The future of several community services in Falmouth, including free public toilets and CCTV provision, has been secured after the Government backed down on its plans to force local councils to take proposed hikes in their budgets to a referendum.
Falmouth Town Council members and officers spent many hours coming up with a budget which will allow it to forge ahead with its plans for the town, taking over services which have been abandoned by Cornwall Council.
The council had agreed a budget which sees a 20 per cent increase on its precept, but was then told Communities’ Secretary Eric Pickles was considering forcing councils proposing rises of more than two per cent to take it to a referendum, putting Falmouth’s plans in jeopardy.
It was announced this week, however, that this will not be the case for 2014-15 budgets, but could still be demanded the year after.
The news was met was relief by Falmouth council. Councillor Candy Atherton, chair of its finance committee, said: “The whole council is absolutely delighted because we really want to provide a good local service to the people of Falmouth and our visitors.
“It was just a nightmare, the idea that we could not open the toilets for free, underwrite the bus service and move ahead with the long, long list of issues that over the last few months we have agreed to support.
“I believe we can provide a high quality service and the people are up for it.
“Like everyone else in the town we want quality services at a price people can afford. We now have just a few weeks before April to continue with our plans.
“It is particularly hard for a town council in Cornwall because we don’t have a district council in between so if the county council does not provide the service then we don’t have any other public body to take it over.”
Falmouth and Truro MP Sarah Newton also welcomed the news. ‘‘I am pleased that ministers listened to the case I made on behalf of Falmouth and other councils in my constituency,” she said.
“Councils like Falmouth Town Council are proactive, seeking to take a greater role in local service provision in order to provide a better deal for local residents.
“I believe that, as long as this increased service delivery and associated cost is undertaken in close consultation with local residents, parish and town councils should be enabled to take this approach.’’