Monday 6 December 2010

Barnet Tories publicly funded political press release

­ 6 December 2010

Right Budget for Tough Times

Council Tax will be frozen and difficult choices made in the Age of Austerity.

Barnet is already one of the most efficient Councils in London. But with a chill wind sweeping the Country it has to make cuts.

Conservatives are adamant Tax Bills must be frozen while households are struggling. They are also determined to protect the frontline services that our most vulnerable residents rely upon.

But this means cutting back spending on many non-statutory services. It also means rationalising the number of people who work for the Council.

And radical approaches are needed for service delivery with outsourcing of provision where feasible.

³We are all in this together², said Council Leader Cllr. Lynne Hillan. ³I wanted to make sure we froze Council Tax in these tough times and protected essential services. It would be delusional and an insult to our residents¹ intelligence to suggest we could achieve this without making sweeping changes.²

Barnet is not alone in making cuts. Labour Lewisham faced a riot at its meeting recently. Labour Camden has seen speculation that it will close two-thirds of its libraries.

³Barnet is used to being efficient. We are already one of the most efficient in London. But these are tough times and the Public Sector is not immune from the challenges businesses have faced. This Budget keeps Council Tax down and protects services for the most vulnerable. That is why it is the best budget for Barnet², Cllr. Hillan added.


Notes to editors:

1) The claims on efficiency relate to the fact Barnet has the 4th lowest Central Services costs per head of population in London (Audit Commission 2008).

2) A list of FAQs on the Budget Headlines is below.

For more information contact Richard Robeson

0208 359 2004 or

Budget Q & A

1) Why does Barnet have to make savings?
Labour has left the Country in an appalling mess. The Country has a colossal debt. That means the new Government has to make savings and the money given to local Councils (over half of Barnet¹s income) will have to be cut. We want to keep Council Tax down, so we have to make cuts in some services. Our relentless drive for efficiency will also mean some rationalisation of staff numbers, which will be handled properly and sensitively.

2) Why are you consulting on plans to remove the museums¹ funding? What is happening with libraries core strategy consultation?
Our two Museums are funded heavily and have limited appeal (one costs £15 for every visitor it attracts). We believe this funding is unsustainable in this climate.
We are conducting a root and branch review of our libraries service. That may result in some re-provision. We want to see what our residents really want and need from libraries. Contrast that to the panic in Labour Councils like Brent and Camden where wholesale closures look likely. We do have to decide whether a Library is about books and learning or about buildings.

3) And why are you consulting on removing the ArtsDepot¹s Core Funding?
The ArtsDepot was supposed to become self-financing. That has not happened and probably never will. Barnet cannot justify spending taxpayers¹ money anymore on a centre that cannot make enough money from its productions and events when we have more pressing priorities, such as children in our care or elderly residents.

4) Why are some Children¹s Centres Going?
Children¹s Centres should provide support to the most disadvantaged. No firm decision has been taken about numbers so a lot of this is scaremongering. But we know that the Sure Start grant that funds children's centres will be cut, probably by as much as 30%. So we must focus on those children and families for whom the need is greatest, not least in support of our early intervention agenda.

5) What about schools? Will they be hit?
The Government has said that schools budgets are protected. Schools will be expected to act more in partnership with each other, sharing services and support, with the Council playing a less active role. The Council will continue to back those schools that decide to opt for academy status, and assist anyone wishing to set up a new, free school.

6) Why are Parking Permit Charges going up? 
These are going up to bring them into line with the rest of London. But there are other plans that will make parking easier. These include a planned ³Season Ticket² to allow local people to park in Pay and Display bays for a specific period.

7) ..and plans to outsource Car Parking?
The Council has to regulate parking effectively. The outsourced, ³One Barnet² approach will bring benefits and an improved service to residents.

8) What is happening with allotments?
Allotments are planned to be run by the people that use them in groups or individual sites across the Borough. It will put sites in the hands of those who know how to get the best out of them. A prime example of Big Society working in practice.

9) Why are Grants being cut?
The Council has to focus money on essential services. That means it has to look hard at organisations that are supported and what they do. Both Adults and Children¹s Services are undertaking Commissioning, whereby they shape the service and then find the providers (which can be voluntary groups) best placed to deliver them.

The Council is also formulating a radical ³Big Society Innovation Fund² where some voluntary activities in the Borough will receive support against strict criteria.

10) I understand Care Packages and a New Charging Policy is being adopted in Adult Social Care?
We are consulting on a range of options which we believe will make the service more equitable.

Richard Robeson, Political Assistant to Conservative Group

London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Tel: 020 8359 2004
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