This year, we begin to implement proposals to tackle the toughest financial challenge we have ever faced. In order to balance our budget and pay for services residents value most, we have made the decision to make a small increase in your council tax of 1.99%.
It will provide £1.7 million per year from April 2015 that cannot be cut by central government as part of future grant reductions, and will help protect services that make a real difference to people’s lives.
We know that everyone has faced tough economic times in recent years. The increase will be less than 40p per week for residents in a Band D property – and those who can’t afford it will get help to pay.
In 2014 we agreed £73 million of proposals to plug the budget gap over the next three years. Thank you to the thousands of you who gave your views. It meant making some very difficult decisions when setting our budget, and we need to prepare for further funding cuts, including an estimated £20 million for 2018/19 alone.
We have a detailed plan in place to provide services for less and generate extra income, while protecting our most vulnerable residents and prioritising the things that make the biggest difference.
That’s why we are continuing to provide 25 hours of free childcare per week for three and four year olds. We’ll spend more on supporting those affected by domestic violence and abuse, and together with local health partners we are launching Camden’s first prevention fund to improve mental health in the borough.
Looking back over the year, we have made significant steps in a number of areas. We agreed to do more to tackle low pay and poor working conditions for home care workers and to introduce a minimum earnings guarantee for our lowest paid staff. We also launched our adult apprenticeship scheme, focusing on women with children to support them back into work. This all helps to make work pay, which is the best way out of poverty.
The Community Investment Programme reached major milestones with the first school and homes built and we opened a brilliant new library, leisure centre and swimming pool at 5 Pancras Square at no extra cost to you the tax payer.
Finally I wanted to mention the Camden Account, which makes it easier for you to access the services you use most often online, in one place. More than 30,000 residents have already signed up and are making use of the simple and secure online services. I hope you will too.
Councillor Sarah Hayward
Leader, Camden Council