- Another year of council tax freeze
- Cuts to car park charges
- Investment in road repairs and youth services
- More money for beach cleaning and litter picking
Cornish Liberal Democrats are today announcing a budget alternative which would see council tax frozen for a third straight year.
“Our budget alternative stands in stark contrast to the official budget proposal of the Conservative-led council,” said Cllr Jeremy Rowe, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council.
“Where they promise a council tax rise, we will freeze it. Where they propose service cuts, we have found the money to reverse many of the harshest. Where they have slashed money for road repairs, we will invest millions and we will cut car parking charges across Cornwall.
“The Conservatives on Cornwall Council have a history of wasting money. They spent millions on the failed bid to privatise a huge range of services without public or Council support. Their own budget documents show how their group leader lost £300,000 of income in the coming year by failing to implement a fairer scheme for discretionary rate relief. And let’s not forget the £50,000 given to Plymouth in their attempt to host the World Cup and the money wasted by ferrying tea and coffee between offices by taxi.
“Last year, council tax was only frozen because the Liberal Democrats campaigned for it. Independents, MK and Labour voted for a rise and the Conservatives dithered. This year, the Conservative cabinet members have again said openly they are looking to the Liberal Democrats to take the lead and propose a freeze. We are happy to do so.
“This year’s council tax freeze will save between £25 and £70 for every household in Cornwall. At a time of continuing economic hardship, Cornwall Council should be doing our bit to help as many people as possible.”
As well as a council tax freeze, Liberal Democrats are proposing to cut car park charges across Cornwall. Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Alex Folkes, said:
“We believe that high car park charges deter motorists and damage our town centre shops and businesses. The proof is in the £3m bail out that had to be given to the car park budget last year and the £1.8m this year.
“In Launceston we have proved that cutting car park charges can actually result in higher income for the council. Happier motorists, happier businesses and a happier council. We will do this for towns and villages across Cornwall by cutting parking charges. We are confident that this will succeed and we are dedicating £1.2m per year for the next two years to underwrite the project.”
Liberal Democrats have also recognised the damage that has been done to our road network through cuts to the repairs budget. The budget will invest more than £1.2m per year for the next two years in filling potholes and repairing carriageways.
Lib Dem Finance spokesman Ann Kerridge said: “The Conservatives stripped the road repair and safety budget by millions in order to plug the holes in their parking budget. Last week they announced that their own budget proposal would put around £65,000 more into the pot. Whilst we believe this is welcome, it is dwarfed by the £2.490m we will be investing.
“When we talk to residents across Cornwall, one of the areas they tell us worries them most is yobbishness and anti-social behaviour. Whilst the Conservative Police Commissioner is increasing his demands on council tax whilst slashing officer numbers, we want to do more to tackle these problems. We will invest an extra £200,000 into the work being done by Cornwall’s excellent youth service to tackle anti-social behaviour.”
Liberal Democrats are also proposing to reverse some of the damage done by one of the worst failings of the Conservative administration.
Deputy Leader Alex Folkes said: “In April 2012, a new waste collection and street cleaning service started. The introduction was so mis-handled by both the Conservative-led council and the contractor that tens of thousands of bins were not emptied and many streets were not cleaned. The impact on our tourism industry could have been catastrophic. We will invest in a ‘spring clean for Cornwall’ ahead of the coming tourist season by using the contractual penalties the council will receive from the contractor to invest in additional beach cleaning and litter picking.
“Sadly, the one Tory decision that we cannot reverse is their imposition of a poor tax on 26,000 of the least well off working age families in Cornwall. Their vote in January to impose an average £265 council tax rise on these families is shameful. Regrettably, the Government has decreed that the scheme decided then cannot be altered.
“In order to pay for the council tax freeze and other proposals, we will press ahead with our plans to cut spending on consultants and agency staff. In addition, we will cut the amount that Cornwall Council is spending on spin doctors and communications. The Conservatives actually wanted to increase this budget in the coming year. We will reverse that rise and ask that department to work with 6.25% less than the current year.
“We will also be challenging Cornwall Council to do better collecting council tax. The target set by the Conservatives is 97.5%. Already our officers are beating that rate and we challenged them to become one of the best authorities in the country. We have set a challenge for the coming year of 97.7%”
Lib Dem Group Leader Jeremy Rowe added: “At this difficult time, no party is able to promise to protect every aspect of council spending. Sadly, there are some tough choices to be made. We will not shy away from those and there are some areas where we are proposing cuts which we would prefer not to have to make. But when the choice is between council propaganda or repairing our roads and helping hard pressed families across Cornwall, the Liberal Democrats know which side we are on.
“At their budget meeting last week, Conservative cabinet members queued up to ask the Liberal Democrats to take the lead to do what is right for the people of Cornwall. This budget does so and we would welcome the support of Conservatives and the people of Cornwall.”