Opposing sides of Barnet Council have clashed over almost half a million pounds being cut from voluntary social care groups.

Labour councillors blasted the Conservative-controlled council as “ignoring” the needs of Chinese residents in the borough as it voted to close a specialist mental health service.

BAWA is a Chinese wellbeing service for Asian women in Barnet, the only one run in North London by the Chinese mental health association (CHMA).

Its services’ closures were approved by the adults and safeguarding committee on Monday (January 23) as part of a move to save £458,373 on a variety of early intervention and prevention services.

Opposition representatives criticised the public consultations which preceded the decision as not fully acknowledging the needs of Asian residents.

Labour councillor of Coppetts Reema Patel said: “The Conservatives have chosen to ignore claims from a variety of ethnic minority groups cultural and language requirements would not be met if the services are were cut.

“We have a large number of Chinese and Asian residents in the borough – many of them are elderly and culturally specific services are not an option but a necessity for them.

“These cuts undermine grassroots voluntary and community services in Barnet who often do fantastic work in supporting and standing up for the local community.”

The Conservative group hit back at Labour’s criticisms, stating the closures are a result of choosing not to renew contracts with providers, rather than budget cuts.

Services provided by the BAWA and CMHA were described in a report by council officers as “duplicated or not as effective as they should be” and so were eligible for closure.

Both groups will receive “transitionary funding” to support residents who must find similar services elsewhere with £20,000 designated to the CMHA and £9,500 to BAWA.

The council pledged to further develop the Age UK Barnet Neighbourhood model for elderly care so it would be appropriate for Chinese residents.

Oakleigh Conservative councillor and committee chair Sachin Rajput said: “Labour councillors voted unanimously in November to go ahead with the consultation.

“They knew full well the officers’ report recommended against renewing contracts with four providers on the basis their services were not the most efficient means of delivering support.

“They clearly did not feel strongly enough about this to refer it to full council.

“At the end of this process we will still be investing £4.8million in the voluntary sector.”