Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cornwall's budget - comments so far

Many thanks to everyone who has already given their views on how Cornwall Council can make next year's budget add up.

I want to listen to all the views expressed and to give some feedback where possible. BBC Radio Cornwall have kindly passed on some of the comments they have received, so here they are and some of my initial thoughts:

Suggestion:
I was disturbed to hear about cuts to libraries - we need the libraries in order to have an educated population - they're also centres of the community. When I'm in Liskeard library I always see many youngsters using the computers. They're an excellent resource. So keep the libraries - but cut some of the council perks - the bloated pensions, high expenses etc.

Response:
I'm also a great fan of libraries and would like to preserve these if possible. By moving one stop shops into library buildings we have been able to make savings without losing services.
Pensions, expenses and perks will be looked at, but we should not think that we can save enough money just from this area.



Suggestion:
Double the rates on second homes (and let's find out from the council how much that would bring in) - because they suck out more from the county than they bring in - and allow the poor people of Cornwall to access some of the European Convergence/Objective One money to start small businesses. We've had the poverty of Cornwall paraded around Europe for years in order to get this subsidy - but it doesn't actually help the poor - just big companies and big projects.  

Response:
The council has already done as much as we are allowed to on second homes. We have abolished the council tax discount they get and we are not allowed to charge them a premium. If you think we should be allowed to, please lobby your MP for a change in the law.
Enabling small businesses to get benefits from EU funding is a good idea and one I will pass on to my colleagues.



Suggestion:
We voted overwhelmingly against the unitary system and they brought it in anyway - so what is the point in taking part in the budget consultation? They will do what they want anyway. It's window dressing. 

Response:
Although the change to unitary divided opinion and I respect the views of those who opposed it, there is no doubt that it helped Cornwall's council services to survive. Much of the £159 million cuts that have already been made in back office functions were only possible because of the change to unitary. I understand why people might have doubted the commitment of the previous council administration to listen, but we are committed to listening to every viewpoint.



Suggestion:
My answer to the shortfall in the Council's revenue is Not to cut services but to re-introduce the annual increase in the tax. The Government, probably to enhance its own image, has encouraged Councils not to make any increase in contributions from residents.  How can this be sensible?  Prices and wages have continued to rise.  Surely, the annual increase should have been made to match the increase in the Council's expenditure.  To help the poorest, this could be a small or nil percentage for the lowest band, and a sliding scale increase for the higher bands.

Response:
The decision on council tax is one of the key questions facing us. The majority of councillors (including me) believed that the proposal for a freeze last year - combined with more investment in repairing our roads and in cutting many parking charges - was the right one. This year the council will have to make a fresh decision based on the current circumstances (many of which have changed over the last 6 months).
Even if the council had increased council tax last year by the 1.97% that was proposed, it would have brought in only an extra £900,000 or so this year compared with the £40 million cuts or so that we are facing.
However, the relative amounts paid by different council tax bands is fixed by law. So a percentage rise has to apply to all council tax payers and we are not allowed to increase lower bands by less.
That said, the council is reviewing the impact of the various welfare changes including the ending of full council tax relief on the least well off. We will consider whether there is anything we can do to help the very poorest households in Cornwall.

Suggestion:
Your talking point this morning is Cornwall Council, now there's a surprise, run the Council that lot couldn’t run a tap and now they’ve got the audacity to ask you to ask the people of Cornwall how to save money, excuse me who's getting paid a huge wage to make the decisions? Well they better start looking at the source of the problem, that's where they've got to start, with ridiculous wages and taking council vehicles home, which we are paying for, insurance, fuel, tax and all the rest of it!! It makes my blood boil, they are a law unto themselves and do EXACTLY what they want, would help if they knew what they were doing themselves!

Response:
The final decision will rest with all 123 councillors, but I reject the idea that it is wrong to ask the people of Cornwall what they think
I have asked for a review of the council's transport policy including 'company cars'. In some cases - such as social workers who spend most of their days out on the road - it makes perfect sense and saves money for them to use a council car. But we should always make sure that we get the best value for money from these.


Suggestion:
Stop road 'improvements'. Avers roundabout has just wasted millions on unnecessary works.  

Response:
I don't know the details of that scheme myself, but we need to make sure that any new schemes are getting value for money and are the best thing we could be doing with limited resources.



Suggestion:
Stop all these ring fenced pensions, reduce the number of councillors and stop giving everything out to contractors

Response:
We don't have the power to cut the number of councillors - that is for the boundary commission. My personal point of view is that a cut back to 80 or so would be a good move.
As for contractors - by law we have to get value for money by giving the job to the cheapest company who can do the work properly. If we did anything else, we would be accused of wasting money.



Suggestion:
Think the council should get quotes and not just use Cormac - private contractors tend to quote a bit cheaper. 

Response:
See above. We will get the best value for money. Cormac need to be competitive or we will not use them.
 


5 comments:

PaulS said...

Sell Newquay airport - for whatever you can get for it, even for £1 !
Airports are incompatible with the Council environmental policy, air travel is on its way out, the airport will never make money and we can't be wasting £30 million every year on that white elephant.

Alex Folkes said...

Thanks for the suggestion which we will consider alongside all the others. Just to be clear, the airport subsidy is currently around £3m per year, not £30m

John Conway said...

Disposing of Newquay Airport would be good. Also Cornwall Council should stop providing any public toilets, Launceston is now paying for its own and even opening new ones - we should not have to pay for the rest of Cornwall also!!

John Conway said...

1.97% rise in Council Tax would gave an extra £900k per your figures therefor disposing of Newquay Airport save £3 million or over 6.5% on our Council tax!!!!!

John Conway said...

According to your figures a 1.97% rise in Council Tax would raise £900k, disposing of Newquay Airport would save £3 million or over 6.5% for hard pressed Council Tax payers