Roads and bin collections were the focus of Labour's claims as they set Barnet's council tax - but Conservatives said they are not taking finances seriously.

The Labour-run authority's 2024/25 budget includes £39 million of total savings – made up of over £23 million of spending “efficiencies” and cut costs across all departments and £15.5 million of income generation and new external funding.

It will raise council tax by 4.98%.

Council leader Cllr Barry Rawlings opened the budget debate on Tuesday (February 27), saying that calling this a difficult budget year would be a “gross understatement”. 

He said local government became the “fourth emergency service” during the Covid pandemic and was the “delivery vehicle” for the things central government wanted to achieve “without being given enough funds to do it”. 

Cllr Rawlings blamed a “growing tsunami of incompetence and poor decisions” in Westminster, describing Liz Truss’s mini budget in autumn 2022 as having “disastrous” consequences in terms of inflation and interest rates.


Cllr Barry Rawlings, Barnet Council leader

Cllr Barry Rawlings, Barnet Council leader


Council tax in Barnet will rise by a total of 4.98% in 2024/25, comprising a 2.98% increase in the core rate, plus another 2% rise in the precept used to fund adult social care.

The local authority is also planning rent increases of 7.7% for all council-owned homes.

Cllr Rawlings said there would be £97 million spent over the next five years to fix roads and pavements, more than had “ever” been invested.

He said weekly bin collections would be maintained, along with free community skip services to tackle fly-tipping, and 511 new council homes were already delivered or going through planning. 


Conservative opposition leader Cllr Dan Thomas

Conservative opposition leader Cllr Dan Thomas


In response, Conservative opposition leader Cllr Daniel Thomas said Barnet’s overall council tax rate was lower than other boroughs because “Labour inherited lower council tax from the Conservatives in 2022”. 

Cllr Thomas claimed Cllr Rawlings himself had admitted the borough’s finances “were in good shape” when Labour won control two years ago.

He said: “Fast forward just two years and the council is £20 million over budget, which gives me no confidence that Labour’s budget will actually be implemented.”

The Conservative group leader said he was expecting another year of overspend with residents “fleeced” with “higher charges and fees”. 

Cllr Thomas criticised Paul Edwards, cabinet member for adult social care, for not being present, given that adult social care was a reason for the heavy overspend on the current year’s budget.  

He also criticised the decision to scrap the cabinet role for finance and performance, adding that this, as well as “scrapping” the budget and performance committee, demonstrated the council was not taking its financial situation seriously. 

Cllr Thomas said under the Conservative group’s proposals council tax would be increased by “just 1%” leaving taxpayers “better off by a collective £4.2m” .

He said the funding for this would partially come from moving back office and administrative functions to “a cheaper part of the country” and claimed this would save 25% of payroll costs.

Cllr Rawlings slammed the Conservatives’ “unachievable” proposed alternative budget, adding staff cuts proposed would “decimate” enforcement, community safety, planning and housing. 

He also said the plan to relocate and outsource staff to save money was not feasible.

The Conservative budget proposals were voted down by 32 votes to 18, while the same numbers then voted in favour of Labour’s budget.