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Loss of £2.5m, and the secret life of Camden Council

27 July, 2017

CAMDEN Council has, for many years, promoted itself as a pioneer of transparency and openness.

In 2015, it launched its Open Data Camden website heralding a new “open-by-default council” era where information on contractual spending would be routinely published “unless there is a compelling reason not to”.

And yet, despite this, the disturbing loss of at least £2.5million in public money appears to only come to public light through investigations by the New Journal.

The Town Hall’s financial manoeuvring appears to remain shrouded in secrecy.

Opposition councillors say they were not informed. Details were not included in the public part of meeting agendas.

Camden states that the loss of £2.5million is “unacceptable” but will have “no impact” upon the council’s investment programme.

At a time of day centre closures and with questions being asked about the cost of the sudden Chalcots evacuation, can this really ring true?

The council tenders dozens on major contracts each year. Why did this one fail so spectacularly? Full details of the bungle are not yet known but we trust a full investigation will follow. It would go a long way to reassuring the public.

HS2: act quickly!

HIGH Speed 2 has been looming like a distant rain-cloud, creeping closer and closer from across the horizon. In the next few months, the downpour will begin.

St James’s Gardens has already been fenced off, dozens of trees soon to be axed, and the National Temperance Hospital demolished. Homes are being fitted with ventilation units as a barrier to the unacceptable levels of noise and pollution coming from what will be the largest construction site in Europe. Compulsory Purchase Orders will, in the next few months, be sent out to homes in Drummond Street, and the Bree Louise pub, the landlord’s family home. A huge project to move hundreds of tenants out of the doomed three blocks on the Regent’s Park estate will begin. Maria Fidelis School will be ­levelled.

Matthew Wright had a bit of fun on his television show this week, brandishing last week’s New Journal on live TV.

But the presenter makes a serious point about the human cost to a generation of Camden residents. ­Children will live out their entire school years surrounded by cranes and the dust and grime of “progress”.

And for what?

For many years it has felt like the project cannot be stopped. This has proved the case through official channels. But when, in the next few months, the lorries start to roll in, a new kind of protest may begin to build.

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