CHRIS PHILP: do Camden households get good value for their £30,000?
We re paying more and more tax – so why are our local services being closed down? Here in Camden, our most vital public services are under assault. First, we heard that the police stations in Hampstead and Kentish Town are earmarked for closure. The same
We're paying more and more tax - so why are our local services being closed down?
Here in Camden, our most vital public services are under assault.
First, we heard that the police stations in Hampstead and Kentish Town are earmarked for closure. The same report also recommended that 999 calls will only be responded to from one base in Camden, instead of four, as happens now.
This means that when you dial 999 it will take longer to get a response. Even today Camden's police are missing their target for responding to 999 calls within 12 minutes.
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Cutting the number of police stations in the heart of our community and cutting 999 response bases will undermine community safety. That's why I've been leading the campaign against the closures.
Then we hear about our post offices. The Ham&High revealed last week that four post offices in Camden will now certainly close, against vocal community opposition. These offices often serve the most vulnerable, who rely on them as a lifeline.
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Finally, we discover that GP surgeries in Camden are under attack. The government's plans for polyclinics - part of a programme of cutbacks - will mean that up to half of Camden's surgeries will have to close. Instead, there will be centralised units, often miles from where people live.
It is likely that Camden will have only two polyclincs covering the whole borough. Camden GPs and patients with whom I've spoken say that they value their local surgeries, where they can often always see the same doctor who understands them and their history. And older patients may find it hard to travel across the borough instead of travelling down the road to their local GP.
I am deeply concerned about these cuts to vital local services. But what angers me most is that we have paid for these services. Since being elected in 1997, total government spending has roughly doubled, from about £300 billion to £600 billion. This means that the average household in Camden is now paying about £30,000 per year to the government in one form or another.
So if we're paying, on average, £30,000 per household each year - double what it was in 1997 when Labour came to power - why are our police stations and post offices being closed and why are our local GP surgeries under threat?
The answer is both tragic and simple. The government has been wasting our hard-earned money on a colossal scale. The ranks of Whitehall bureaucrats have been swollen beyond recognition. Half of the NHS's 1.3 million staff aren't even clinicians but administrators of one kind or another. Welfare payments to UK claimants have soared, even though many recent immigrants have no trouble finding work.
As a local example, since I've been involved in Camden Council from May 2006, we've been able to find huge scope to cut bureaucracy and save millions - which is why our council tax was frozen last year and only up by 2.5 per cent this year.
Many people I speak to are willing to pay taxes at higher rates, but only if the services they receive are up to scratch. When the government uses its authority to take money from hard working individuals and families, it is under a moral responsibility to use it wisely, and not squander it.
Think of all the good this money could have done, had it been properly spent. Of course we need taxes. But they must be kept as low as reasonably possible, and above all, must be spent carefully.
Labour came to power over 11 years ago, promising to be "wise spenders, not big spenders". They have proved to be the opposite. They have spent vast amounts of our money - more than the country and many individuals can afford - and they have spent recklessly. The closure of our local services here in Camden stand as vivid testament to this record.
Never has the mantra: "It's time for change" been more apt.
Chris Philp is the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn, and a councillor and local community campaigner