Business community consultation

The Council will propose its 2022/23 budget through its Revenue Estimates and Council Tax report to be published on 22 February 2022. This report will be put to Council for consideration and approval on 7 March 2022.

If any business rates payers would like to make any comments, suggestions or request further information on budget proposals before then, please contact Jason Blackhurst on 020 7974 4729 or write to jason.blackhurst@camden.gov.uk by 18th February 2022.

 

 

Financial Challenge

The Council continues to face significant financial challenges following the global pandemic which is expected to have a lasting impact on the Council and its financial position. Without action this has the potential to severely undermine and threaten our financial sustainability and resilience.

In addition to this, following 12 years of deep and sustained government funding cuts the Council is currently estimating a funding gap of anywhere between £35m to £40m by 2025/26. Although much of this is dependent on the economic recovery post covid, the level of government support going forward and greater certainty on key future funding and policy decisions.

The Council’s Cabinet in 2018 considered and approved a programme of savings and investments designed to ensure the Council can continue to operate on a sustainable and sound financial footing. This current Medium Term Financial Strategy will be extended into 2022/23 to allow savings delayed by Covid to be delivered and it is expected that the new strategy will begin from 2023/24.

The Review of Medium-term Financial Strategy report to Cabinet in December 2021 sets out the council’s latest forecast and a progress update as well as the financial impact felt as a result of Covid-19. The December report also provided detail on preparations towards setting the 2022/23 budget.

Supporting Business

Throughout the pandemic, the Council has been swift to communicate new business support opportunities through all our communication channels including the website, the BIDs and the Business E- Newsletter. We have also created a toolkit to support businesses to reopen and downloadable poster

Camden’s high streets, along with those up and down the country, have been facing a range of challenges, trends and changing consumer habits, which have been compounded by the extraordinary impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response Camden Council has commenced the Camden Future High Streets programme, to support local high streets through the pandemic and a period of change and reinvention. The work involved a range of council services coming together to respond to the challenges.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Camden reached out to local people to better understand those challenges and the related high street concerns and ideas. Following this, and better informed, Camden provided a range of support.

This included making it easier for local businesses to apply for tables and chairs licenses and create streateries - new spaces for alfresco dining which allowed businesses to expand the number of tables they can offer safely into the road whilst being protected by barriers. As part of the programme, a number of Streateries have been implemented across Camden, and will continue to be rolled out, in order to support the hospitality sector in the post COVID-19 recovery.

Camden also launched the #LoveYourCamden communications campaign to encourage local people to support local businesses continuing to meet the needs of local people and providing vital services in difficult circumstances. This campaign was supported by Camden’s partnership with My Virtual Neighbourhood, a website that helps businesses increase their public profile and local people find businesses within their neighbourhood.

As opportunities to get together inside were limited, Camden also continued its support for the local network of cultural organisations through Camden Together, that funded and supported a range of cultural activities that can took place outdoors between July and October 2021. The series celebrated the reopening of Camden’s rich, diverse and vibrant cultural landscape through music, dance and public art.

Whilst the pandemic continued, spring and summer 2021 saw the gradual lifting of restrictions introduced as a result of Covid-19. Recognising the need to continue support for high streets and the businesses, Camden’s support for high streets continued into a new phase, outlined in the council’s Camden Future High Streets vision.

Alongside this were other projects that enlivened our high streets through public art - this has included the painting of nine crossings on Tottenham Court Road with the vibrant designs of Yinka Illori in partnership with the Mayors Let’s Do London campaign. There have also been local projects at Kentish Town and Gospel Oak and we are hoping to do more.

To tap into the creativity of local people and organisations, Camden launched the Camden Future High Streets Spacehive Crowdfund to generate and support new ideas to support high streets into the future. This ring-fences up to £360k of funding for grassroots projects in our high streets that support the realisation of the Camden Future High Streets vision.

Camden is also working with the Greater London Authority and has secured funding through the High Streets for All Challenge. This work is focused on Kilburn and, working with key partner the London Borough of Brent and local community groups, Camden is developing projects to create a greater sense of arrival into Kilburn and bring vacant premises into use.

