Cornwall Council budget decisions could lead to services being cut
FUNDING for libraries and leisure centres could be cut and care service rates could increase if Cornwall Council decides to freeze council tax and retain the current council tax benefit system.
Those are the stark choices which were set out by council chief executive Kevin Lavery ahead of a key meeting of the council's Cabinet tomorrow.
Mr Lavery outlined an extra £4.2million of savings which would be needed depending on decisions taken by the council.
Last week the council deferred a decision on the future of council tax benefit after it failed to reach agreement on three different options.
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Central government has passed responsibility for council tax benefit onto local councils but retaining the current scheme which offers households up to 100% benefit would cost around £4.2m.
Council officers had suggested that every household should pay at least 25% of their council tax but there was opposition to this when it was put to full council.
The council is also in the process of setting its annual budget with officers recommending a 1.97% increase in council tax rates.
However, while this has been endorsed by council leader Jim Currie and the Cabinet another Cabinet member, Fiona Ferguson, has announced that she will be presenting an alternative budget which would freeze council tax bills.
In a briefing today Mr Lavery indicated that the council could face having to make cuts to frontline services.
Among the measures which could be taken are –
• Withdrawing funding for tourism activities
• Reducing subsidy to Geevor mine
• Increasing charges for some social care services
• Introducing charges for on street parking
• Reducing subsidised transport for post 16 students
• Reducing funding for libraries, one stop shops
• Reducing funding for leisure centres
• Reducing funding for community safety, including fire, road safety and emergency management services
• Switching off or further dimming of street lights
• Withdrawing funding for the localism service, which provides support to local members, town and parish councils and local communities.
• Scrapping webcasting of council meetings.
Mr Lavery said: "The Cabinet has put forward a budget which balances our books and avoids serious cuts in frontline services. However this relies on a 1.97% increase in council tax and members supporting the preferred recommendation for the new localised council tax support scheme.
"The Leader has already said that if these difficult decisions are not made by members it will leave the council with no choice but to cut frontline services."
Council director of resources Michael Crich said: "We all want to protect the services the Council provides for people in Cornwall and have worked extremely hard to achieve this.
"However it is just not possible to make these levels of cuts at this late stage in the budget process without making decisions which will significantly affect the future of our staff and the services we provide to people in Cornwall.
"No-one wants to close libraries or leisure centres in Cornwall or increase charges for our services but these are the stark choices members are facing."
The Cabinet will meet to discuss the council tax benefit scheme tomorrow and make a recommendation for the full council which meets next week.