George Osborne’s plan to shrink the state through prolonged cuts to public services is forcing Camden council to cut £70m of services juts to balance the budget over the next 3 years.
The effect of the cuts will be to reduce provision locally, fewer universal services and an increase the number of means-tested services.
Camden council’s Financial Plan, to be outlined on 17 December, sets out proposals to cut spending across all areas of council activity:
- Community safety budgets will be cut and refocused, with less money to address anti-social behaviour
- A new waste and recycling contract will be negotiated at a lower cost and steps taken to boost recycling rates
- Services like employment and sexual health shared with other boroughs instead of provided just by Camden
- Savings from social care budgets will be made by encouraging more people to live at home for as long as possible
- More income from advertising and commercial opportunities in parks and in public spaces
- Review of the entire early years system to consider how to focus the money on those who really need the support and maintain 25 hours of childcare
- Cuts to library and youth services are also proposed, but nothing has been earmarked for closure
- More online services for those who can use the internet.
Currently 63% of funding for services comes from Whitehall. Between 2010-17 central government grant will have been cut by half, with Camden facing the 8th highest cut in the country. Camden Labour warns that unless local services get more funding there will be no money for all services other than street cleaning and recycling, adult social care and safeguarding children by 2021.
An estimated 600 Town hall posts are expected to be lost, including 200 managers, on top of the 975 posts deleted in the 2010-14 period. Consultation on specific proposals with unions and service users will start in the New Year.
All decisions will be subject to an Equality Impact Assessment to ensure that there is not disproportionate impact on one part of the community over another. The council will report on the cumulative impact of the cuts at regular stages over the next 3 years, addressing unfairness in our budgets if at all possible.
Camden Labour councillors have led a fundamental review of all council spending to focus money on projects which tackle inequality. As part of the Plan, Camden will;
- Retain 25 hours of free childcare
- Invest more in domestic violence prevention
- Limit cuts to mental health services
- Fund Unison’s Ethical Care Charter to end poverty pay with care workers.
In the New Year the Council will launch a campaign for more powers and spending for health, skills and welfare to be devolved from Whitehall to Camden and other London boroughs so that millions in public money currently spent by government agencies can be used in the most effective way at a local level. This will also include leading calls for a bed tax on hotel stays, as proposed by cross-party the London Finance Commission. This would require national legislation but, if successful, could raise up to £5m a year for public services. If other cities, regions and councils are demanding more powers, devolution must also happen here too.
Camden Labour leader Sarah Hayward said:
“Osborne and Cameron’s vicious cuts to council budgets are an early demonstration of their plans for public services. They plan to roll back the state and pull away vital safety nets for vulnerable people.
Camden Labour has tried to prioritise the money we have left for vulnerable people and what we know will help them best and help save money in the long run. We’ve focused on tackling inequality, preventing people getting in to trouble and being as efficient as we can. This means extra money in some areas like mental health prevention and domestic violence. But also means some very difficult cuts to services that we know people value.
It’s essential that we fight for a Labour government in 2015 to protect the future of the welfare state and universal public services.”
Labour Finance lead Cllr. Theo Blackwell said:
“As Labour councillors we are in a particularly difficult position implementing cuts to public services we never wanted to – but let’s be clear: the responsibility lies with George Osborne and the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition. One-term Tory austerity didn’t work because it started off by doing too much too fast, as we warned. Plan for spending restraint and investment was replaced by deep cuts in the measures in the emergency budget of 2010 and the first settlement which choked the recovery already underway. It left no room for error, so when European economies started to suffer there was little scope to compensate.”
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