Responding to Residents’ Priorities: Lib Dem Budget Amendments


Camden Liberal Democrats have put forward amendments to the Council’s Budget that respond to residents’ priorities – with extra funding proposed for ending homelessness, tackling the climate emergency and the cost-of-living crisis and cleaning up our Borough’s streets.

Credit Camden New Journal  

"Picture Credit: Camden New Journal"

Presenting the Lib Dem amendments at Monday night’s Council Meeting, Lib Dem Group Leader Luisa Porritt said “Residents tell us that the Labour Council isn’t listening to them on the key issues affecting them and their local area. People are waiting months for basic repairs to council homes, rubbish is piling up on our streets, and the number of homeless people in Camden is rising – unlike elsewhere in London. Our Budget makes practical proposals to fund these services which really matter to residents.”  

“We also know that residents want the Council to be more ambitious on tackling climate change – and to make it easier for all of us to do the right thing. So we’re putting forward proposals to make it easier for residents to insulate their homes and leave their cars behind, and to press the Council to increase tree planting in the Borough”. 

“Camden should be a place where every person can realise their potential, so we’re proposing a fund to listen to young people’s views of what will make Camden even better in the future.” 

The full text of the Liberal Democrat Budget Amendment is below.  

 

Liberal Democrats Budget Amendments 2022/23 

Listening and responding to residents’ priorities  

Overview of the financial context 

Camden is thankfully emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic. It looks as though the worst of that crisis is behind us, but more challenges lie ahead. The cost-of-living crisis underway before President Putin invaded Ukraine looks set to sharpen, leading to higher energy costs for already struggling Camden residents.  

The Conservative Government’s decision to introduce a stealth tax rise on National Insurance contributions does not help those already finding it hard to get by. No person should have to choose between heating and eating, but that is the sad reality many face. Despite this, we know that if the Government changed its mean-spirited stance on accepting Ukrainian refugees our whole borough would welcome them – just like we have for the Afghan people. 

At a time of great uncertainty, adequate central Government funding is badly needed to support local councils so they can support communities. Councils have been placed in an impossible position, as demographic changes add pressure to services like social care - while large parts of our community still need financial support to recover from the pandemic. Add to this the impact of Brexit on the availability of social care and NHS workers, now is not the time to starve councils of funds they need. 

Yet the Conservative Government has built into its funding an assumption local councils will raise taxes by the full amount to deliver services, rather than giving sufficient support to foot the bill. Any party that claims they can freeze council tax in such circumstances is being mendacious. 

Residents nevertheless tell us the Labour-run Council is not listening to them on key issues affecting them and their local area – particularly in the north-west of the borough. Whether it is people waiting months for basic repairs to council homes, the backlog in planning decisions, rubbish piling up on our streets or the rise of homeless people seen sleeping on streets in and around West Hampstead, Finchley Road and King’s Cross stations, residents rightly say and feel some of the Council’s basic functions are not working as they should.  

They also think the Council lacks sufficient ambition to engage all its citizens in tackling the climate emergency at the speed required, are concerned about the futures and safety of young people, especially women and girls, and want a better decision-making structure to ensure everyone’s voices in our borough are heard.  

This year’s Liberal Democrat amendment continues to focus on priorities that matter most to residents and looks to a future where everyone in Camden can realise their potential. Our amendment offers practical solutions using modest financial adjustments to the Council’s budget. If we ran Camden Council, there is much more we would change about its approach. 

Summary of amendments 

Our amendments cover five key residents’ priorities: 

  1. Ending homelessness and delivering quality, affordable homes 
  1. Tackling the climate emergency and the cost-of-living crisis 
  1. Cleaning up our borough’s streets 
  1. Protecting and strengthening Camden’s communities 
  1. Investing in children and young people’s futures 

Specific changes the Camden Liberal Democrat Group propose are as follows. 

 

Ending homelessness and delivering quality, affordable homes  

As with all our previous budget amendments since 2019, our amendment restores funding for homelessness and temporary accommodation services. The impact of Labour’s cumulative and rising real terms cuts to these services since implementing the 2019/20 to 2021/22 Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) is shown by the shameful performance of our borough, compared with others in London, when it comes to tackling homelessness.  

Homelessness in Camden has increased by 7% since 2018, whereas across London it has fallen by 3%.1 In the past year, the number of homeless people in Camden has doubled – a larger increase than anywhere else in the UK.2 The latest Government snapshot found 97 rough sleepers in Camden on just one night in autumn 2021. In the past year, at least one homeless person in Camden has died each month – more than in Manchester, Nottingham and Cardiff combined.3 

Experts in the voluntary and third sector do not believe these shocking statistics can be attributed solely to the withdrawal of the ‘Everyone In’ scheme introduced during the pandemic – though it is regrettable the Government has not extended the programme.  

