THE parties on Kingston Council had clashing ideas as the authority's budget for the next financial year was set.
The council tax rise of 1.9 per cent proposed by the ruling Liberal Democrats - the lowest ever increase - was confirmed last Thursday by 25 votes to 20.
But the Conservatives said more should have been done to achieve a tax freeze, something most other London boroughs have announced.
In his speech at the full council meeting, Tory leader Howard Jones highlighted IT costs and asset programmes as key areas where more effective savings could have been made.
"We always get the same old excuses," he said. "We know we get a poor deal out of the government, and we always have had a low grant per head of population.
"This year, however, Richmond and Bromley get a lower rate support grant than Kingston, and even they will levy lower council taxes than us.
"Now, we are not at the bottom of the list, and no longer the worst-off borough in this context, but we are still certainly the worst-off borough as far as our residents are concerned, still paying the highest council tax in London.
"These two other boroughs get worse grants than we do but they still manage lower council tax demands for their residents. It's not always what you earn, or the amount of money that you spend, but what you spend it on that counts. In my experience of this administration over my nearly eight years as a councillor, they do not spend money wisely."
Mr Jones highlighted problems with the road in New Malden High Street, the cost of the fountain in the Market Place and the £600,000 a year funding of the Rose Theatre as examples of the council's 'inadequacy'.
He admitted he had been unable to find a way to offer a council tax freeze, and instead suggested a 0.8 per cent rise. If the Conservatives won the election in May they would work for no increase in future years.
Liberal Democrat councillors hit back, with Simon James described the Tory proposals as 'fantasy budgeting'.
Council leader Derek Osbourne said there was a danger local authorities would focus on 'cheap tax to win votes'. "I am adamant, however, that this cannot be the behaviour of a responsible administration," he added.
"As the country continues to struggle with the effects of the longest economic downturn in modern history, local households will be more reliant on public services.
"Our priority must be to set council tax levels at a level that is affordable but does not threaten important local services."
The council's income from parking charges, planning fees and interest on savings was falling at a rate of £1.3m a year, while the cost of Freedom Passes was shooting up.
The authority had a responsibility to pump money into secondary schools, to get government funding of £300m, and this could not be found without a tax rise.