Council tax bills could rise next year – and a shake-up of support payments has been slammed for hitting the borough’s poorest.

A 2.99 per cent rise in core council tax is included in Barnet Council’s budget plans for the next financial year – the biggest hike local authorities can make without holding a referendum.

The council is currently facing a budget gap of almost £70 million by 2025 as central government makes further cuts to spending on local authorities.

Council officers have been looking at ways to raise revenue and make further savings to avoid continually raiding the local authority’s reserves.

But a proposed shake-up of council tax support has been attacked by the Labour group over its impact on the most vulnerable groups in society.

At a meeting of the policy and resources committee yesterday (Tuesday, December 11), Labour leader Councillor Barry Rawlings said: “A few hundred people will lose council tax support.

“Rather than having 80 per cent of council tax paid, they will have none paid. For them, it is a 400 per cent rise.

“Making the poorest people in Barnet pay for some of this budget I think is absolutely disgusting, and I don’t think in good conscience we can vote for it.

“We are being asked to approve a model that works against families, works against the vulnerable and works against people who work.

“I really do not think the poorest people should pay for the mistakes of this administration.”

The proposed shake-up of council tax support – a top-up system for people on low incomes – would see it switch to a new banding system based on applicants’ earnings, which is designed to link up with the roll-out of universal credit.

In addition, people with more than £6,000 in savings would no longer be eligible for support – down from the current threshold of £16,000.

The shake-up means thousands of households in the borough would lose £5 or more a week in council tax support, with working couples most likely to be affected.

Barnet Council’s own report acknowledges the proposals would have “negative significant impact”, as nearly one in five households stand to lose more than £15 per week.

A public consultation on the shake-up revealed support for some form of banding system but widespread opposition to the overall changes.

At the committee meeting, Labour members voted against both the budget plans and the referral of the council tax support reforms to full council – but both items were passed after Conservative members voted in favour.

The council tax support changes will only go ahead if a majority of councillors vote in favour at a full council meeting on Tuesday (December 18).