Tax rise of 6% urged to pay for key services
FIVE Cornwall councillors are seeking a 6 per cent hike in council tax bills 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 proposed increase.
Currently, the Cabinet is planning an increase of just under 2 per cent.
The council has frozen tax increases for the past three years, despite central government funding being cut during the period.
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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 Liberal Democrat David Hughes.
Mr Egerton, who represents Probus and Grampound, 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 frontline services have been preserved.
"However, we are now starting to see the impact of cuts to frontline 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 6 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," he said.
Lisa Dolley, who represents Redruth North, said as a businesswoman she was aware that it was impossible to continue to deliver the level of services the public relied 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 frontline services which are vital to so many lives," she said.
Lib Dem councillor Alex Folkes, Cabinet member for finance, said it was right to debate the proposal, but he would not support it.
He said residents could not afford the increase, which would result in the council having to hold a costly referendum, as stipulated by the Government if a council increases its tax take by more than 2 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," said Mr Folkes.
"That's almost £1 million which would, in my view, be better spent on frontline services.
"I respect the motives of those who are putting forward this motion and think it's good to debate such issues but I, for one, will not be voting for it."