Cornwall Council passes a budget with a 1.97%* rise in Council Tax

For the first time in nearly four years the Cornwall Council element of the Council Tax will rise. For those who do not know the Council Tax is made up of three elements – Cornwall Council, town and parish precepts and Devon and Cornwall Police precept.

For 2014/15 period for the Devon and Cornwall Police precept will rise £166.16 (1.99%) per year for a Band D property. For town and parish councils, the average increase will be £77.30 (10.86%) per year. Again on a Band D. The Cornwall Council element is 1,512.38 (1.97%) per year on a Band D.

When you add it all together, the increase for a Band D property for 2014/15 is £35.32 per year, or 67p per week. For the eagle-eyed readers, the actual increase is 2.39%*, but this includes all the elements of the Council Tax with two elements out of the control of Cornwall Council.

Some would argue to protect service, there should be a bigger rise. However, the Government has restricted primary LAs from rising their element of the Council Tax no more than 2%. Anything over, will require an expensive referendum. So in a true sense, the 2% max is a cap imposed by Government.

After a shorter than expected debate, and no alternative budget from the Tories, – though one was submitted, but then pulled by their Group Leader yesterday, or anyone else for the matter. A vote was taken, and the budget was passed 71 for, 35 against, with one absenstion.

Full budget documentation HERE

Full Council Debates and Votes on the Budget for 2014/15

Today, the Full Council of Cornwall Council met to debate and decide the Budget for 2014/15. The Cabinet has pulled no punches who have repeatedly said the future is stark and there is going to be a lot of pain for the Council in having to deal with the staggering cuts in grant funding from Government; but still having to provide an ever increasing demand on those services the Council provides.

The vote is simple, Councillors have the choice to either vote for the Budget, or vote against. This makes things a little simpler, but for those who decided to vote against – either individually or as group – no alternative Budget(s) were put forward. Which is disappointing, as merely voting against without trying to do a better Budget is just not good enough in today’s difficult climate.

I can say this as a Portfolio Holder, Local Member and resident of Cornwall, it is not my wish to reduce services, but I have little choice in having to look at how services are provided. This will mean some services stopping. We do have a duty to make sure the ever reducing pot of money the Council receives – without the means to raise Council Tax without a expensive referendum – goes further.

However, there are no money trees, Leprechaun’s pot of gold or any other mythical ways of raising money. Therefore, and regrettable, we will have to make some pretty touch choices in the coming years.

Of course, the debate had the standard political swipes, but with no alternative budget having been put forward it is little hard to take the criticism, when those who do not like it do not take the time to work up their own Budget. I know in the past I have not liked certain aspects of the Budget, and have put in alternative elements of the Budget. But this is politics and I expected little else.

So how did it go? Was the Budget passed? Yes it was, and by a large margin too. The actual vote was 77 for the Budget, with 33 against. I think it was also the first time there were no abstentions. The approved Budget includes a rise of Council Tax of 1.97%. I should point this raise only includes the Cornwall Council element of Council Tax, but does not include the town/parish council and the Police element.

Council Tax set to rise by 1.97%

Yesterday, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet approved the budget for 2014/15. This is subject to the final approval of Full Council, who have the final say on the budget.  Contained within the overall budget, is a recommendation for a rise in Council Tax of 1.97%. This however, is only one possible increase in the Council Tax bill.  As the Council Tax bill is made up of three parts: Cornwall Council, the parish/town council precept and Devon and Cornwall Police. This will more than likely result in a higher increase in bills than 1.97%.

No-one likes to raise tax unnecessary, but in Cornwall Council’s case, it has little option. This is due to the stinging cuts to the Councils grant, and with the added restraint of a cap on the limit Council Tax can go up without a referendum. It is a bleak picture, as the Council is having to find £196m in savings on top of the £170m reduction in the last four years.

The big question is how do we deal with the cuts and at the same time deal with a greater demand on our services? And for that question to be answered, we need the public to engage – and vice-versa – with the Council on how best we do that. This process of better engagement started this year, with more public consultation events than ever before, and by using different ways of engaging with people. Like You Choose. It is paramount we as a Cabinet and Council must build on this for the following years budget setting.

 

 

Cornwall Council releases its draft budget plans for 2014/15 to the public

The message has been clear, Cornwall Council is facing a difficult time in dealing with the reduction of funding and providing services. And now Cornwall Council has released its draft budget proposals after the PAC process has been completed. The PAC’s looking into each service area and made their recommendations.

The link to the information is HERE

Reading through this information will show there will be some difficult service re-alignments and in some cases complete cuts of services. This budget is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of cuts, as in the next five years £196m will have to be found with up to £50m found in the 2015/16 period. Of course this could change, if there is a change of heart from the Government. Which if I was a betting man, I have more chance of picking the next three winners of the Grand National.

Budget, Budget and Budgets

Cornwall Council is in the process of formulating the council’s budget for 2014/15 and beyond. The picture is stark and for those who thought the last four years of budget reductions (£170m) were harsh, the next four years are set to get a lot worse.

For the 2014/15 budget, the council has to find a further £23m in savings for this period alone. Thanks to the Governments stinging cuts to Local Authorities. To put this into pounds, shilling and pence, the council would have to raise Council Tax by 19% just to cover the £23m. Currently, the proposal for raising the Council Tax is 2%. This figure is the maximum a primary council can raise without holding a referendum.

Of course there has been discussion for bigger rise in Council Tax, but the feed back from Members and the public is this would not be winnable via a referendum. And if you held a referendum, this would cost roughly £750,000. Which would have to be found from the budget.

I wish I could say the extra £23m was it, but the council is will have to fund a further £196m for the next four years. This is far more than has been previously saved, with much of the previous savings coming from ‘back-office’ functions and realigning services. However, and worryingly, any further reduction in back-office or realigning a service would result in those services being unable to be delivered.

The council is faced with the difficult dilemma; which services does it carry on providing, and which ones are either stopped, or handed to other organisations and agencies – including the private and voluntary sector.

And as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People I will have to make some very difficult decisions in the coming months and years. I am just glad I have Children and Young People PAC to help with those difficult decision. It is not going to be easy.

Cornwall Council sets its draft budget

The briefing on the draft – and yes it is only a draft – budget took place yesterday. This was the first chance for the wider membership of Cornwall Council to see the proposals for the 2014/15 budget. The message from the briefing is stark. As the council has to make further savings of £23.9m on top of the already agreed £19m.

Much of the detail discussed yesterday is confidential and as yet cannot be publicity released. However, the main proposal for setting the budget is a 1.97% rise in Council Tax. This is the maximum the council is allowed to raise. To put this into pounds shillings and pence, this equates to roughly £23.70 per year on a Band D property.

No one likes to raise Council Tax, but sometimes it has to be done to maintain services you and I enjoy. However, with the stinging cuts and reduction of grant funding, this small raise will not be enough to save everything the council currently provides.

If the council wished to raise Council Tax over the 2% threshold, the council would be required to hold a referendum. Holding a referendum is not cheap either, and if happened would cost more than £500,000. There is a further complication of if the council was to set a council over the threshold, bills would be sent out in the higher figure, but if the referendum was lost, new bills would have to be sent out with the lower under threshold figure. This sounds utterly mad, but that is the rules.

In the coming months there will be more discussion, debates and meetings on the budget. With the final decision made by the full council in February 2014.