Council tax to rise by 2.99% in Camden to save vital services

Camden plan to increase council tax by two per cent this year

Camden plan to increase council tax by three per cent this year - Credit: Archant

Council tax in Camden is to rise by nearly 3% to help cope with demands from the pandemic and save vital services.

The council is increasing its portion of council tax by 2.99% per cent – the maximum it is allowed.

Included is an increase of 1.9% to support council funding, with an extra one per cent increase in the levy for adult social care.

Camden said overall council tax would provide £126 million to help fund its services at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (March 2).

It means that residents in Band D homes will pay £1,791.93  a year, including the contribution to the Greater London Authority (GLA), which has responsibility for services including policing and public transport.

This is an increase of £72.46 a year for Band D properties which are estimated to be worth between £68,000 to £88,000.

People with access to garden squares will pay just under £200 more.

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Cllr Richard Olszweski, the cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said:  “We really have no choice but to increase council tax by 2.99%.

“We are not cavalier about doing that. We really do appreciate that in many ways people are feeling the pinch and that’s people on a very wide range of income, obviously people in poverty and very low incomes. It’s affecting a massive range of people.”

He added the council  "had no choice to increase council tax by this amount" as "increasing our spending power is crucial to us."

"We're not prepared to sacrifice services.".

Conservative leader Cllr Oliver Cooper hit back: "We've got other councils in similar circumstances."

He said people paid less in Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham found a way to freeze it, and Wandsworth managed to cut council tax this year.

"There have been all sorts of councils who have had a choice in this matter.

"When you do have a change in the cost of living it's crucial it's really important everyone plays their part, even councils." 

Conservative held Barnet has frozen council tax and Westminster Conservatives have raised it despite Labour's amendment to freeze council tax until 2024.

Cllr Olszweski said years of austerity and the pandemic have hit finances, and this year’s government spending assessment did not factor in “the damaging impact” of Covid, which led to an £8m drop in business rates.

The council spent £19m of its own funds on tackling the outbreak.

In January, it announced increases to its council tax reduction scheme for low earners and pensioners, meaning more than 16,000 families will not pay any council tax. This will cost £29m.

It also runs exemptions for foster carers and young people leaving care.

The council is projecting a new budget deficit of between £35m and £40m by 2025/26.

Cllr Olszewski vowed the council would protect and support residents amid cost-of-living increases despite the decrease in government funding.

“To put it into perspective, in 2010 government funding was £1,123 per resident, whilst in 2022/23 like for like funding is estimated to be £367 per resident, representing a huge reduction of 67%," he said.

“When the government confirmed our funding for this year, it was based on 40% of it coming from an increase in council tax rates. This means if we don’t raise council tax, we will lose out on funding that will help us to provide and protect the vital frontline services that we all need and use."

Council spending commitments include around £1m to ensure the needs of young people with learning disabilities are fully met when they move to adult services; £400,000 per year to fund services to tackle domestic violence and abuse; and new investment in digital services and cyber-security, to ensure “everyone in Camden can access and be part of a digital society”.

Camden’s cabinet agreed capital spending commitments on building and infrastructure, including £9m to repair and upgrade highways and street lighting, £6m on children's centres, £4.1m on commercial and corporate property and £1.4m on green spaces, play areas and conveniences.

The proposed budget will be put before a full council meeting on Monday (March 7) for approval.