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44% tax rise over 5 years

March 11, 2008 12:00 AM
By Councillor Monroe Palmer in Hendon Times

After last weeks Barnet Council meeting my Colleague Councillor Jeremy Davies says "Alistair Darling's first budget approaches us and I'm sure we all wonder what changes are planned in government taxation. In Barnet our local budget and council tax setting meeting took place last Tuesday. It contained few surprises that hadn't't already been trailed in the local press; in particular a council tax increase of 3.5%. However, over the last 5 years since the Conservatives regained control of Barnet the council tax has risen by 44% which is twice the rate of inflation over the same period."

"The Leader of the Council blames the increases in taxes on £2m of cost shunting by the NHS and lower central government grants to name a few of the villains. However, the reality is that the council needs also to keep its own house in order; the so called cost shunting from the NHS is the bed blocking charge, to the local authority, for elderly patients to remain in hospital whilst awaiting a residential home care placement. In addition, to this the council has not always so assiduously claimed all the grants it can from Transport for London or the benefit subsidy due for services provided. In fact, it identified an additional £1.5m for a previous year, which could have reduced the council tax burden."

The Liberal Democrats alternative budget, which I introduced at the council meeting, proposed a restoration of the Neighbourhood Management Service, with one officer for each of the Council's 21 wards; with officers checking the condition of roads and pavements, reporting graffiti and litter and instigating urgent action where necessary. This service was axed by the current Conservative Administration and accounts for the slowness in dealing swiftly with these environmental problems over the last five years. It was proposed to pay for this by cutting political and policy writing posts and a modest reduction in the council's reserves. We need to be proud of the area we live in