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HIghgate LibraryCouncillor Sian Berry writes:

The council’s ‘Camden Challenge’ is asking for ideas to raise money and cut costs in the face of a dramatic cut to central government grants to local councils.

In our response – read the full document and all our ideas here – we have tried to embrace the spirit of the Camden Challenge and propose a range of revenue-raising methods that will contribute to closing the deficit, as well as a number of capital investments that could be made now to reduce revenue requirements in future, including external wall insulation, LED street lights and solar panels on council properties.

We also propose increased spending on a range of bottom-line measures for the Green Party, including honouring the Council’s commitment to the Ethical Care Charter and to pay the Living Wage to those employed by contractors.

We are also saying – once again – that people in Camden should be asked in a referendum about a rise in Council Tax of more than 2%. The fact that Camden’s public engagement exercise has so far shown more than six in ten people support a 2% rise shows that there is a limit to the cuts in public services people are willing to take, and that they are willing to pay to preserve the services Camden provides.

We know, however, that raising Council Tax now, after a seven year freeze, can only go a small way to closing our upcoming deficit. And we know that Council Tax is not a fair tax, nor is it adequately progressive, taking little account of income except by concessions for those at the very bottom of the wealth scale.

To properly solve these problems, the next Government has to act, and councillors from other parties, should be doing much more to put pressure on their national policy makers to address the crisis in local services and reform local government finance. If they fail, then whatever clever ideas we come up with in Camden will be nothing more than a sticking plaster under which local public services will eventually wither away to nothing.

Caroline Lucas MPA proposal in Parliament

On 28 November, Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion to highlight the cuts to local government.

It moves:

“That this House believes that under the guise of austerity, central government is slowly but surely putting an end to local government as we know it; notes that from 2010-11 to 2015-16 core central government funding to local authorities has been slashed by 40 per cent whilst local government responsibilities increase; further notes that demand for council services is growing and that people are suffering under government policies harming the poorest and most disadvantaged such as the bedroom tax, cuts to tax credits and benefits and the increase in VAT… and therefore calls for the cuts to local government funding to be reversed and for local government to be protected from further cuts to enable local authorities to provide cherished community services as well as vital social services such as support for looked-after children, care-leavers, users of adult social care, older people, homeless people, low-income families in crisis, disabled people, those with special educational needs and emergency help to survivors of domestic violence.”

Although a number of Labour MPs are signed up, so far no Lib Dem or Conservative MPs and neither of Camden’s two Labour MPs have supported the motion.

Read more here:  http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/579 

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