Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Cornwall set for real terms Council Tax cut

Cornwall County Council, in its last budget before the new Unitary Authority is established, has managed to set a Council tax rate that will mean a real terms cut for most people. They deserve to be congratulated for this achievement whilst protecting all front-line services.

The headline Council Tax rate will see a rise of 2.6% on average - well below the 3% inflation rate announced today - and that means that most people will see a cut in real terms. When you compare the figure with other councils around the country - of all political persuasions - you find that the Cornwall rate will be well below average.

I say most people will see only a small rise because the process of creating a Unitary Authority requires the equalisation of council tax levels across the County. Where previously we had six district councils, each setting their own tax rate, there will now be a single rate. So people in Penwith - which had the lowest previous rate - will have a larger rise than people in Kerrier - previously the highest rate. In my part of the County tax rises will be around the headline 2.6% level.

I'm slightly disappointed by the local BBC headline 'Tax increases for super council' which seems to imply real terms rises and fails to give any of the context within the body of the story. Hopefully taxpayers will understand more of the achievement when they get their bills.

Overall the new Authority will result in long term cost savings for local tax payers. The task for the councillors on the new body will be to make these savings apparent in tax bills sooner rather than later without compromising services.

I'd also like to give a big hand to the Conservatives (yes, really) who ignored their national Party Leader's demand to set a nil increase and instead voted for this measure. They realised that, whilst nobody likes paying more tax, a small increase was needed in order to prevent service cuts.

Perhaps David Cameron will learn that whilst he is the sort of person who wants to cut what he pays in Council Tax so he can afford more £92 kitchen bins, people in the real world have to think of what is best for all of us and don't want to see vital provisions like schools and social services slashed for a cheap headline.

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