There was a meeting of Camden Council on Monday, 21st November. As part of my accountability to residents, below are the actions I took at the meeting:
- Asked the deputees speaking about waste on our high streets, especially West End Lane, whether they thought that collection times for time-banded business waste could be changed to ensure that the streets were clean when they were at their busiest. I was pleased that, in response to this deputation, the Cabinet member adopted my proposal – as I made in a speech in September’s Council meeting – for on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping. (D)
- Asked the Cabinet Member for Schools about the unacceptably high level of schoolchildren in Camden that are eligible to receive school meals but don’t actually receive them. Among secondary school pupils, the rate is by far the highest in London: meaning Camden children miss out on millions of pounds of free meals a year. This low take-up has a consequent impact on our worst-off pupils’ nutrition and their ability to concentrate – harming their education and school discipline. The Cabinet member did not answer, but I will engage in email correspondence to ascertain what has driven this and what can be done to fix it. (R)
- Asked the Chairman of the Resources & Corporate Performance Committee about Camden’s progress towards its £5m target for new revenue generation, especially through advertising and about Camden’s £17m a year cost of borrowing huge amounts of money while sitting on large cash and short-term borrowing reserves (as I raised with the relevant Cabinet member the September Council meeting). The Chairman committed to the Committee exploring progress towards the target in the coming months and noted that it may be that the Council holds either too much cash or takes on too much risk (necessitating holding more cash), leading to this unnecessary cost to the taxpayer. I will continue to invite investigation into whether this risk can be reduced. (R)
- Asked the Cabinet Member for Sustainability & the Environment to ensure that the times that businesses are permitted to leave rubbish outside their properties for collection in the borough’s time-banded collection zones (eg Hampstead High Street, West End Lane, Camden High Street) were publicly viewable on Camden’s website. The Cabinet member said that they were now – there had been an error, but this was rectified as a result of my question. As a supplementary, I praised the Cabinet member for introducing on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping, as I proposed at the September council meeting, but insisted that it be set at £400 and not a penny less. The Cabinet member disagreed, but said that the level of the fine would be reviewed in a year. I am thankful to the Cabinet member for adopting my proposal, but will continue to press for it to be raised to the level of surrounding boroughs. (Q)
- We did not get to the motions. However, I was due to propose an amendment to the Lib Dem and Green motion on the private rented sector. Their motion called for the council to introduce huge amounts of regulation of the private rented sector that would have reduced the supply of housing and competition in the sector: thus increasing rents and raising taxes. I sat on the Housing Scrutiny Committee’s private rented sector panel on exactly this issue earlier this year, and the Lib Dem/Green motion completely ignored the evidence heard by that panel, the conclusions it reached, and the responses of officers. In short, the motion was a complete waste of time that flew in the face of facts that diligent councillors that do committee work had already established, and my amendment to their motion pointed out these facts. (A)
You can see a full round-up of meetings this year here.