cost taxpayers almost £29,500.
Fellow Charlton ward councillor Allan MacCarthy – himself a mayor two years ago – said the event “was not all councillors sitting eating caviar”, adding that it was “an opportunity to bring people who do a lot of important work in the borough together”.
Much of the meeting, held by the Charlton Central Residents Association, was taken up by discussion of the cuts, with many locals commenting how poorly they felt informed about the changes to come.
Cllr MacCarthy, a member of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, explained he was preparing for three consecutive nights of meetings where funding for 147 voluntary groups would be assessed.
“Some will be getting good news, but most will be getting bad news,” he said.