Opposition to council tax freeze
Katie Davies THE freeze on council tax in Camden may be a welcome move in the recession – but opposition parties say more can be done to help residents. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition revealed the proposal last week. For the average band
THE freeze on council tax in Camden may be a welcome move in the recession - but opposition parties say more can be done to help residents.
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition revealed the proposal last week.
For the average band D property, that means this year's tax will be �1,335.35 - given that London mayor Boris Johnson has also decided to keep his element of the tax the same.
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A �6million package to help residents through the hard times has also been revealed by the council.
But Labour councillor Theo Blackwell said: "The council is sitting on a large pile of cash with reserves of �80million which have come from over taxing, over charging and cuts in services for the last three years.
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"They have brought in a surplus of �18million this year and keeping the council tax rise to zero has cost them about �1million. This is just chucking a couple of coins back to the people of Camden."
The package will be spent on retraining and employment schemes, advice on benefits and encouraging ways of making money in the borough, such as tourism.
Cllr Blackwell said other measures could be introduced such as suspending parking charges on high streets - as Kensington and Chelsea has done.
Camden's Green Party agrees more powerful changes need to be made to increase financial certainty for residents and businesses and the implications of a council freeze will need to be examined.
Leader Adrian Oliver said: "It feels good to be saying there will be no council tax rise and it will please a lot of people. But there are some concerns about how that is going to be achieved. We need to see how it will affect services.
"On reserves, I am all for the council being prudent but they could be lower than they are."
The cost of some Camden services has already been revealed to be going up in the budget.
Residential homes and respite centres for the elderly will cost �4 more per week. Musical instrument tutoring for Camden schoolchildren will go up by between �1 to �10 a lesson and many sport centre prices will increase by 2.5 per cent.
Planning application fees and residential parking permits will go up, including an increase from �28 to �33 for a day's parking dispensation.
Doctors will also pay an extra �5 for their special parking bays each year and electric vehicles will also see a permit increase.
The council's pest control will also cost up to four per cent more to call out.
But Tory and Lib Dem councillors say the increases are moderate and are part of a successful budget which will support residents in a recession.
Finance boss and Lib Dem councillor Ralph Scott said that much of the authority's reserves were earmarked for council projects and any increases were not on core services.
Council leader and Lib Dem Keith Moffitt said: "This is looking at what's a nice thing to do and what's essential, and prioritising that - very much what people are doing in their own homes.