The reality of Cornwall Council’s Budget for 2015
It is no secret Cornwall Council is facing a large hole in its funding due to the reduction in funding from Government, increase demand and little scope to raise revenue via taxation. In total, the Council has to find roughly £196m in savings. Out of this total, around £40m has already been factored in from previous budget savings, which leaves £156m to find. To put it perspective that if you run a business or a household, the savings you need to make would be equal to one-third of your household / business income. Just think for a moment if you had to do this.
With such a large savings target to find and on top of the £170m savings found between 2010/14, the way Cornwall Council operates and delivers services will change. The previous savings in 2010/14 protected frontline services with little impact. However, this time frontline services will not escape and will be affected by the budget reductions. No-one wants to do this, but there is little choice open to the Council. We have sought to protect services that we feel important. These include services to the most vulnerable, transport and roads. Even though these areas are protected, they will still see some reduction.
The draft budget proposals included corporate savings and efficiencies of £64m (41%) this will include jobs and buildings. The Council has already heavily reduced it office space over the last four years from over 180 buildings to around 80, and the plan is to reduce this again by roughly half. The painful bit will see roughly £52m (33%) taken out of front line services. A further £27m (18%) will come from income and commercialisation of services. However, a sting in the tail is £13m in savings still needs to be found for the budget to add up. This is made up of areas not yet identified and the Council not receiving as much income from the Better Care Fund.
The draft budget has factored in a 1.97% Council Tax rise. This will equate to a 48p per week rise on a Band D property. Cornwall Council (or any other primary LA) cannot raise Council Tax above 2% (not even a inflationary rise) without the need of a public referendum. To hold a referendum it would cost the Council roughly £1m. This figure is based on the vote being a single vote and not held at the same time as another election.
Lets say a referendum was held and a raise was supported. A 6% raise would bring in an extra £9.068m. Now this would still mean there would be a reduction in services, but these reductions could be a lot less painful if more funding would come in. There is a feeling within the Council that a referendum could be held at the same time as next years general election. This would make the referendum a lot cheaper. The downside to this would mean most if not all of the political parties would campaign against this. Though in my view, we should still ask the question of should we raise Council Tax higher than 2%. Whether a Council Tax referendum is held or not will be up to the Councillors who would vote on holding a referendum or not, and this vote has yet to take place.
As this is a draft budget and nothing will be voted upon till November, the Cabinet and the Council are holding a series of public events to hear what the public think of the proposals and give their views on any other area which could be taken into account. If you want to attend one of these events, click HERE to find the nearest event to you. For Porthleven, Helston and the Lizard, this meeting will take place on Tuesday 28th October at Helston Community College, starting at 6pm.