Cornwall Council’s cabinet has approved a balanced budget for 2024/25, and has vowed to focus relentlessly on delivering services for residents that are financially sustainable despite the fiscal pressures all local authorities are facing.
Today’s meeting, held in the Trelawny Room at County Hall (Lys Kernow), saw a packed agenda debated, including a performance update for the third quarter of 2023/24, and the budget for the coming financial year.
The performance report showed some progress, with a reduced forecast overspend for the current financial year, now standing at £9.4 million, down from September’s forecast of £14.9 million, with the aim of bringing this down even further before the end of March. That overspend in mainly focused on three areas; Emergency Housing Accommodation, Home to School Transport and Children’s Social Care.
The cabinet also approved the draft budget for 2024/25, which includes extra funding of more than £20 million across those three areas, as well as a focus on reducing all unnecessary spending in all areas.
The budget will mean a council tax increase of 4.99% for residents, which includes a 2% levy to fund adult social care, bringing the bill for a Band D property to £1,892.75. It also confirms plans to bring in a 100% Council Tax premium on second homes from April 2025.
Cllr David Harris, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resources, told the meeting: “As I’ve flagged numerous times, unless there is a fundamental shift in how local government is financed, including a fairer funding formula, it is only a matter of time before we face the edge of the same financial abyss that other councils are faced with today.
“At the same time, I really want to make it clear that we are determined to invest in Cornwall’s future. The significant increase in the proposed revenue and capital budgets represents a huge investment to deliver the Council’s mission of working together for a carbon neutral Cornwall, where everyone can start well, live well and age well.”
The draft budget will now go before Full Council for final approval.
The Cabinet also discussed a new Placement Sufficiency Strategy to increase the supply of better value, and more flexible residential and independent fostering provision for children and young people, including challenging independent providers on excessive unit costs, in order to prevent unregistered care arrangements.
Also on the agenda was a refreshed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2022-26 which has been updated and includes the Council’s decision taken in September 2023 to treat ‘experience of being in children’s social care’ as a protected characteristic, as well as a refreshed business case for a A39 Camelford bypass.
Cllr Linda Taylor, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “"Today's agenda demonstrates just how we are still on the front foot, doing our best for the people of Cornwall, despite the challenges faced, but that means being honest about the difficult choices and decisions we have to make.
"We do not want to raise Council Tax, but we have no choice if we are to be able to continue to deliver the services our residents rely on.
"However, our determination to continue to improve people's lives is evident from the creation of the housing enabling fund, it is evident from the investment in providing better home for children and young people, and it is evident from our support for the proposed £147m Camelford bypass.
"We are focused on everyone benefiting from every penny we spend and, buoyed by a positive set of results from our latest residents’ survey, we remain determined to create a Cornwall where everyone can start well, live well and age well."