Some boroughs say they have had to delay refurbishment programmes to pay for the work.Read more
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|Elected in 2018 25||Total councillors 25||Change-5|
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Local Democracy Reporting Service
Barnet Council is taking urgent action to get its finances under control after revealing its budget gap is expected to soar to £62m by 2025.
At a meeting of the policy and resources committee last night, Labour councillors called for an overhaul of financial reporting after the latest medium-term forecasts turned out to be significantly worse than those made before the local elections on 3 May.
Just three months ago, the council predicted a balanced budget for the current financial year and a gap of just under £6m between spending and resources by 2020.
But the latest forecast shows the budget gap for the coming financial year is expected to be £9.5m, climbing to more than £19m by 2020.
Labour called for the borough's strategic finance team to be brought back in house instead of being outsourced to private service provider Capita.
West Finchley councillor Ross Houston said: "We went through a local election thinking council finances were under control, and, quite clearly, they were not under control - and, quite frankly, I think the public had a right to be informed of that before the election."
Political blogger John Dix, who lives in New Barnet, also expressed incredulity that officers and councillors were not aware how bad the situation had become. He said: "You sat on this committee six weeks before the election and you had no clue as to the problems? You are right, things do change - but hang on a minute, all that huge difference did not crop up in the six weeks before year-end?
"Voters hold you accountable, but are you getting the information to make those decisions?"
Barnet Council's director of finance Kevin Bartle said officers were getting a "clearer position" on the financial situation in early May - after the local elections had been held.
Mr Dix suggested the council adopt a financial reporting system that is updated on a monthly or weekly basis to give a more accurate picture of its position.
The business planning report states that: "Chief Officers are continuing to work to mitigate this pressure (the £9.5 million funding gap) and recognise their responsibilities to do so under the authority's financial regulations.
"Additional possible actions include control and review of all agency placements and a potential vacancy freeze within the organisation."
In response to Labour's request, Conservative members of the committee said options to bring the strategic finance team in house would be included in the budget update at the next committee, which is due to meet in July.
The Prime Minster has tweeted her congratulations to some of the London boroughs which has seen success for the Conservatives.
Theresa May congratulated the Tories in Hillingdon for increasing their majority, which she described as a "testament to your record of delivering great local services."
She also congratulated councillors in Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet for "a great result".
In Barnet, former Labour councillor Adam Langleben voiced his anger at the impact which the row over anti-Semitism had on his party's fortunes.
After losing his seat in West Hendon, Mr Langleben tweeted: "We must NEVER have another election like this. No community group should have their vote dictated by their safety. That should shame us."
He won support from Labour MP and Corbyn critic Wes Streeting, who told him: "I am so so sorry. This defeat wasn't yours."
Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis said voters were being turned off by "hard abuse from some of the hard left".
He said Labour "clearly have got" a problem with anti-Semitism which they "are just not dealing with".
BBC Radio London Political Reporter
Labour group leader in Barnet Barry John Rawlings told BBC Radio London that antisemitism played “the biggest part” in Labour’s “defeat”.
He said Labour leadership acted too late in taking action against antisemitism.
“If it had of happened a couple of years ago Barnet would now be a Labour council,” Mr Rawlings said.
The Conservatives win control of Barnet Council, taking it back from no overall control, with three wards left to declare.