Members of Cornwall Council have today formally approved a budget of £505 million for 2014 / 2015, with more cuts in store and a council tax rise of just under two per cent.
The budget, which was endorsed at Tuesday's meeting by 71 votes to 35 with one abstention, is based on making savings of £41m in 2014/2015, with further reductions of £36m in Government funding expected by 2015/2016, and £93m by 2018/2019. This means the Council will need to find savings of up to £195m over the next five years.
The revenue budget, which was recommended by the Cabinet last month, is based on a 1.97 % increase in Council Tax – equating to a 47p per week increase (£24.51 a year) for a Band D property.
The Council voted in November 2013 to set an early budget, which it says has already resulted in savings of £7m.
A council spokesman said: "Since 2010 the Council has been forced to find savings of £170m in its budget as a result of additional pressures and cuts in Government funding. The majority of these savings have been achieved through efficiencies, including reducing the number of senior managers, agency staff and consultants; selling surplus buildings, and delivering services in different ways, including creating arms length companies and trusts such as CORMAC, Leisure Services and Cornwall Housing and entering into a partnership with BT Cornwall.
"As a result of these efficiencies just £11 million of the savings have affected frontline services, enabling the Council to protect services for vulnerable people and maintain weekly rubbish collections and keep open libraries and leisure centres.
Council Leader John Pollard said “The plan was always to get an early budget agreed to enable us to minimise savings and start in the difficult process of the next stage of budget setting and business planning. We have achieved this.”
“Our council tax and budget setting process and the conclusion of a 1.97 per cent rise from the next year not only gained support in this chamber but widespread support outside. It has been scrutinised, we are ready to implement it and I am therefore seeking an affirmation from Council today to endorse the decisions made earlier.”
Over the past six months the authority has carried out the most extensive public consultation exercise in its history to give local residents, businesses, partners and staff the opportunity to have their say on where they felt cuts and savings could be made and to come forward with suggestions for increasing income.
Seconding the budget Alex Folkes, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said “We need to do what is right for Cornwall. We want to keep council tax as low as possible but we have to balance this against the need to provide services for the people of Cornwall. I believe this budget achieves this.
“We will continue to lobby the Government for more funding for Cornwall to bring us up to the same level as urban councils. We will also be calling on the Government to provide details of the financial settlement much earlier to provide both this Council and town and parish councils with greater clarity for our planning