Cornwall news Labour and Tories get into bed to oppose council tax hike UK news
MetiNews.Com - All Conservative and Labour councillors voted against the budget which includes increasing council tax by 4.99% for 2021/22
Breaking News ! Cornwall Council has agreed its budget for the coming year which includes raising council tax bills by 4.99%. However while the budget plans for 2021/22 and business plan for the next four years was voted through it did not receive support from Conservative or Labour councillors. With council elections set for May the council meeting this morning was dominated by a clear division between the Liberal Democrat/Independent administration and Conservative opposition. The Liberal Democrat and Independent Cabinet had proposed the budget and the increase in council tax which includes a 1.99% general increase and an additional 3% to fund adult social care. For a Band D property in Cornwall it means that Cornwall Council's share of the council tax will increase by £1.52 a week. No alternative budget proposals had been put forward by councillors from opposition groups ahead of the online meeting this morning. Council deputy leader Adam Paynter proposed the budget plans saying that the decision to increase council tax had not been made "lightly". He said it had been one of the most difficult years in which to set a budget due to the uncertainties posed by Covid-19 and the lack of a long term funding commitment for councils from the Government. Conservative councillor David Harris opened his comments by acknowledging that setting the budget must have been difficult and the challenges being faced by the council. However he then set out why he and the Conservative group were unable to support the budget. He first highlighted proposed savings, which include £18m from adult social care and another £3.5m which are "flex targets" which he said would more accurately be described as "hope targets". Read More Related Articles Cornwall residents find out how much council tax they'll pay Read More Related Articles Cornwall Council deputy leader responds to criticism for spending on consultants Cllr Harris said that a "Herculean effort will be needed to reach these targets". The Conservative councillor said there were a number of areas "where this council has failed or set itself up to fail". He said that every Cabinet member should be challenging where things were going wrong. Cllr Harris said adult social care had "missed every savings target" and that a new IT system had gone £8m over budget. He highlighted the council's estate transformation plan which he said was rejected by a scrutiny committee which was "ignored" by the Cabinet. And he said the budget for that project had increase from £87m to £100m. Cllr Harris also raised concerns about the council's capital programme which was now totalling £1.3billion and said this included borrowing £700m and would result in the council paying £21m in interest every year. He said: "I don't dispute we need to spend capital money but our record here is not god." The Conservative councillor listed problems with the Saints Trail project, Langarth Garden Village and the Pydar Street regeneration in Truro as examples of where the council's capital programme had faltered. Read the latest about the Saints Trail cycle track scheme here. Read the latest about the Langarth Garden Village plans here. Read the latest about the Pydar Street redevelopment here.
. Malcolm Brown, speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem group, said that Cllr Harris was inviting the council to reject the budget. He said: "I find that totally unacceptable as no alternative has been put forward." Cllr Brown said councillors had had numerous opportunities to propose alternative budgets since the autumn and none had come from the Conservatives. You can stay up to date on the top news and events near you with CornwallLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page. He also highlighted that the council was proposing a council tax increase at the same rate as had been approved by Conservative councils in Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire. Cllr Brown said: "My main feeling is not annoyance but sorrow that the council cannot come together at a time when we are facing new challenges, opportunities and uncertainties."
He added: "None of my colleagues like that we are having to put council tax up so much. But if we do not do what the Government expects us to do we will be penalised in the future and Cornwall will suffer." Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole said his group would "be acting responsibly" and support the budget proposals. He said: "We could have chosen to play politics and vote against the budget and protest against council tax rises but that would have been totally the wrong thing to do." Cllr Cole added: "We surely need to be coming together as a council and doing more to put pressure on the Government to find a new a fairer way to funding services in Cornwall." Labour councillor Jayne Kirkham said the Government had again passed the responsibility for funding adult social care to local taxpayers. She said that around £1,000 of an average council tax bill in Cornwall would be spent on adult social care and that the council now relied on council tax for 75% of its income which she said was "too big a burden" on local taxpayers. Cllr Kirkham said: "Council tax is an unfair and aggressive tax and business rates are becoming unworkable. This council is in a really difficult, horrible position."
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Richard Whitehouse is the Local Democracy Reporter covering Cornwall Council and other public organisations across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency: funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, in this instance Reach PLC brand Cornwall Live, and used by qualifying partners. Do you have a story for Richard? Contact him on 01872 247426 or 07834 568345. Or send an email to email@example.com Alternatively you can Tweet him @rwhitehouse13 or see his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rwhitehouse13
Conservative councillor Dave Biggs responded to councillors who highlighted that his group had not proposed an alternative budget. He said that if it had done so it would have cost the council to draw up that proposal which he said would be "irresponsible" as he said it would almost certainly be voted down. When the budget and business plan was put to the vote it was passed with 67 votes in favour, 42 against and one abstention. Too high? Fair? Join the debate in the comments section below.
Source = MetiNews.Com - Cornwall