Greenwich Council cabinet member John Fahy has broken ranks on his council’s refusal to help fund the annual Blackheath fireworks display by declaring it should fund the event.

Since 2010, Lewisham Council has been left alone to raise funds for the annual event, which straddles the boundary of the two boroughs, after Greenwich pulled its £37,000 funding.

The issue has strained relationships between the two neighbouring administrations, despite them both being run by the Labour Party.

Fahy has published a post on his blog in which he declares:

Blackheath Fireworks is one of the largest community events in London. It attracts large numbers of residents from Greenwich and elsewhere. Local restaurants and businesses benefit from the number attending. It has a major impact on reducing the number of home firework parties and reduces any potential safety issues in the home. Families can enjoy the event in a safe environment.

“Clearly Local Government has many pressures on limited resources but supporting community events is extremely important. We spend significant resources on our Festivals and rightly so. Getting together with a neighbouring Borough builds positive relationships and I fully support Greenwich making a contribution to secure the long term future of the event.”

Fahy, who’s Greenwich Council’s cabinet member for health and older people, also links to a poll where he seeks to “test the views of the wider community” on the issue.

In October 2010, council deputy leader Peter Brooks claimed it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to cough up the £37,000 needed to co-fund the event.

“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.”

At the same time, Greenwich was spending £30,000 a year on private parties to inaugurate its ceremonial mayors. Thamesmead Moorings councillor Brooks also told the same council meeting that “it’s very difficult to get to Blackheath from my ward” – despite the fact there’s a direct bus, route 380.

Since then, Greenwich spent £20,000 last year on fireworks to promote the Sail Royal Greenwich event, and a further £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

Despite Greenwich’s refusal, Lewisham has continued to raise funds for the event, even though it’s also had its budget slashed by the coalition, by seeking sponsorship from firms and donations from locals – indeed, it was Greenwich resident Douglas Parrant who started 2013’s display after buying tickets in a Lewisham Council-run raffle.

But after last year’s event, Lewisham councillors were told fundraising had fallen £30,000 short – and the council would be approaching Greenwich to help it fund 2014’s display.

Greenwich’s refusal to help out is especially embarrassing for the council’s Labour colleagues in Lewisham, who have pledged to protect the display in past election campaigns.

Of course, there’s some context to this surrounding the poisonous atmosphere in Greenwich Labour.

It’s worth pointing out that Fahy appeared to have slightly different views on the issue in October 2011….

…although it’s well-known within Greenwich Council circles that cabinet members don’t write their own responses – indeed, they often come from council leader Chris Roberts.

When Fahy stood against Roberts for the leadership of the council in 2012, he lost his role as cabinet member for leisure and literally found himself airbrushed out of Greenwich’s weekly propaganda paper, Greenwich Time:


And, as everybody knows now, Fahy was also subjected to this threatening voicemail from Roberts last autumn:

5 replies on “Blackheath fireworks: Senior Greenwich councillor breaks ranks”

  1. One thing I spotted, which is probably unrelated, is that last night on Brockley central they put up a post saying they had been contacted by someone who works for Lewisham, who said they have to now find £10m in extra cuts next year. Due to this more services will need to be shared with neighbouring councils. Presumably in Greenwich it is the same – extra cuts and more need for joint working? If so Greenwich are in a tough spot having burnt a few bridges with Bexley and Lewisham, and relations seem pretty fraught. If they do need to make savings and share services they will have to mend them relationships, and spending a modest sum (on a joint venture that brings big rewards) would be a step towards that. That would mean it’s not a solitary Fahy move though and has wider support.

  2. Good for John Fahy! Greenwich seems to want the benefits of the fireworks for its residents without paying for them. As for Cllr Roberts arguments, there are parts of Lewisham that don’t have great links to Blackheath either – Downham, Forest Hill and parts of Brockley, I would suspect that if nothing is forthcoming from Greenwich, Lewisham may consider moving the fireworks to somewhere that is a bit more central – Mountsfield Park would be obvious choice.

  3. Good point, runner500. They already hold their brilliant festival there and would it make an ideal venue for one borough (my own one incidentally). Ironically, I think Airmanbrown might confirm that Mountsfield Park was one of Charlton AFC’s first grounds. Could be wrong though. Getting older by the minute.

  4. Mountsfield Park’s The Mount was home to Charlton for the 1923/24 season but a combination of poor attendances and terraces sliding down a hill in a winter a bit like this one meant that they returned to The Valley the following season. By a strange coincidence, if you follow the link to my blog in 5 or 6 days there will be a piece on The Mount.

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