A £42,000 Barnet cabinet mailshot advising residents to vote against NHS plans for stroke and trauma services has been criticised by opposition leaders.

MPs and councillors claim the letters sent by Barnet Council leader Mike Freer last week, were overtly political and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

But Mr Freer insists the letters, which cost £42,346, were designed to help “save the Royal Free”.

The NHS report, by Healthcare for London, proposes four major trauma centres and eight acute stroke centres in the capital, none of which would be at Barnet Hospital, in Wellhouse Lane, Barnet, or the Royal Free Hospital, in Pond Street, Hampstead.

Councillor Alison Moore, leader of the Labour group, said: “Labour councillors have been telling residents about the NHS consultation on leaflets at no expense to the public purse. The Tories could have done the same.

"This is a significant amount of council taxpayers’ money to spend in this way at this time.

“What's more, to avoid any perception that public funds were being used for political promotion, the letter could have gone out from the chief executive of the council, rather than the leader."

Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, said: “It is outrageous Mr Freer is sending out these letters at such an expense. That money would go a long way towards helping repair the cuts in sheltered housing."

Councillor Jack Cohen, leader of the Lib Dem group, echoed Labour’s objections.

“This letter was slipped through cabinet via an emergency procedure,” he claimed. “But I would strongly question whether it was needed. It has never happened before.

“Given all the cuts to wardens in sheltered housing, you have to ask if this is a proper use of council funds.”

The NHS recommendations, unanimously opposed by Barnet cabinet last week, would force acute stroke victims to travel to University College Hospital, in Regents Park, and trauma victims to The Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel.

In the letter, Mr Freer states the proposals “do not serve Barnet residents well” because residents need “to access the very best services available in the shortest time possible”.

Mr Freer said he wrote to residents once before about Government plans to close the Chase Farm Hospital A&E department and condemned his critics for “standing idle”.

“If the opposition don't think the Royal Free is worth the cost of a stamp they should be ashamed," he said.

"If they are prepared to stand idle and let one of our major hospitals be downgraded, they are not fit for office.

“Imagine the Royal Free with no major incident and no hyper-actute stroke unit? It would be the thin end of the wedge with the eventual loss of more key services until it was purely a community hospital.

“This sniping simply shows Labour and the Lib Dems to be out of touch.”

Councillor Helena Hart, cabinet member for public health, also defended the leader.

She said: “Had Mr Freer not taken this initiative to write to every household in the borough, the vast majority of the population would have remained completely in the dark as to what the NHS had proposed for the future of these two vital life-saving services and how adversely Barnet residents would be affected by them.”

Read the NHS proposals at healthcareforlondon.nhs.uk. Responses can be sent to hlf@ipsos.com or Freepost RSAE-RCET-ATJY, Healthcare for London, Harrow HA1 2QG.