Camden set to lose out on Govt’s £300m fund to ease council cuts

February 10th, 2016

Camden set to lose out on a £300m superfund by the government intended to soften the impact of council cuts.

Following the Comprehensive Spending review in November a special fund was set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The fund will now be allocated mainly to wealthy, Conservative-controlled shire councils receive an estimated 83% of the cash, while inner city areas with greater pressure lose out.

      
The biggest beneficiaries will be Surrey, which will get £24m, with £19m going to Hampshire, £16m to Hertfordshire, £14m to Essex, £12m to West Sussex, £11m to Kent and £9m to Buckinghamshire. Cameron’s county council in Oxfordshire will get an additional £9m to ease the cuts over the next two years.

     
Cllr. Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance said:”Camden has lost nearly 50% in government funding since 2010. This means each and every year the council has had to cut around £20 million from local services. Many shire areas have had their funding protected. This week Camden successfully staved off an attempt to make this year’s deep government cuts even deeper, but unlike the southern counties we have no support from this special fund.”    

        
The Council must deliver services while dealing with inner London pressures which Government has made little to no allowance for in funding allocations. For example:

  • Camden had the 4th fastest growing population in the country between 2010 and 2014, and this is set to grow by a further 20,121 (7.4%) by 2020, yet there is nothing in the settlement to enable us to respond to the increased infrastructure and service delivery that these demographic changes require. 
  • The latest projections estimate London’s population will rise from 8.6 million in 2015 to 9.1 million by 2020, an increase of 6.4 per cent – more than twice the anticipated rate of increase for the rest of England (3.1 per cent). London’s growth will account for 28 per cent of all population growth in England over that period.
  • London Councils estimate that London’s daytime population rises to close to 10.8 million – an increase of 2.5 million or 30 per cent from its usual resident population. This significant level of growth places increased pressure on local authority services and infrastructure.
  • Due to its transport infrastructure and status as a tourist hub, Camden also faces increased demand from short-term and day-time populations, which are not fully captured within the funding allocations. Homelessness and rough sleeping numbers have spiked in the last two years, bringing further pressures. Finally, the costs of providing services in London are higher than in the rest of the UK.
  • Meanwhile, the government has continued to pass new responsibilities to the council and then cut the funding to deliver these – exacerbating the effect of the cuts. Examples include public health, council tax benefit, and the local welfare fund. The government decision to abolish the contracted-out rate will create a further financial pressure for Camden of £2m in 2016/17 alone

Labour Camden council has made a major step forward in transparency

November 13th, 2015

Camden council has made a major step forward in transparency by committing itself to a new Open Data Charter. 

The Council has made considerable progress in publishing its data openly over the last 6 months. However the Council currently has no agreed position on the publication of data although its de facto position is to not publish data openly unless there is a statutory requirement to do so. The Open Data Charter changes this position to “open by default” i.e. to publish data openly unless there is a good reason why not.

Other local authorities who are at the forefront of Open Data include Bath and North East Somerset, and Leeds have open data policies. It will also act as a reference point to encourage services to publish their data while providing assurance that open data does not override privacy and data quality concerns.

Open data is published on Camden’s new portal, in partnership with Socrata https://opendata.camden.gov.uk/  – datasets on the portal will grow as more information is published and respond to demand from residents and businesses.

Labour’s Theo Blackwell said:

“Camden is leading the way across public services in our work on technology to improve public services and save money.  Now we make our datasets open and available for public and commercial use to improve transparency and local democracy as well as give new insights into Camden’s environment and economy.”

