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The fight to stop Labour closing and selling off Mornington Crescent Sports Centre has been lost – the site will be advertised as a “development opportunity” in Estates Gazette this week.
Many in Camden will still see this as a completely senseless decision. Mornington Sports Centre was refurbished and reopened just two years ago, at a not insignificant cost. Camden are therefore throwing a huge amount of taxpayer’s money down the drain, while taking away an important place for local residents to keep fit and healthy.
As Camden’s official opposition we used every means at our disposal to halt the sale – offering an alternative budget showing how the council could make savings elsewhere and forcing the Resources Scrutiny Committee to look at the decision again. Meanwhile, the Camden Sports Council came up with their own excellent plan to keep the centre open for the community. Labour Councillors have, however, refused to budge.
So, Mornington is now under the hammer and we all have to hope that those who use the sports centre will be able to find somewhere else affordable to go.
Schools in Camden are to receive an extra £3,579,000 thanks to the Liberal Democrats’ pupil premium.
Every school in the country will get £488 this year for each child on their roll who has free school meals. In a place like Camden, that means a huge cash boost targetted at our poorest pupils.
Of the main schools serving children here in Haverstock ward, Rhyl Primary will get £112,728, while Carlton Primary and Primrose Hill School both receive an extra £95,648. Haverstock School, our main secondary, wins a huge £247,904 – just short of a quarter of a million pounds.
These are significant sums of money, and can be used for extra one on one tuition, lessons after school, or whatever else schools think is needed to help children achieve their best. The Pupil Premium is a policy the Liberal Democrats devised and campaigned for, and our elected ministers put it at the heart of the coalition negotiations. Now it is a reality making a difference to our local schools in Camden.
Labour’s legacy was an education system where the richest 16-year olds were three times as likely to get five good GCSEs as the poorest. It’s pretty ironic that Ed Miliband’s old school, where he is fond of making speeches, will benefit to the tune of a quarter of a million pounds – thanks to a Liberal Democrat policy that his party opposed.
You can find out how much your local school will receive here.
The plans will see this excellent local charity almost doubling in size, with two side extensions providing an extra hall, kitchen and offices. Once built, the revamped community centre will be able to help even more local people in the Camden Town area, which is probably why so many residents enthusiastically backed the proposal.
If you were one of those who joined me in sending in representations urging Camden Council to give the plans the go-ahead, thank you. You can take a look at what the completed development will look like here.
Castlehaven Community Centre have joined Facebook so more local people can keep up to date with their latest news.
Castlehaven are a fantastic, frequently innovative, local organisation that have been serving the Camden Town area for over twenty five years. It’s well worth keeping an eye on what they’re up to: click here to “like” their new page.
Jill Fraser has played a major role in steering through and championing new plans that will secure the future of Queen’s Crescent Market.
Queen’s Crescent Market is one of the oldest street markets in London. British supermarket chain Sainsburys had their second, third and fourth shops on the Crescent, and the original Mr J Sainsbury was once a market stall holder. And it’s still popular with locals – one Kentish Town blogger has described it as an “NW5 institution” and one of the top ten places to visit in the area.
Jill, who lives and breathes Queen’s Crescent and has been going into battle for the market for years, said:
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the whole Gospel Oak area. Queen’s Crescent Market has been here continuously from the 1870s, and now it looks set to be bigger and better than ever.
“Despite offering local shoppers some great bargains, the market has sadly been failing for many years. These new plans will benefit local shops, and reinvigorate the whole area.
“Even better, we will be able to offer local young people training to set up their own market stalls and learn how to run a business.
“I am thrilled that the local community will be put in charge of their own market. Queen’s Crescent will be run by the community, for the community.”
Don’t forget you can drop into the market every Thursday and Saturday.
They will be holding a consultation event to get feedback from local residents this Tuesday 17th May, at Castlehaven Community Centre from 7pm.
Castlehaven have been bursting at the seams for some time and, with more room, will be able to do even more good work within the community. If you want to see the plans for yourself please do pop along to the event on Tuesday.
With the future of Camden’s libraries hanging in the balance, next week backbench Labour councillors have the chance to vote to keep every local Camden library open.
The maths is simple. Just four Labour councillors would need to vote with all opposition councillors for the motion to pass. Twenty-two Labour councillors have libraries in their wards. If every Labour councillor who has a library in their ward voted for the motion, Camden’s libraries would be saved.
Of course, we do need to make savings, but closing libraries is the lazy and most damaging option. We need to start by getting a firm grip on back room costs and investigating partnerships with other councils or local groups.
When I was growing up, libraries were simply a part of my life. I used to pop in with my Dad on a Saturday morning to choose a new book for the week. When I was a little older, I would sit for hours in the peace and quiet of our local library to do homework. These experiences fostered a love of books and reading that has set me up for life: and this opportunity should be available for the generation of Camden children growing up today.
It’s fair to acknowledge that councillors of all parties have expressed solidarity with those residents who are fighting so hard to save their local library. However, it’s votes in the council chamber that really count. Let’s hope Labour councillors have the courage to vote with their convictions on Monday.
It’s a devastating fact that, after thirteen years of splashing money around, Labour left behind a country where the best way to predict how well a child will do in school was to look at their parent’s income.
No one can be happy with this state of affairs, least of all those of us in places like Camden where there are schools (including the one where I am a governor) where over 80% of the children are on free school meals.
So, it’s a big deal that, from April next year, every school in England will get an extra £430 for each child in their school on free school meals. Based on latest estimates this will mean at least an extra £2,504,320 for schools to spend on the students who need it most in Holborn & St Pancras.
Many of our teachers do a great job in difficult circumstances, and richly deserve the extra support this money will bring. What’s more, the government has enough trust in their professional expertise to let teachers spend it in the way that will make the most difference for children in their school. This could mean one on one lessons, or extra catch up classes after school.
The pupil premium policy was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto and was a red line in coalition negotiations. It is to the Tories credit that, unlike Labour, they were willing to take the idea on board.
Some in Labour are already moaning (conveniently ignoring the fact that their party preferred to walk away from government rather than having to agree to such a radical, progressive idea). Yet the pupil premium embeds an important principle into our schools system: that poorer children need extra help at the early stages of their education. We all benefit from this, and it’s great that for the first time ever good schools have a financial incentive to take poorer pupils, rather than squabbling over their middle class friends.
Investment in early years and primary education is the best way to turn around a child’s life chances. This extra money will help protect local schools and, in the long term, give a leg up to those who need it most.
The council have announced that a staggering 22,000 people have visited Kentish Town Baths since they opened at the end of July. As a regular user, I’m pleased that so many people are enjoying the baths too. They really have been a huge success and the queue often stretches out of the door on a Saturday morning.
My colleague Flick Rea, who pioneered the restoration work as Camden’s Executive Member for Culture, said: “That tens of thousands of people have rushed to use the baths shows that the spectacular refurbishment was worth every single penny. It’s absolutely wonderful to see this building back where it belongs at the heart of the community in Kentish Town.
“For many years Labour stood back while this beautiful piece of Camden’s heritage became down run down: at one point they even wanted to have it demolished. I’m very proud that the Liberal Democrats stepped in to save the Baths. It was the right decision, and leaves a lasting legacy to the borough.
“I hope thousands more will visit the baths and enjoy the great facilities there for years and years to come.”
Seriously, it’s not that often that major projects such as this are delivered on time, on budget and go on to attract huge visitor numbers. Well done to Flick, and to all the Camden officers who worked so hard to make this happen.