Should Cornwall Council ask people to pay an additional 6% Council tax?

Posted on: 22nd November 2014

Should Cornwall Council ask people to pay an additional 6% Council tax? The Council can only do this if the people of Cornwall say ‘yes’ when the question, “Do you agree to pay an additional 6% on your Council tax, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ” is asked. The further complication is that the Council cannot ask the question until May, after all the bills for the higher amount have gone out. As the Council would have set the budget based on the higher charge, the bills would go out at the higher level so if the people of Cornwall voted ‘no’ new bills would have to be sent and more savings than now would have to be found. This is a decision the Council will be debating next Tuesday.

I contacted many of the Friends of St Just Library group and conducted a very unscientific straw poll. All felt they personally (and some committed partners) to vote ‘yes’ to 6% increase in Council tax but those who ventured an opinion, either said they did not think the majority of people in Cornwall would or that they thought they would if a very clear message was given on the reasons why.

Given that I consulted a group of people passionate about our Library and engaged with the budget challenges, I was not surprised by their willingness to pay more to get more services from the Council. The challenge, as I understand it, is that it is unlikely that there could be a united ‘yes’ campaign as, especially alongside a General Election, next May, Politics would play a big part. I will seek to check this on Tuesday, but if I have understood it correctly the Council, as an authority, cannot send out a factual letter, with council tax bills in April about why the 6% rise is needed. On that basis, like those in my straw poll I am doubtful the Council can win the referendum and then the additional cuts imposed will put more jobs and services at risk. I feel the rules are stacked against us winning a referendum; perhaps a good argument for devolution of powers from London to Cornwall!

I will listen hard to the debate on Tuesday, seeking clarification on what the Council can put out with bills before finally deciding how to vote on the amendment before the Council. Let’s hope for some real wisdom and grown up debate. Tuesday is going to be a tough day, in so many ways.