Tuesday, 22 October 2013

6% council tax rise defeated

Cornwall councillors today overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to draft an alternative budget which would see council tax rise by 6%. The proposal would have required a costly referendum and a majority public vote in favour in order to pass.

I have blogged before about why I personally could not support such a proposal. But it was right to have the debate today and to test the water. However, the 79 votes to 33 outcome could not have been much more emphatic.

Some have argued that the budget challenge facing Cornwall means that we should be seeking to raise council tax by a lot. But they seem to ignore the hardship which many people are facing in paying their bills at the moment. I think it is just wrong to expect people to be able to pay an increase that is more than double the current CPI inflation rate.

We were also told today that if we did not vote for a 6% option then we were condemning services such as adult care, rural buses and children's services to cuts. This is a misleading argument. The scale of savings targets facing us means that most of these services would have to suffer cuts even with a 6% council tax rise. Of course a 6% rise would spare a little bit of the pain, but not enough to make the financial hardship it will impose on the many worthwhile in my view. The only honest proposal from those who advocate a path to avoid any cuts is to propose a 19% rise.

The next stage in the budget debate is for the cabinet to consider all the representations that have been made by the public, staff and local organisations on our original proposals. We will then publish our final draft and this will be voted on first by cabinet and then by all 123 councillors on 26th November. Anyone who wants to propose alternatives will be able to do so.

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