Camden cuts spelled out by council

RADICAL and gloomy changes lie ahead as Camden Council slashes �80million from its budget over the next three years, its new financial strategy has revealed.

Community centres, libraries, children’s centres and older people’s luncheon clubs will undoubtedly close as the council is forced to strip back services to the bare minimum.

Discretionary services the borough has a proud tradition of providing, such as community, youth, after school and luncheon clubs, will be shut down as the council diverts cash to pay for what it is legally required to, such as caring for the elderly and housing.

The council has outlined �40million in efficiency savings and another �40million cuts from services over the next three years.

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “Some of the services people really see in the community, such as community centres, will come under tremendous pressure.

“What people do not see are the much more expensive and essential services we provide such as care for older people. These services for the most vulnerable will be protected.”

The announcement came as the first cuts protest came to Camden – led by school pupils.

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Hampstead School pupils were locked in but some managed to break out while at Parliament Hill, students needed parental permission before being allowed out.

In the council, every department has modelled 25 per cent cuts outlined in the report although exactly where the final axe will fall is still to be decided.

The coalition government announced 26 per cent will be slashed from local authorities over the next four years and as 70 per cent of Camden’s funding comes from the government, the council has said it will be impossible to provide the level of services it has in the past and reduced or abolished services are inevitable.

Cllr Blackwell added: “Over the next three months we will be talking to the people of Camden.

“We have not ring-fenced anything because by protecting one thing you put extra pressure elsewhere.

“We have got to weigh up the Faustian situation where if one particular well-loved community centre, for example, is at risk and people want to save it, we have to balance that with which other community centres or older people’s luncheon clubs will go.”

To save cash the council is reducing customer contact points, moving more services online, selling off assets, consolidating mental health and youth services onto fewer sites, slashing 1,000 jobs and bearing down on administration costs. It is also considering sharing a chief executive and services with Islington Council which it hopes will save �10million.

Leader of the Conservative group Cllr Andrew Mennear said: “It is not possible to make the level of reduction needed without having some impact on people but we need to investigate that they are making the right savings.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Keith Moffitt said: “This seems to us a rather defeatist and unimaginative approach. In places it is very vague. They could have come cleaner with the people of Camden and it seems like they are delegating decisions to officers.”

Meanwhile Leader of the Green group Cllr Maya de Souza said there could have been more consultation before this report.

The report will be considered by the cabinet next Wednesday and a decision will be made.