Like their party colleagues in Wandsworth, Barnet’s Conservatives are doing their best to make May’s elections in their borough as much about local issues as they possibly can. And well they might, what with Boris Johnson’s national government in deep, deep trouble and the Tories as a national party deeply unpopular in London, according to a recent opinion poll.
Barnet Tories, hailed by admirers as pioneers of service outsourcing ten years ago, are claiming “council tax to be frozen in Barnet” which isn’t true, as the council intends to increase its council tax precept – a ring fenced levy – to pay for adult social care by one per cent. Barnet residents will also have to pay Sadiq Khan’s expected increased precept.
Still, with the rocketing cost of living causing lots of concern Tories will hope that the council freezing its “core” council tax at least will dissuade voters from voting Labour, which is targeting Barnet, as it did at the last two borough elections but without success. Council leader Dan Thomas has also lauded the government’s £150 council tax rebate for households in bands A-D, though the Barnet Post reports Liberal Democrat councillor Gabriel Rozenberg voicing doubts about the rebate. Labour’s Ross Houston has said the council hasn’t gone far enough and drawn attention to a coming increase in council rents.
The other big pitch by Barnet Tories is a claim that “Labour-run councils hate motorists”, a rather sweeping assertion justified by pointing at the enthusiasm of Labour-run Enfield next door for low traffic neighbourhoods. Again, the focus is on money with a claim about how much Enfield has secured in fines resulting from “imposed road closures under LTNs”.
This has prompted the not unreasonable retort that LTNs in London have been vigorously promoted by the national government in the (perhaps optimistic) belief they they will inspire more people to ride bicycles. One of the many conditions attached to the government’s current short-term funding support for Transport for London is that they spend a chunk of the money on such “active travel” schemes.
A more barbed riposte has come from Enfield’s deputy leader Ian Barnes, who has drawn attention to Barnet itself proposing road closures to stop rat-runner drivers taking short cuts through residential streets between Burnt Oak and Colindale and sticking to the A5 instead. The response to the council’s consultation will be published in March. The scheme has received funding from TfL and the Department for transport. When is a council tax freeze not a council tax freeze? When is an LTN not an LTN? Discuss.
Photograph: Hendon Town Hall.
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