London Borough of Camden Open Data Charter November 2015 


Camden council building wins award

October 16th, 2015

Camden council’s new building in King’s Cross – Five Pancras Square – has won the prestigious Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award 2015.  Previous award winners include the Tate Modern and the Velodrome at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The council building makes innovative use of space, housing a state of the art leisure centre, library and Camden Council offices. It has the capacity to serve 225,140 Camden residents as well as the many commuters who pass through the area.
It is currently the greenest public building in the UK  – achieving a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ sustainability rating. 90% of all building materials were responsibly sourced, while an energy efficient ventilation system and solar panels ensure low carbon emissions and reduced running costs.
 It will help the council make savings of around £500,000 per year in energy costs alone and £4m a year in efficiencies.
The Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award recognises publicly funded projects that are completed on time, on budget and bring real change to the community.
Cllr. Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance and Technology policy said: ““This is fantastic recognition that 5 Pancras Square is one of the best public buildings in the UK. It is not just a great public services hub for Camden residents it is a real example of how despite government cuts, Labour-run Camden are being innovative and revolutionising the way we work to save money and and continue to protect, and provide better, services.’

Camden Labour to boost business broadband and mobile connectivity – free wifi for 74 tenants halls

October 1st, 2015

Labour-run Camden Council has launched a plan to radically boost digital connectivity for businesses and residents across the borough by tackling mobile phone ‘blackspots’ and delivering better business broadband speeds.
Camden Council was recently awarded a ‘Digital City 2015’ award for its digital efforts. These fresh proposals would see rooftop spaces on council-owned buildings leased to telecommunications companies to deliver improvements. The initiative could also generate an income of around £6 million over ten years. With the Tory Government making significant cuts to the council budget, this initiative could provide up to £600k per year to spend on services.

The plans also tackle the digital divide by providing free wi-fi access for 74 tenants’ halls on council estates, digital skills training and refurbished PCs for use by the community. This will enable tenants halls to be used for a wider range of activities, including homework clubs.
Camden has a booming professional and tech sector and established creative industries. Faster broadband speeds will secure Camden’s place as a hub for these businesses.
A decision on the proposals will be made at Camden’s Cabinet Meeting on 21 October.
Councillor Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance and Technology Policy, speaking at the launch of The Triangle Building, part of the Interchange coworking space in Camden Town, said last night (Wed 30 September):
“Businesses and residents depend on high speed, low cost internet to be competitive in the digital economy. Through this initiative by using council-owned buildings and assets to give our local economy and community what is now regarded as an essential service.
“These proposals will not just deliver benefits to residents and businesses; they will allow us to help tackle the financial challenges we face as a local authority. By 2017 our funding from central government will have been cut in half by Cameron’s Tories and this plan will provide us with much needed revenue to put into local services.
“I’d like as many residents and local businesses as possible to give us their feedback and thoughts on these ideas.”


Camden Labour to boost business broadband and mobile connectivity – free wifi for 74 tenants halls

October 1st, 2015

Labour-run Camden Council has launched a plan to radically boost digital connectivity for businesses and residents across the borough by tackling mobile phone ‘blackspots’ and delivering better business broadband speeds.
Camden Council was recently awarded a ‘Digital City 2015’ award for its digital efforts. These fresh proposals would see rooftop spaces on council-owned buildings leased to telecommunications companies to deliver improvements. The initiative could also generate an income of around £6 million over ten years. With the Tory Government making significant cuts to the council budget, this initiative could provide up to £600k per year to spend on services.
The plans also tackle the digital divide by providing free wi-fi access for 74 tenants’ halls on council estates, digital skills training and refurbished PCs for use by the community. This will enable tenants halls to be used for a wider range of activities, including homework clubs. 
Camden has a booming professional and tech sector and established creative industries. Faster broadband speeds will secure Camden’s place as a hub for these businesses.
A decision on the proposals will be made at Camden’s Cabinet Meeting on 21 October. 
Councillor Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance and Technology Policy, speaking at the launch of The Triangle Building, part of the Interchange coworking space in Camden Town, said last night (Wed 30 September):
 “Businesses and residents depend on high speed, low cost internet to be competitive in the digital economy. Through this initiative by using council-owned buildings and assets to give our local economy and community what is now regarded as an essential service.
“These proposals will not just deliver benefits to residents and businesses; they will allow us to help tackle the financial challenges we face as a local authority. By 2017 our funding from central government will have been cut in half by Cameron’s Tories and this plan will provide us with much needed revenue to put into local services.
“I’d like as many residents and local businesses as possible to give us their feedback and thoughts on these ideas.”