Decisions to be made at Camden’s Cabinet this month

Next week Camden’s Cabinet will meet to decide how we make savings from some of our key services as well as considering the latest information on our financial position.

Cuts to Government funding alongside other spending pressures – such as continual increases in the cost of living and an ageing population – have left the council with substantial budget pressures. By 2017/18 we will have reduced our budget by £168 million.

Proposals being presented to Cabinet include a new strategy for the delivery of our future library service and a new framework for supporting the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS).

Here is a summary of the proposals being presented to Cabinet and an update on our financial challenge.

Future library service

We received a strong message from residents that they do not want to see any libraries close and so we’ve looked at other ways to achieve the savings.

The recommended proposal suggests an ‘open access’ library model is implemented, where ‘Open+’ self-serve technology is used to support a reduction in staff. Customers will be encouraged to self-serve for many transactions; however there will be staff available at busier times.

There is also a wider package of savings to be taken elsewhere from the library service, including:

  • a reduction in senior management posts
  • a reduction in stock fund spending
  • looking at innovative ways to raise income
  • making Pancras Square Library the focus for Sunday opening, which is more central for residents and more cost effective.

You can read further details and see all of the options considered in the full report here.

New strategic relationship with the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS)

We have worked with the VCS to develop a proposal for future support which will see us continue to invest £5.1m a year, while making a crucial saving of £700,000 from the current arrangement.

You can read the full report here, but key points to note are:

  • This is one of the largest local authority investments in the VCS anywhere in the country.
  • There will be two funding streams targeting areas of the borough with the highest levels of need and deprivation, including localised pockets of deprivation and inequality.
  • Organisations could be awarded unrestricted funding for up to seven years, giving them the flexibility to decide how best to use the funds to deliver outcomes.
  • In addition to the direct funding, we will maximise the investment we make in the sector through our wider spending and help to increase funding from external sources.
  • A VCS advisory group will be set up to support with different aspects of our relationship with the sector. This group will be made up of people from across the sector along with cross-Council representation.

An update on our financial challenge

Following the Spending Review last month, Camden’s Cabinet will consider our financial position and make decisions about what we should do next to balance the books.

You can read the full Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) report here, but key points are:

  • The Government’s Spending Review in November confirmed that our financial challenge will continue beyond 2017/18 and we need to take steps to close the expected funding gap – we are anticipating the deficit to be £20 million in 2018/19 alone.
  • We will need to make additional savings as part of our current financial strategy (which runs to 2017/18) – this will take our £75 million strategy up to £77.8 million. This will allow us to respond should the cuts be worse than expected, and will otherwise be a first start towards closing the gap in 2018/19.
  • At the moment there’s a great deal of uncertainty in accurately projecting our future funding. Our grant allocation from Government for 2016/17 will not be known until later this month, and it is not clear whether this settlement will be for one or multiple years.

An update on the decisions made at Camden’s Cabinet will be available online at following the meeting on 16 December.