View from the chamber: Our public services still need proper government funding

PUBLISHED: 14:30 08 November 2018

Kareen Cox

What does the chancellor’s Budget mean for Camden and its residents?

Make no bones about it – public services continue to face a funding crisis.

Camden Council needs to cut £40m from its yearly budget over the next three years due to government grant cuts, on top of the £169m we’ve already taken out.

Meanwhile, Camden’s public service providers are struggling to deal with a visible increase in rough sleeping, while some of our residents are relying on food banks. So much for the chancellor’s claim that the “era of austerity is coming to an end”.

The government’s commitment to grant £650m to councils for adult social care is welcome – but this one-off payment has to be spread across the whole country and represents a sticking plaster in comparison to the ongoing funding necessary to meet the care needs of our growing and ageing population.

The chancellor says he won’t sign off any future PFI deals, though we’re ahead of the game on this in Camden, as we’re taking back full control of the management and maintenance of the Chalcots Estate from the PFI consortium.

Meanwhile, the small increase to the tax-free personal allowance needs to be set in the context of huge benefit changes affecting our poorest residents. This winter, Universal Credit comes to Camden – this government welfare reform has seen families elsewhere in the country not receive any benefits for up to five weeks while they transfer onto the new system.

We are committed to fighting for every penny for Camden residents and supporting you through these difficult times. These sorts of cuts can drive a wedge between us, especially as it is going to be very difficult for us to make these latest savings without our services being affected.

However, we cannot allow that to happen here. We’ve held conversations with our residents, business, voluntary groups and partner organisations to discuss what we want Camden to be like in 2025 – and have a clear community vision of how to drive out inequality in Camden and ensure everyone has a voice.

This partnership working will be crucial as we face upcoming challenges and is already being demonstrated. Voluntary organisations like Citizens Advice and frontline Camden Council housing staff are trained and ready to help anyone affected by the Universal Credit changes.

Through Camden 2025, we’ve agreed to focus on housing, creating jobs, supporting our communities to be safe, clean and green and ensuring everyone in Camden can lead healthy, independent lives. These priorities will guide our spending decisions.

To date we’ve been able to make savings through reducing our staff levels by a quarter and raising council tax to the maximum permitted level. But we now need the government to fund our public services properly.

We need ongoing funding to allow us to continue to look after our growing and ageing population.

We need ongoing funding to ensure our state schools have adequate budgets. And we need ongoing funding to help us continue to reduce the burden council tax places on our poorest citizens. We also want an urgent review of Universal Credit and its implementation.

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