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A BIG council tax rise for Cornwall moves closer

A BIG council tax rise for Cornwall moves closer

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 4:59pm 12th February 2020. (Updated at 11:35am 13th February 2020)

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall’s lead councillor for finance says that the Government is expecting local councils to impose the maximum level of council tax hikes to make up for lost funding.

Adam Paynter, deputy leader of Cornwall Council, made the claim when he presented the council’s budget plans to the Cabinet this morning.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said that gradual reductions to funding for local authorities were forcing councillors to make use of the maximum increase available for council tax.

This year the Cabinet has recommended a 3.99% increase which includes a 2% precept which will only fund adult social care services, with the other 1.99% general rate increase for other uses.

Local councils which raise the general rate by more than 2% have to hold a referendum to get approval from residents.

The Cornwall Council budget for 2020/21 will have to go before full council for approval later this month.

Final council tax bills will also include charges for Devon and Cornwall Police and for town and parish councils.

council tax LDRS

In presenting the budget Cllr Paynter said the council was facing “long-term financial uncertainty” due to delays in the Government’s fair funding review.

He said that the proposed budget was balanced and even and gave priority to key council services.

Cllr Paynter said of the proposed council tax increase: “This decision has not been made lightly but this is to achieve a balanced budget.”

He said that Cornwall would continue to have some of the lowest council tax bills in the South West.

Under the budget plans and medium-term financial plan the council will have to make £42 million of savings in the next four years with £12m having to be made in 2020/21.

But Cllr Paynter warned that there was a forecast budget gap of £15.8m by 2023/24 so further savings would have to be made.

Cabinet member Bob Egerton said he would support the budget but was “disappointed” that there was not more in the budget plans about climate change.

cornwall council

Cllr Paynter said that while the council was making climate change a priority it was also clear that it would not be able to fund projects alone.

He said the council would continue to press the Government for support. He said there was no plans to follow Warwick District Council which is set to hold a referendum on plans for a large council tax increase for a climate change fund.

Councillor Neil Burden said he was concerned that some people may struggle with an increase to council tax bills.

He said he was not referring to people on Universal Credit, but people who were working and for whom council tax is one of their biggest bills.

Cllr Paynter said the council had to find ways of funding services and that the Government was expecting councils to raise council tax to do so by reducing funding.

He said that next year the council would have to take a different approach to setting its budget and how it will be able to raise the money needed to provide services.

The Cabinet unanimously supported the budget plans which will go before the full council meeting on February 25th for approval.

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