Cornwall Council agrees budget increase to 'protect vital frontline services'

- Politics

CORNWALL Council’s cabinet agreed to a proposed 2019/20 budget on Wednesday, February 13, which it says will protect vital frontline services for the most vulnerable residents in Cornwall, and a business and investment plan for a strong economy post Brexit. 

The budget proposal will see council tax put up by 3.99% — an extra 88p per week for a Band B property.

The proposed budget follows community consultation which saw engagement of over 80,000 residents, and took into account resident feedback to develop the final proposals which include:

• an extra £17-million over the next four years to meet the increasing demand for social care for vulnerable adults;

• increasing funding for services for vulnerable children and families by 10%;

• investing an additional £30-million in our roads;

• putting an extra £10-million into pay packages through the council’s commitment to a genuine living wage for people in Cornwall;

• directly investing in homes and jobs that people in Cornwall need, with Cornwall Council being the number one area for the delivery of affordable housing;

• protecting evening and weekend bus services for our residents and creating one of the best integrated rural transport services in the country with smart ticketing; and

• almost £30-million investment into digital improvements and the wider roll-out of superfast broadband across Cornwall.

Cabinet also agreed the capital programme, which will see more than £1.2-billion investment to deliver essential infrastructure, create jobs and support the delivery of quality homes in Cornwall.

Adam Paynter, council leader and Ward member for Launceston North and North Petherwin, said: “I think it is the best that we could offer protecting the vulnerable in society despite massive funding cuts by central government who are forcing councils to raise more money through council tax.”

The deputy leader of Cornwall Council and cabinet portfolio holder for resources, Julian German, said setting the council’s budget and council tax for 2019/20 and planning for the years beyond was challenging. 

He said: “We are under no illusions that this is a tough budget. The council will not receive any Government revenue support grant after 2022, and Cornwall will need to become increasingly self-sufficient. Instead of government grant, we will be reliant on income from council tax and a share of the rates payable by businesses based in the local area.

“We have looked at other options available before considering the level of council tax. We are taking a different approach to securing services that residents’ value. This budget has a strong focus on delivering innovative ways of supporting the care needs of individuals, giving people appropriate short-term support sooner that will reduce the need for expensive longer-term support services. We’ve also saved money within the council by reducing printing and mileage costs, alongside a major transformation project to re-engineer the back office functions at the council.

“In response to feedback from residents during the consultation, we’ve kept council tax at 2% rather than using the extra 1% that the Government allows us to raise council tax by. Along with the adult social care levy of 2% again next year, this means a total increase in council tax of 3.99%, if agreed by full council later this month.

“We do not take this decision lightly; but we believe this will achieve the right balance to ensure those people most in need of support will continue to get the assistance they need, whilst also keeping council tax as one of the lowest in the South West.”

Cllr German said exploration of a voluntary contribution during the budget consultation found about a third of online responses supported the principle, with further work to now be undertaken to see if this might be a future option. 

He also said calls for a tax on second home owners and a tourist tax featured strongly in the budget consultation, with the council closely monitoring developments across the country. 

Cllr German said the council would continue to stand up and campaign for fairer funding for Cornwall and called for support from local MPs to make sure that Cornwall does not lose out on grounds of rurality in core local government funding, sector deals, the relocation of public bodies, and affordable housing partnerships.

A final decision on the budget and the proposed 3.99% council tax increase will be made at the full council meeting on February 26.

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