CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Council tax bills to go up by nearly 4%

Groundhog Day budget debate sees Labour and Tories blame each other for rise

28 February, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Labour’s Richard Olszewski

COUNCIL tax is to rise by almost 4 per cent after a budget-setting meeting in which Labour councillors once more blamed central government for higher demands and cuts.

The familiar blame game saw the opposition Conservative group acc­use Labour of overseeing a failing economy before the Tories took charge, and remind the ruling group that Ed Miliband had conceded there was a need for public spending cuts going into the 2015 general election.

The official increase will be 3.99 per cent, broken down as a 2.99 per cent rise in core tax and a 1 per cent increase to go towards rising adult social care costs.

Finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski said on Monday: “Our residents should be aware of where the pressures actually come from, for some of the admittedly difficult decisions we have to take. That is the massive cut in government funding that we have suffered along with every other council across the country.”

“Our funding has been cut by 54 per cent since 2010. The cumulative loss of government funding since then is £711 million.”

He told the meeting: “Just think of the public services we could have provided with even a fraction of that money,” later describing the Tories as offering “defrosted Thatcherism” in their alternative proposals.

The Conservative group had, as in previous years, said a tax cut of 1 per cent was affordable if Camden agreed to make savings, and take measures like slashing the budget of its communications department in half, cutting support for trade unions, sharing services with Tory-run Westminster and maximising income from film companies shooting in the borough.

A weekly bin service could also be restored, the group said.

Group leader Oliver Cooper said: “Camden has the highest council tax in inner London and services which are not working”, while his colleague Councillor Henry Newman added: “I accept the need for making savings and both major parties in the aftermath of the 2010 election accepted that, and the Lib Dems were in government making those cuts. It’s important we look at every opportunity for savings in the back office.”

Oliver Cooper

The Liberal Democrat group said it acknowledged the need for a tax rise, but urged Camden to include an all-year shelter for young homeless people in its budget.

Cllr Luisa Porritt added that the council had to “find the means to protect the most vulnerable”, with homelessness the biggest crisis facing Camden.

Luisa Porritt speaks for the Lib Dems

Sian Berry, the sole Green councillor, said that the council needed to put “evidence of real harm”, including deaths of homeless people, to the government.

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