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'No alternative' to One Barnet outsourcing scheme, says leader Richard Cornelius, as council tax frozen
11:29pm Tuesday 5th March 2013 in News
The leader of Barnet Council told outsourcing opponents to “wake up and smell the coffee” as the authority’s annual budget was approved tonight.
Councillor Richard Cornelius said there was "no alternative" to the One Barnet programme his administration has undertaken to battle government funding cuts.
The Totteridge representative pointed to the outsourcing scheme as a major factor in the authority’s ability to freeze council tax for the next two years.
The Conservative majority passed the budget at a packed council meeting in Hendon Town Hall, despite protestations from opposition councillors and heckles from the public gallery.
Labour group leader Alison Moore said it was a “travesty of justice” for the Tories to say “we are all in it together” given the level of cuts imposed on public services from the Government.
Barnet has been forced to find in the region of £50million in spending cuts, with further savings needed before 2015.
In response, the council has undertaken a major programme of outsourcing services under the One Barnet scheme, which it hopes will save more than £100m over the next 15 years.
Opponents have criticised the number of outsourcing contracts, totalling in the region of £700m, but Cllr Cornelius said he felt the authority was doing the right thing.
He told a boisterous chamber this evening: “We’ve met this challenge head on. One Barnet sounds highfalutin, but once it is examined every element seems clear.
“It took a long while before it clicked with me and for colleagues to embrace it but we all need to wake up and smell the coffee – there is no alternative.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Jack Cohen accused the Tories of producing a budget that was “unfair and ignores local residents”.
He said his party would have prioritised provision of youth services, adding: “This budget is all about cuts and it is flawed because it is underpinned by the fantasy of One Barnet.”
Cllr Moore declared her party would battle various central government taxes, as well as lowering parking charges and improving housing policy, were they in charge of council spending.
But the protests fell on deaf ears and Conservative councillor, Andrew Harper stated the contributions of opposition councillors had been “largely irrelevant” throughout the debate.
His colleague Councillor Tom Davey later accused the Labour group of contradicting themselves.
He said: “In a budget with a total expenditure of £300m, Labour has proposed to change just £1.7m yet they then say they don’t accept the One Barnet savings - it's ludicrous."
Labour and the Liberal Democrats had earlier produced alternative budgets but both were criticised by deputy leader Dan Thomas, who summed up on behalf of the leader.
He said: “There was no proposal to scrap One Barnet within the Lib Dems’ offering and Labour failed to produce any alternatives sites for the additional affordable housing they want to see.
“I can’t be any more convinced this administration is on the right course.”