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Cornwall's Council Tax will rise by almost 4%

Cornwall's Council Tax will rise by almost 4%

Published by Emma Carton at 12:07pm 26th February 2020. (Updated at 12:11pm 26th February 2020)

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Richard Whitehouse

Cornwall Council has set its budget for the coming year with council tax bills set to rise by 3.99%

However the budget plans from the Liberal Democrat and Independent controlled Cabinet were not universally supported with the entire Conservative group choosing to vote against the budget.

But the Tory group did not table any alternative budget proposals claiming that the Cabinet had delayed publishing the budget plans which did not give councillors enough time to scrutinise them and draw up alternatives.

Party lines were clearly defined in the council chamber at County Hall for Tuesday's full council meeting with Cabinet members laying the blame for council tax rises with the Conservative government.

They also made challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him to make good on promises to fix adult social care and provide fairer funding which would help regions "level up".

The council's share of council tax bills will rise by 3.99% in April with a 1.99% core increase and a 2% precept just for adult social care.

Adam Paynter, deputy leader of the council with responsibility for the budget, said that it had been a difficult decision to raise council tax but a necessary one due to cuts in government funding.

But he said that despite the increase council tax bills in Cornwall would remain among the lowest in the South West.

He outlined that the council will be investing £20 million for vulnerable people and £5.6m for children, schools and families.

The budget plans also include an additional £13m for school buildings over the next four years and £20m for environmental projects including the Forest for Cornwall. The council is also continuing its commitment to paying staff the real living wage.

Cllr Paynter said the council would have to continue to make savings including £12m in the coming year.

He added: "Further cuts will need to be made and overall we need to reduce our spending by £58 million.

"We have not taken this decision lightly to increase council tax".

Councillor Paynter

He said that council tax support would continue to help those who struggle to pay their council tax bills.

Cllr Paynter added: "Many people would like Cornwall Council to concentrate on improving our services in adult social care and health services - we are and we will continue to do that".

Council leader Julian German commended the budget plans saying: "This year we are delivering a budget against a backdrop of evermore financial uncertainty.

"The Government is promising to level up but so far is focused on northern towns and cities".

Council Leader, Julian German

Cllr German highlighted that local authorities in London continue to get more funding than rural areas like Cornwall and so residents there pay less council tax.

He said: "This unfair funding has to end".

However he highlighted that council tax bills in Cornwall would be lower than neighbouring Devon.

But he added: "The demand for services and the cost of providing those services is far outstripping government funding. Councils will continue to have to make cuts.

"I, and this council, will continue to fight for fair funding. The Government needs to deliver on its pledge to level up.

"We know that some residents will be struggling and we understand this, that is why we are one of the few authorities to offer a hardship fund for those who need it".

Council Leader, Julian German

However Conservative group leader Linda Taylor was very critical of the Cabinet and its budget plans, particularly over the four-year medium-term financial plan which was not balanced.

She criticised the delay in publishing the budget proposals which meant that consultation started in December and overview and scrutiny committees were not able to consider them until January.

Cllr Taylor criticised the council for overspending on projects such as the St Erth Multi-Modal Hub and Kresen Kernow cultural centre at Redruth as well as “the ongoing saga of Langarth” - the proposed garden village of up to 4,000 homes - with money being spent on consultants.

She said that residents "urge this administration to stop wasting money" and accused the Cabinet of "using taxpayers' money like an ATM" and on "vanity projects".

Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole said that many councillors in the chamber were clear "that there is a reality of austerity continuing and promises or more funding yet to materialise" along with a "crisis in adult social care".

He added: "You can play politics as much as you want today but the budget today is not that dissimilar to last year and there was a unanimous vote in favour of that".

An alternative budget proposal was tabled by Labour councillor Corenlius Olivier to add £500,000 to the capital programme for youth centres - however this was lost with eight votes in favour, 94 against and one abstention. The proposal will be discussed in future.

When put to the vote the council's budget plans were passed with 63 in favour, 38 against and one abstention.

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

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