A clash has broken out at Cornwall Council over what should happen to council tax payments as hard-pressed families struggle to meet payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Conservative Group on the council is calling for the Liberal Democrat administration to move the payment holiday normally found at the end of the financial year to the beginning, to help residents deal with the hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Liberal Democrats are lobbying for the Conservative central government to pick up the bill.

A petition has been set up by the Conservatives Group at change.org/p/cornwall-council-that-cornwall-council-suspends-the-start-of-the-ten-council-tax-instalments-until-june calling for rules on council tax to be relaxed.

Group leader Linda Taylor said: “These are very difficult times and we are calling on the administration of Cornwall Council to take the practical and sensible step of moving the payment holidays for all council tax payers to the beginning of the financial, so they take place in April and May 2020, instead of the end.

“This will relieve the financial pressure on many hard-pressed Cornish tax-payers without costing anything extra to Cornwall Council – the monies will be collected at the end of the financial year instead of at the beginning.

"Cornwall Council currently has £300million cash in reserves and only last week signed a deal to build hundreds of open market houses at Truro so now is not the time to be pleading poverty.”

However, Cornwall Liberal Democrats are calling on central government to pick up the bill for council tax payments, in order to ease the financial pressure people are facing as a result of the coronavirus.

The Lib Dems claim their proposals would save residents in Cornwall an average of £443 over the next three months.

The party's proposals include a complete moratorium on payments for all households in Bands A to E, and a 50 per cent reduction in payments across other bands. The Treasury would make up the shortfall in tax revenue with direct payments to councils.

The Liberal Democrats would like to see these measures implemented for a minimum of three months, with an option to extend the scheme as required.

Adam Paynter, Lib Dem deputy leader of Cornwall Council, said: "Cornwall Council always seek to minimise council tax payments because we know that many local residents struggle to make ends meet at the best of times.

"However, councils have been hit hard by government budget cuts over the last five years. This year is no different with Cornwall set to lose more than £5million in cash terms with the biggest cash funding increases going to Tory Shires such as Hampshire, Surrey, Hertfordshire and West Sussex, which between them are set to gain over £100million.

"As the coronavirus crisis escalates, thousands will be unable to pay, and may fall into arrears if steps are not taken to suspend payments. Rapid action is needed, or many more families will be under unbearable financial pressuring in the coming weeks.

“Now it is time for the government to give something back by allowing people a council tax holiday.

"Local residents, the NHS and Cornwall Council are all pulling together against coronavirus. We just need a little bit of help.”