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Continuing to make a difference in the face of severe Tory cuts

February 16th, 2015

Camden has been one of the boroughs most severely affected by cuts made by the Tory/Lib Dem Government. By 2017 our funding will have been slashed by half. Next year Camden will have had one of the highest cuts in the country.

With other growing social pressures in the borough, like cost of living rising and an ageing population, Camden will have to fill budget gap of £70 million by 2018.

We are already working hard to revolutionise the way we provide services so we can deliver them for less while finding new ways to generate additional income, such as the Night Time levy to pay for policing, and substantially reducing Town Hall costs. We also are lobbying the government for new powers to fine fly-tippers and introduce a Tourist tax to keep our streets clean.

Whilst the Tories are cutting taxes for millionaires, Camden Labour’s plans are focused on protecting the most vulnerable in our community and prioritising the things that make the biggest difference. We are providing:

– 25 hours affordable childcare, helping parents into work and careers

– extra support for mental health services including the launch of Camden’s first fund aimed at preventing mental ill health

– a better focus on preventing domestic violence, helping residents to live safer lives free from the fear of violence.

Camden Labour’s priorities have been demonstrated further by signing Camden up to the Ethical Care Charter to end poverty pay in the care sector, and by 2016 all direct and contracted workers for the council will be paid the London Living Wage. 

We will also continue our council house building programme, using Camden’s land to solve the housing crisis.  One-in-20 council house starts in the country are in Camden.

Camden has been keeping residents updated with plans to meet the financial challenge we face, and proposals were agreed by Cabinet in September and December. However, we already know that we need to prepare for further funding cuts beyond those already projected, including an estimated £20 million for 2018/19 alone.

This means some very difficult decisions need to be made, and if agreed by Cabinet in February, on Monday 2 March Full Council will consider a report which proposes that council tax is increased by 1.99%. If agreed, this would provide £1.7m per year to invest in services which could not be cut by central government like other funding can.

The sheer size of the Tory cuts to Camden means that we knew we could not consider ruling out increasing council tax to ensure that we are able to protect services for the most vulnerable people in our community. This would only be the third increase in council tax in Camden in the last 10 years and would work out at less than 40p per week for residents in a band D property. Those that can’t afford it will get the help they need to pay.

Tory/Lib Dem cuts are having a big impact on how we do things in the borough, but Camden Labour is determined to continue to protect those who need a helping hand by prioritising those services which will make the biggest difference.

Labour candidate chosen for St Pancras and Somers Town by-election

February 4th, 2015

Paul Tomlinson has been chosen by local members to stand for Labour in the St Pancras and Somers Town by-election. The by-election has been called for Thursday 5th March, following the death of Labour councillor Peter Brayshaw.

Paul has lived locally in St Pancras and Somers Town Ward for many years and is active in the community. Paul has strong links with his local Tenants Association and has a strong record campaigning on local issues as well as representing tenants.

Paul is committed to working hard with the current Labour councillors Roger Robinson and Samata Khatoon to represent local residents. Paul cares passionately about improving community safety and delivering good local services to tackle high inequality in the area. He is committed to opposing HS2 and will fight to get the best possible deal for local residents on affordable homes and local jobs if the government forces its plans on Camden.

Paul said ‘I am pleased to have been selected by local members and now look forward to speaking to as many residents as possible before the 5th March. I want to hear from them about the local issues which matter most.’

Council grants for community festivals protected

January 22nd, 2015

Camden Council will provide £35,000 of grants to support community festivals over the coming year.

Due to heavy cuts from the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Camden Council has had to find savings of £73 million over the next 3 years. However, following a Cabinet meeting in December 2014, £35,000 will continue to be made available as grants for community festivals in Camden. All community festivals that receive a grant will also receive a waiver of all non-statuary fees and charges.

Cabinet Member for Customers, Communities and Culture Cllr. Abdul Hai said:

“Despite the savings of £73 million that we have to make over the next three years we have protected this money because we recognise that community festivals have an important role to play in helping community cohesion.”

New Year message from Camden Labour

December 31st, 2014

2015 is likely to be turbulent and challenging for Camden, but I and Camden Labour remain ambitious for our borough. We know, from the successes of 2014, we can deliver for Camden despite these challenges.

