Cornwall council tax hike planned as leader says no spare cash
Cornwall Council leaders have rubber-stamped proposals to increase council tax, ending a two-year freeze.
The 1.97% rise would translate in an increase of 47 pence a week, to £1,268 a year, for a Band D property.
Cabinet members met yesterday to discuss the increase before giving their seal of approval.
The rise is part of the council's business plan and budget for 2013-17 and will go back in front of the full council on February 26 at County Hall, Truro for a final decision.
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Councillors who are in favour of the increase believe it's the only way to boost the authority's budget to battle huge government cuts in funding to save front-line services.
Last year the council had to find £86 million in savings – this year it must find more than £30 million.
During the meeting Councillors Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Lib/Dem group on the council and Fiona Ferguson, Conservative, said they would work separately to find a way of avoiding an increase.
While approving the rise yesterday some cabinet members reserved the right to change their minds over the 1.97% figure if the two councillors could come up with "better figures."
Councillors Folkes and Ferguson would have to submit their calculations at least five days before the full council meeting.
Jim Currie, council leader, told the meeting there was no spare money floating around and difficult decisions had to be made.
He said: "We have to bear all that in mind when balancing the budget."
Neil Burden, deputy leader of the council and portfolio holder for children's services, said it was important to remember a new council would be taking over in May following local elections.
He said: "It's vital we leave this administration in a strong position.
"We must bite the bullet and ask the people to support us in a small rise."
John Pollard, Independent and portfolio holder for localism, sustainability and devolution said the council had already made savings with libraries while maintaining the service.
He said: "People would like to see a 0% rise – well wouldn't we all. The council has debated it long and hard and the only way forward is to apply an increase."
Mrs Ferguson said the Government was offering a grant to freeze council tax.
She said: "I have submitted a number of savings (to the council) and I am going to press on with that."
While encouraging Mrs Ferguson to carry on looking for savings, Mr Currie replied: "The Government may have a policy but we settle council tax."
Some councillors said they believed people in their wards would understand the need to increase council tax to pay for services.
Bob Egerton, member champion for information, management and transparency, said: "I am happy to support the 1.97% and I am prepared to defend it on the doorstep."
John Keeling, Independent, backed him, adding: "I support the increase.
"I think if we don't we are storing up problems – real problems for the future."