Cornwall council tax to rise by 1.97%
Council tax bills in Cornwall are to rise by 1.97% next year.
After an impassioned debate at County Hall in Truro today, members approved the budget which will result in bills for Band D households rising by £24.51 to £1,268.92 for 2014/15.
The council faces making £24 million additional savings next year, on top of £19 million already planned, after cuts in its budget from Government.
It expects to see its budget cut by £196 million by 2018, on top of £170 million saved since 2010.
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Council leader John Pollard said they had spent recent months trying to explain “the enormity of the situation” but had failed.
He said the 1.97% proposals was “the only way forward” and that the council had to raise the council’s income year on year or “face an even greater shortfall”.
Councillor Alex Folkes, cabinet member for finance and resources, said it was a “balanced” budget that recognised “the needs of the most vulnerable” along with “recognising that life is pretty tough for most families at the moment”.
Independent group leader Neil Burden, who supported the budget proposals, said local authorities were “friendless” in Whitehall and that, without care, “it will all collapse”.
“It is a sorry tale,” he added. “No matter how we move the chairs around we can’t make it better. The Government settlement is reducing year on year an the reality on the ground is very painful.”
Labour councillor Hanna Toms warned the budget would deliver “shameful cuts to frontline services” and that “people in Cornwall will suffer as a result”.
The Independent-Lib-Dem administration’s budget will cut the adult care, health and wellbeing budget by £11.7 million in 2014/15 – a figure which includes a £500,000 reduction in staff costs and £2.3 million from its charging review.
The children, schools and families department has been earmarked for cuts of £2.3 million next year and £5.6 million the year after. It is proposing to slash its youth service budget by £200,000 in the next financial year, rising to £1.97 million in 2015-16.
So-called “reconfiguration” of children centres will save almost £500,000 next year and a further £3.4 million the following year.
The family intervention project, which working with some of Cornwall’s most troublesome households, will be axed, saving some £600,000.
Hours will be cut at the county’s “One Stop Shops” and libraries to save £400,000.
About £350,000 is to be sliced from support for bus services
The already controversial “airport development fee” charged to passengers flying from Newquay, which was introduced in 2007, will now double to £10 to help the council reduce its subsidy to the airport by £400,000 a year.
Opposing the budget, Fiona Ferguson, leader of the Conservatives, said they recognised “there are tough decision to be made here” but said accepting the grant from Government in exchange for a freeze on bills would deliver £5 million over two years.
She said: “I believe this administration is like a person with a credit card, that is running away from it and not taking decisive action.”
She added: “We are not looking a pay of officers or offices which is a terrible situation to be in given what we are here for.”
The budget was approved by 77 votes to 33 after a two-hour-debate.