Friday, 25 November 2011

Cabinet Member proposes charging taxpayers £7.2 million more next year with 3% amendment

Despite the insistence from Cornwall Council Leader Alec Robertson that the decision over council tax levels should wait until February, it seems that two distinct options will be debated by councillors next Tuesday.

As I've blogged before, the Lib Dems are proposing that Cornwall accepts the Government's offer of a grant equivalent to a 2.5% rise in council tax in return for freezing the amount we charge residents.

Today it has been announced that Indie cabinet member Julian German is proposing an amendment to raise council tax by 3%.

Such a move would raise an extra £1.2 million to provide more funds for the devolution team transferring assets from Cornwall Council to town and parish councils and money to improve assets that are being devolved; money to protect service delivery levels for footpaths and grass cutting; money for conservation management within the Historic Environment budget and money to deliver the FEAST project within the culture budget.

None of these is a bad scheme. But, in my view, paying for them through extra council tax is a bad idea. These projects could still be afforded through using some of the £7 million extra that Cornwall Council put into their war chest over the past year or by reducing the massively high contingency levels that Cornwall keeps to pay for pet projects and their financial failings.

It's not just the extra £1.2 million for these projects that Julian is demanding from taxpayers. By proposing a rise, he is forcing the Council to spurn the £6 million government grant and condemning householders to pay that money too when they don't have to.

It's also worth noting the language that Julian is using in his amendment. He talks of 'protecting service delivery levels for grass cutting and footpath maintenance'. So it seems that Cllr Robertson wasn't actually telling the truth when he said that his proposed budget contains no new cuts. If he was right then Julian wouldn't need more money to protect current service levels.

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