In Labour-run Camden we know there is an alternative to the devastating cuts inflicted on public sector budgets and the seeping evil of welfare benefit changes. We know that local authorities are powerfully placed to broker agreements that result in homes and jobs.
Our Equality Taskforce report, independently chaired and with expert members, has looked in detail at the issues and challenges that residents in Camden face. Some are obvious, some less so. While government suffers an austerity of ambition we are refusing to accept the argument that the decline of local authorities is inevitable.
The transparent process of the report, with input of partners from the beginning and with cross-party support, doesn’t just give it academic rigour. It also means the recommendations for Camden council, our partners and government are practical, achievable and vital. Taken together they are more than the sum of their parts, and in places would mean fixing localism into our system for decades to come.
But the value of this work is not just about how we take on the challenge of the recommendations made; it is that as a council we have taken the brave decision to look at what we do and how we do it. We are determined to remain the most efficient and most innovative area of the public sector.
We are willing to take risks, and local government should not be afraid to do so, but the margin for error has never been so slim. Every pound that we spend must deliver real results that bring real change to our diverse borough. We can do this, but we need the support of government.
Our value lies in the fact that we sit at the very heart of our communities. We provide leadership and accountability to our residents in a way that no other part of the public sector or government can and we were not prepared to sit back and let people struggle.
Housing will be a familiar theme to Labour members. Leaving some of the well-rehearsed arguments aside, we can agree that housing has a massive part to play in inequality. We believe that spiralling rents while wages stagnate is an unsustainable position and government should urgently take steps to develop a London living rent.
Currently, a working family of four would require a household income of £70,000 per year to live in a private rented flat in Camden. The private rented sector accounts for around a third of the stock in the borough but the current rent levels are unsustainable. Unless urgent action is taken, central London will become a Dickensian scene of the very rich and the very poor.
The work of the taskforce has again highlighted that child poverty is massively reduced by getting mothers into work. This means partners and businesses offering flexible employment in the same way as Camden council, and government needs to give more funding to local government to enable us to deliver improved childcare provision.
Everyone deserves the chance to succeed – we believe that now, when the challenge is at its greatest, is the time for local government to act for our communities and tackle entrenched problems. We need to harness our strengths as community leaders and tear down the barriers that stand in the way of success for so many.
Sarah Hayward is leader of Camden council. She tweets @Sarah_Hayward
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