Labour-run Camden council is freezing the Council Tax for the coming year rejecting a proposal from the Conservatives for a 3% cut.
But the alternative budget proposed by the Conservatives would also have protected services. Camden Council has closed nurseries, play centres, luncheon clubs and youth services have been closed down. Libraries have been set adrift, while funding for breakfast and after school clubs, and the voluntary sector, is being slashed.
Cllr Don Williams, the Conservative Finance Spokesman says:
"These are the choices made by an uncaring regime intent on scoring political points against the national government rather than looking after the interests of residents. This is even more puzzling since Camden has reported a £13 million surplus in its Revenue Account and will receive an extra £2.5 million from central government for freezing Council Tax."
"In contrast, the Conservative Alternative Budget proposes to extract greater efficiencies at the Town Hall by merging teams, sharing services, outsourcing non-core areas and cutting wasteful spending. The budget also develops innovative new revenue streams (without taxing residents) and withdraws taxpayer funded union posts. Indeed, the deletion of union posts could save a nursery from closure or provide funding for extra police officers.
"With efficiencies clearly identified, Camden Conservatives were able to put back more money in services – restore nurseries, increase child care places, restore kids' breakfast clubs, reinstate luncheon clubs and meals-on-wheels for the elderly, restore Voluntary Sector funding and provide more help to schools. Additionally, we were able to find money for more police officers, aided by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s matched funding commitment.
"To promote growth and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit all across the borough, we proposed to support start-ups with advice, accommodation and small grants. We will protect existing businesses by rolling back fees and charges, reviewing rents and promoting increased foot-fall in our commercial areas. We will aid the upgrading of local skills with training grants open to the young and old. We will also introduce our own apprenticeship scheme to give young people valuable work experience as a first step to finding lifelong careers.
"In these difficult economic times, we were also able to offer a helping hand to our residents with a 3% reduction in their Council Tax bill. With high inflation (including an 8.1% rise in Council rents this year, following a 7.1% rise under Labour last year), Camden's young families, working people, pensioners and all those feeling the economic strain will find this a welcome relief.
"Camden's Labour Party keeps saying they had no choice and that Central Government was forcing them to make these cuts – this isn't true. The Conservatives' alternative budget proposals, which have been reviewed by Camden's own officers, for this year and last year clearly show that there was a very real alternative. Labour chose to cut services. The Conservatives put forward an alternative, fairer budget to protect front-line services, support local families, boost local businesses and cut Council Tax. But Labour said No."
"In summary, we believe that greater Town Hall efficiencies, better services, strong businesses and lower Council Tax rates will make Camden a better place to live for all its residents."