Camden libraries, community safety and vulnerable to be hit by £40m council cuts

Camden finance chief Cllr Theo Blackwell.

Camden finance chief Cllr Theo Blackwell. - Credit: Archant

Camden Council has revealed plans to cut 600 jobs and slash funding for libraries, crime reduction and services for vulnerable residents in a bid to plug a £40million funding gap.

Over the next three years, the council will strip millions of pounds in funding to mental health, disability and elderly care services through a focus on increased care in the community.

The council is also planning to cut more than £2.5m from its community safety programme by reducing visible patrols and offender management, as well as saving £800,000 through its libraries service.

This involves generating income through the hire of spaces at Swiss Cottage and Kentish Town libraries and the loss of one management post in the service.

In the new year, the council will begin a consultation with residents on changes to the library service and cannot rule out library closures.

Customer service staff numbers will also be slashed as the council expands its digital model.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, Labour cabinet member for finance and technology policy, insisted frontline cuts were inevitable due to the scale of local authority funding cuts from the coalition government.

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He said: “As Labour councillors we are in a particularly difficult position implementing cuts to public services we never wanted to do - but let’s be clear: the responsibility lies with George Osborne and the coalition.

“One-term Tory austerity didn’t work because it started off by doing too much too fast, as we warned. Camden has come out of this worse because cuts have been deeper in inner city areas and many pending capital projects were axed.”

In September, the council announced £30m savings through back-office “efficiencies” predominantly, delaying an announcement on frontline cuts until now.

Since 2010, the council has been forced to make £93m worth of savings and is required to cut a further £70m over the next three years.

In September, the Ham&High reported the council’s plans to generate income over the next three years through various schemes.

This includes corporate sponsorship of public parks, digital advertising on public buildings and a 40p per entry levy on public toilets in the borough.

There are also plans for a late night levy on bars to help bolster the community safety service set to be hit by cuts.

But Camden mayor Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli has spoken out against his Labour group’s proposals.

He said: “The levy would spoil our relation with many owners and managers of bars and venues, who will feel targeted for problems not entirely their fault.

“As a result, it is likely that many businesses will stop taking part in those voluntary schemes that have been proving quite successful and with minimum use of council resources.”

Conservative councillor Don Williams criticised the Labour group for initially ignoring Tory proposals which are now being introduced, such as generating revenue through digital advertising.

He said: “Imagine how much better we all would be had the administration adopted our proposals in any year of the last four years.”

A raft of new resident fees and charges have also been proposed, including a £50 increase in the cost of an allotment plot and a £255 increase in the price of a “front lawn” cemetery burial spot.

The council’s cabinet will consider the proposals on December 17.