Council finance chief unveils £28m savings package – but claims it will not have ‘substantial effect’ on services

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Richard Olszewski. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Council services should not be affected despite the unveiling of a £28m savings package designed to keep Camden out of the red, according to the Town Hall’s finance boss.

Cllr Richard Olszewski said: “We will not be talking about substantial effects on services. They will be maintained.”

He revealed nearly 60 medium-term financial savings over the next three years – designed to put a dent in the council’s predicted £40m budget gap in 2025/26.

Cllr Olszewski said £20m of the cuts will come from the general fund and £8m from the housing revenue account.

“We have been wrestling since 2010 with government austerity,” he said.

He slammed the government’s £23m increase in funding for Camden – the fourth lowest in London.

To date, the council has handed out £1m through cost-of-living support measures to 3,000 residents, 70 per cent of whom are women.

Savings proposals include £700,000 a year from the running of the refurbished Town Hall on Judd Street, £3.5m a year on vacancy savings, and the sell-off of council offices at the Roy Shaw Centre in Hampstead. The council’s digital team, including data servers and hardware, are due to move out in April.

Other big-ticket savings include close to £1m a year from adult social care.

The council has also found ways to save £2.5m a year over the next three years in pension contributions.

Tom Simon, the Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition, said he had some concerns about whether some “aspirational” savings are possible and whether efficiencies in the housing revenue account could be realised.

He said housing repairs are very challenging to put right.

“One concern is that the outcomes don’t measure up to hopes,” he explained.

He said putting commercial waste charges up poses a risk of a “potential loss of revenue” if businesses prefer to go elsewhere for the service.

Cllr Olszewski responded: “It’s a mistake to describe [the savings] as aspirational. We’ve been asking officers, ‘How are you going to do this?'”

He added: “We have a strong record on delivering on medium-term financial strategies.”

There was a sombre mood as Camden’s cabinet voted through the package of cuts.

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