Cornwall Council’s ruling Conservative cabinet will discuss draft budget proposals tomorrow (Wednesday, September 13) including a proposed council tax increase of 4.99 per cent next year.

Opposition councillors have united to condemn the second successive maximum council tax increase and a possible additional five per cent increase to already controversial car parking fees, with the council’s Independent group calling it “outrageous”.

The mooted tax bill will result in a Band D charge of £1,892.75 for the Cornwall Council element of the charge. This is an increase of £89.96 (£1.73 per week) compared to 2023/24 in the second consecutive year of the maximum allowable rise without requiring a referendum.

The council is looking at cutting services as it says it faces “difficult decisions” to achieve almost £75 million in savings by 2028 in a bid to continue providing the vital services residents expect. The authority is currently identifying areas where it can reduce or stop services, with a report saying, “we will not be able to afford to provide all of these services and we will need to prioritise and reduce provision where we can safely and legally do so”.

The draft budget proposals include a report which proposes “automating” more functions to cut costs. In order to maintain a balanced budget, the council needs to make a saving of £29m in the next financial year, 2024/25, with a further £45m required by 2027/28.

Councillors who represent Labour, the Liberal Democrats and those who are independent have been quick to slam the cabinet for creating, as they say, extra financial pressure on the residents of Cornwall who are already struggling due to the cost of living crisis.

Jayne Kirkham, Cornwall councillor for Falmouth Penwerris, who is leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “It appears that Cornwall Council’s Conservative administration are yet again going to raise the council tax by the absolute maximum that they can charge, but yet again they are also going to cut services for residents.

“School transport for our children will be cut back as will money for social care. The Conservatives propose another large hike on car parking charges after this year’s fiasco which will hit our already struggling high streets even harder without offering a plan for regenerating town centre buildings as Labour would be doing. They also intend to bring in increases on fees for bulky waste collection and garden waste recycling – penalising people more for doing the right thing. Fly tipping is bound to increase. Even your funeral will cost more.”

Cllr John Fitter (Independent, St Columb Minor and Colan) added: “We were told that a Conservative Cornwall Council, Conservative Government and six Cornish Conservative MPs would lead to great times for Cornwall. Nothing could be further from the truth, with Tories cutting services to the bone at the same time as squeezing tax payers, they’re squeezing so hard the pips are now screaming.”

Cllr Julian German (Independent, The Roseland, Tregony and St Goran) said: “You used to know where you stood with the Tories, low taxation was their mantra. Yet over the last three years we’ve seen record increases in council tax. The new mantra is vote Tory and get the largest ever council tax bills.”

“I’m distraught that basic services such as getting our children to school are being cut. The rhetoric is for a great start for children but under this Conservative administration we’ve seen Ofsted judge that services for children with special education needs and/or disabilities are deteriorating. Now, in this proposed budget, many children are going to struggle to do something as straightforward as getting to school,” added Cllr Andrew Mitchell (Independent, St Ives West & Towednack).

Cllr Tim Dwelly (Independent, Penzance East) said: “Absolutely unbelievable. Cornwall’s Conservatives are obviously determined to wreck our towns’ high streets with an extra five per cent rise in car park costs – just after they doubled the all-day charges. The Conservatives obviously cannot claim to be the party of small businesses. This is a business-bashing proposal that will devastate our town centres and add to everyone’s cost of living fears.”

“The final decision on the council’s budget will be made in February, within which time there will be ample time for public scrutiny of the various proposals … a further increase of five per cent in car park charges will be a further blow to already hard-pressed businesses in our Fore Streets and must be stopped,” added Cllr Jim McKenna (Independent, Penzance Promenade).

Cllr Colin Martin, who is the leader of the Liberal Democrats group at the council and represents Lostwithiel and Lanreath, said: “The Conservatives who run Cornwall Council claim to ‘work with communities for a carbon neutral Cornwall, where everyone can start well, live well and age well’. But once again they are making cuts and jacking up taxes which directly undermine these goals. As families struggle and businesses fold, these short-sighted cuts will end up putting more demand on services which have already been stretched to breaking point.

“The only way to save public services and bring the nation’s finances into balance is to invest in prevention, early intervention and sustainability. But our Conservative councillors, MPs and Government are all doing exactly the opposite. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Cllr David Harris, the Conservatives’ deputy leader of the council and portfolio holder for resources, said last week: “Like other local authorities we continue to face enormous financial challenges and must work doubly hard to find creative solutions that allow us to meet them head-on. We have done this by finding new efficiency measures and ways to generate income that will help us return a balanced budget.

“These proposals focus on our priorities and reflect our commitment to deliver value for money for residents while protecting frontline services and supporting the most vulnerable among us. Following our review of these plans the details will be put before the council’s various scrutiny committees and I look forward to receiving their feedback.”