October 21 2014 Latest news:
by Tim Lamden
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Council tax in Camden will be frozen for the fourth consecutive year by the Labour administration from April.
On Monday, Camden’s full council approved a budget for the year ahead which included freezing Band D council tax at £1,021.48 annually.
It is the first time in Camden Council’s history that an adminstration has frozen council tax for four successive years.
The budget, which was approved by 28 votes to 19, will cut £10million from the council’s outgoings over the next 12 months, as part of the council’s strategy to cope with £163m funding cuts from central government between 2010 and 2018.
Between 2010 and 2014, the council successfully met an £83m cut in government funding and will be forced to cut another £80m over the next four years, beginning with £10m in the year ahead.
There will be no job losses or cuts to frontline services in 2014/15 as the budget deficit will be met by back-office cuts, including savings from changes to workers’ contracts and the council’s scheduled move to new offices in the summer.
But the council is expecting to make heavy redundancies and cuts to deal with the £70m savings required between 2015 and 2018.
Council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward told full council: “By 2018, we’ll have lost £163m of our revenue funding for services. With cost increases, this will equate to a loss of nearly 50 per cent of our budget.
“According to research by Newcastle University, Camden is in the top 20 councils facing the worst cuts. This is simply devastating for our services and communities.”
In addition to the council tax freeze, the budget will also include a 150 per cent council tax levy on long-term empty homes, as well as maintaining 25 hours of free nursery provision for three and four-year-olds - 10 hours a week more than that funded by government.
Building work is also set to begin this year on a £200million project to deliver 900 new homes and a new primary school site offering an extra 420 places in Camden, as part of the council’s 15-year Community Investment Programme.
Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, said: “This is the biggest investment Camden has seen since the 1970s. But there is so much more we want to be doing,
“To weather the next year we’ll have to draw on every resource at our disposal. As long as there is a Labour council in Camden – setting budgets that focuses on the priorities of local people – we will be standing with local people, looking out for the most vulnerable, supporting growth and working to make a difference in any way we can.”
On Monday, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups tabled various amendments to the budget, all of which were rejected by Cllr Blackwell.
Both groups called for greater investment in street cleaning across Camden, while the Tories proposed cutting council tax by one per cent.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Keith Moffitt said the Labour group needed reminding that it was a Labour government which “withheld £283m” from the previous council administration through its cuts to the Decent Homes programme.
He added: “I think we need to keep reminding them that it was their own government that withheld a massive amount of money from Camden and I don’t think they should be allowed to forget that.”
Tory group leader Cllr Claire Louise-Leyland urged the council to consider the group’s proposals that the council start its own “anti-slavery day” and invest in engineering training for young women.