Sunday, 6 April 2014

Tories - poor should move from Camden

Poor and disabled families should 'move' from Camden if they fall into arrears 
on their council rents, according to their leader locally. 

Speaking to the Ham& High, Conservative leader Claire-Louise Leyland said:  "If they [tenants] knew they were going to fall into arrears, why didn't they move?"

The comments came in response to Labour's charge that the Bedroom Tax was failing to save money or to encourage people to downsize.  As reported in the Guardian, welfare statistics collected by Camden council show that one year on the Bedroom Tax has failed to reduce under-occupancy.

Since April 2013 only 89 households out of 1944 - 4.5% - impacted in the borough have 'downsized' to smaller flats.

We said at the time that it's clearly not as simple as saying to people that they should downsize if they are in a flat with ‘spare’ rooms - there clearly aren't the properties on the market to do that: if only third of households moved in order to 'downsize', Camden would need an extra 308 one bedroom council properties; 153 two beds; 36 three beds and 7 four beds to come onto the market immediately - an impossible feat.  

With average rents now at £2000 a month for a two bedroom property living locally in the private rented sector is not an option so people will gradually leave the borough or get further into debt. 

Unsurprisingly this has translated into higher numbers in debt and hardship: the average loss in benefit which has to be met is £21.02 a week.  

The arrears rate for Bedroom Tax-affected households was higher than for all tenants before it was introduced and has increased by 11% over the last year.  This suggests that these households are struggling to cope with their reduced income. The average amount of arrears (£500+) is also considerably higher than for all other tenants.  

Camden's welfare advice team is helping people deal with rising debt, despite administrative delays, but the cumulative impact of all of the changes is expected to hit hard very soon.

Sadly Cllr Leyland's comments are not isolated.  Last year leading Tory councillor Andrew Mennear said the "poor should move to Birmingham" if they fell behind in payments.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Francis Crick Institute: local benefits

Planning permission was granted in March 2011 for the £650 million Francis Crick Institute, 
which will be Europe’s largest dedicated biomedical research building, and will be located behind the British Library adjacent to the Somers Town estate

Camden worked closely with the Institute to secure a package of benefits for the local community. 

The total package of benefits secured is worth almost £10 million (including £6,742,000 in financial contributions) including: 

  • £1.7 million to improve local council housing through Camden's Better Homes (repairs) programme; 
  • £3.8 million towards a new district energy centre to supply cheaper heat and power to local homes. 
  • £360,000 community Policing resource contribution 
  • £450,000 public realm contribution 
  • A new community Living Centre and £180,000 towards management of centre. 
  • Apprenticeships, training for Camden residents and a local business support strategy.  

The Institute is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in 2015. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

No to extra charges for universal services we already pay for

Speaking to the Public Administration Committee, Lib Dem minister David Laws called on local authorities facing the harshest cuts in grant funding since the 1980s to avoid ‘constantly looking to central government’ for funding and instead raise extra charges for services people already pay for in their annual Council Tax bill, citing waste collection as their preferred target.

Some town halls are charging their residents for collection of bulky garden waste, with a number calling on households to pay up to £35 a year.  The call by the Lib Dems follows mean-spirited moves by Tory boroughs to charge parents for using playgrounds.

Laws told MPs: ‘I'm sure that's not the vision that every local authority would want because that involves some painful decisions for them locally which are not always popular.  But it seems to me that type of trend through whichever route is one which we ought to be seeking to encourage in future so that local authorities can take a degree of responsibility for themselves rather than constantly looking to central government.’

Council tax pays for universal services,  While Camden Labour has frozen Council Tax for the last 4 years and pledge to keep tax as low possible - the Lib Dems want to charge you for services you already pay for!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Camden's Community Investment Programme

Through the Community Investment Programme, funded by regeneration of public land, Camden is building 1100 new council homes, 3 new primaries, improvements to 53 of 57 schools, two public libraries and a public swimming pool.  

At least 800 local jobs will be created by this programme.  

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Digital Innovator of the Year 2014

Pleased to be named LGIU Digital Innovator for 2014 at last night's awards ceremony in Westminster.  Camden got this award because of our Digital Strategy, the highlights of which include:

Monday, 17 February 2014

Ed backs Camden's 200% levy on long-term furnished empty homes

Welcome news from Ed Miliband that councils like Camden could be allowed to double the amount of extra Council Tax on empty properties, aimed at 'buy-to-leave' investors.  Camden Labour has been leading the way arguing for this for while now because we've seen the success of lifting the levy to 150% - long term empty furnished homes are down by 40% in just a a year.

Ed argues in the Evening Standard that Labour "will give councils proper powers to tackle “buy-to-leave”. We will consult on allowing councils to double the amount of additional council tax they can charge on empty properties, and close loopholes which mean homes are not considered empty if they are furnished with just a single table and chair."

Our approach is popular and brings more fairness to the overheated housing market and the outdated Council Tax system.  It has even been backed by the Mayor of London - but noticeably not by the Camden Conservatives.

Camden Lib Dems: "lets topple Labour"

While Nick Clegg makes overtures to Labour in order to stay in power, the Camden Lib Dems have other ideas.

In an interview for the Kilburn Times they explain that target a Labour-held ward in order to make Camden a hung council, implying they'd want to run Camden with the Conservatives once again.