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Barnet Borough Council plans to lower council tax
Council tax in Barnet will be cut by one per cent next year – but opposition councillors have labelled the move “a political stunt”.
The Conservative administration has announced plans to lower its council rates from April 2014 – one month before local elections that will determine whether they retain control of the authority.
The Tory group says it will find the £1.5million surplus from savings under its One Barnet outsourcing scheme, but opposition councillors claim the move is “a huge gamble”.
Under the controversial scheme, in which millions of pounds of services have been signed over to the private sector, the council is hoping to make savings of £126million over the next decade.
But Labour group leader Alison Moore said: “These are the savings promised on paper, but no council has yet embarked on outsourcing of this size.
“They are dropping council tax on the promise of these savings - but the project is untested. A prudent council would take this one step at a time.
“This whole project is an unknown, we are banking on future savings but it is yet another gamble by our Conservative administration.”
A statement from Barnet’s Conservative group said the move will help struggling families and put £1.5million back into the pockets of Barnet residents.
Finance portfolio holder Dan Thomas said: “Council tax is still a concern for many residents even though we've frozen it for so long. In response to this, and out of principle as a low tax party, we want to cut council tax next year.
“We can afford to do this now that the council has made significant savings through back office outsourcing and through other means.
“We will also commit to freezing council tax thereafter for two years to give residents certainty over what is a major household cost.”
But Labour group deputy leader Barry Rawlings called the move a “political stunt”.
He said: “They have made many mistakes I don’t think the people of Barnet will be seduced by it. People aren’t happy with the One Barnet scheme and this was the only card left to play.
“They are just trying to buy people's votes before the election. It is just a cynical ploy. It is predictable too.
“They have been began squirreling money away for three years so we assumed they were saving it up for something like this.”
Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius defended the One Barnet programme and denied the move was a way to win votes.
He added: “This has all been made possible by the One Barnet programme. The total savings from the contract is £126m, which covers the cut in funding from central government and the inflationary pressures.
“Everybody will benefit from this and it is not a political stunt.”
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