The Camden New Journal published the following letter from me in response to Labour tabling the most absurd motion I have ever seen: calling for an end to block grants from government and legal duty to use it to deliver statutory services, despite Camden receiving a larger block grant than all but two councils nationally.
I am astonished and appalled that Camden’s Labour councillors are set to pass a motion demanding the government allows them to cut Camden’s core services.
Currently councils are required by law to provide some core services, like running schools, collecting bins, controlling planning and licensing, and providing social care.
Labour has tabled a motion to be heard at next week’s council meeting calling on government to make these services discretionary, so that councils could cut them if they want.
The motion calls for “more discretion” for councils and “moving away from funding via ring-fenced grants”.
This would, for example, allow Labour to spend Camden’s ring-fenced dedicated schools grant – which is 14 per cent larger per pupil than the London average and 30 per cent larger than the national average – on services unrelated to education.
This would lead to a gutting of core services in favour of Camden cabinet members’ personal hobby horses and would allow Labour to derelict its duty on a grand scale – as Camden was famous for throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
We know this would be the result because of the complete disregard that Labour have for the day job in Camden.
At the same meeting as they’ve proposed a law change to allow them to take money out of schools, they’ve cancelled a debate on Camden’s slipping school standards.
They’ve claimed that this is because in “purdah” period before elections, local councils cannot discuss matters on national policy. This excuse makes no sense.
Discussing how to improve schools in Camden is clearly a matter of local policy, whereas demanding a change in the law is clearly a matter of national policy. This contradiction, of course, explains why Labour tabled the motion at all.
The administration doesn’t want to focus on administration because Camden’s services are slipping, council tax is rising, and the cabinet just voted itself a 54 per cent pay increase.
No, they just want to talk about national politics to distract from it – which would, of course, be conveniently facilitated by scrapping the statutory duty to provide core services, as Labour’s motion calls for. And that dereliction of duty is something no councillor of any party should support.