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Tribute to former Kilburn Councillor Charlie Hedges

October 27th, 2014

Former and current Camden Labour councillors, party activists and Camden residents have been paying tribute to the former Kilburn councillor Charlie Hedges after it was announced he has passed away at the age of 64 on Sunday 19th October. Charlie Hedges served as a councillor for Kilburn from 1990-2006, served as Deputy Leader of the Council and was well-known for his time as Executive Member for Housing.

Julian Fulbrook, the Cabinet Member for Housing pays tribute below; 

“For many years Charlie Hedges was synonymous with Camden Housing. I got to know him well when he came on the Council in 1990, although for many years before he had been a community activist, and for 16 years as a councillor for the Kilburn area he was an indefatigable advocate on behalf of tenants and leaseholders.

While Council structures changed around him, Charlie was never far from the housing portfolio in various guises as Chair of Housing and then Executive Member for Housing, but also became Deputy Leader of the Council. Dropping off the Council through ill health Charlie then took up a role as Chair of the Hampstead District Management Committee, one of the five area forums for residents to play an active role in housing management.

Although born in Holborn and very much rooted in Camden, his working life as a lorry driver and active trade unionist meant he had a wide breadth of experience and had travelled to many parts of the country. Always cheerful, and often with a story about his beloved family or his dogs, Charlie was a large presence and a stalwart friend to many.

The cascade of medical issues that afflicted him in recent years was a great shame, but so many Camden families have reason to be grateful for his persistent work on their behalf. He will be greatly missed.”

Former council leaders Dame Jane Roberts and Phil Turner have paid tribute to Charlie in The Camden New Journal which can be viewed by clicking here.

Camden Labour’s message to residents in the face of more Government cuts

September 5th, 2014

Camden faces another round of austerity cuts from central government – by 2017 we will have lost half of our funding. As Labour councillors we will do all we can to protect services: whether it’s support for looked-after children, youth work and apprenticeship programmes or the council’s help for vulnerable older people.

The starting point is to make big ‘back office’ savings like reducing management, raising income and changing the way the council works, but it is clear that frontline services will have to be cut.

Austerity has gone on longer because the economy didn’t grow. The Tories promised to sort things out in one term of Parliament and here we are, approaching the end of a Parliament with another round of cuts.

Camden doesn’t get a fair deal to meet local needs – we have the 8th largest cuts of all authorities in England, thanks to a Whitehall funding formula now weighted against areas with high levels of poverty, homelessness or dependency. A first step for a new Labour government in May must be to reinstate fairer funding to better meet needs.

Most public money spent in Camden is beyond the control of the council and dictated by central government. If we could have more say over spending locally we could use taxpayer money more effectively to tackle inequality, or reduce welfare bills by getting people into jobs.

People told us they were voting Labour in Camden this year because they didn’t like Tory-Lib Dem cuts nationally and trusted Camden Labour to make difficult but humane decisions about safeguarding local public services. We developed a new plan to build more council homes and repair schools as well as keeping three neighbourhood libraries open by supporting the community to take over their running.

The proposals we have to put forwards will be public debated and not made behind closed doors. Over the next few months we will be talking about cuts again and we pledge to work with you to protect Camden’s public services.

Camden Labour Group

Frank Dobson to retire

July 23rd, 2014

FDFrank Dobson, Labour MP for Holborn & St. Pancras since 1979, is to retire at the next General Election. Mr. Dobson, who is 74, doubled his majority to 9,942 at the last General Election. Mr. Dobson officially announced his retirement to a meeting of his Party members at Camden Town Hall, 7.30 pm, on Tuesday 22 July.

After succeeding Lena Jeger MP in 1979, he became a member of Neil Kinnock’s shadow education team. He was subsequently Shadow Health Minister where he exposed severe shortcomings in the Government’s cervical cancer screening arrangements and provision of infertility treatment. He set up NHS Unlimited to defend the concept of a comprehensive free NHS. After being elected to the Shadow Cabinet, Frank Dobson set up Labour’s Petrol Price Monitoring Unit which highlighted the profiteering by the petrol companies and speculators. Subsequently, he revealed how the privatised water companies were leaking 826 million gallons of water every day while trying to impose hose pipe bans on the public. Throughout this period, Frank Dobson gave full support, in collaboration with Ken Clarke, to the proposals of the Warnock Report which led to the establishment of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority.

