Financial implications of the Chalcots estate operation

Attributable briefing from Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Technology and Growth.

The cost of the Chalcots estate operation is likely to run into several millions. This includes:

  • direct support, such as accommodation, allowances and resourcing the rest centre, as well as uncollected rents and council tax payments
  • cost of diverted staff resources and volunteers
  • repairs and remedial works to blocks on the Chalcots estate and further investment in the safety and security of our residents.

Our first priority has been the safety of our residents but it is important for us to be transparent about the financial impact of this operation. 

No impact on frontline services

As outlined above, the costs associated with this are expected to run into several million pounds. This is currently being funded through our reserves, and we will not cut our budget for services further to meet these costs or raise rents. We will keep our commitments to the 600 plus everyday services we provide Camden residents, as set out in our three-year budget plans.

Through long-term planning and budget reform we have worked hard to build up financial resilience over time, so we are able to withstand unexpected costs of major operations. This resilience is part of the general running of an organisation the size of a UK top 100 company.

Government support

The scale of this operation is unprecedented in local government, and MPs have made representations in parliament supporting us.

Every year Camden identifies its capital investment need to the government, which currently only funds 2% of our works and building programme. The rest Camden Council has to fund ourselves through land sales, regeneration and other smaller income sources. We will be following up on the government’s offers of financial support for now and for future works. To meet what we and other local authorities have to do will require extra government investment if other housing programmes, such as house building and regeneration of old estates, are not to be set back or stopped.

Reducing costs

By completing works as soon as possible we can get people home, keep them safe and keep costs down, though it is important to stress that the safety and security of our residents is the absolute overriding priority here. This is also why we are asking those who remain in the Chalcots blocks to take up our offer of temporary accommodation.

The largest immediate cost is paying for emergency housing and support for affected residents, some of whom are very vulnerable. In the first instance we called for people to stay with their friends and family, and I want to pay tribute to the community spirit people continue to show which helps residents at this time and saves everyone money.

However, this did not meet the unprecedented need and we have been block-booking entire hotels to leverage discounts and are working with hotels and service providers to get the best value deals we can. Residents are able to book their own hotels or Airbnb but we have capped the room rate at £200 per room, per day with bookings coming in far lower.

We have tried to work with individuals to find a solution that works for them and their family within this price limit. We are talking to London’s hotel industry and City Hall to charge us base, not peak, rates for hotels booked over last weekend and in the future. We strongly feel London’s hotel industry has a social responsibility during civil emergencies. Some chains have responded admirably and others we are still contacting to strike a better deal. All spending on contractors over £500 is published monthly on our website, so the prices charged by hotels will be transparent shortly.

All these approaches are making sure we continue to get the best value for money possible at this time for our council tax payers, while fulfilling our duty of care to residents.