Labour Councillors have condemned Westminster Council’s decision to spend £1.2 million on refurbishing Victorian lamp columns lining Victoria Embankment at a time when the Council has cut its funding to local youth organisations, libraries and the vulnerable.
The Council plans to spend £1.2 million grit-blasting the Victorian lamp columns back to the bare metal, before being repaired and repainted. Yet:
- In September 2016, Westminster City Council ceased funding voluntary sector youth clubs and youth providers. This had a dramatic impact on local youth services. The Stowe Youth Club on Harrow Road, for example, was forced to close almost all its services for local young people and lay off its dedicated and experienced staff. Now, the Stowe Centre is only able to provide a replacement one night a week session for 11-19 year olds and is a massive blow to the community and life choices of the young people in the area.
- And in 2016, the Council announced a funding reduction of £1.4m from Substance Misuse programmes and £0.7m from Sexual Health schemes. This led to the closure of the vitally important North Westminster Drug and Alcohol Service (NWDAS) in Harrow Road, which serves the whole of the northern part of the City including parts of the West End.
- In 2017, half of the staff at Marylebone Library, were axed as part of Westminster Conservatives’ plans to cut £750,000 from the Libraries budget. In addition, 2 jobs were cut at Charing Cross library, 2 jobs went at Victoria Library and over 4 jobs were axed at the Music, Archives and Reference Libraries.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Environment and City Management spokesperson, said:
“Once again, Westminster Conservatives have shown a warped set of priorities. The £1.2 million could have been better spent on young people, vulnerable residents and other local services, rather than on repainting 150-year-old lamp posts. I think most people would agree that maintaining services to local residents should take priority.”
“And if these Victorian lamp posts are so important why didn’t the Council apply for a grant from the Heritage Lotteries fund or similar heritage body to restore them?
Costs more than doubled!
The Council has revealed that the costs of the new lamp posts have more than doubled. In a response to a request for further information, the Council says:
“The background to this project is that £475k of capital funding was approved for expenditure in 2016/17 and 2017/18 to undertake essential repairs to the sturgeon lighting columns, this was within Delegated Authority limits. During 2017/18 when the first batch of sturgeons were removed for remedial works it became apparent that the columns were in much poorer condition than originally envisaged. After consultation with the Cabinet Member (Cllr Chalkley at the time) it was agreed to reallocate funding from within the approved capital programme to increase the budget by a further £685k to fully refurbish the lighting columns. Even with the increased funding, the total cost of the project is less than £1.5 million and within Delegated Authority limits.”