Housing ‘crisis’ and ‘impossible’ costs cited for Camden’s lowest fertility rate in England and Wales

Camden's fertility rate is 1.05 - the lowest in the country. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Camden's fertility rate is 1.05 - the lowest in the country. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA - Credit: PA

Camden had the lowest fertility rate across England and Wales in 2019 as fears grow that the borough has become “impossibly expensive”.

New figures from the ONS show Camden’s fertility rate dropped from 1.10 to 1.05 between 2018 to 2019, as the number of live births fell from 2,519 to 2,448.

Camden Council says the local decline - which mirrors a national fall - is “complex”, putting it down to the “mounting housing crisis”, the “insecurity” of the private rental market and “economic uncertainty”.

But the Camden Conservatives, the town hall’s opposition, say the borough’s planning policies are “forcing” families out and that schools – many facing falling rolls – are being “pushed to the brink”.

The party’s leader, Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) challenged the council over the falling number of homes built with more than two bedrooms, which he claims makes it “almost impossibly expensive” for young families.

Cllr Cooper said: “That has a huge knock-on effect on our schools: pushing them all to the brink. The change means 250 fewer children every year being born to parents in the borough than were four years ago.

“That’s the equivalent of ten primary school classes, and has led directly to Camden having to close its first two state schools in its history.

“Camden must turn this around by building into its planning policies and decisions a priority for family homes, with the majority of homes of all tenures being fit for families, not just stacking up studios and one-beds.”

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Robert Taylor, organiser of the Camden Federation of Private Tenants, said the ONS data showed the borough’s demographic is “rapidly changing”.

Robert said: “One of the main issues that families come to us about, is just how expensive the private rented sector is, if you need additional rooms for children, especially if you are on a low or middle income.

“Private landlords make this worse by continually trying to increase the rent, which often leads to people either living in overcrowded accommodation or moving out of Camden altogether.”

Camden Council’s education lead, Cllr Angela Mason (Lab, Cantelowes), said: “This is a complex issue with many factors involved, particularly the mounting housing crisis that is reflected in the high cost of housing, combined with the private rented sector and economic uncertainty arising from issues such as Brexit and stagnating wages.

“All of which have contributed to the fall in number of younger families in the borough and therefore the birth rate and the number of children who require a place within our schools.”

In response to the falling fertility rate, Camden Council’s cabinet will discuss plans for how school places will change in early September.