Monday was Camden’s budget-setting night. We’re talking about a huge budget, with the Council having total expenditure of over £1.1bn, so small tweaks here or there can make a big difference.
And then there are just some minor things that will never amount to much but that are just inexplicable indications of the lack of care and consistency put into the budget.
I highlighted one such thing on Monday night. Camden is introducing a new £1,500-a-year licence fee for tennis coaches coaching people on Camden-owned courts. Although calling it a ‘licence’ is a bit fanciful – it doesn’t come with any training or vetting, so it’s really just a Tennis Tax.
This is exactly the sort of nonsense that government shouldn’t be doing. If the Council wants to tackle rising obesity – and Cllr Kelly mentioned on Monday that 40% of Camden children are overweight or obeses – it needs to stop making it difficult to play sport and keep fit.
But it’s also about priorities. Camden is charging £1,500 a year for someone to be a tennis coach, but £618 to run a betting shop. Huh?!
Similarly, Camden has refused to increase fly-tipping penalties to the maximum allowed, so will charge fly-tippers just £200 even if they’re caught. Why should you pay seven times as much to teach people a new sport as to fly-tip?
This is an example of Camden not having its priorities straight. The Council should get out the way of people wanting to stay active and healthy, and instead support sport. That’s why Camden Conservatives instead proposed putting £100,000 back into youth clubs and sports funding.
Camden has lots of opportunities to raise money without taxing people for keeping healthy. Labour have belatedly accepted that Camden can rent out the empty office space in the council’s sparkling new offices, and use the revenue to fund front-line services. Doing that will earn £1m a year: far more than their tennis tax.
Sometimes, I despair.