A community in Eltham has been left waiting for a life-saving defibrillator to be installed after the project was not picked up after the councillor who submitted the bid lost his seat at the last election.

Charlie Davis, who was a Conservative councillor for Eltham North, drew up the £1,900 bid for funds in conjunction with his two colleagues, Spencer Drury and Labour’s Linda Bird; as well as the three councillors for neighbouring Eltham South.

The bid for ward budget money was successful and a charity was given the money for the defibrillator, which was meant to be installed in a phone box in  Westmount Road. BT had also agreed to cover the power supply for seven years.

But Davis and Drury were ousted in last May’s council election, with Bird and Simon Peirce winning the contest in what had become the Eltham Park & Progress ward. Since then the project has stalled. Davis said he had offered to help resolve the issue in his spare time, despite no longer being a councillor.

The money for the defibrillator – which can be used to help someone who has gone into cardiac arrest – was transferred to the Community Heartbeat Trust in August 2022. But nobody followed up what had happened – and the phone box is now being used to store rubbish.

“Nobody’s picked up the issue,” said Martin Fagan, the national secretary of the charity, which installs and maintains thousands of defibrillators on behalf of communities across the UK. 

“The defibrillator is ready. I’ve got emails from colleagues saying ‘the equipment is ready, what do we do with it?’ We don’t know whether the kiosk is ready and who’s covering the cost of installation. We’re still waiting for someone to say what they want done.”

With the issue stalled, a local retailer has been using the box to store rubbish.

“Whoever’s stacking rubbish has no right to do that,” Fagan said.

“The kiosk needs to be cleaned and then we can install it, but we need to know who to invoice, or a local electrician can do it for us but we still need to know who to invoice. We could do this tomorrow.”

Eltham phone box full of boxes
The phone box is being used to store rubbish by a local business. Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Fagan said the cost of installation would be about £270. But the council said that ​​it had already covered this – and said that councillors would need to put in a new bid to cover this.

A spokesperson said: “The council paid the invoice of the originally requested amount for the defibrillator, this amount included the installation fee as stated on the invoice. 

“The Community Heartbeat Trust is welcome to contact officers and ward councillors about any subsidiary shortfall in funds via a new ward budget application.”

Davis, who is now the Conservatives’ general election candidate for Eltham & Chislehurst, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to hear about the issues this ward budget project has experienced, especially after securing the electricity supply for the defibrillator, with just a date needed to be agreed for the installation prior to the election. 

“I shared all the details with officers and the elected councillors for Eltham Park, and even offered to help finalise the installation after the election, although my offer was unfortunately not taken up.

“Hopefully, the publicity now being received will encourage Eltham’s Labour representatives to get themselves organised and deliver the defibrillator for the community as soon as possible.”

Each of the 22 wards in Greenwich borough has a pot of £20,000 or £30,000, depending on its size, to spend on community projects between now and the next council election in 2026.

Councillors nominate projects which are then approved by the council leader or another senior councillor. But there is little public scrutiny of where the cash goes and how effective the projects are, with details buried in an obscure section of the council website.

A council spokesperson said: “Our officers and councillors work closely with a wide variety of charities and local organisations to ensure that funding from the ward budgets benefit as many community projects as possible. 

“We monitor their progress through regular communication between the councillors and the successful organisations and update reports.”