Camden's stash-the-cash spending spree comes under fire

You rightly highlighted how Camden Council missed its budget on local services by a massive £10 million, creating a large stash of cash at the town hall, now to be spent on vaguely-worded pledges (Camden £10m in black while youth services are cut, H&H Jul

You rightly highlighted how Camden Council missed its budget on local services by a massive £10 million, creating a large stash of cash at the town hall, now to be spent on vaguely-worded pledges (Camden £10m in black while youth services are cut, H&H July 24). It's good the Ham&High picked this up, as no public challenge was allowed on this by the leader of the council at the last executive meeting.

Usually underspends are to be welcomed. But it is clear that this (on top of a massive programme of cuts) was not planned. In fact the gap in spending only appeared at the very late stage of the fourth quarter of the annual financial cycle. For those who care about properly funded local services this is worrying for a number of reasons.

First, the appearance of this large pot of unspent cash at the end of the year will be of real concern to the youth clubs and community groups, operating on a shoestring, who were asked to cut funds and workers last year. To keep The Haven, Queen's Crescent, Highgate-Fresh and Samuel Lithgow clubs running as usual would have cost less than two per cent of the underspend.

Secondly there is a fear that services not spending this year, will be cut next year and that Camden will lose services to people with greater needs, cases or situations. This means more services which 'box tick', and fewer services which give deeper provision to local communities.


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Finally, there is the crucial question of what to do with the money. Camden Council papers don't even consider a council tax rebate, only a large spending spree on vaguely-worded priorities, to be decided by top tier officers. There was nothing for the groups whose budgets were cut.

Camden has stashed our cash in a less than transparent way and is now spending it in a none-to-clear way. The council needs to come clean on how it manages our money - and our services.

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Cllr Theo Blackwell

(Labour), Chair of Corporate Resource

and Performance Scrutiny Panel

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