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