Council tax rise of 3.8% in Barnet confirmed

‘Rebate’ from previous year prevents an even higher tax rise, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Hendon Town Hall
Hendon Town Hall

A proposed hike to council tax bills of 3.8% has been approved by members of Barnet Council’s Labour administration.

The increase, made up of a 1.8% increase in core council tax and a 2% rise in a levy used to support adult social care, will add £51.32 to band D bills from April.

With the Greater London Authority planning to increase its share of council tax by 9.74%, owners of band D properties in Barnet will pay an extra £89.87 in total over the course of the 2023/24 financial year.

The increases, set out in final budget plans that were presented to the council’s policy and resources committee on Wednesday, are expected to raise an extra £7.8million for the council – including £4.1 million to spend on adult social care.

In November, the government gave councils new powers to raise council tax bills by 4.99% without holding a referendum. Previously, local authorities had to put any increase beyond 2.99% to a vote.

Conservative councillors opposed the tax rise. Tory leader Dan Thomas told the committee: “I don’t believe this is the year to be increasing council tax, and certainly more so than was previously projected. It was very difficult for all of our residents across the borough, regardless of their income bracket, and I think we should be freezing council tax this particular year.”

The Conservatives accuse the Labour administration of breaking its pledge to refund the 1% increase in the adult social care council tax precept approved by the then-Tory administration for 2022/23. Labour denies the claims, pointing out that core council tax will not rise by the maximum 2.99% allowed under the new rules in order to provide a rebate for residents.

Council leader Barry Rawlings said there was a “presumption” made by the government that local authorities would take advantage of the new tax-raising powers to bring in more funding.

Also speaking during the meeting, Tirza Waisel, a member of Barnet Alliance for Public Services, asked the administration to reverse a move to an income-banded scheme for determining the amount of support residents can receive towards their council tax bills, which was introduced by the Conservative administration in 2018.

When the move to the new scheme was pushed through, Labour fiercely opposed it and claimed it would “take £3m from the poorest people in Barnet”.

Cllr Rawlings said councillors would ask officers to present a report to a meeting in September on potential changes to the council tax support scheme that could be made the following year. He also pointed out that the council had set up a £2m hardship fund to help residents in financial difficulty.

The budget includes plans to save £11.2m during 2023/24 in order to balance the books, with £2.8m of savings earmarked for the adults and health department.

Labour committee members voted in favour of the budget, outweighing the Conservatives who votes against. It will now be presented to a meeting of the full council for approval on Tuesday.

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