Greens fight to save vital social services

26 February 2007

Camden Green Party is fighting to save essential public services. At the council’s 2007 budget debate, Councillors Adrian Oliver and Maya de Souza moved an amendment to the council budget that would have allowed the preservation of a few of the borough’s key services that the LibDemTory coalition plans to decimate. The plan was costed so that the investment would not raise the level of council tax in real terms.

Cllr Oliver said the Green amendment, which won the backing of the Labour faction on council, would have helped to keep the elderly fed at a cost they could afford, would have preserved youth services for the most disadvantaged such as the Fresh Gym in Highgate Newtown, would have allowed much valued child services to continue, and would have provided for environmental measures to help us all deal with the enormous threat of climate change by taking steps to reduce our own emissions.

By keeping council tax at the same level as that of 2006 in real terms, the cost of these vital services – which would also help to maintain our communities – would have meant an increase of approximately 10p a day for the average council taxpayer in cash terms.

Sadly, however, the Liberal Democrats stuck with their Tory allies in voting to raise the charge of meals for pensioners at daycare centres by 50p a day, to cut general funding to legal advice centres, and to cut vital mental health services and services for children.

The LibDemTory coalition also voted to end the hugely popular door-to-door estate-based recycling (which the Green amendment would have maintained).

The Green plan also provided additional funds to save energy and establish projects using renewable energy, and funding for a planning sustainability officer, plus small sums for cycling routes, allotments and green spaces, which could have enormous benefits for the quality of life for many Camden residents.

Cllr Adrian Oliver said: “We support the new administration’s aims of keeping council tax down and streamlining costs. We also agree that council tax is regressive and hits the less-well-off harder.

“But this year’s budget is even more regressive – it will hit the poorest in society including the old and disabled that need social care by increasing charges,” he said. Cuts are also planned in play schemes, mental health provision and home support for families in need. These cuts should not be made under the guise of efficiency savings – they deserve proper discussion and debate”.

Cllr De Souza said: “What we were proposing was very modest. There were more services that we would like to try to save, but what we did was to select a few highly deserving cases to illustrate what could be achieved by keeping the council tax at the same level as last year’s in real terms.

“We gave councilors from the other parties the chance to vote for a positive, moderate motion. Labour took up our ideas, but sadly not a single Liberal Democrat or Tory were prepared to support this. As a consequence over the past six months we have seen a range of effective community projects shut down completely or reduce their services. They include the Kentish Town Project, a residential project for the disabled, the Camden Tribunal Unit which provided free legal representation in courts and tribunals. Sadly there is nothing to suggest that these services will be replaced by others and it is a shame to see that allegedly to reduce a regressive system of local taxation to poorest and most vulnerable will lose out”. 

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