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Council tax freeze announced in Barnet amid warnings from opponents
Barnet Council has pledged to freeze council tax for the next two years - but opponents have labelled the move a political stunt.
The ruling Conservative cabinet is set to agree the tax freeze until 2015 at a budget meeting on Wednesday in the midst of a drastic savings programme.
But members of the opposition say residents will be stung by stealth charges on other services and argue the move is nothing more than a political gesture.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Jack Cohen believes residents should not be “conned” by the move.
The Childs Hill representative said: “It is a false message because the reason they can freeze council tax is because all the other charges are going up.
“It’s nice to boast about it but people are paying stealth taxes through the increase in controlled parking, crematorium charges and other things.
“They’re deceiving the public – freezing council tax means poorer services and higher charges elsewhere.”
Barnet Council is having to make annual savings of £72.5million before 2015 but believes its One Barnet outsourcing programme is lowering its deficit sufficiently to offer the tax freeze.
The authority is also preparing to raise council house rents at less than the rate of inflation and council leader Richard Cornelius says the strategy is about letting residents “keep cash in their pockets”.
He said: “Residents seem to be making economies elsewhere but finding the fixed cost of council tax a burden.
“I hope residents understand that we are a council that is relentless in keeping costs down while continuing to run high quality services.”
The 2013/14 budget will be agreed by the council’s cabinet committee at Hendon Town Hall on Wednesday before it is presented for full council approval on March 5.
Labour group leader Cllr Alison Moore said: “Of course residents will welcome a tax freeze but there are questions as to how you get that.
“Everyone is on a tight budget but when you look at what it can do to council services, people may see a downside in terms of hidden costs.”