Camden Council prepares for 'damaging' financial cut backs

A BLACK cloud is descending on Camden as the reality of government cuts aimed at tackling the huge black hole in public finances hits home. The council is on tenterhooks waiting for Chancellor George Osborne to announce his emergency budget on Tuesday (Ju

A BLACK cloud is descending on Camden as the reality of government cuts aimed at tackling the huge black hole in public finances hits home.

The council is on tenterhooks waiting for Chancellor George Osborne to announce his emergency budget on Tuesday (June 22) to find out how deep the cuts are going to be over the next few years.

It is expecting cuts to the budget this year which officers predict will be between �6.2million and �9million.

Also in danger are a �3.6million grant from the Homes and Community Agency to fund the estate regeneration programme and �4.605million in funding to reduce CO2 emissions in Camden's homes.


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This jeopardises the future of plans to redevelop the four estates in Camden in greatest need of investment - Chester Road and Balmore Street in Highgate, the bedsits at Holly Lodge in Highgate, Maiden Lane in Camden Town and the Abbey Area around Swiss Cottage.

Resources boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said: "Taking these capital grants away will damage the Camden economy.

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"We are expecting a mixture of capital and revenue savings and we will not be in a position to deliver the estate regeneration programme if that grant gets cut.

"The four projects are substantial and the schemes would be reduced but we still do not know. All we know is that this is a much more uncertain time with much less money. We are digesting what it means and whether we can raise the funds elsewhere.

"This is the first stage in what is going to be challenging process of budget reductions to deal with the large deficit in the national public finances. Our priority remains to ensure we provide good quality services to our communities."

The Chester Balmore block suffers from asbestos and was due to be completely demolished and rebuilt, providing an extra 30 council homes.

Architects Rik Mather were selected six months ago by residents to re-design their problem block which will also include new ground floor retail and business units.

To cope with the predicted �6.2million or more cuts this year the council has identified �4.7million worth of savings which includes a �1.5million underspend from last year and �2.4million from reserves.

It is also making �8.3million worth of savings between 2009 and 2011 which include reducing the cost of temporary staff, �0.8million from the culture and environment department, cuts to the Connexions service, �1million savings from more efficient use of council property, �1million from customer services and �650,000 in ICT.

Between 2011 and 2014 the council is forecasting a projected budget gap of �59million which could increase to �80million or more after the government's emergency budget.

A full report on the exact options for dealing with the deficit and a position on the capital programme will be set out by the council in the July Medium Term Financial Strategy report.

Susanna Wilkey

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