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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 5 February 2009
Is there some miracle that lends us credit crunch immunity?

• WE are encouraged councillors Keith Moffitt and John Marshall now acknowledge there is a credit crunch and recession (Letters and Forum, January 22 and 29) but remain concerned that Cllr Moffitt is asking for suggestions via email from your readers only weeks, even days, before Camden set their budget.
We do not know why Camden insists on behaving as through it is business as usual.
Is there some Camden miracle that has happened so that, uniquely among local authorities, Camden can just rely on its pre-credit crunch planning and budgeting?
We understand the council has reserves of over £80million and that the projected underspend (or surplus) this year is £13million.
Residents always demand lower council tax but in the current recession to use all the funds just to lower council tax will mean abandoning the most vulnerable and failing to ensure that we keep jobs and businesses. Already, a couple of months ago, a third of councils had set up task forces and increased spending on countering the credit crunch.
There is evidence of a significant increase in demand for debt advice and in unemployment even if the council haven’t yet noticed an increase in arrears.
We were among the signatories who called a meeting in the town hall on January 26 to discuss how Camden can beat the crunch. It was a lively meeting with tenants, advice workers, trade unionists and concerned residents.
We came up with seven immediate actions that we would like to see the council take:
Like the vast majority of other councils Camden should bring together key representatives in the borough from business and the community sector plus trade unions and tenants to assess the impact of the recession and draw up plans. We were amazed that Camden so far has not had discussions with the Citizens Advice Bureaux and law centres.
Give money to the advice agencies to organise benefit take-up campaigns and provide specialised debt counselling
Reconsider paying a living wage to all 1,300 town hall agency staff and require that all private contract staff be paid a living wage. No new contract should be entered into without discussion of living wage and opportunities for local businesses to bid. Seven other councils across London are already doing this.
With Connexions,
FE colleges and local businesses, expand Camden Working to provide apprenticeships for young Camden people leaving school. Knowsley Council has already taken on 100 apprenticeships
Stop all sales of council property (you’ll only get peanuts) and urgently consider buying up property in the private rented sector to alleviate the pressure on social housing and the 17,000 on the waiting list. In the long term this will be a good investment for the council.
Review rent and heating rises for council tenants in light of reducing oil prices.
Discuss with businesses in Camden how best they can be supported through the credit crunch. Essex County Co uncil has created a Bank of Essex to channel European investment funds to small and medium enterprises and many other authorities have developed loan schemes and procurement policies to help local businesses
There were a lot more ideas at our meeting, but these are basic things that Camden and Cllr Moffitt should be considering now. He should also be ensuring that he has communicated with all local stakeholders and has their support for the proposals put in place.
Camden Square, NW1
Ines Newman
Langbourne Avenue, N6


• KEITH Moffitt’s prescription to help Camden beat the recession was long on analysis but too short on what Camden is actually doing (Forum, January 29).
He’s right to canvass people’s views, but it’s way too late in the day. The downturn started last autumn. Why is he only starting now?
And why is his administration’s response so woefully weak and lacking in leadership? Residents and local firms are looking to the council for positive action, not mealy mouthed platitudes.
Other boroughs – of all political stripes – are taking firm action.
Next door in Westminster, the Tories are investing £1million to help 3,000 people find jobs. Labour councils in east London are freezing the council tax.
Elsewhere, local authorities have big programmes to help people claim benefits. Not in Camden.
The Lib Dem-Tory administration has already closed down the Welfare Rights Unit which helped find £10million in cash for the poorest families and vulnerable people.
Why hasn’t Camden passed on the VAT cut in its fees? What’s it doing to ease payment terms on charges for businesses? These aren’t gimmicks, Cllr Moffitt, they’re part of a plan.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Camden didn’t have £80million stashed away in reserves. Rather than sitting on the money, the executive should be spending it on helping to ease the worst effects of the recession. The only thing they do spend it on is extra allowances for their councillors.
Aren’t we lucky in Camden? We don’t just have one “do-nothing” party running the council, we have two.
Chair, Hampstead & Kilburn Labour Party, NW6

Pie in sky

• GORDON Brown’s promise of thousands of new council houses is pie in the sky, because in all probability he will be out of office by May 2010.
It is unlikely the Tories will carry the programme forward. Nor can contracts for major housing projects be put in place by 2010 (the legally required tendering process is too long). So there will be no question of binding the Tories’ hands.
Chalton Street, NW1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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