Camden leader calls on community to stand up for public services amid ‘worrying’ financial impact of coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 07:22 06 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:23 06 June 2020
Camden Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould said the coronavirus pandemic had been “incredibly painful” and had “shone a light on existing inequalities” in the community.
Speaking in a live question and answer session hosted by the Ham&High over Zoom, Cllr Gould (Lab, Kentish Town) reflected on the last ten weeks’ as a “huge challenge” and paid tribute to key workers - while calling on residents to join “a massive public campaign” to ensure public services get the government funding they need.
Cllr Gould said, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the council is facing an £80m gap in its finances by the end of the year unless more government funding is forthcoming – and this could lead to cuts and job losses.
Answering a reader’s question about the council’s financial plan, Cllr Gould said she was asking “our communities to stand up with us for public services” and join a “massive public campaign” to persuade central government to funnel money to town halls.
So far the council has received £19m in support.
Cllr Gould said she thought “we have a government that listens to public pressure” and added: “If we don’t see that money coming through, we are not going to have the capacity to do everything we need to do to continue to support our community. We may be in a position of having to make cuts just when we need do invest more and when we know there’s huge need.
“If we are left with that funding gap, some public sector workers will lose their jobs. We have cut as much as we can without having a severe impact on people.”
Cllr Gould indicated tackling a growing homelessness problem was a “huge worry” amid uncertainty over how long there would be government funding to house rough sleepers.
She told the meeting the council is pushing for more money, and to be able to house those currently designated as having “no recourse to public funds”.
She said: “It just can’t happen that people could be going back on the streets having been housed in a hotel and starting to get on a path back towards secure accommodation.”
In March, local government secretary Robert Jenrick told council leaders the government “stands ready to do whatever is necessary to support councils in their response to coronavirus”, and a departmental spokesperson said last week the government would “continue to work closely with councils as the pandemic progresses to develop an ongoing assessment of costs as they support their communities through this national emergency”.
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