by Cllr Maya de Souza
An article in the Camden New Journal, “Life after meals -on-wheels – a cut the elderly find hard to stomach,” makes it clear that we need a debate as to what can be done to protect important public services in the borough, in order to offer dignity to all.
It is not only these services that are being cut, but a whole host of others – from domestic violence provision to play services. Many will now have to close down, charge, or resort to fundraising (often an expensive and unsuccessful exercise with salaried fundraisers taking a large chunk of the money raised).
It is correct, as Labour say, that the government has cuts its funding to local authorities, which makes up a large part of Camden’s income.
However it is also the case that for about five years now the council tax in Camden has been frozen, and Labour proposes to do so again this year.
This means that the Council’s revenue has fallen in real terms because Council Tax receipts have not increased in line with inflation.
The government this year and last year has offered a £2.5m sweetener not to raise the Council Tax but this is a temporary income, and it means that in the longer run, because of the annual cap on Council Tax rises, the capacity for the Council to raise funds locally has fallen.
For this reason, in Brighton, the Green Party council has sought to increase the council tax by a small percentage (3.5%) so as to reduce the cuts it has to make and protect its ability to fund services in the longer run.
They have been courageous and upfront about this – tax rises are never popular – but in the long run the area will be in a better position to protect its services.
It’s a shame that both Labour and Conservatives in Brighton are seeking to make political capital by objecting to this rise. And to answer the expected Lib-dem retort in advance, we accept Council Tax may not be the fairest tax and should reflect wealth better, but raising this is a small amount is better than cutting public services.
Camden Greens will be asking the Labour administration to consider this option whilst also asking for a crackdown on wasted costs on spendingsuch as badly done repairs and external lights which are on in daylight hours, as its only fair to ask for this rise if all is being done to ensure money is being spent wisely.