Could a council strike windfall save Maryon Wilson animals?
Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you’ll already know that millions of public sector staff around the country are on strike today in a dispute over pensions.
Greenwich Council staff will be no exception, with a rally at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich from noon. Most schools are shut and if your bins are due to be collected today, hold onto your rubbish until next week. You’ll find more details of disruption here.
Whatever you think about the dispute – and this is not a post about the rights or wrongs of the strike – what’s not arguable is that hundreds of council staff will be giving up a day’s pay today. Which, theoretically, should mean a tidy windfall for authorities across the country.
So if 1,000 staff lose £80 each, at a very conservative estimate, then that’s £80,000 staying in the council coffers. That could go some way to reversing the effects of some cuts. In Newcastle, the city council has volunteered to give the savings to local voluntary groups.
With a sizeable chunk of the council’s staff losing a day’s pay, there’ll be a little bit more in Greenwich Council’s coffers too. So, why doesn’t Greenwich do something good with it, to mitigate some of the effect of the cuts? That idea isn’t coming straight from me, by the way, it’s from Greenwich West Labour councillor Matt Pennycook, who used Twitter to endorse this opinion piece about it on the Labour List website. He’s right, and I hope his Labour colleagues listen and do something.
But what to spend the cash on? Readers of this site’s less-opinionated sister blog the Charlton Champion will be well aware of the campaign to save Maryon Wilson animal park from Greenwich Council’s cuts.
Things are looking hopeful, with Greenwich looking to set up a trust to run the park, and apparently getting a good response. But setting up a trust will merely take the park off the council’s books – it’ll still need to raise some money to make up for the £43,000 the council has cut.
So, why doesn’t Greenwich get the Maryon Wilson Animal Park Trust going with some of the money saved in wages from the strike? It’ll help protect a much-loved institution – and atone for the clumsy way Greenwich Council has tried to get shot of it. Perhaps something good can emerge out of what’s going to be a difficult day for many people, whether on strike or not.
Late Thursday update: The idea was given short shrift by council leader Chris Roberts at tonight’s Greenwich Council meeting. Listen in from 1 minute, 10 seconds, when opposition leader Spencer Drury mentions “a blog site I occasionally glance at”. (cough)