There was a virtual meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 18th January. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting.

  1. In my speech as Leader of the Opposition, I noted the coming Holocaust Memorial Day and the importance of ensuring light always banishes the dark. I went on to continue the debate on high streets that had opened the meeting by noting disappointment that Camden had not disclosed or discussed at all its proposals to bid under the Future High Streets Fund. Camden was entitled to bid for two high streets in the borough to receive up to £25m, but bid for just one. No discussion was had with councillors or the community about where to bid. And that one where Camden did decide to bid happened to be the one represented on the council by the Leader and the Cabinet member that submitted the bid (Kentish Town). This show the myopia and lack of transparency that have become Camden’s hallmark under the current administration. (S)
  2. I objected once again to Camden’s Labour councillors trying to prevent scrutiny meetings. As in November’s meeting, I noted that it was unacceptable that no ‘regular’ meetings of scrutiny were taking place, and that they were limited to meetings to receive reports going to Cabinet. This month, I noted again this problem, and noted that it was compounded by the fact that there was just one Cabinet meeting in the following three months too, so there would be no opportunity to have even that very limited scrutiny. (R)
  3. I voted for the council continuing its current Council Tax Support Scheme. (V)
  4. I noted that Camden had the lowest forecast collection rate for Council Tax of any London borough (95%). This would effectively mean Council Tax would have to be hiked by more to achieve the same income. I asked that if this forecast proved to be too pessimistic, that this consequent hike in Council Tax by reversed. The Cabinet member said it would not. No surprise there… (R)
  5. I once again objected to emergency powers being retained that allowed the administration to declare an emergency of unlimited length and suspend ordinary decision-making procedures without consensus that it is required (see bullet 2 above…). I then voted against the constitutional changes that would codify this power in perpetuity. (R).
  6. I seconded a cross-party motion calling on HS2 Ltd to fully compensate Camden for the harm done to Regents Park, including rehousing residents so adversely affected by the works that their lives had been made miserable. (M)
  7. I seconded a motion with my Conservative colleague Steve Adams calling on Camden to have an independent review of its waste contract, which has failed to deliver for residents by any objective measure since it was signed and bin collections were cut in 2017. Ridiculously, not only did Labour reject an independent review, but the (Labour) Cabinet member said he didn’t want a review because he already knows the service is ‘working well’, which would be news to… every single resident of Camden. (M)
  8. I was due to second a motion (proposed by my Conservative colleague Steve Adams) to double the proportion of homes being built in the borough that are family homes. This is in light of the closure of a number of schools in the borough due to plummeting child numbers – with Camden having fewer children than any council in the country. Currently, less than 20% of homes are three beds or larger, and we want that to be 40% within five years. We included specific mechanisms to achieve this, including requiring 50% family homes in all council developments and 50% in site-specific supplementary planning documents such as the one due to be adopted for the O2 Centre site. This motion was not heard due to a lack of time. (M*)
  9. I was due to second an amendment (proposed by Conservative colleague Steve Adams) on building fire safety. This focused the motion, which had been about national legislation (which is something councils have no control over), on helping actual residents in Camden. This included developing an action plan for buildings affected by the cladding scandal, responding to the RICS consultation of reform of EWS1, and ensuring Chalcots residents are involved more in decisions to do with their estate. This motion was not heard due to a lack of time. (A*)
  10. I was due to propose an amendment (seconded by Conservative colleague Andrew Parkinson) on business support. Labour had tabled a motion inexplicably criticising the government for a now-ceased scheme, which accounts for just 2% of government support local businesses, being allocated on a per-capita basis. Given the scheme is no longer in effect, this seems like a silly waste of council time. Our amendment would have committed Camden – which is one of the slowest councils in the country at distributing Covid support to businesses and whose processes one pub landlord called ‘Kafkaesque’ last week – to distributing grants more quickly. Which is a far more constructive thing to discus. This motion was not heard due to a lack of time. (A*)