An attempt to overturn plans that could see council rents raised to 80 per cent of the market rate has been defeated.

A Labour motion calling for Barnet Borough Council to reject proposals to increase council rents was defeated at a council meeting at Hendon Town Hall last night.

The authority is proposing to increase rents to 80 per cent of market rate or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) level, whichever is lower, as part of its housing strategy.

Barnet Council says the additional income will be spent on building more affordable homes in the borough.

But last night’s motion called for councillors to oppose the proposals on the grounds of not being “genuinely affordable”, for pushing up the housing benefit bill and for potentially being unlawful.

It also stated that an increase would not solve the affordable housing crisis, but make it worse as more and more people would be trapped in a cycle of debt, eviction and homelessness.

Figures were also given for a three-bedroom council home in Hale, showing that charging council rent at LHA rates would lead to a rent increase of 149 per cent, or an extra £778 per month.

Councillor Ross Houston, Labour’s housing spokesman, said: “Over time these properties will become unaffordable. Families will struggle with their rents and have to leave. This will hit low-paid workers the hardest. Combined with right to buy proposals, this will be a disaster for Barnet.”

Councillor Tom Davey, Conservative chairman of the housing committee, criticised the Labour Group for “asking us to make a decision before we even have a housing strategy”, and for “scaremongering”.

Cllr Davey said LHA rates tended to be around 65 per cent, and said: “No change is not an option. We cannot live in a world that is static.”

He added: “The less you work, the less you pay. It’s the ultimate incentive not to work. We are on the side of working families.”

There were angry cries from the public gallery as the motion was defeated on the mayor’s casting vote.

Barnet Council’s housing strategy is due to go to committee in the summer.