'The biggest challenge Camden faces in 2014 is HS2', says council leader in New Year's message
PUBLISHED: 14:52 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:15 03 January 2014
Camden's biggest challenge in 2014 will be the proposed High Speed 2 rail link, says council leader Sarah Hayward in her New Year's message to Ham&High readers.
At the start of a new year there is much to be proud of in Camden, but still many challenges we must face.
I believe that Camden’s Labour Council is making positive difference to people’s lives, despite massive cuts from the coalition government. We’re delivering our Camden Plan that focuses our efforts on changing people’s lives. Childcare and apprenticeships to help tackle inequality and get people in to work. Investing in schools, homes and community facilities to ensure everyone can succeed. And no one’s left behind.
Our aims are ambitious and the issues are complex, but I’m confident that we are making a real difference to people’s lives.
The Community Investment Programme is our biggest programme of work; one which will continue over 2014 and well beyond. Investment in buildings has been cut to the bone by the government. We have lost over £200million to refurbish our schools and funding for new homes has pretty much dried up. So, we are using the council’s assets more effectively, to ensure we deliver new schools, new homes and new community facilities for our residents.
In December, Camden’s Labour council agreed further plans to open over 400 new primary school places and build over 500 new homes. This is on top of existing plans, that will build hundreds of homes, improve many schools and invest in local community facilities and jobs.
The biggest challenge Camden faces is government plans for High Speed 2 (HS2). The council is strongly opposed to HS2 - as it stands, it will devastate much of the borough. Current plans for Euston Station and a link through Camden Town between the channel tunnel and HS2 will devastate Camden. We will lose as many as 480 homes, thousands of jobs, schools, not to mention parks, listed buildings and more. Currently the government has no plans to mitigate this devastation. But, sadly, they do look more and more determined to press ahead. So I believe the borough needs to pull together to fight the impacts but to also try to push the government to change plans both for Euston and the Link.
We’re starting to see our influence count. Already, by working with residents, I’ve been able to persuade HS2 to release information on their costs model - that they’d previously refused to make available - to help develop alternative plans. Support for the Link appears to be wavering. The more of us who work together on these issues the more chance we have of success. I’m determined to make our influence count, because frankly Camden deserves better.
Labour has also been making a difference on many other issues in 2013 and will continue to in 2014, and hopefully beyond. We’ve worked to improve quality and price in the private rented homes. Our roads will be safer as a result of our new borough-wide 20mph speed limit. Where national government and banks have failed we’re investing in Camden based businesses through crowd funding. We continue to provide one of the largest packages of support to volunteering and the voluntary sector of any council in the country. And Labour in Camden is doing more than most councils to help people affected by the benefit changes.
We’re also continuing to tackle inequality. From last September the council started funding three- and four-year-olds for 25 hours of childcare. We’re leading London wide work to tackle poor terms and conditions in the care industry and we continue to let more contracts at London Living Wage. We’re also aiming to become the country’s first Timewise council to improve the availability of quality part time work.
Labour is working hard for Camden, and we are making a difference. But the future is uncertain. We’re now predicting the government will cut a further £80million from our budget between now and 2017. There will be no option but to radically change what we do and how we do it. Areas with higher poverty, like Camden, have been hit hardest. It’s never been more important to make every pound count.
It will get tougher as the cuts get deeper. But Labour in Camden will continue to make choices that tackle inequality, preserve our social mix and make a real difference to local people’s lives in the year to come.
I wish you all a happy new year for 2014.