CAMDEN BUDGET: Recession plan is just a rehash
I was, of course, disappointed that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats chose not to go further in their 2009 budget, which was discussed by Camden s full council on Monday night. In the meeting, their councillors were determined to over-egg
I was, of course, disappointed that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats chose not to go further in their 2009 budget, which was discussed by Camden's full council on Monday night.
In the meeting, their councillors were determined to over-egg the impact of their plans, which might look good on leaflets but actually have very little real impact.
After months of waiting, the council finally came up with its recession plan - a rehash of existing central government initiatives and schemes the council is already committed to - but with precious little else.
Presenting the alternative budget, Labour wanted to put real money in people's pockets.
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The council is today sitting on large surpluses this year of �18million - on top of historic budget reserves in excess of �80million. This comes from fee hikes to after-school clubs, meals on wheels, parking and other services as well as doing less for vulnerable people.
With one per cent on council tax equating to �1million of tax, the council had scope to do far more for local people - like give some money back.
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Labour's plan would have seen a larger recession package to help residents and high street shops now. This included a targeted use of the surplus to give money back to people in the form of a �65 recession payment similar to other councils, including neighbouring Islington.
This would have equated to at least �50 extra to all Camden households - the equivalent of just above a four per cent cut in council tax this year, without threatening any public works projects. Sadly, the budget passed by the town hall does not give any of this surplus money built up over the last three years back to local people.
Our other proposals to cut senior officer and councillor bonuses or town hall refurbishment projects were also rejected.
Labour would also have restored long-term funding for debt and advice centres, not just for this year but beyond, as well as an apprenticeship scheme for long-term unemployed.
From the comments of some the Lib Dem councillors who shouted the loudest against our suggestions, it seemed that they didn't fully understand how the council tax system worked.
Our proposals would actually have gone further - this year and next - than the nought per cent proposed, helped the poorest in Camden and targeted the massive surplus sitting in the town hall coffers to putting real money back into people's pockets.
Cllr Theo Blackwell
Opposition Labour finance spokesman