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Conservative Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius: Lowering council tax by one per cent 'no political stunt'
Lowering council tax in Barnet one month before the next election is no political stunt, according to the leader of the local authority.
Conservative group leader Richard Cornelius says his cabinet’s decision to drop the annual tax rate one month before May’s local elections was simply a good will gesture.
The council this week pledged to lower council tax by one per cent from April, an annual saving of just £7.40 for residents on the lowest council tax band and £28.30 for those on the highest.
The reduced rate will also be frozen for a further two years under the plans.
But Councillor Cornelius insisted the timing of the move was coincidental, and that savings from the recently-signed One Barnet outsourcing contracts made the reduction possible.
The Tory politician also categorically denied that any of the £1.5million shortfall the one per cent drop will cause would be recovered from the council’s £15million reserve pot.
He said: “This is not coming from the reserves. We’re doing it because we can. It is a good idea and we’re showing the direction of development.
“People want to see this as a political stunt but we think council tax is too high and we’re reducing it by what we can.
“It is not a huge amount but it is a gesture. I think a lot of people are hard pressed and council tax is something they don’t want to pay more of.”
The controversial One Barnet scheme, under which millions of pounds of services have been sold off to private firm Capita, has attracted a large amount of criticism from political groups and campaigners.
But Cllr Cornelius says the authority is now “bearing the fruits” of the project, which was more than seven years in the planning.
He said: “Those who have criticised One Barnet have the right to do so but the proof is in the pudding. We can meet our budgetary requirements and we will keep going.”
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