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Tax rise and slashed services as cuts bite at Cornwall Council
1:00pm Tuesday 3rd September 2013 in News
The slashing of services and a rise in business rates and council tax are all on the cards as Cornwall Council struggles over its latest budget plans.
Cornwall Council leader John Pollard and Alex Folkes, the cabinet member for finance and resources, have given details of the first draft of the Cabinet's proposals for the 2014 / 2015 budget, with the authority, and those that rely on its services facing a “huge challenge”.
Over the past few weeks cabinet members have been working with directorates on developing proposals to produce a balanced budget, which will enable the authority to continue to provide services for people in Cornwall despite significantly reducing resources.
Council Leader John Pollard said: “We have already saved £170 million over the last four years, with £160m of this coming from reducing back office functions and administration, but we will need to save a further £196 million by 2019 to balance our books.
“The work we have done over the past few weeks shows that even if we decide to increase council tax by 1.97 per cent, we will have £24 million less to deliver services in 2014/2015. This is on top of the £19million savings already planned for this year as part of the medium term financial strategy.
“These are stark figures and we need to establish what can be delivered in terms of services, how the Council can be organised in the light of the budgetary constraints and which services and responsibilities we will defend. We need a vision for Cornwall which responds to the much reduced funding we have.
“We will have to make some hard decisions but the reality is that we have no choice: times are hard and there is no money. If we want to defend care for the elderly, support for the young and protection for the vulnerable then other elements of our work and service will have to change.”
The briefing had stark warnings for councillors from the Local Government Association, with cuts expected to “stretch essential services to breaking point in many areas” leaving councils without enough money to “meet all of their statutory responsibilities”.
They heard that there are, “immense challenges ahead which will need radical service redesign”.
To balance the 2014/15 Budget the council says the following are needed.
· Further office and asset rationalisation · Reduced business mileage · Increased fees and charges · Organisational restructuring · Invest to save schemes · Procurement and contract management savings · Reduction in costs through partnership working · Reduction in preventative and non statutory duties · Decreased level of service provision in most front line services Last month the Council announced details of a Cornwall wide consultation on the budget and Alex Folkes said that they wanted as many people as possible to give their views on the draft proposals.
“This is a genuine consultation and I would urge everyone to read the proposals and help us to set the priorities for the future,” he said.
“We are staging a series of consultation events to find out the views of members of the public as well as voluntary and community groups during September and October. These include public meetings in each of the 19 community network areas between 5 September and 9 October, and a Cornwall Budget Debate at County Hall, Truro on October which will be webcast live on the Council's website www.cornwall.gov.uk.”
The public meetings, all of which will begin at 6.30 pm, are being held at: Tuesday, 17 September Pool Innovation Centre Thursday, 19 September St John's Hall, Penzance Friday, 20 September Helston Town Hall Monday, 23 September Roche Victory Hall Wednesday, 25 September St Germans Community Centre Friday, 27 September Millennium House, Pensilva Monday, 30 September Newquay Treviglas Community College Wednesday, 2 October Falcon Hotel, Bude Thursday, 3 October Mabe Village Hall Friday, 4 October Council Chamber, County Hall, Truro Monday 7 October Frank Johns Centre, Hayle.
The authority will also be launching “YouChoose”, an online budget simulator, on its website during October which will give people the opportunity to try and balance the budget for themselves.
The results of the public and staff consultation will then be fed back to the Cabinet to consider before the budget is finalised.
Following Monday's meeting, draft proposals will be considered during September and fed back to a meeting on October 9 which will consider the overall financial position for the authority. The outcome of this meeting will then be considered at the special meeting of the Cabinet in early November which will agree the budget to be recommended to the full Council on November 26.
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