Just before Christmas we laid out our three year strategy to cope with additional cuts meted out on us by the Tory government. By 2017 we’ll have lost half our budget for services like social work, bin collections, parks, libraries and much, much more. Moreover the Tories have cut areas with higher levels of deprivation, like Camden, more than those with lower levels of poverty, so we’re receiving more than our fair share of the cuts.

The scale of this challenge means we have to change what we do and how we do it. Inevitably this means really difficult decisions about stopping some services that we know people value. That’s why we spoke to thousands of people while developing the plan and we’ll do many more detailed consultations about changes to individual services over the coming months, look out for details so you can make your views count.

Despite the extraordinary depth of Tory cuts we’re still prioritising the things that matter most. We’re continuing to provide 25 hours free childcare for three and four year olds. We’ll spend more on services to support domestic violence victims. And we are launching Camden’s first mental health prevention fund, with local health services, to try new ways to deal with the high levels of mental health problems locally.

We recently agreed to do more work to tackle low pay and poor working conditions. We’ve signed up to Unison’s Ethical Care Charter and tightened our conditions about how contractors treat their staff. Low pay is a scourge we’re determined to tackle, despite the financial challenges we face.

But our challenges aren’t just financial.

Over 2014 we achieved some significant successes in our battle against HS2’s plans for our borough. We got the suggested link through Camden Town scrapped; we forced a major rethink on designs for Euston station and got HS2 to buy some replacement housing. We’ve finally convinced them that Maria Fidelis school should be relocated to a single site because of the negative impact on students. But there are still major battles to fight. While everyone concedes the current option proposed for Euston station is inadequate there’s no consensus on what should be built in its place. Ministers have already pulled the plug on one alternative – a ‘double deck’ scheme – and we must continue to fight for better plans. We’ve shown that we succeed when we pull together to campaign and it’s essential we continue.

The biggest challenge the borough faces is housing. During 2014 people moved into the first new Council housing built for nearly three decades and over the coming year more new homes will be finished. We want to build more but we’re prevented from doing so by government. We’re also taking action to improve the private rented sector and ensure tenants are treated fairly.

But again we don’t have the powers we need to properly tackle Camden’s housing crisis. Over the coming year we’ll put pressure on both the Tories and Labour to allow us to invest more in housing and give local authorities more powers to deal with rogue landlords, protecting responsible private sector tenants.

We won’t be able to succeed in these campaigns or meet the challenges we face without your help. But we know, despite the pressures, the progress we made in 2014 shows that with determination and imagination we can still make a big difference to people’s lives. We look forward to working with you to achieve even more in 2015.

Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Labour

Death of St Pancras and Somers Town Councillor Peter Brayshaw

December 18th, 2014

Following the sad news that Cllr Peter Brayshaw has passed away, Sarah Hayward, Camden Labour’s Leader paid the following the tribute:

“The whole of Camden Labour is shocked and saddened by the death of our dear comrade Cllr Peter Brayshaw. Since we learned the news the words most commonly used to describe him have been wise and kind. There is no more fitting tribute.

Peter was a huge support and an incredible source of information and advice for so many of his colleagues. His wisdom and knowledge were garnered through his decades of public service, both as an officer in local and regional government and as a Labour councillor, and I personally have valued his support and advice on many occasions.

Peter returned to the council in 2010 where he worked tirelessly to help us make the best of the terrible situation meted out on us by government. His scrutiny, challenge and ideas improved our decisions.

Peter served three times as a councillor – since 2010, in the mid 2000s and in the early 1990s. In all three spells he was known as assiduous, able and Labour to his core. Peter was one of the fairest people in politics. If he agreed with you it wasn’t to garner favour it was because he believed it was right, if he disagreed he did so honestly and without future prejudice.

Outside the Town Hall Peter was active in so many ways and contributed on everything from his own Tenants and Residents Association to the campaign to end South Africa’s apartheid regime, latterly he was national vice chair of Action for Southern Africa. If Peter saw an opportunity to help people, he took it. One of his most recent campaigns was to be a leading voice the so-called “shareholder spring”. Peter was a key member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum whose members are major shareholders, to challenge multinational institutions over their business practices.

We will all fondly remember kind and wise Peter Brayshaw.”