Opening eight new mental health hubs across our schools

Published: Wednesday, 21st February 2024

Protecting and supporting children and young people and tackling the environmental crisis is at the heart of the our new budget proposals for 2024 to 2025 *subject to approval.

If agreed, the Council will spend its budget on opening eight new mental health hubs that will give children in primary and secondary schools across the borough a safe space to go. 

Supporting children and reducing health inequalities are some of the top priorities set out in Our Greenwich, the Council’s corporate plan for the next four years. To work towards these goals, the Council is also proposing an increase in the number of School Streets, to help tackle air pollution and make it easier and cleaner to travel.  

Councillor Anthony Okereke, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: "Our proposed budget for the next financial year will protect front line services and our most vulnerable residents, who are still battling the ongoing cost of living and homelessness crises.  

“We will continue to fight for fair funding through our campaigns to save cost of living support, and we’re delivering to ensure our residents can live happier, longer and more fulfilling lives.  
“Local councils across London are all faced with the same impossible decisions, with some even facing effective bankruptcy. Due to relentless government cuts we have been forced to review all our services, but it is our promise to deliver greater value for money without compromising our vision or values. We must act now to close the gap created by government and balance our books.” 

Key proposals included in the Council’s draft Budget for 2024 to 2025 are:

  • Opening eight new mental health hubs for our schools, to support children’s development and mental wellbeing
  • Starting a green investment scheme, allowing residents to invest in projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions and improving communities
  • Investing £7.6m into our Sustainable Transport Fund to make it easier and cleaner to move around the borough
  • Tackling food poverty by funding local organisations to support families and communities experiencing food poverty
  • Helping adults in our care live independently by investing in new technology
  • Building our network of foster families and supporting children in care by keeping them safely within other family members
  • Combating rogue landlords by asking the Secretary of State to allow us to implement tougher licensing
  • Clamping down on empty homes - Council Tax will double for long-term empty properties, with stricter premiums if they stay empty.
  • Taxing second homes - this means individuals with second homes would a 100% premium – double council tax for the year starting in 2025/2026.
  • Supporting Council Tenants with £180,000 investment into our Hardship Fund
  • Protecting frontline services with new channels and better accessibility

While the Council works to finalise the budget for the year ahead, we need you to join our campaign to stop the government from scrapping vital funding used to support people with the cost of living crisis.

Let’s save the #SaveTheHouseholdSupportFund - sign our petition:

Read the full report.



Additional information regarding the draft budget 

What’s happening with funding for the voluntary and community sector?  

After over a decade of crushing austerity and real-term budget cuts by government, councils up and down the country have been left with no choice but to make very difficult decisions to balance their budgets and do their best to protect frontline services. The Royal Borough of Greenwich is no different, and with over £30million of savings required, we are looking at all our services and asking partners to share some of this challenge to ensure the Council remains financially resilient. This includes undertaking a review of our spending with the voluntary and community sector to identify £900,000 of savings across all the Council’s contracts and grants.  

This review will be carried out in a joined-up way across the Council and in partnership with VCS organisations. It will build on the work we have been doing to develop our Community Resource Strategy. We will still be investing over £10million to support the voluntary sector, looking to find more efficient ways of working and identify alternative funding streams.  However, it will inevitably lead to difficult conversations with partners as we evaluate every pound spent to ensure it delivers the best outcomes for those who need it.  

We will continue to lobby the government and explore bids for every possible pot of funding to help our hard-working voluntary sector, but ultimately, we are being forced by bleak national factors to rethink every penny spent.  

What is happening to our leisure centres and libraries? 

We understand how valued our libraries and leisure centres are and we recognise that they offer much more than the ability to just borrow books or to go to the gym. They have become a safe space for residents, food banks, places to learn for communities to come together. Our leisure centres are thriving and we have some of the busiest libraries in the UK and while some councils are having to shut their libraries down, we are ensuring ours stay open. 

The Council is going to undertake a review of a number of elements of its contracted libraries and leisure services, to get the best value for money without any drastic changes for users.  

What’s happening to our park rangers? 

Due to over a decade of relentless government cuts to local authorities, councils across the UK are struggling and, in some cases, failing to balance their books and to provide vital services for residents. We have had over £150million axed from our budget since 2010, despite our population soaring and increased demand due to the cost of living crisis. Poor political decisions made by the government have directly sparked a public sector crisis and we are left with no choice by to reevaluate every penny spent to make sure it’s going to good use.  

We regularly review all our services to make sure they are efficient as part of our responsibility to taxpayers to ensure that we are maximising their value for money. By streamlining our parks and open space teams we will create one central team with clear responsibilities and investing in improvements that will mean our incredible much-loved green spaces are well-maintained and protected for years to come.  

What’s happening to large scale free events such as Together and Sparkle? 

The Council funds an extensive programme of free events that take place all year round and in every corner of the borough. This includes our BH365 programme, Woolwich Lates, and much more. As other local authorities across the country axe community events due to over a decade of crushing austerity, we’re proud to be able to continue to put on our hugely popular free family festivals in Together and Sparkle in the Park.

We’re not immune from financial pressure and so we’ve reviewed the frequency of some of our events to ensure we can still put them on. Sparkle in the Park has previously been funded through money received from new developments. This is no longer available, so to ensure neither event is lost we will be hosting them every other year, giving residents something to look forward to in between all the other free events we already fund.  

