19 October 2005

19 October 2005

Budget shortfall leaves event needing sponsor

A NEW sponsor for the Blackheath Fireworks Display is being sought after budget problems at Lewisham and Greenwich councils.

In a draft budget report for 2006/7 officers at Lewisham Council outlined a shortfall of £45,000 between the two councils.

And unless a private sponsor is found for the event they will both continue to overspend on their budgets.

Lewisham Council currently has a £17,000 budget shortfall and Greenwich has a deficit of £28,000.

A Lewisham council report proposes saving £12,528 by stopping its contribution towards the fireworks.

But it recommends using £17,000 to pay for a manager to search for a private sponsor.

Savings made from the budget cuts would be channelled into other major events such as People's Day and Black History Month.

A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: "This is a well-established event, displaying some of the best free fireworks in London.

"We are keen to ensure people can continue to enjoy it."

He added: "We will continue to seek private sponsorship for the event to reduce the council's contribution."

A decision on Lewisham's funding will be made at tonight's mayor and cabinet meeting.

Hundreds gather in tribute to Ruth

MORE than 700 mourners packed a church to pay tribute to tragic Ruth Okechukwu, whose young life was senselessly snatched away by cowardly killers.

Friends and family queued to get into St Peter's Church, Wickham Road, Brockley, on Saturday to grieve for the lively Peckham 18-year-old who stood up for others and "always had a smile".

When the pews were full they stood at the sides and back - a hush falling as pall-bearers, including Ruth's brother Gabriel, 25, carried in her pure white coffin.

Her father, Pastor Ben Okechukwu, sat with mum Pauline and older sister Beatrice, 30, who stood to pay tribute.

She said: "I will always remember Ruth's relentless determination to do what she wanted to do.

"She had a special ability to go out of her way for you and stand by what she believed."

Tributes from Ruth's fellow PE students at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College were also read out.

One said: "They say the good die young. You're in a better place now."

The congregation sang Abide With Me as they passed the open casket to look upon Ruth one last time.

Men glanced then turned away, their cheeks streaked with tears, while women sobbed on each other's shoulders.

Later, at Camberwell Old Cemetery, a flock of white doves was released at the graveside. They soared into the blue morning sky, turning as one to circle over the crowd before flying away over the trees.

Ruth was stabbed to death in Boundary Lane, Walworth at 5.30pm on September 11.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder and is due to appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court on Friday. Another youth is on police bail.

Sydenham Library to close

A COMMUNITY library is facing closure as part of a series of budget cuts.

Only a year ago Sydenham Library was celebrating its 100th anniversary but its closure could be given the green light at tonight's meeting of the mayor and cabinet.

The plans for the library in Sydenham Road, ranked by officers as the worst in the borough, was put to the public accounts select committee on September 27 as part of a £10m money-saving package.

Reports from Lewisham Council show the library's closure could save up to £165,000 during 2006/7.

It claims the library, which was founded in 1904, is "poorly sited" and has limited potential to increase usage.

Council officers have also recommended it be moved into the main shopping area of Sydenham.

They have also warned its closure could mean the council fails to meet its obligations under the Public Libraries Standard, which says all households must be within a mile of a library.

The news has come as a shock to residents and schools in the area, which regularly use the library.

Sydenham Society chairman Pat Trembath said: "I'm angry. It is a much-used library in a highly residential area.

"The people taking decisions in high places don't know how the community use this library."

Haseltine and Our Lady and St Philip Neri primaries are two of the schools in the area which visit the library.

Haseltine's deputy headteacher Ellie Whilby said: "It's outrageous.

"Children go there every day it is open.

"It is a really important experience for children as many parents don't take them there."

She added: "I would be really disappointed. The children get a lot out of it and I hope it won't be shut down."

Chris Best, ward councillor and cabinet member for social inclusion, said: "I will be speaking tonight and will advise the mayor not to close the library as it is a valuable community resource."

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock will accept or reject the budget cuts tonight.

Downham Project work is under way

BUILDING work has started on the long-awaited Downham Lifestyles Project.

Construction firm Alfred McAlpine Ltd, who are carrying out the work on behalf of Lewisham Council, started construction of the £16m centre last week.

A deal to fund the development was agreed by the council and private firm Leisure Connection, in September, after a number of delays.

The centre, which should be fully open to the public by April 2007, will have leisure facilities including a 25m swimming pool, a fitness gym and dance studios.

It will also provide the community with a cafe, a library, a community hall and two GP surgeries.

'Goodbye my sweet angel'

THE heartbroken mum of butchered teenager Rochelle Holness said a moving goodbye to her "precious, sweet angel".

Choking back tears, devastated Jennifer revealed the depths of her torment for the first time at a packed memorial service.

"Rochelle was a loving, sweet girl," she told hundreds of mourners.

"She was a sister, a daughter and auntie-to-be.

"When her friends were in need she was always there for them.

"She was my angel, she was full of life, my ray of sunshine and my precious child.

"Now she is in the arms of the creator. I wish with all my heart that those arms were mine."

Fifteen-year-old Rochelle was found chopped to pieces and stuffed in bin bags in the Milford Estate in Catford on September 25.

Her friends and loved-ones, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of the teenager, packed the Hither Green Baptist Church in Theodore Road for Friday's emotionally-charged service.

They listened with heads bowed as dad Denroy Holness, weeping uncontrollably, read a poem penned by the schoolgirl and found in her bedroom after her death.

Teenage pals then sang along to Rochelle's favourite pop songs, some breaking into tears as they reached the chorus to Ms Dynamite's You Don't Have To Cry No More.

Tributes were also paid by Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock and Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock.

The Rev Richard Blythe told the service: "Fourteen years ago we gathered at this church to bless Rochelle.

"None of us could have guessed we would be here today in these circumstances.

"We all have many different emotions, from anger to shock and disbelief.

"We give thanks for Rochelle's life, 15 years, too short."

The dull grey expanse of concrete outside the Milton Towers flat where Rochelle was allegedly abducted and murdered has since been transformed into a colourful shrine, with flowers, candles and posters.

Jobless John McGrady, 47, a Milford Towers resident, is in custody charged with her murder. :


Andrew Brown said...

Just to let your readers know Steve didn't take either of the cuts mentioned. So both the fireworks and the library will remain open. You can see some of the other things Steve didn't accept on my blog.

(moe) said...

Three Cheers!

Thank you Andrew for the update.

Anonymous said...

as i only new rochelle for a short while she was a beautifull young lady who will be missed deaply