Camden calls on Government to “cover the costs of Covid-19”
Camden Council has urged the Government to cover the costs of extra Council services delivered in responding to Covid-19 along with long-term investment and reform of social care ahead of the Autumn Spending Review.
Camden Council estimates it has incurred a budget pressure of £55million during the pandemic as a result of increased expenditure and lost revenue on new or tailored services to support its communities. Government grants and support to date only reduce this by £22.9million – meaning the council is facing a ‘coronavirus deficit’ of £32.5million.
The council has responded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s spending review to urge the Government to make up the difference as it looks to support its residents in need this winter and beyond, as part of a sustainable financial settlement for local government. It has also asked for proper investment in test and trace activity to support local public health authorities to help contain a second spike of Covid-19 cases.
The council’s income from rent and service charges from its social housing has also dipped this year as residents struggle to pay their rent – adding a financial pressure of around £8million to its Housing Revenue Account. This puts strain on the council’s ability to fund repairs and build new social and affordable housing – yet, to date, the Government have not offered any support in this area.
The council recently launched its first ever Crowdfunder to raise money to provide laptops and computers for its poorer children to enable home study and to bridge the ‘digital divide’. More than 3,000 Camden pupils were without access to a computer at the end of the last academic year. To date this has raised over £23,000.
Councils and their partners have taken on new and crucial roles in the pandemic, largely at our own expense, putting the safety and welfare of our residents first. We have stepped up to support residents and tackle the huge societal inequalities Covid-19 has exposed. But councils are now at tipping point with this increased expenditure following hard on from ten years of government austerity.
"The government told councils to do whatever it takes to deal with coronavirus and they would back us. The Government now needs to honour that commitment and cover the costs of Covid-19, back local authorities to support communities through the pandemic and lead the recovery of local economies.
“The Spending Review is a critical moment in determining whether local government gets the financial settlement it needs. Now is the time for the government to invest in us so we can make the most effective local impact.
New or enhanced services Camden Council have set up during the pandemic include:
- A food delivery services to ensure people shielding and those in need don’t go hungry – this delivered 100,000 food packages and 20,000 hot meals to Camden residents between March and June.
- Specialist accommodation and support services help people rough sleeping off the streets and into a safe environment – around 90 rough sleepers have now transferred from this facility or off the streets into settled accommodation.
- Investing in rehabilitation services to keep people leaving hospital independent.
Latest statistics show that at least 2,500 Camden residents are on Universal Credit while 25,400 Camden-based employees are furloughed. Behind these statistics are deeply concerning inequalities exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic – 43% of Camden children are in poverty, while the borough has an ethnicity employment gap of 30%. The council, partners and residents are working together to build an inclusive economy and society that ensures no-one in Camden is left behind.
Councillor Olszewski also repeated the council’s call for government to give local authorities more power on testing.
The government has so far refused to relinquish any control of Test and Trace, and is rapidly losing public confidence in the system. Councils have the local knowledge, expertise and community contacts to make test and trace work, so bring us in properly to lead test and trace locally, and invest urgently in expanding capacity of the system.
Camden's call to Government
The council is seeking financial backing from Government and policy intervention in the following areas:
Helping manage current & future financial pressures from the pandemic
- Fully compensate Camden Council for the financial pressures attributed to Covid-19.
- Fully fund additional responsibilities the council has been given to tackle the pandemic, such as supporting the Test & Trace scheme for which Camden is a lead authority on the Good Practice Network and the wrap around support needed to prevent and mitigate the impacts of future local outbreaks
- Relax prudential borrowing to provide additional flexibility to invest in the infrastructure needed for our communities and local economy
Delivering wellbeing through a sustainable health and care settlement
- Proper investment in test & trace activity and wraparound support, led by expertise in our local public health function.
- Long-term investment in local public health, wellbeing, and physical activity
- Government to champion strategy for the inclusion of public health and wellbeing outcomes (including physical activity) across all government departments).
- Sustainable adult social care funding - a move away from multiple annual hand-outs
- Adult social care workforce strategy including training and career progression as well as fair wage for care staff that values the work they do, that puts them on a par with their colleagues in the NHS and ends the high turnover and vacancy rates which undermine quality.
- A sustainable price for adult social care provision that enables long term good quality registered services and well-resourced prevention and early intervention offers
- Investment in strong local, place based, integration of health and care
- Increased of funding to support mental health across all age groups.
Investing in children, young people, and education
- Sustainable funding settlement for children’s social care and early years, family, and youth services more broadly to help the council continue work which reduces requirement for state intervention but also focuses on keeping families together in first place.
- Urgent investment to support young people with education and skills and bridge the digital divide to ensure children and young people don’t fall further behind due to missing school during the pandemic
- Greater certainty over school funding, considering the significant and widening inequalities faced by many of our students.
- Camden Council strongly supports the national lobby for significant increase in funding for special educational needs.
- Camden Council supports London-wide lobbying for funding/reform of support for UASC the National Transfer Scheme to address challenges faced. Future funding of councils needs to accurately reflect costs they incur from caring for these vulnerable people
Delivering jobs, local employment, and inclusive growth
- Opportunity to invest/work with Camden on generation of evidence base for how an inclusive local economy can be delivered – through development of new thinking and evidence base, opportunities to test and learn around enquiry areas such as ‘welfare that works’, ‘good work for all’ and how we might deliver a just transition to a zero carbon economy.
- Investment in development of our Good Work model and associated learning to inform evidence-base for future welfare policy development
- Investment in and support for the cultural sector to bolster its recovery.
Making sure people can live in decent, affordable & safe homes:
- Increased grant and greater flexibilities to borrow to help us deliver council housing
- Increase or lifting of the total benefit cap
- Required funding to enable temporary accommodation to be provided locally
- Longer term funding settlements to the rough sleeping flexible grant
- Funding for a pan London service for people new to the streets
Enabling a just transition to a zero-carbon economy
- Finance or low interest loans which Camden offers to homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and support local SMEs and employment
- Capital funding or reframing of Govt Salix finance to be used on council housing to bring 10,000 homes across our communally heated estates to near net zero
Tackling disproportionality and inequality across our communities
- Cabinet level leadership on tackling race inequality and a comprehensive Race Equality Strategy, and investment needed to fulfil ask.
- A comprehensive review of the national curriculum, incorporating a substantial black history education.
- Publish in full the recommendations from the PHE review of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and other ethnic communities.
- Strengthen the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19, and ensuring Black, Asian, and other ethnic communities are disproportionally impacted by the recovery