What is happening to Children’s Centres in the borough?  

The Council is committed to ensuring that every child in Royal Greenwich can reach their full potential. We invest over £5 million – more than any neighbouring borough - into supporting young families through our Family Hubs and Children’s Centres Network. We work closely with partners to make sure that every parent has the help they need, in the way they need it, and that there are free, accessible activities and free food for every child in the holidays.  

There’s a wide range of Children’s Centres in Royal Greenwich, and we need to make sure that our limited funding is used in the right places. We are making sure that we are efficient and flexible to deliver provision, by reducing spend on buildings and focusing it on support for parents right across the borough. This includes ensuring we target our resources on those most in need of support.

What's happening to school crossing patrols in our borough? 

After over a decade of crushing austerity and real-terms budget cuts by central government, councils up and down the country have been left with no choice but to make uncomfortable decisions to protect key frontline services. Unfortunately, there are very few places left for us to look for savings and, due to unprecedented financial challenges placed on us by the government, we have been forced to reluctantly consider the phased reduction of school crossing patrols.

We’re committed to being a greener borough and have been exploring ways to make it easier to walk for school for several years, to great effect. As part of our ambitious carbon neutral plan and Transport Strategy to create a greener, safer transport network, making it safe and easy for children to walk, bike or scoot to school.

Schools will still have the option to fund crossing patrols and we will work them to explore what other measures can be rolled out through our comprehensive road safety programme 

What is happening with the street sweeping schedule?  

After over a decade of crushing austerity and budget cuts by central government, councils up and down the country have been left with no choice but to make difficult decisions in order to protect those most in need. As part of this, we’ve reviewed all our services to ensure we are delivering value for money without compromising our vision or values.  

We recognsie how important it is for our neigbourhoods to be vibrant and attractive. By tweaking our street-sweeping timetable to focus on set areas on set days, we will be using our time better to ensure that every area gets the regular attention it needs to be kept clean and tidy as residents expect.  

This forms part of a wider package to ensure that we keep our beautiful borough green and clean. The Council already invests in regular jet-washing to give busy town centres a bi-annual deep-clean, and we have separate taskforce teams in place to crackdown on illegal fly-tipping.  

Will you be charging for garden waste? 

Due to over a decade of relentless government cuts to local authorities, councils across the UK are struggling and, in some cases failing, to balance their books and provide vital services for residents. We have had over £150million axed from our budget since 2010, despite our population soaring and demand due to the cost-of-living crisis. Poor political decisions made by central government have directly sparked a public sector crisis and we have been forced to review our funding opportunities. 

With that in mind we also need to take proactive steps to address the climate emergency, and we all need to play our part to reduce the impact we have on our environment. In line with the Council’s ambitious carbon neutral plan, we must explore new ways to reduce waste sent to landfills and reduce consumption of natural resources as well as finding alternative treatment options for food waste.  

Many councils have introduced a fee to pick up garden waste and we are exploring this opportunity; however, no decisions have yet been made and residents and partners will be consulted before any changes are implemented.  

Will you be cutting back on Community Safety Enforcement?  

It’s one of Our Greenwich missions to make sure that everyone in our borough is safer and feels safer. Unlike other councils, we proactively fund community safety officers to ensure that we have a real presence in the community, which demonstrates our strong partnership working with the Police and other key organisations to keep our borough safe

Unfortunately, due to years of national budget cuts, we are having to be pragmatic and creative in exploring funding opportunities but we’re confident that we will reach the necessary agreements with partners. We recognise what a nuisance anti-social behaviour can be and that is why we encourage our residents to work closely with us to report incidents of concerns so that we can all work together to ensure that safety is enforced in our communities.

What’s happening to Greenwich Info, currently printed every two weeks? 

Greenwich Info has been a valuable tool in ensuring that vital public messaging, such as COVID-19 safety advice, council housing information, or free family events, reaches the right people. However, we appreciate times change and that fewer people are digitally isolated now than even just a few years ago, thanks in part to the Council’s digital first approach and investment in accessible technology for vulnerable residents.  

By going digital with Greenwich Info we will be able to communicate with residents in a way that suits them, while investing in other areas and reducing our carbon emissions. The Council already utilises a number of different communication methods and has some of the best followed social media of any London council. We will continue to explore creative approaches to communication while ensuring that there is always an accessible option for those who want it. 

Why are we proposing changes to the rent of council tenants?  

It’s one of Our Greenwich missions to ensure people in Greenwich have access to a safe and secure home that meets their needs.  

We have some of the lowest rents in London but we understand the financial challenges this rent increase may present and have support programs available for those experiencing hardship. Our aim is to balance affordability while ensuring quality housing. 

Many tenants will not be affected by the rent rise as it will be covered by increases to benefits and the state pension. There are protections in place for those affected because they are in work: the rise in the Living Wage (and its extension to younger adults), the work of Greenwich Supports and the Hardship Fund.  

The cost pressures on the housing revenue account (HRA), our account for managing our housing stock and related services, have increased due to inflation and the need for investment in repairs transformation, building safety and estate renewal. The HRA is forecast to be below its minimum working balance but we need to deliver a surplus next year in order to restore this so we are prepared for the future.  

In addition to increasing rents, we are also working to reduce costs by improving our repairs service, more proactive work to reduce rent arrears and reducing the number of temporarily unoccupied homes.