Richard Cornelius is to step down as leader of Barnet Council after eight years at the helm.

Cllr Cornelius said he was “extremely proud” of all that had been achieved during his time as leader and will continue serving as ward councillor for Totteridge.

He is expected to make way for Cllr Dan Thomas, who is deputy leader of the Conservative Group.

Cllr Cornelius said: “I have loved being leader of the council, but the time has come for someone else to have a turn.

“I have lived in Barnet all my life, and I am extremely proud of all that has been achieved in the last eight years.

“I have enjoyed the challenge of making the money go further.

“This has not always been easy, and we have had to make some difficult decisions, but the borough is now in a better place.”

When Cllr Cornelius took charge in 2011, local authorities were facing swingeing cuts to grant funding from central government, which have so far led Barnet Council to reduce spending by £155 million since 2010.

The council responded by signing two contracts with outsourcing giant Capita – thought to be worth around £500 million – in a bid to save millions of pounds a year.

But it recently announced a partial U-turn on outsourcing and agreed a compensation deal with Capita after admitting there had been “performance issues” with the contracts.

Barnet kept council tax frozen until this year, when the core levy was put up by 2.99 per cent in a bid to reduce a significant budget gap.

The new leader will take over with the council poised to make a further £21 million of savings in the current financial year.

Cllr Cornelius added that resident satisfaction with the council had remained high.

He said: “I am pleased with the progress that we have made in children’s services, and proud of the developments taking place in parts of Barnet, such as Stonegrove, Colindale and Dollis Valley.

“I am stepping down at an exciting time for Barnet. We have two brand new leisure centres opening later in the year, and a new Youth Zone for local children and young people opens its doors next month.”

Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings tweeted: “ Richard Cornelius has decided to stand down after eight years as leader and I wish him and his family well for the future.

“I know he was saddened by the way the party he has devoted much of his life to is falling apart at the seams and this may well have influenced his decision.”

The new leader will be confirmed at the annual council meeting on Tuesday, May 21.