Cornwall councillors have approved a budget to invest in residents’ priorities and protect services for vulnerable children and older adults while keeping council tax bills among the lowest in the South West.
From April the Cornwall Council element of council tax will rise by 1.99% plus an additional 3% for the Government precept for adult social care – equivalent to an extra £1.52 a week for the average property (band D).
Unitary authorities and county councils across the South West are set to increase their council tax by 4.99% due to pressures on local government funding and the need to safeguard essential services for residents.
The increase comes as Cornwall Council calls on the Government to stop pushing the rising costs of adult social care onto council taxpayers each year and introduce a long-term and sustainable funding solution.
At a full Council meeting today (February 23, 2021) councillors agreed the latest business plan and budget which will see an extra £16 million a year invested to sustain social care services for vulnerable and older adults, on top of a £20 million uplift last year.
There will also be an additional £6 million annually injected into the Council’s OFSTED ‘outstanding’ services for children, schools and families, as well as the introduction of a new waste service to help encourage residents to recycle more.
Savings in the budget include reducing business travel by 35%, cutting paper use by 37%, replacing streetlights with LED bulbs, and automating back-office processes.
The plan includes:
- investing more than £239 million in homes for local people, helping sustain the Council’s record as one of the country’s top councils for providing affordable homes.
- investing over £180 million in connecting Cornwall with superfast broadband, better roads, and more safe spaces for walking and cycling.
- giving children the best start in life, with more than £49m to repair school buildings and create more school places for children across Cornwall.
- leading the fight against the climate emergency, with more than £18 million set aside for renewable energy and our climate action plan - including planting an 8,000-hectare Forest for Cornwall, retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency, and installing electric vehicle charging points across Cornwall.
Earlier this month Cllr Julian German, Leader of Cornwall Council, called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to end the annual council tax supplement, which has been added to bills annually since 2016 in the form of the Adult Social Care precept.
In the open letter Cllr German calls on Mr Hancock to bring forward a long-term sustainable funding package for social care in next week’s March Budget and honour the Prime Minister’s pledge to “fix social care once and for all.”
At today’s meeting Cllr German said: “During the years of austerity, we have adapted the way we work as a council, allowing us to make £380 million of savings, while putting residents first and protecting the services that people have told us are most important – such as providing care for the elderly, more homes and jobs for local people, and keeping Cornwall’s roads in good repair.
“We have worked with communities to deliver better local library services, community spaces and leisure services, which are valued by the people who use them.
“We have transformed our children’s services to ‘outstanding’ making Cornwall Council’s services the best in the South West, and in the top 10% across the country.
“However, the demand for our services is rising as more residents come to rely on our adult social care services, and more children than ever need the social care we provide.
“For many years, Government have promised a sustainable funding solution, but instead Government are forcing Council's into council tax rises.”
Cllr German added that the Council’s latest residents survey showed that resident satisfaction with the way the Council runs things had increased by 15% points over the last year and was now 10 points above the Local Government Association average.
Cllr German said: “It has been a tough year for us all, but I am pleased to report that in the latest residents survey residents are recognising the hard work of Cornwall Council.
“Residents can be assured that Cornwall Council will continue to live our values, listening to residents, responding to their needs, and standing up for Cornwall.”
As well as discussing the budget and business plan, the full Council meeting also:
- approved the annual revenue budget and capital programme for Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry as well as noting that the Joint Chairs of Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee will continue to press the Government to deliver on its offer for Highways England to contribute towards the operation and maintenance of the Tamar Bridge.
- agreed the Housing Revenue Account for the next financial year, which will see social and affordable dwelling rent increase by 1% in 2021/22.