As the £25 million Exhibition Road streetscape scheme opens in South Kensington, North Kensington Labour Councillors criticised the Council’s extravagant spending on a scheme aimed at tourists.
A short bus ride away are four of the poorest areas in the country. In Golborne Ward, 51% of the children live in poverty, residents endure high levels of disability and ill health and life expectancy for men is 71 years, compared with 89 in the richer parts of the borough. Exhibition Road is sited next to Queens Gate, the most affluent ward in the country. Labour is incensed that the North Kensington residents they represent consistently fail to get a fair share of funding from Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide services and support.
Labour Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘we are facing a brutal package of cuts. One pensioners’ health and social care centre has already shut down; mental health day centres are closing, a Children’s Centre is to go and nursery provision will be “rationalised”. The Council is ruthlessly cutting sports for schools, homework clubs, youth centres and the vital voluntary organisations that help vulnerable residents to live independently. Despite holding reserves of over £170 million, Kensington and Chelsea Council, chooses to spend its money on Exhibition Road rather than the poor and vulnerable of the Borough. That says it all’.
Labour planning spokesperson Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘Spending £25 million on a paving scheme and £175,000 every year just to keep it clean would be obscene at any time. To do so when savage cuts are being made to essential services in the north of the borough is indefensible. The spectacle we have seen today is a slap in the face for our poorer residents, many of whom can’t even afford the bus fare to the Museums. The performers alone must have cost more than the after-school clubs that have been cut; how appropriate that a white elephant is on parade today. There can be no justification for this level of frivolous spending in these difficult times.’
Listen to this audioboo by Rob Dyson, Guardian blogger: Comments at Exhibition Road opening event
CUTS AND SPENDING AT RBKC
SAMPLE OF PROPOSED CUTS 2012/13
Early Intervention Service -£350,000
High Need Adolescents -£200,000
Play Services -£100,000
Early Years provision -£1m
Youth Services -£520,000
Care leavers -£468,000
Voluntary Organisations -£40,000
Supporting People -£500,000
Adult Social Care -£601,000
Home Care Services -£950,000
Mental Health -£260,000
Learning Disability/Short Breaks -£116,000
Learning Disability/Day Services -£203,000
Sports for schools -£279,000
Street cleaning -£336,000
ADDITIONAL CLEANING EXHIBITION ROAD +£175,000
Unbelievable? Read it here: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Budget-Proposals-2012-13DRAFT.pdf