CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Labour presses ahead with council tax rise of nearly five percent

Tories called for bill to rise by only three percent - and for weekly bin collections to be restored

27 February, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Theo Blackwell, who blamed the tax rise on central government, and Don Williams

CAMDEN has broken a run of council taxes freezes and small increases by raising bills by nearly five per cent.

The ruling Labour group said the move had been “forced” by funding cuts from central government. It used its majority at the Town Hall to outflank opposition councillors in a vote on the annual budget this evening (Monday).

Three per cent of the council tax hike will be specifically ring-fenced for adult social care services.

Finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said: “Camden, mainly under Labour, has controlled council tax rises for over a decade and a half. However, the national crisis in funding adult social care … has forced us to put up council tax. We must find a way of funding the cost of dementia and people living longer. It is totally unfair that the Government is passing the cost onto residents.”

He also added that “an era of Brexit budgets beckons, and that adds further uncertainty” and that lasting change to fund adult social care “could only come about if we invest in digital technology”.

Labour’s adult social care chief Cllr Georgia Gould admitted the extra funding secured through the council tax “precept” was like “a drop in the ocean” compared to the cuts the council was facing. It would however help set up “future strategies” to secure some services, she said.

A budget amendment was put forward by the Conservatives that would have reversed cuts to weekly bin collections but also cut-back the transport spending for disabled and elderly by around 10 per cent. But this was roundly mocked by most Labour councillors and dismissed.

Conservative finance chief Cllr Don Williams had told the chamber that his plan would come with “no extra cost in terms of council tax”, adding: “We agree with the adult social precept, because we are concerned with getting adult social care right.”

The Tory plan was heavily criticised by Camden’s only Lib Dem councillor, Flick Rea. She said the Camden Tories were “shameful” for proposing the cut in the “scope” of Camden’s accessible transport service. The Conservatives later said they were proposing cuts to the back office support of the transport service.

Andrew Marshall, who quit the Conservatives over Brexit earlier this month and is now sitting as an independent, voted in favour of Labour’s budget.

Green Cllr Sian Berry, who criticised Labour for maintaining council tax freezes for many years, abstained when the tax rise was put to the vote.

Cllr Rea and Cllr Angela Pober – who quit Labour to become an independent – also abstained in the vote.

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