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.