Camden Council accuses Whitehall of forcing ‘economics of a madhouse’ on town hall

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell says residents will access council services differently in future,

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell says residents will access council services differently in future, with a major shift towards using technology to drive efficiency savings - Credit: Archant

Camden Council’s finance chief has demanded Whitehall gives town halls more control over their budgets – as new figures reveal the £12million cost of redundancy payouts at the local authority.

Labour finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said government enforced spending cuts under the chancellor’s austerity drive have hidden costs which town hall bosses have to find on top of stark savings.

If town halls were handed more control and more time to plan cuts, the cash spent on redundancies could have been used on frontline services, Cllr Blackwell claimed.

Cuts in funding from central government have meant Camden Council has had to find savings of £83.3million over three years, leading to hundreds of job losses.

A Freedom of Information request by the Ham&High has revealed 562 people have been made redundant at the council since 2010 – costing £11.6million in payouts.

The government’s latest spending review also outlined further cuts in funding to local councils yesterday (Wednesday).

The majority of job losses at Camden occurred in 2011/12 when there were 265 redundancies.

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Massive payout

The culture and environment department had the highest number of job losses, while the highest redundancy payment over the period was £41,749.

About £12million had been set aside in the council’s budget when the first round of cuts was announced three years ago. But Cllr Blackwell described the situation as the “economics of a madhouse”. He said: “We have made £43million of the savings so far and redundancies are on top of that.

“We have reduced costs and we are protecting as many frontline services as we can but the real question now with the chancellor announcing more cuts is how much can you carry on cutting? It’s not inexhaustible.”

Cllr Blackwell warned of a “large number” of redundancies in coming years as the coalition government revealed plans to reduce funding to local councils in 2015/16 by 10 per cent.

He said: “To make people redundant you have to find money from somewhere, which may have otherwise been used to refurbish a library. If the government hadn’t pushed through cuts in such a rush, the money spent on redundancies could have been used on other things.”

He said the council followed local government terms and conditions and negotiated with unions when deciding redundancy payments.