Tempers flare as Cornwall councillors freeze budget for third year
Furious scenes erupted as councillors in Cornwall voted not to increase council tax for a third year running.
On the agenda at County Hall, Truro, yesterday was a cabinet recommendation to increase the levy by 1.97% in the new budget.
However, an amendment from the Liberal Democrat camp on the council saw the rise knocked-back in favour of a 0% increase.
Amid confusing and often bad-tempered scenes the amendment was eventually pushed through by 60 votes to 42.
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Council officers said 135 jobs would be axed as departments struggled to make cuts.
By 2016/17 adult care and support will see its budget slashed by £3,680,000, schools and families will take a hit of more than £4 million and shared services face a reduction of £1,570,000.
Further cuts totalling £4,675,000 will be seen in the resources department which includes finance, property, IT legal and democratic services, procurement and election services.
A £2,106,000 drop will also be seen in the chief executive's department which includes strategy, localism and communications as well as people and organisational development.
The Liberal Democrats argued their budget would see an investment in road repairs, cuts to parking charges, moves to tackle anti-social behaviour and a "spring clean" for Cornwall's streets and beaches.
Prior to the vote, councillors opposed to the 0% rise accused colleagues of being in favour of it simply to appease voters in the run-up to the local elections in May.
Councillor Mike Varney, who voted against the 0% rise, said it would leave the new administration, due to come into power in May, with a "black hole" in its finances.
He said: "We have got to have the guts to do the right thing for the people of Cornwall. I'm for the 1.97% and facing people on the doorstep. "Unfortunately some of you are not prepared to do that."
Councillor Dick Cole called on members to step away from party politics and back the 1.97% rise to maintain services.
He told the chamber: "Put politics to one side and retreat from gamesmanship and do what's right for the people of Cornwall."
Under the new budget £200,000 will be poured into youth services to tackle anti-social behaviour among young people, with £1.2 million in each of the next two years to underwrite cuts to parking charges.
Some £2.5 million will be spent over the next two years fixing the county's roads.
Money to pay for the spring clean will be taken from fines slapped on Cory the council's waste contractor, if it under-performs.
Ann Kerridge, Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, said: "There is no easy option for any council at the moment.
"Some of the decisions that we have had to take are very hard ones and will have an impact on our excellent staff. "But we know there are savings to be made by cutting agency spend and transferring the same staff to full-time council contracts.
"We know from our discussions with residents that there is increasing concern about ever-rising council tax bills."