Barnet Council is set to freeze core council tax during the upcoming financial year to help with the cost of living crisis.

The town hall is planning to avoid increasing its central share of the bill for the first time in four years, but will increase a council tax precept designed to support adult social care by 1 per cent.

It comes after the government announced a £150 council tax rebate for properties in bands A to D, which will be paid to residents in April.

The plans were outlined in a report presented to the policy and resources committee on February 9. The report also reveals the council plans to make nearly £8 million in savings in 2022/23 to balance its books and faces having to plug a £19.2m budget gap the following year.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has already announced plans for an 8.8 per cent hike in the council tax precept to fund services provided by City Hall, which will push up bills for band D properties by £395.59 over the coming year.

Speaking during last Wednesday’s meeting, council leader Dan Thomas welcomed the £150 rebate announced by the government and called it an "enormous amount of financial aid for the lowest earners in this borough".

But although opposition councillors welcomed the financial support for residents, they claimed it would not be enough to stave off the cost of living crisis.

Liberal Democrat leader Gabriel Rozenberg said the government rebate was "nothing to do with income" and called it a "bad way to address a very serious problem".

He added: "If the council was interested in giving money back to low-income residents, then it would reduce the council tax it currently charges on universal benefit claimants."

Cllr Rozenberg asked how sustainable the council tax freeze was and whether it could be replicated in future years, given that it seemed to come "from a one-off subsidy you happen to have got from the City of London".

The council leader admitted it may not be sustainable, but added: "Right now, there is a cost of living issue for our residents and, if we are going to freeze council tax, this is the time to do it."

Labour’s Ross Houston said the measures were welcome but not enough, with residents being hit by "massive increases" in the cost of living and council tenants facing a 4.1 per cent hike in rent under a national formula.

Cllr Houston said the government’s decision to freeze the local housing allowance, which is used to work out housing benefit, would have a "massive effect on residents in Barnet".

He added: "To freeze something without any indication of when it will be uplifted again is irresponsible."

Cllr Thomas replied: "The whole cost of housing is because of the lack of supply, and we in Barnet are building the most new homes in outer London and delivering a high number of affordable homes, particularly compared to boroughs that surround us, and we need to remember that social housing rates are at a significant discount to market rates."

Opposition councillors also raised concerns that the council tax rebate may not be passed on to tenants by private landlords.

Following the debate, the Conservatives voted in favour of the report’s recommendations, with Labour and the Lib Dems voting against. The budget will be voted on by a full council meeting scheduled for 1st March.