Three years ago, Greenwich Council decided to pull out of funding the annual fireworks display on Blackheath, pleading poverty. The £37,000 cost was, according to deputy leader Peter Brooks, equivalent to one
mayoral piss-up at the Naval College full-time job.
“I could give 65 million reasons why we didn’t pay,” Brooks told a council meeting in October 2010, referring to government cuts in the council’s budget. “£37,000 is equivalent to a job and a bit.”
So Lewisham Council was left in the lurch – but has continued to shoulder the entire cost of funding the phenomenally-popular event.
Fast forward to 2013, and Greenwich Council can suddenly afford not just one set of fireworks, but five…
(Video from Greenwich.co.uk)
Pyrotechnics lit up the skies over Greenwich last night and Wednesday night, and will again tonight (at 9.15pm); and there’s be more fireworks over Woolwich tomorrow and Sunday nights (both 9.45pm).
All very nice (and very loud), although I’ve not heard of huge crowds surging to Greenwich to see them, despite council tweets suggesting people “arrive early”.
Heaven knows how many jobs those whizz-bangs were worth. But why? Well, it’s all part of Greenwich Council’s bid to host the 2016 Tall Ships Race, which involved a nice trip to Latvia for the Dear Leader and chums last year, roughly at the same time neighbouring Lewisham was concentrating on the threat to the local NHS.
But the fireworks also represent a substantial piece of tax-funded help for a private company, Sail Royal Greenwich, which is based in the council’s supposed “digital hub” at Mitre Passage, by the Dome. Not only is it getting accommodation from the council, but it’s also getting pyrotechnics funded to help its commercial offer – of trips up and down the Thames in tall ships – look that bit better.
Nice work if you can get it, and all that. All this generosity is aimed at securing the tall ships for 2016, and a hoped-for boost in tourism during that year. And a no-doubt impressive-looking set of photos for Greenwich Time, if they actually manage to get next week’s issue out.
Is this a wise idea or not? Only the borough’s taxpayers can decide. But the moral of Greenwich Council’s new-found love for fireworks seems to be: whenever a Greenwich councillor says there’s no money left for something, take it with a very big pinch of salt.
To donate to 2013’s Blackheath fireworks, due to take place on Saturday 2 November, visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/fireworks.
9.45am update: See also The Greenwich Phantom: “I only hope the kickbacks are worth it.” Ouch.