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Further government cuts to council funding will jeopardise basic services

Camden has called on central government to re-think its cuts to local authority budgets, and has offered practical steps to reduce the unfair burden on local services.

Responding to the government’s Spending Review consultation, the authority warned that basic services could be under threat if the cuts continue, increasing the risk to services for all Camden residents, including vulnerable people.

It added that the scale of cuts over the previous parliament means that there is now little room to find further efficiencies without putting front-line services at risk.

Leader of the Council, Sarah Hayward, said budget reductions have been exacerbated by the expectation that local authorities also bear the burden of demographic factors, such as an ageing population.

“Local authorities continue to be placed under huge pressure and while we’ve prioritised savings initiatives that protect frontline services, there’s only so long this can continue”, she said. “Although we recognise the need to address the national budget deficit, Camden is suffering disproportionate cuts that are putting basic services under threat.

“November’s spending review will be a crucial moment for Camden and we do not want to see further funding cuts impacting on the lives of local people. I am now urging the government to recognise that these reductions are unsustainable, and take our suggestions seriously as it plans for the future.”

By 2017 Camden’s funding from central government will have been cut in half. The authority has already had to make £93 million of savings since 2010. Now, additional cuts to funding have left the authority with a further budget gap. This is being addressed through a programme that is set to deliver £75m of budget reductions by 2018.

RecommendationsIn its consultation response Camden Council suggests that government should:

  • Provide fairer funding that is more reflective of need and more predictable, and ensure any new responsibilities are funded.
  • Improve incentives to enable councils to invest in long-term initiatives that achieve sustainable ongoing savings and positive outcomes for our communities.
  • Increase retention of business rates to allow councils to retain a greater share of the tax generated locally.
  • Allow councils to introduce locally determined Council Tax to allow fairer taxing on high value properties and increase tax on empty properties.
  • Support housing development by allowing councils to use their resources flexibly to meet local housing needs.
  • Allow fiscal devolution so local authorities can recover the costs of some of its services, for example through enabling the implementation of a fixed rate levy on hotel stays and ‘late night levy’.
  • Devolve budgets for employment and skills to local authorities so that a co-ordinated and integrated service can be delivered to those looking for employment and training opportunities.

The council’s submission also highlights its opposition to HS2 but urges government to take a comprehensive approach to Euston station redevelopment if the scheme goes ahead.

You can read Camden’s full response to the Spending Review consultation here.