Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has today recommended the amount each household will pay in Council Tax for the 2016/17 period. The final approval for the Council’s budget rests with all 123 Cornwall Councillors at a Full Council meeting.
Any reader of this blog will know the austerity imposed on local authorities like Cornwall Council has resulted in services being reduced or stopped. Even with the latest Spending Review, the Government in a rather underhanded way reduced Cornwall Council’s grant by a further £6m.
A slight positive in that Spending Review is local authorities can opt for a four-year funding settlement rather than a yearly one. This gives the Council scope to plan better rather than waiting each year to play the guessing game on how much funding the Council will lose. We will be accepting the Governments offer of a four-year settlement.
Also in that review, the Chancellor introduced a new levy of a 2% increase in Council Tax to be spent on Adult Social Care. My annoyance with this is there is more to social care than adults. Children’s Services pay a large and important part too. Yet, the Government has again forgotten about this very important element in this levy.
As I said the 2% can only be spent on Adult Social Care services. At face value this is good, as more funding will go towards Adult Social Care. However, the £21m this will raise over the next four-years, £16m will go towards implementing the Governments living wage in this sector. I am a firm believer in the minimum wage, but this should be funded correctly by the Government, and not left to local taxation. This also means you end up with a postcode lottery on the amount of money it raises due to the Council Tax base rates which differ between each local authority.
Yet, this will improve this service area not only in wages, but it will protect some of the services. If the social care precept was not added, then these services would be at risk because of the cuts to the Government’s grant.
In the Council’s four-year budget plan, Cornwall Council’s Council Tax rate will raise by 1.97%. This is not because we want to, but because many millions have been taken away by the Government by means of the grant.
The next step, subject to Full Council approval in February, Cornwall Council’s element of the Council Tax (CT is made up of Cornwall Council, Town/Parish Precept and Police) will rise by 3.97%. The true percentage will be higher once you add in the police and town/parish precepts.
The current level of Council Tax for a Band D property is £1,293.92 and will rise to £1,345.29 in 2016/17. This equates to a £51.37 per year, or £4.20 per month, or 98p per week rise on a Band D property if you just include Cornwall Council’s element.
As I said previously, raising taxes is not something we want to do. However, the very fact Cornwall Council has had its budget
cut slashed by Government so much, there is little other option but to raise Council Tax.