Camden to protect services and invest in families as savings agreed
Camden Council will continue to support families through the cost-of-living crisis and invest in frontline services despite being required to make new savings.
To help address the effects of the cost-of-living crisis Camden Council is:
- Investing £28m in its Council Tax Support scheme, supporting 22,500 households with their bills, including 16,000 households most in need who will not pay a penny.
- Running a £2m Cost of Living Crisis Fund , providing payment of up to £500 to individual residents or families facing severe financial hardship who have no other source of monetary support available.
- Providing a package of support to its voluntary and community sector , including a £1m Resilience Fund and various grants to help organisations address issues including food insecurity.
However, rising inflation, pressure on services and continued long-term uncertainty about levels of funding from central Government means Camden Council is having to be cautious when setting its budget for 2023/2024, which the Council’s Cabinet are due to consider in February 2023. Ahead of this, the Council’s Cabinet reviewed a new Medium Term Financial Strategy (Wednesday, 18 January 2023), which outlines saving proposals.
Camden Council has already been forced to cut around £200m from its budget since 2010 due to reductions in Government funding. The Council is now forecasting a budget deficit of £40m by 2025/26, with an additional budget gap of £8m-£12m in its Housing Revenue Account. A worst-case scenario could see the Council need to save £68m, without more Government funding.
The money we are set to get from Government this year is not in line with rising inflation – and this comes hard upon the cuts we’ve faced during the austerity years. The Government is passing the buck – it now expects us to dig into our emergency reserves and to put Council Tax up to maximum levels every single year.
“Let’s be clear – our reserves are held for specific purposes or to help us respond to crisis situations, such as the Covid 19 pandemic – not as a long-term plug for day-to-day spending. Neither can the decision to raise Council Tax be taken lightly, when our households are at the sharp end of a cost-of-living crisis. This is why we are committed to maintaining our Council Tax support scheme, which we believe to be the most generous in London, as well investing £2m in a cost-of-living crisis fund and continuing our voucher scheme to ensure children who receive free meals at school can eat during the holidays.
“The Government must stop providing us with one-year settlements and provide us with a funding package in line with inflation for three years, to allow us to plan how we can best use support our communities in the long-term. We have a strong record of delivering savings through early intervention – supporting our residents before their problems escalate. We’re able to do this as we carefully manage our finances and have strong relationships with our community and voluntary sector, meaning we’ve been able to plug gaps better than elsewhere in the country, who have had to make dramatic cuts to services. We’re now at a critical point though, and without clarity on our future funding from Government, we will have no choice but to make further savings later this year.
Camden’s continued commitment to early intervention and investment includes:
- Maintaining the Sure Start provision and investing in schools and family support services. Camden Council’s children’s services were rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2022.
- Spending £130m to buy back 280 former Right-to-Buy, spacious, family sized homes to help reduce homelessness and overcrowding.
- Expanding its housebuilding programme to deliver over 2,600 affordable homes. The Council’s house building programme - has so far provided larger Council homes to over 1,000 residents including 453 children, many of whom previously lived in overcrowded homes.
- Tackling the climate crisis by establishing Healthy Streets work, installing solar panels on housing estate roofs and electric charging points and ‘greening’ the Council’s transport fleet, all financed through creating a Camden Local Climate Bond. Responding to climate crisis runs through the Council’s spending commitments and savings proposals.
During the main phase of the Covid-19 pandemic we received extra funding from Government which allowed us to support the most vulnerable people in our community and help our businesses. Now we face huge pressures in our health system and social care and a cost-of-living crisis, but the Government support is not being matched.
“On welfare, we need the Government to double the Household Support Fund, to reinstate the £20 uplift to Universal Credit to take families out of poverty and to expand the availability of discretionary housing payments
The full list of savings proposals can be viewed in Appendix A. The Council will continue to work with its communities and partners to design services together, in addition to the consultation it is required to do on these proposals.