Pessimism in Camden ahead of Comprehensive Spending Review announcement today

CAMDEN’S councillors are feeling pessimistic about today’s Comprehensive Spending Review and fear it could change the face of the borough forever.

The council is expecting to have to save around �100million over the next three years and looks set to be forced to strip back services to the bare minimum to accommodate the cuts.

At 12.30pm today Chancellor George Osborne will announce how much each government department will have to save – including the department for Communities and Local Government.

Health and International Aid are being protected by the new coalition government which has hinted that each department could face around 25 per cent cuts, except education.

Camden’s finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “We are expecting very severe cuts and it might surprise people to know that only �1 in every �8 that the council spends come from council tax – the rest is from central government.

“We are expecting the ability of the council to address preventative measures to be undermined by the cuts – that covers things like youth clubs, anti-social behaviour programmes – we will be really hard pressed to provide these kinds of services.

“Public services in six years time will look really different to what they do now if this goes ahead.

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“There has only been two years of successive cuts to public services since World War Two and this goes way beyond that – six years the coalition government is planning.

“People will see huge impacts on their daily life. We really do worry about what is going to happen in inner London.”

Cllr Tulip Siddiq, culture boss in Camden, hopes that women are not forced to bear the brunt of the cuts.

She said: “Women in the UK typically earn less, own less and are more likely to fall into poverty. The CSR must not force women to bear the brunt of the cuts.

“It does not look like the coalition have a clear strategy about protecting the most vulnerable when they are making their cuts.

“I am not feeling optimistic about it. It will affect people in my ward and I am hoping children in Camden will not be affected by huge cuts to education.

“I am really fearful for education, housing and child benefits. It does not bode well.”

Although headline announcements are due to be made today by Mr Osborne about the levels of cuts, details are unlikely to filter through before next week on what it means in real terms.

Leader of the Conservative group Cllr Andrew Mennear says the cuts will be hard but are necessary.

“There has to be a reduction in government expenditure,” he said. “That will of course have an impact in Camden and no-one is going to pretend that it is not going to be difficult.

“It is going to hurt but unless this is addressed now it will be far, far worse for the country in the future.

“I do not think it is wonderful but it is a really important measure that we have to take.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Keith Moffitt said: “The reality is that we are probably not going to find out very much for a few weeks about how this will affect Camden.

“There is already planning going on to deal with the cuts and we are waiting with baited breath for what the government is going to say. Camden is already planning pretty substantial cuts.

“One of the problems for local government is if you ask people should it be protected they say no but if you ask them should protect social care for vulnerable adults they say yes without realising that is funded by the council.

“Camden has prided itself of having gold plated services which go above and beyond but services will definitely have to be cut.

“I worry about the culture services which Camden is so good at. There will be some tough decisions ahead and it is very important to listen to our residents.”