Thursday, 16 October 2014

Camden's cuts challenge 8 - Camden Graph of Doom

Camden's 'Graph of Doom'
While the last round of cuts (2010-2014) was difficult the Council was able to protect services by developing alternative solutions.  This time we must go further.  We are reviewing over 100 different council services. Those that don’t face substantial reductions could face fundamental change.

The table to the side illustrates this in a new way - our version of the Barnet 'Graph of Doom'. Our projections based on decreasing revenue grant from the government, changes to local government finance and demographic pressures mean that by 2020 we will have effectively run out of money for all other services apart from the core services of waste/recycling, adult social care and safeguarding children.

The ways we can address this include:

  • cutting costs generally via outcomes-based budgets
  • controlling demand for services (e.g. changing eligibility)
  • automation and new technology (e.g. digital self-service for all those who can use internet)
  • ensuring that these core services are made as efficient as possible and reducing spend (services not 'gold-plated')
  • raising revenue and income such as commercial rents, fees, Council Tax (note many government rules restrict this)
  • growing our business rate base from new sites on brownfield land or new employment space created, for example, in taller buildings and guarding against any loss of businesses (note that the office-to-resi planning changes go directly against this and there is a trade-off with other needs like building new homes)
  • Delivering more services and solving problem sub-regionally, as advocated by London Treasurer's this week.
All of these involve difficult decisions and trade-offs.  

Tonight Camden hosts a roundtable event to discuss the future of public services and how they can be delivered differently in the future.

In the face of unprecedented reductions in public service expenditure, growing inequality and uneven economic growth across Britain, there is increasingly active discussion about how public services should be delivered in the future, by whom, and at what ‘level’. The broad direction of travel is towards greater decentralisation, with budgets, governance and responsibility for delivering outcomes devolved to local authorities, Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs), other local partners and communities themselves.

Camden is proud to provide some of the best public services in the country. We want to continue that tradition and believe that the public service reform agenda means that we have to find radical new ways of delivering services for local residents: an ongoing commitment we have made in the Camden Plan. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

On the Mansion Tax - Londoners support but estate agents and Tories don't

Proposals for a new Mansion Tax start to address the unfairness of property taxes in this country, but we need to see the detail.

Property taxation in the UK is outdated and arbitrary: Council Tax bands are set by Whitehall and reflect prices set in 1991 but they can't change without a wholesale revaluation, a massive exercise which SW1 politicians bottle.  

The current system does not take into account the huge hike in values enjoyed by many homeowners and recent property investors.  

No one yet knows the full detail of the proposals, like at what point the tax will be paid, but there should be consideration for those likely to be cash poor and asset rich, like some pensioners.

But reducing the deficit or paying for public services should be a duty for everyone, not just low and middle earners.   

The majority of Londoners support the Mansion Tax but estate agents Knight Frank, (who presumably profit more from the international market in London than any increase in sales a Mansion Tax would bring in terms of commission) don't and neither do the Tories (although according to the Yougov poll, their support is split).

In the past Camden Labour has argued that any Mansion Tax should be used to support council house building in the areas it is raised from.  We've proposed that Stamp Duty should also be spent locally for new homes:  this is opposed by the government, as too is our increase in Council Tax on furnished homes left empty by speculators.

Due to the high costs associated with the top-down re-organisation of the NHS and rising waiting times we understand why hospitals needs more funding, but in line with the principles set out by the recent devolution debate it's fair that should be a link between money raised in Camden and money spent on local services.