Councillors put motion to Council to consider 6% increase in council tax
A motion has been submitted to be debated at the Full Council meeting on 22 October asking for an alternative budget to be considered based on a 6% council tax rise. A news release has been issued as follows:
NEWS RELEASE BY CORNWALL COUNCILLORS
29 SEPTEMBER 2013: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CORNWALL COUNCILLORS SEEK TO MITIGATE DRASTIC BUDGET CUTS WITH POSSIBLE HIKE IN COUNCIL TAX
Five backbench Cornwall Councillors have submitted a motion to the Full Council meeting on 22 October asking the Cabinet to prepare an alternative budget for 2014-15 based on a 6% increase in council tax. Currently, the proposals put forward by the Cabinet assume an increase of just under 2%. This follows on from 3 years of freezes in council tax. At the same time, government funding for councils has been cut year on year and will continue to be cut each year for at least the next 3 years.
The motion is being put forward by a cross-party selection of councillors: Bob Egerton of the non-aligned group is the proposer, the seconder is Lisa Dolley, Independent. Co-signatories are Tim Andrewes of the Green Party, Stephanie McWilliam, leader of the UKIP group, and David Hughes of the Liberal Democrats.
Bob Egerton said, "For the past 3 years, the officers of the Council have been outstanding in producing efficiency savings where the budgets have been squeezed, but most front line services have been preserved. However, we are now starting to see the impact of cuts to front line services: the toilet closures and the cutbacks on some subsidised bus routes are only a foretaste of things to come. We cannot go on indefinitely not putting up council tax and expecting services to be maintained. An increase of 6% in council tax will not mean that we can save all services, but it will make the cuts less severe than they otherwise would be."
Lisa Dolley said, "As a businesswoman I am aware that it is impossible to continue to deliver the level of services the public rely on without a substantial increase in income to the Council. Had this authority implemented a rise every year to sustain services we would not be in the uncomfortable position we are in now where necessary services such as school places and rural bus links are at risk let alone front line services which are vital to so many lives."
Stephanie McWilliam said, "In principle I would always prefer to be looking to cut taxes but I believe we would be failing the most vulnerable people in Cornwall if we didnt consider a bigger rise to preserve services. Until central government finds a fairer funding formula for rural communities and whilst it is cutting central funding so hard, it is up to us as Councillors to ensure that vital services are protected. I have not yet decided to vote for a larger increase but I need to see an alternative budget before I can make the right decision for those we represent."
Tim Andrewes said, "Cornwall Council has not put up the Council Tax for the last three years, but to continue with this policy would mean significant cuts in local services. I hope this motion will generate a good debate on the right balance between council tax rises and service cuts for the difficult financial times ahead."
David Hughes said, Whether Members finally decide to stay within Mr Pickles' 2% cap or risk a referendum, I believe that we owe it to the people of Cornwall to demonstrate that we have at least considered the effects of a potential reduction in the level of cuts implicit in a relatively modest increase in Council Tax by reference to a properly quantified and assessed budget model for this level of increase (6%). Such an increase would undoubtedly be unwelcome. However, the effects of the cuts to key services implicit in limiting increases to 2% could, potentially, be even more harmful to the way of life of the majority of our people, especially the most vulnerable. If we are to have a fair and balanced debate on the best course of action to take in an unpalatable situation which is not of our making, we must do so on the basis of fact, not supposition, assessing the merits and risks of the various proposed solutions from a position of knowledge.
Press release made by Cornwall Councillors Bob Egerton, Lisa Dolley, Stephanie McWilliam, Tim Andrewes, David Hughes.
Bob Egerton 07785 748844
Lisa Dolley 07807 787280
Tim Andrewes 07815 441490
Stephanie McWilliam 07866 757614
David Hughes 01726 812982
Cornwall Council plans to set its budget for 2014-15 at its Full Council meeting of 26 November. Although, technically, council tax is not set finally until February 2014, the Cabinet's plan is to get agreement in principle for the budget at the November meeting. The Cabinet's draft proposal assumes an increase in council tax of 1.97% keeping it below the government's guideline of 2%. The motion to be put to the Council at the October meeting will not set an increase of 6% but it will request the Cabinet to prepare an alternative budget based on an increase in council tax of 6% as well as the base case of 1.97% increase. Then, when it comes to the November meeting, councillors will be able to compare the impact on front line services of increases of 1.97% or 6% before deciding which option to progress. The impact of a 6% rise on a typical band D council taxpayer would be an increase of approximately £50 per year more than the alternative of a 1.97% rise, i.e. about £1 per week more. If an increase of greater than 2% is approved by Cornwall Council, the proposal will have to be put to all electors in Cornwall in a referendum to be held in May 2014.