Council budget for 2018/19: Cabinet proposal based on rise in council tax of 5%
The Cabinet had prepared a draft Budget proposal that it would put forward to the Full Council meeting on 20 February. The budget was likely to include the proposal to raise council tax by the maximum amount allowed by central government without having to hold a referendum. The limits are 3% (in line with the current rate of inflation as measured by the consumer prices index) plus those councils that have responsibility for social care can raise an additional precept of up to 3%.
The social care precept was first introduced by the government last year allowing councils to raise up to 6% supplement over a 3-year period. Cornwall Council raised 2% in the current year (2017/18); it is proposing to raise 3% in the forthcoming year (2018/19) and then a final 1% in 2019/20. This means that the total council tax raised by Cornwall Council in 2018/19 would be 6% higher than in the current year. This excludes whatever amounts may be requested by Devon and Cornwall Police and by local town and parish councils.
On the day before the Cabinet meeting on 7 February, the government minister for local government announced new figures for how much would be given to councils this year. In Cornwall's case, the total figure is £2.5 million more than the provisional figure that they had indicated in December. This is a one-off sum. The Cabinet decided to use this additional funding to keep the proposed rise in council tax to a total of 5% in the forthcoming year. That will be made up of a general rise of 3%, in line with inflation, plus a social care precept of 2%.
This rise in council tax will, unfortunately, be accompanied by continued cuts in some service areas because of the continuing cuts in central government funding to local councils (notwithstanding the small one-off sum announced now by the government) and the inevitable increases in demand in some services because of demographic pressures.