As Matt Turtle, founder of the Museum of Homelessness, told the Camden New Journal: “They are getting it right in other boroughs, they need to do better in Camden.” That Amnesty International and Liberty Human Rights have had to write to the Council, accusing it of breaking human rights for how it treats rough sleepers, shows the seriousness of the Labour Council’s failures in this area. 

While GP Dr Gary Coleman’s outreach efforts to Camden’s homeless population have proven lifesaving, resulting in an improvement in this group’s life expectancy from 47 years in 2015 to 54 today,4 we are concerned that the specific cut to Health and Support Provision for the Street Population over the course of the Council’s MTFS risks reversing this trend. 

Camden Liberal Democrats are pleased that almost two and half years since their CEO first called for it, New Horizon Youth Centre were finally able to open the first and only emergency accommodation service in London designed and run specifically for young Londoners experiencing homelessness. We campaigned for this change since it was first raised in the Council Chamber in November 2018. However, we are concerned that the hostel does not have a permanent home, and we urge the Council to continue working with New Horizon to sustain this much-needed provision. 

We note the impact of the slow pace of the Council’s response and ongoing failures, however. In the year to February 2021, an appalling total of 16 people in Camden died in council-provided temporary accommodation.5 Data provided by the Council on overcrowding is limited, but we know from the 2011 Census that almost 20% of Camden’s social rented homes were overcrowded.6 And the Council’s recent reports show that more than 70% of those currently living in overcrowded accommodation in Camden are Black, Asian, and ethnic minority residents, demonstrating the racial injustice inherent in this problem.  

We note that new temporary accommodation sites at Camden Road and Chester Road respectively are yet to be completed. In the meantime, homeless residents from all over Camden supported by our Belsize ward councillors at the former England’s Lane Residence have largely been moved out of the borough because the Labour Council chose to give up the lease on this building early.   

Finally, Liberal Democrats believe that everyone has a right to live in a safe, good quality, and affordable home. We therefore renew our call for the Council to set aside a fund to support victims of the Building Safety Crisis in Camden’s private rented sector. This is needed due to the continuing absence of sufficient support from the Conservative Government nationally. It is also regrettable that the Labour Mayor of London and the Labour Group on the Greater London Assembly recently refused to support a Liberal Democrat amendment to set up a London-wide support hub. 

 

Tackling the climate emergency and the cost-of-living crisis 

To achieve the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than it rising to 2°C, United Nations Environment Programme estimates suggest that each Camden resident would need to reduce their emissions by 35% by 2030.7 To improve the quality of residents’ homes, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and address our environmental emergency, we propose doubling the annual budget under the Council’s Housing Renewal Assistance Policy for insulating and improving energy efficiency in Camden homes. This will help to reduce the risk of residents being forced to choose between heating and eating, lower dependency on Russian gas and help individuals to make progress on reducing their emissions.  

Further, to make it easier for Camden residents to make healthier choices for themselves and our planet, we would introduce a fund to increase the speed of the rollout of cycle hangars across the borough – guaranteeing 50 more could be funded Camden-wide in 2022/23. As Transport for London’s financial future remains uncertain due to the Conservative Government’s refusal to provide adequate, long-term funding for our capital’s transport network, the Liberal Democrats think it is essential for the Council to lock in any funding for cycle hangars from its own resources that it can now. As local Liberal Democrat councillors, we will continue to use our Local Community Infrastructure Levy funds to increase the number of hangars in the wards we represent. 

We welcome the Council taking a more creative approach to raising local funds to tackle the climate emergency through the introduction of the upcoming Community Municipal Investment (CMI) fund. This is the type of creative thinking needed to help councils address their funding challenges in the absence of sufficient central Government funding to address the climate crisis.  We would also like to see our local communities being better empowered to come up with their own initiatives that work in their areas using some of this funding.  Liberal Democrats therefore suggest that for the next CMI round a small pot of c. £100,000 should be set aside for community organisations and the voluntary sector to bid for funding for projects to tackle climate change in their area. Given electric vehicles still contribute to emissions, we need to be encouraging residents to invest in a greener future than simply substituting their diesel or petrol cars.   

CO2 emissions in Camden remain higher than the London average. In 2018, annual emissions of CO2 were four tons per person in Camden compared to 3.4 in London, and 3.6 in 2019 compared to 3.2 in London.8 This shows we need to go further and faster to tackle climate change in our borough, particularly the devastating impact it has on our air quality. 

We are delighted that the Council has finally adopted the Liberal Democrat target proposed two years ago of planting 600 more trees across the borough, despite our amendment being rejected at the time on the basis that it would be difficult to achieve this in practice.  

