8:06am 1st October 2013
There are calls for an inflation busting rise in council tax in Cornwall - to avoid the worst of the cuts.
A group of councillors says we should pay an extra pound a week - to try to protect things like buses, nurseries and leisure centres.
But that would mean there'd have to be a referendum.
Bob Egerton said, "For the past 3 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 6% 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 said, "As a businesswoman I am aware that it is impossible to continue to deliver the level of services the public rely on without a substantial increase in income to the 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."
Stephanie McWilliam said, “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.”
Alex Folkes is in charge of money matters at County Hall. He explained why he will not be backing the calls for the larger rise: "Although the economy is showing some signs of recovery, we are still a long way off the position we were in before the banking crisis. Most people have seen their pay frozen or have received only tiny rises in recent years. And we have seen for ourselves that many people are already finding it very difficult to pay their council tax. This includes the 19,000 or so households who were previously judged to be so poor that they got 100% council tax relief. They now have to pay at least 25% of the bills and many of them cannot. Thousands of people (not all from those paying for the first time) are facing court action because they have not paid. I think it is wrong to seek to impose a tax rise above inflation on Cornwall. It will result in increased hardship and lead to more people being dragged into the court process."
8:06am 1st October 2013