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Council tax freezes threaten a meltdown in front-line services

March 9, 2017 9:52 AM
By Councillor Jack Cohen in Barnet Press

reel 4Barnet Council voted on its 2017/18 budget plans last Tuesday.

What strikes me about the Conservatives is how complacent they are. They claim 75 per cent of residents feell the council is doing a good job. Yet my email inbox is overwhelmed with complaints. Street cleaning, broken pavements, car parking, planning enforcement, housing: the list is endless. Many relate to the council not responding.

Conservatives propose an increase in council tax of three per cent, all of which will go to fund social care. This is what the government will permit to meet rising costs. I believe they should be doing more than just passing on the costs to local government.

Here in Barnet, successive council tax freezes and a cut in 2014 election year are threatening a meltdown in front-line services. As usual I have proposed an alternative budget. It is not easy to cut through the labyrinth of local government finance, but I have uncovered savings of almost £1 million which will not impact on front line services.

I am also calling for an investigation into the millions spent on consultants. I have not been allowed to cut spending on them because it will, offices argue, impact unacceptably on front line services. Now you may ask why officers should stop me. Well, the financial rules mean the top finance officer must sign off the proposals, otherwise my alternative budget will be ruled out of order.