Cornwall councillors want six percent hike in council tax
Five Cornwall councillors are seeking a six per cent hike in council tax in a bid to mitigate planned budget cuts.
They have submitted a motion to a full council meeting on October 22 asking the cabinet to prepare an alternative budget for 2014-15 based on the six percent increase.
Currently, the cabinet is planning an increase of just under two per cent after the council has frozen council tax increases for the past three years, despite central government funding being cut during the period.
The motion is being put forward by a cross-party selection of councillors - Bob Egerton of the non-aligned group, Independent Lisa Dolley, Tim Andrewes of the Green Party, Stephanie McWilliam, leader of the UKIP group, and David Hughes of the Liberal Democrats.
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Probus and Grampound councillor Mr Egerton said: “For the past three years, the officers of the council have been outstanding in producing efficiency savings where the budgets have been squeezed, but most front line services have been preserved.
“However, we are now starting to see the impact of cuts to front line services - the toilet closures and the cutbacks on some subsidised bus routes are only a foretaste of things to come.
“We cannot go on indefinitely not putting up council tax and expecting services to be maintained. An increase of six per cent in council tax will not mean that we can save all services, but it will make the cuts less severe than they otherwise would be.’’
Lisa Dolley, who represents Redruth North, said as a businesswoman she is aware that it is impossible to continue to deliver the level of services the public rely on without a substantial increase in income to Cornwall Council.
“ Had this authority implemented a rise every year to sustain services we would not be in the uncomfortable position we are in now where necessary services such as school places and rural bus links are at risk let alone front line services which are vital to so many lives,’’ she said.
Stephanie McWilliam who represents Lynher in South East Cornwall, added: “In principle I would always prefer to be looking to cut taxes but I believe we would be failing the most vulnerable people in Cornwall if we didn’t consider a bigger rise to preserve services.
“Until central government finds a fairer funding formula for rural communities and whilst it is cutting central funding so hard, it is up to us as Councillors to ensure that vital services are protected. I have not yet decided to vote for a larger increase but I need to see an alternative budget before I can make the right decision for those we represent.”
Lib Dem councillor Alex Folkes, cabinet member for finance, said although it was right to debate the hike proposal, he would not be supporting it.
He said residents could not afford an inflation-busting increase in their bills and such a move would also result in a costly referendum, as stipulated by the Government if a council increases council tax above two per cent.
“ I simply do not believe that such a referendum is winnable. Added to which, the referendum must be paid for out of our budget and it would cost about £920,000. That's almost a million which would, in my view, be better spent on front-line services,’’ said Mr Folkes.
“I respect the motives of those who are putting forward this motion and think it is good to debate such issues. But I, for one, will not be voting for it.’’