COUNCIL tax in Cornwall is likely to rise by nearly five per cent next year as Cornwall Council cabinet members meet this morning (September 13) to discuss draft budget proposals.

The council announced last Tuesday (September 5) that it needs to save £29 million next year and a further £45 million by 2027/28 and scheduled a meeting for today in which cabinet members will consider draft budget proposals designed to protect both essential services for residents and improve financial efficiency. They will then vote on a proposed council tax increase of 4.99% — the maximum allowed by the Government without a referendum.

The unitary authority revealed that it is continuing to face financial pressures which it attributes to global events and the residual impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under new proposals drafted by the council, tax would rise by 2.99% in addition to the Government’s 2% levy for social care, thus imposing a total increase of 4.99%  — equivalent to an extra £1.73 a week for a Band D property. To help meet these financial challenges and return a balanced budget, plans also include new efficiency measures and income generation worth an estimated £11m in addition to measures worth £18m already planned for 2024/25.

The council stated that the proposals aim to continue providing support for the most vulnerable in Cornish communities. Council tax support for those struggling to pay bills would be protected, including support for care leavers up to the age of 25.

The plans also include a proposal for the council to consider experiences of care as a protected characteristic, including people of any age with experience of being in children’s social care. This would mean the council giving experience of care equal status to other protected characteristics, as set out in the Equality Act 2010 — in effect treating it as a tenth protected characteristic within Cornwall.

The cabinet will also discuss the director of public health’s annual report, which examines the health inequalities and challenges that our communities face and how best to address them.

Cllr David Harris, deputy leader of Cornwall Council and portfolio holder for resources, said: “Like other local authorities we continue to face enormous financial challenges and must work doubly hard to find creative solutions that allow us to meet them head-on. We have done this by finding new efficiency measures and ways to generate income that will help us return a balanced budget.

“These proposals focus on our priorities and reflect our commitment to deliver value for money for residents while protecting frontline services and supporting the most vulnerable among us. Following our review of these plans the details will be put before the council’s various scrutiny committees and I look forward to receiving their feedback.”

In response to the proposal, Cornwall Councillor Andrew Long, Mebyon Kernow’s representative for Callington and St Dominick, stated a fervent belief that the Government need to do more to support Cornwall Council and the county itself. Cllr Long said: “The increase in council tax is going to be incredibly difficult for so many families. But the reason for the increase has landed very squarely with the Government in London. 

“Since 2009, successive governments have taken £2 billion out of the Cornish economy through removal of grants to local authorities, and these local authorities have to then find the money to fulfil their most basic requirements — that’s the reason why council tax has been going up. 

“Cornwall is under budget by roughly £400 million a year compared with elsewhere in the UK and this cannot continue. The responsibility rests with the current administration for their attack on local authorities for the last 12 years. "Increasing the council tax is Cornwall Council’s only option.”

Updates to follow after the meeting.