Last year, we called on the Labour-run Council to go even further and plant 800 new street trees in a single year. We repeat that call with this amendment, as the time to address this crisis is rapidly running out. We note the Camden Labour administration’s resistance to matching the ambition of neighbouring Labour-run Hackney, where 2,500 street trees are set to be planted this winter alone.9 This is part of a wider and commendable plan in place since 2018 to plant 5,000 new street trees by 2022, alongside over 30,000 new trees and saplings in the borough's parks and open spaces.  

Liberal Democrats also call on the Labour Council to raise its game and push developers to plant more trees when bidding for land through the planning system. For example, the planning application for the O2 centre site is currently envisaging a loss of trees as a result of the development. 10 And the developers have conceded the proposals don’t deliver the amount of green open space required for a development of this size.11 More generally, we believe the Council needs to be much firmer with developers in demanding net zero targets for  every new development. 

Liberal Democrats will also continue to use our presence on the Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee to press for greater protection of mature trees, for example through the extension of Tree Protection Orders (TPOs), given their greater effectiveness at carbon dioxide absorption compared to saplings. It is high time the Government reformed the outdated law around TPOs, to allow planning authorities to give proper weight to the value of mature trees in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality. 

 

Cleaning up our borough’s streets 

One of the biggest bugbears of the residents we represent in Belsize and Fortune Green is the amount of litter on our streets, and especially the policy of asking residents in flats above shops, and businesses, to put their rubbish in bags on the streets for collection. Recently, the administration has been putting in place sticking plaster measures, from literally putting stickers on waste and recycling to painting pink squares on the street.  Labour’s recent amendment to a Liberal Democrat motion highlighting the problem with its waste contract resorted to calling residents ‘miscreants’ rather than pledging to help them understand the collection rules. These responses fail to tackle the root cause of the problem, which is Labour’s failing waste contract.  

That’s why Liberal Democrats propose to fund a Senior Policy Officer to undertake a review of Camden Council’s waste contract – specifically the “bin bags on the streets” policy - in the next municipal year. Other major cities and other Boroughs must have solutions that don’t leave their high streets covered in black bin bags. This is a far more fiscally and environmentally sound way to address the problem, unlike the Conservative proposal to restore weekly bin collections which would be an expensive, inefficient use of the Council’s resources and take us in the wrong direction on the climate crisis. We all need to play our part by reducing, reusing, and recycling more. 

While the review is being undertaken, over one year we would add five Senior Education and Enforcement Officers, like those recently introduced in West Hampstead, to mitigate the impact of the current contract, by communicating positively with residents, and engaging with residents and community groups. This should result in temporary improvements, while a lasting solution to Labour’s failing waste contract is found.    

 

Protecting and strengthening Camden’s communities 

In addition to making our streets cleaner, Camden residents want our streets to feel and be safer. Perceptions of safety in the community, as measured by feeling safe in your neighbourhood after dark, are lower in London than the UK overall, with 60% of people saying they felt safe or very safe in London in 2021 and 64% across the UK.12 The Council has not provided Camden-specific data on this, as the Liberal Democrats pointed out and called for at the last meeting of the Resources and Corporate Performance Committee. Nevertheless, for on average 40% of residents to not feel safe after dark is clearly unacceptable.  

The stranger murders of Sarah Everard; who was kidnapped, raped, and killed by a serving police officer, Sabina Nessa; Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman; among many others, sparked a national conversation last year about male violence towards women and girls – including here in Camden. Later in the year, we learned of the stories of Denise Keane-Simmons; set on fire and killed by her estranged husband, and Nicole Hurley; a Primrose Hill resident and beloved member of her community, whose boyfriend has been charged with stabbing her to death. 

Many Camden residents have spoken out about their fear of travelling alone at night and many will also know what it is like not to feel safe in their own homes. In 2021, there were 2,207 recorded incidents of domestic violence in Camden, and many more we will not have heard about. One Camden councillor bravely disclosed to the Camden New Journal their trauma about being raped and the need to better promote the services available to victims. Walkouts took place at Highgate School and Parliament Hill School last year, with current and former students citing a ‘culture of rape’. 

Society is waking up to the urgent need to address the root causes of violence towards women and girls. This work must start from an early age if we are to have any hope of eradicating misogyny. Camden Liberal Democrats propose expanding the scope of the six new permanent, full-time youth officers we would fund in the Youth Violence and Exploitation Team to tackle violence against women and girls in schools.13 

We recognise that the problem of youth violence more generally in Camden has not gone away. That is why we would fund officers to add resource to this important team, helping to make our borough safer for all young people and support them with opportunities for the future. Regrettably, in December 2021 the Conservative Government closed the Kickstart apprenticeship scheme designed to help young people find employment opportunities. It is therefore no longer possible to put forward our proposal from last year to top up the wages of vulnerable young people in Camden applying to this scheme and pay them London Living Wage. 

