Cabinet Lays Out its Budget

The Cabinet of Cornwall Council presented its proposed budget for the period of 2012/13. The process is Cabinet comes up with the budget, then the various scrutiny committees examine the detail, and then finally the whole council gets its say on it.

At the start of the meeting a lot was made of going early was best. It used other authorities like Plymouth, Devon, Shropshire, Westminster and Manchester to highlight the difficult decisions these councils now face because they did not go early. I thought this was unfair, as each authority had to make the difficult choice themselves, and it is not for Cabinet to pass judgement on their decisions.

As for the budget, there was mention of the proposed Cornish bursary for university students, EMA and a housing bond. None of these ideas had detailed figures behind them, so it was hard to know how these schemes would be funded. Both ideas are not going to be cheap, and will have to be funded from somewhere.

A concern I raised was that of the parking revenue for 2012/13. As many will know the parking panel went to great lengths to gather the views of Cornwall Councillors via the Community Network before any proposals were made, and these proposals were generally accepted by the Community Network Councillors. As yet, these proposals have not be accepted by Cabinet; this will happen on the 21st October.

However, on page 19, para 89 of the budget report a part has me greatly worried. This paragraph is as follows:

An analysis of the fees and charges increases built into the MTFS has been undertaken. Given last year’s impact of weather on certain income streams and the continued economic crisis it has been deemed prudent to reduce the levels of income built into the revenue budget. Services are still expected to manage income streams and increase the levels of income by 3% through active management and by the increase of charges where appropriate by 3% to 5% dependant on the market.

Firstly, I welcome the re-adjustment of the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) that has taken into account the £2.5m shortfall in the 2010/11 budget. However, it is the last sentence that has me most worried. It talks about a 3% to 5% increase of charges. It does not say it will, but if not being considered why mention it in the report.

You could argue the percentage is nothing more than an inflationary increase. But why is car parking being subject to a increase when other areas are not facing similar. Great play has been made on Council Tax not rising, but it seems a little like smoke and mirrors when you are in fact raising revenue by the back door.

This increase to parking revenue could be in the region of £500k. This would have a large impact on the current proposed charges if implemented. I hope, and I said at yesterdays Cabinet that parking revenue should be left alone, and no raise implemented. Lets hope that message is taken onboard and no percentage increase is added.

There are a few other aspects of this budget that will need to be examine in detail. Hopefully this will take place during the relevant scrutiny meetings.

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