Camden Council: 'Covid has left us £20m in the red'

Cllr Richard Olszewski. Picture: Richard Olzewski

Cllr Richard Olszewski. Picture: Richard Olzewski - Credit: Richard Olszewski

Camden Council says it is not expecting a “Christmas present” from the government's coffers this winter.

Councillors discussed the town hall's current economic situation and the impact of Covid-19 at a full council meeting on November 22.

Finance chief Cllr Richard Olszewski (Lab, Fortune Green) estimated the local fiscal toll of the pandemic at £96m, arising from lost income due to services that were halted, and extra spending.   

“The government support during this period is just over £76m, leaving us with a shortfall of £20m and no sign of any further Covid funding beyond this year,” he said.   

“If we do not receive adequate funding from government then we won’t be able to do what we need to do. It is time for the government to act and honour its promises, which it hasn’t done so far.” 

Cllr Olszewski said the local authority is not planning to cut social care. 

“We have acted to protect it and when we have the option of raising the precept of the council tax for adult social care, we have honoured that to protect funding for those services,” the finance lead said.

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The government previously extended the social care precept to allow local authorities to add another 2% to council tax in 2020/21, and a further 3% between 2021/22 and 2022/23. 

“The fact is that probably about 50% of that increase is predicated on every council in England to increase the council tax by the expected permissible limit of 3%,” Cllr Olszewski said. 

“On top of that we have to accommodate the increase in national insurance, and freezing of business rates is also something that will have to be met by that 3%. In many respects they are letting us down.”

Councillors also discussed updates on Cop26 and the climate crisis. Camden announced in October the plan to create climate bonds to finance environmental projects in the borough.   

The council also secured more than £1m of government funding for its retrofit programme, which is being developed to make council housing more energy efficient.    

Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for a sustainable Camden, said: “London has been rated among the top cities in the world on climate action which is great to hear.   

“I am sure that London success is propelled by the actions and activities of the most ambitious boroughs and I hope others will join us.”