When Labour won the General Election in 1997, Frank Dobson was appointed Secretary of State for Health & Social Services. During his period of office, spending was constrained by Labour’s commitment to stick to the Tories’ spending limits. Despite that, he brought record reductions in waiting lists, increased medical students by 20 per cent, increased nurse training, launched the biggest hospital building and refurbishment programme in the history of the NHS and shifted health resources to the areas most in need. Frank established NICE and NHS Direct. Frank Dobson brought forward the World’s first Meningitis ‘C’ vaccination programme and ensured that British troops had up-to-date vaccines when serving abroad. He introduced measures to improve mental health services. He launched the children’s policy “Every Child Matters” and laid down that the basic test for assessing the provision for children in care was “Would it be good enough for my children?”

When Frank Dobson returned to the back-benches after resigning to run for Mayor of London, he gave general support to the Blair and Brown Governments. But he opposed the Iraq War, top-up fees for students, the marketisation of parts of the NHS and led the Labour opposition to extending the period in which suspects could be held without charge. Frank Dobson opposed the proposed £50 billion High Speed 2 train project and continued his opposition when the Tories adopted the HS2 proposals. Since then, he has been even more heavily committed to opposing the project which will demolish the homes of over 500 local people in his constituency and expose over 5,000 more to living next to the noise, filth, air pollution and general disruption of the Euston construction site for a decade or more.

Mr. Dobson said –

“I have decided to pack in when people are stopping me in the street to say they hope I am not going – rather than waiting until they ask why the hell I am still around. It has been an honour to represent the people of Holborn & St. Pancras for all these years and to have made at least some contribution to making it a better place to live, including helping save Covent Garden from redevelopment, getting St. Pancras International as the Eurostar station, rebuilding University College London Hospital, saving Barts and refurbishing the Whittington Hospital.

“Our constituency includes an enormous variety of communities and loyalties with widely differing views on many issues. So, it’s impossible to agree with everybody and I have always tried to make my position clear on issues as they arise. I am proud of the people I represent. They get on together and help one another. Outsiders who have tried to stir up divisions have always failed. Common sense and human decency have prevailed. It has been hard work keeping up with the needs and aspirations of local people and helping resolve their problems. My constituents have been slow to chide and swift to bless. So I have enjoyed the job. I will keep at it until the next election and give whatever help I can to my successor.”

You can read Frank’s speech announcing his retirement to local party members on his website here.

Camden Labour boosts pay for lowest paid workers

July 16th, 2014

Camden Labour has taken action to ensure that the lowest paid Council staff will receive a higher level of pay, lowering the gap between the lowest and highest paid workers.

The move will see staff like cleaners and kitchen assistants receive a significant increase in their salary. The difference between the highest and lowest paid employees in Camden will be no greater than a ratio of 1:10, ensuring that all staff are fairly rewarded for their work.

Labour Leader of Camden Council, Councillor Sarah Hayward said, “Addressing low pay is a key part of tackling inequality across Camden. This is a clear signal that Camden is leading the way in implementing fair pay for some of the lowest paid public sector workers who day in, day out work hard to deliver quality services for residents and businesses.

Camden under Labour has become one of the first authorities in the country to be a Living Wage Borough, committed to paying the London Living Wage to staff.

The Council is now set to increase pay for the lowest paid staff from £16,413 to £18,297. In addition, by 2018 every member of staff working hard to deliver public services to the residents and business in Camden will earn at least £20,000 per year.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, Cabinet member for finance and technology policy said: “We deliver first class public services and are using our position as a large employer in Camden to show leadership to others. We hope that they will follow our example by showing them the value of paying employees a decent wage for the jobs they do”.

Why we support today’s strike by public sector workers

July 10th, 2014

Camden Labour supports today’s strike in support of decent pay rises for low paid public workers.

Camden Labour is acting to tackle low pay. We were one of the first accredited Living Wage boroughs in the country and we continue to push the boundaries on low pay and pay ratios between the lowest and highest paid in the council.

Public sector workers, and in particular, local government employees, do vital work delivering essential services to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. In many cases this work is literally a matter of life and death. We believe this work should be properly rewarded.

Camden Labour has cancelled official council meetings today in support of the strike.

Cllr Sarah Hayward
Leader of Camden Council