To make sure both young and old have somewhere to learn and connect, we repeat our call from last year to invest in Camden’s community libraries. The pot of more than £100,000 we have allocated would allow libraries to bid for funds for one-off projects, whether that is running events to bring the local community together in their area or upgrades to their equipment. 

 

Investing in children and young people’s futures 

Finally, Camden’s children and young people are its future. Although there have been components of the Labour administration’s ‘We Make Camden’ participatory democracy work for young people, only £1,800 of its overall £272,000 budget has been dedicated to giving them a voice about Camden’s future.  

Liberal Democrats propose allocating more than half of the initial We Make Camden budget, £145,000, into establishing a new ‘We Make Young Camden’ project. This would ensure that the voices of young people from across our borough’s communities are heard and that they are empowered to determine what their areas need. A good starting point, for example, could be to engage them on the O2 centre application and find out what they want to see from this potentially transformative project for NW6 and NW3.  

Camden’s Youth Council could also be given some of the funding to engage young people on a wide range of issues affecting Camden’s future and give them a forum to determine what they need to help them realise their potential. 

 

How these investments would be funded 

Working patterns have changed fundamentally due to trends sped up by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most businesses and organisations have moved to a more flexible or ‘hybrid’ way of working, including the Council itself. Camden Liberal Democrats think the opportunity for staff to work more flexibly is welcome, while recognising that they still need spaces to come together and connect. In the longer run, we would like to see the Council looking at a new way of structuring these spaces so that officers are more rooted in local communities across the borough and closer to the residents they serve.  

In the short term, the Council has an opportunity to generate income from its underused buildings at 5 Pancras Square now and from autumn 2022 at The Crowndale Centre - once the refurbishment of the Town Hall at Judd Street is completed. We therefore propose renting out a modest three floors of the 14-storey building at 5 Pancras Square from the beginning of the 2022/23 financial year, and two floors of the Crowndale Centre from halfway through the year (October 2022).  

Beyond 2022/23, the Council could look at moving staff to smaller hubs around the borough and renting out more space in these large buildings. This has the potential to generate substantial rental income for further investment in residents’ priorities. 

Finally, to support our proposals we have recommended a one-off small transfer from reserves of £205,000. We note that a range of uncertainties about the wider economic and financial environment means transferring a larger sum than this would not be advisable at present. 

 

Table of amendments 

Liberal Democrats Budget Amendments  

 

Expenditure 

22/23 

£000 

Restore funding for Improving Health and Support Provision for Street Population 

15 

Restore funding for homelessness prevention 

102 

Partially restore funding for adult hostels 

307 

Restore funding for temporary accommodation service management 

161 

Support for leaseholders affected by the cladding and wider building safety crisis 

250 

Double the annual budget under the Housing Renewal Assistance Policy for insulating and improving energy efficiency in homes 

200 

Add 50 cycle hangars across the borough 

175 

Increase tree planting across the borough to 800 trees 

153 

Add one Senior Policy Officer to undertake a review of Camden Council’s waste contract 

60 

Add five Senior Education and Enforcement Officers to improve performance of the waste contract across the borough while it is being reviewed 

270 

We Make Young Camden 

145 

Add six new full-time youth officers to the Youth Violence and Exploitation Team and expand scope to tackle violence against women and girls in schools 

253 

Funding for community libraries  

114 

 

 

Total Expenditure 

2,205  

 

 

 

Income 

 

Rent out two floors of The Crowndale Centre from halfway through Year 1 

- 800  

Rent out three floors of 5 Pancras Square 

- 1,200  

 

 

Total Income 

- 2,000  

 

 

Transfer (to)/from reserves 

205  

 

Proposed by: Cllr Luisa Porritt 

Seconded by: Cllr Tom Simon 

 

The Executive Director Corporate Services confirms that, should the amendments be agreed, the assurances required by Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003 with regard the adequacy of the reserves and the robustness of the estimates have been met and, therefore, that this still constitutes a balanced budget for 2022/23.  

The Executive Director Corporate Services or other officers have not been able to give these proposals the depth of consideration and due diligence to be able to recommend this as a course of action or to assess the financial impacts of the proposals beyond 2022/23.   

It has not been possible to make a full and comprehensive assessment of the impact of these proposals (such as those linked to the future use of our buildings or the impact on the existing workforce) and the associated implementation issues and risks.   

It should also be noted that the full economic and social impact of the Covid pandemic into 2022/23 is not yet known. The social and economic impact of any ongoing measures to address the pandemic may adversely impact the viability of the proposals. 


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