We knew that businesses in the borough were being hit incredibly hard by the lockdowns so moved swiftly to provide support, making over 23,900 grant payments at a value of almost £163m and providing guidance and advice on how to operate safely. As lockdowns eased, we used planning powers to allow businesses to operate outside on pavements and worked with the community on making high streets safer, widening pavements and introducing Streateries in places such as Belsize Park.
 
Over £13m of grants we administered were discretionary schemes (principally the Additional Restrictions Grant, ARG), where the council was able to set criteria that met specific local need, as opposed to the mandatory schemes (Local Restrictions Support Grant) that were prescribed to business rate payers in sectors required to close by the government.
 
Camden used its ARG allocation to extend financial support to our iconic cultural venues, to non-rate paying businesses impacted by covid restriction, extend the level of financial support to hospitality and leisure sector in our Central London areas and to support the wider events, travel and tourism sector whose customer base has been devastated by restrictions. In total we’ve been able to provide discretionary grants to over 1,000 businesses.
 
We’re also using up to £600,000 of our Additional Restrictions Grant to provide business support to help with business recovery and resilience in our main high streets including £250,000 for our Business Improvement Districts to carry out a range of events, marketing, and promotional activities in their areas.

Camden Council also commissioned six two-week enterprise training courses for residents to attend over 2020/21. The training was delivered by Rebel Business School, with over 190 attendees. All courses were free and provided training to those who want to start or restart their own business. The course has been delivered in a hybrid format, thereby, supporting residents experiencing the digital divide.

Business Rate Changes

In the Autumn budget announcement, the Chancellor confirmed the Business rate multiplier will again be frozen for 2022-23 and retail relief remain in place too, capped at a maximum of 50% off the bill, up to a £105,000 limit per business.  Formal confirmation of the £105,000 national cap is yet to be received or whether the criteria for London will differ.  The Government is also set to formally announce details of an extension to the Transitional Relief and Supporting Small Business schemes, details of which, were also provided in the recent budget

 

Business Rate Retention

2022/23 will mark the second year in succession that the London Pool pilot scheme will not exist due to the London wide financial uncertainty that remains post covid.

Camden welcomed the pilot pool approach, in a step towards wider devolution and a consensus for a London wide agreement, bringing the pool back in 2023/24, once Councils assessed both the short- and medium-term impact of the pandemic. We continue to strongly support the principal Councils retain increased funding generated locally as part of our advocacy of wider devolution as a means of improving outcomes by moving decisions closer to the residents and businesses they effect. We argue that services that have a direct relationship to business should be transferred to councils, including services that can help tackle key infrastructure challenges, including housing, transport, and digital connectivity. In turn, we are creating a circular economy by encouraging greater participation of SMEs through our procurement processes.

There have been no further announcements around the implementation of the new model for Business Rates but reforms to the funding of local government may put the Council’s financial resilience at risk by changing how funding is distributed to local authorities across England and the rebasing of business rates could threaten to strip out the pre-pandemic business rates growth which the Council has been able to retain. The retention rate for London will remain at 67% of income above the baseline with the GLA keeping 37% and councils keeping 30%.

Several uncertainties need to be considered, such as the ongoing negative impact of the pandemic on business rates in the capital and the possibility that Government may still implement a ‘reset’ of baselines. An example of this is the proposed £20m of rateable value, relating to St Pancras Station, being removed from the Camden local rating list, and put into the central rating list from the next revaluation list starting on 1 April 2023. 

Whilst it’s stated that Councils affected by these movements of properties out of local lists are not penalised, via funding reviews, this is not guaranteed.  There is also uncertainty around the level of reliefs  and eligibility criteria restrictions for the reliefs announced in the Autumn budget to support businesses with their rate bills in 2022/23.

The Review of Medium-term Financial Strategy report to Camden’s Cabinet in December 2021 set out an overview of the council’s financial position, including our plans to address the medium-term funding deficit and an update on preparations towards setting the 2022/23 budget. See the supporting documents below and have your say on proposals.

 

Supporting documents

A number of additional supporting documents are also provided on this Council’s financial strategy website link. The most recent documents provided for the December update are:

• Review of Camden Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy

• 2021/22 Financial Outturn Forecast Update (Month 6 - September)

This report provides an update on the revenue and capital financial forecasts for 2021/22 as at quarter 2, and notes any significant risks that have been identified as having the potential to affect the outturn as currently projected.

The Council can provide further information on its revenue or capital estimates for next year on request.