Monday, 21 October 2013

Labour in Camden Town Hall

Camden Labour has been voted in to run the Town Hall 41 of the 48 years the borough has been in existence.  It has only been out of power for two short spells: between 1968-71 and 2006-10.

Ensuring that council housingfair rents and inequality is addressed have been hallmarks of successive Labour administrations throughout the years.  We have also safeguarded residents' interests in the face of major national infrastructure developments.  Camden's unique social mix is a result of its varied housing tenure, and is assisted by our excellent Local Education Authority and family of community schools.  Support for council housing and community schools distinguishes the borough from the super-gentrified boroughs to the west: our social mix remains despite changes occurring at an alarming rate over last two decades.   

Famous Camden councillors
Barbara Castle (St. Pancras council) – Labour Minister
V. K. Krishna Menon (St. Pancras council) – Intellectual and activist for Indian independence
Tessa Jowell – London MP and Labour Minister
Ken Livingstone – MP and Mayor of London
Geoffrey Bindman QC – Human rights lawyer
Frank Dobson – Labour Minister and Camden MP
John Mills – Economist and entrepreneur

Beginnings 
1960s Camden formed of three small boroughs of HolbornHampstead (both Conservative) and (Labour) larger St.Pancras in local government reorganisation.  Greater London Council (GLC) created.  Labour wins majority in new borough under leader and railway clerk Charlie Ratchford.  Camden logo of eight linked hands created, symbolising “voting, giving, receiving and unity.” Labour housing minister Crossman approves council plans to build 4250 homes by 1968.  Camden successfully opposes flyover proposals in Camden Town and M1 extension through borough.  

Housing investment
1970s Labour returned to p ower at Camden Town Hall on pro-council housing platform focusing on lower rents and new council housing.  Camden unsuccessfully applies to CPO Centrepoint, large office block intentionally kept empty by property developers during housing crisis.  Council housing acquisitions programme starts buying up ‘slum’ street properties for council housing, making Camden a major landowner.  Last new council housing built until 2013.  Labour party members play part in creation of local amenity groups across borough, e.g. WHAT and tenants movement.    

Thatcher’s Britain
1980s Thatcher’s Rates Act takes away council control over Camden business rates, forcing major cuts to services as Camden faces huge deficit.  Homeless Bengali families occupy Town Hall demanding better housing.  Labour members campaign for council intervention to take-over Arlington House, NW1.  Turbulent Labour Group splits over approach to Whitehall ‘rate-capping’ of council, but finally sets legal Budget.  Abolition of GLC.  Anti-Poll Tax riot and financial instability.    

Turning council around
1990s Beginning of consolidation of council under Richard Arthur and '1990 Group', major focus on stability, council re-organisation and higher quality services.  Continuing government cuts result in massive capital backlog for housing and infrastructure.  First King’s Cross plans defeated by local residents.  New Labour government elected, starts to give more power and funding to local authorities.

Labour Investment
2000s Camden named ‘Council of the Year’ in 2003, gains powers over community safety and early years.   Labour government invests £500m in council housing, beginning to make good the 18 year repairs backlog.  ‘Tackling inequality’ a council priority in Community Strategy, regeneration funds targeted at 10 most deprived areas.   Camden first borough to establish comprehensive Sure Start network. Swiss Cottage complex and Talacre Sports Centre opened and Haverstock school rebuilt.  Camden and Manchester drive new ASBO powers against drug-dealersKing’s Cross regeneration passed and Crossrail green-lighted through Tottenham Court Road but overbuilt plans for Camden Town Tube rejected. Leader Jane Roberts named Dame for services to local government.

Coalition cuts
2010s Camden faces £130m cuts from Coalition government over 6 years, reductions of over 30%, and face massive capital deficit for council homes and schools.   Ends of sales of council homes by auction policy taken by Tories and Lib Dems.  Introduces 20mph zone across the borough, London Living Wage and starts £330m Community Investment Programme to build 1100 new council homes and repair all community schools. First new council homes built at Chester Balmore since 1970s.  Equality Taskforce and Camden Plan put childcare, growth and jobs centre stage.  Primary schools named best in country. Opposes plans to demolish parts of Regent's Park Estate and Camden Town for HS2.   

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