Council tax could rise by 5% for Cornwall homes in 2014
Householders in Cornwall could see council tax bills rise over the next four years to make £176 million worth of savings imposed on the local authority by Whitehall.
Yesterday Cornwall Council's cabinet voted in favour of proposals to end a two-year freeze on council tax hikes to fill the gap.
Savings the authority needs to make break down into £86 million for 2011-2012, £41 million for the following year and £30 million for the 2013-2014 period.
A further £19 million has to be found for 2014-2015.
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Taxpayers would first see a 1.97% rise for the 2013-2014 period, followed by a 5% increase for 2014-2015.
There would be a further 1.97% rise for the next two years. All council departments are expected to take a hit in their finances to help make savings.
Members were told if the authority did not get to grips with the budget the new council due to take over following the May elections would be faced with a £21 million black hole.
The meeting at County Hall, Truro, became fiery at times with members rounding on Fiona Ferguson, cabinet member for corporate resources, who worked on the budget.
Mrs Ferguson, a Conservative, was one of two councillors to abstain from voting which caused uproar amongst councillors – five of the cabinet voted in favour of the measures.
Mrs Ferguson said she was away on holiday when the recommendations were finalised and did not totally agree with them.
She added: "I acknowledge there are going to be difficulties down the line following cutbacks from central government and we are going to have to think outside the box.
"But what I particularly don't like is the 5% next year."
If the measures are brought in, Cornwall would have to hold a referendum because a rise in council tax of more than 2% requires the vote by law.
Mrs Ferguson said a referendum could cost around £750,000.
Jeremy Rowe, Liberal Democrat councillor, questioned what Mrs Ferguson was doing in cabinet if she was not prepared to vote on a budget that bore her name. He said: "I know she was off on holiday skiing or water-skiing in the Maldives or somewhere, but I have to ask what she's doing in cabinet if she's not prepared to vote on the budget.
"Does she have any ideas about what to do with the £21 million black hole apart from plundering other portfolio areas without their consent?"
Mrs Ferguson was told by Conservative council leader Jim Currie she did not have to answer the question and she did not.
Mr Currie, who is not going to stand at the next election, said: "It's a really grim picture. There are no easy options anymore. However, it's up to members to decide where and what money will go."
Full council will make the final decision on the budget on February 26.