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Council Tax Up While Services Cut

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7:01am 30th January 2014

Cornwall's bills will get bigger.

Council tax is set to go up by around £25 this year. That is on top of £41m pounds worth of cuts.

But it is just below the threshold where officials would have to hold a referendum.

Robert Oxley from The Taxpayers Alliance said: "Well, it's a bit of the council saying, 'Oops I've done it again. I've hiked council tax but cynically avoided giving residents a choice.' So, at a time when many people are struggling they are going to see the local tax man take more money out of their pockets.

"There are councils out there which have cut down waste. They've seen the same reductions in central government funding, but what they've managed to do is completely change the way they deliver those services. That means residents haven't seen council tax increases - in some cases they've seen council tax cuts - and yet they're still seeing the same services out there."

Members of Cornwall Council voted in November 2013 to set an early budget, which has already resulted in savings of £7m, and at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday members agreed to recommend to full Council a revenue budget of £505 million for 2014/15.

This means Council tax will be increased by 1.97% in 2014/15 which equates to an annual increase of £24.51 for a Band D property – or 47p per week.

The recommended budget is based on making savings of £41m in 2014/2015 with further reductions of £36m in Government funding expected by 2015/2016, and £93m by 2018/2019, this means the Council will need to find savings of up to £195m over the next five years.

Since 2010 the Council has been forced to find savings of £170m in its budget as a result of additional pressures and cuts in Government funding. The majority of these savings have been achieved through efficiencies, including a reduction in management coming from the move to unitary status and the introduction of alternative ways of delivering services, with just £11 million affecting frontline services.

Council Leader John Pollard said “We are in the process of building a different, even more efficient and financially secure Cornwall.  The necessity of doing this is not of our making. Not only has our funding been drastically reduced, the predictions are that we will have to make further significant savings in the coming years. The only way to achieve this is to decide what we can and cannot deliver, how those changes can be achieved and budget accordingly.

“We went to Council early to agree the budget in principle and this has enabled us to continue with the process of establishing priorities– calmly, in detail, with an eye to the future and I hope, cushioning the effects of some major changes by planning their implementation over a period of time.

"The challenge ahead of us is enormous. I do not believe that many actually understand what making these savings will look like in terms of staffing, services and the ability to create a better Cornwall. We need to work together to help everyone in Cornwall to understand the issues, to help our partners work with us in establishing our priorities and to show how we can protect the vulnerable and support the young while providing the best possible backcloth for the lives of all our citizens.”

Alex Folkes, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said “This is a balanced budget which does as much as possible to preserve key services and cut down on waste and inefficiency. No one here today wants to be in a position where services are cut.  But the scale of the cuts forced upon us mean that Cornwall Council cannot look the same in five years time as it does today.

"The aim of this budget is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in Cornwall who rely on the services provided by the council and ensures we can preserve the services which the people of Cornwall have come to value.  We recognise that life is pretty tough for most families at the moment and it also helps ensure that the Council is doing all it can to keep our bills low and affordable.”

7:01am 30th January 2014

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