Cornwall Council Sets Early Budget to Reduce Impact of Cuts

Posted on: 26th November 2014

Cornwall Council sets early budget to reduce impact of cuts. Below is the Press Release issued by the Council.

Members of Cornwall Council have voted to set an early budget aimed at protecting the needs of the most vulnerable whilst doing what it can to preserve essential services such as public transport and road repairs and maintenance.

Councillors at today’s meeting voted by 69 votes to 21 with 19 abstentions to set a budget of £496.499m for 2015 / 2016. Setting next year’s budget and council tax today rather than in February 2015 will enable savings to be made earlier and will save the Council around £7m to £9m.

This decision, which will involve making savings of £58.8m over the next twelve months, includes an agreement in principle to increase Council tax by 1.97%. The proposal, which needs to be formally ratified by the full Council in February, will mean an annual increase of£25 for a Band D property – or 48p per week. This level of increase does not require the Council to hold a referendum.

Proposing the recommendation Council Leader John Pollard said “I put this budget forward to the Council with some pride in what we have achieved in very difficult circumstances., but no joy, with little pleasure and, in many ways, some reluctance. However we clearly have no choice. The context of this budget is not of our making, and faced with exceptional and unprecedented demands this is the best possible budget proposal for Cornwall.

“By aligning this Budget to a Business Plan and a long term Strategy we are fulfilling my personal demand that we do not just cut and destroy, but we change and build. The premise of this budget is that although all areas will face reduction, we will, and have, salvaged everything we can.

“I believe this is the best budget for Cornwall that we could produce under the difficult financial position forced upon us by the Government.”

Since 2010 the Council has been forced to find savings of £170m in its budget as a result of additional pressures and cuts in Government funding. The majority of these savings have been achieved through efficiencies, including a reduction in management coming from the move to unitary status and the introduction of alternative ways of delivering services, with just £11 million affecting frontline services. The authority now needs to save a further £196m over the next four years.

The unprecedented scale of the savings required means that all areas of the Council are affected by the proposals. However, rather than simply ‘salami slice’ every service, the authority has developed a four year plan which will help protect the three key priority areas identified by the public and Members during last year’s budget consultation. These are services for the most vulnerable in society (including vulnerable adults, children, older people and the poorest), public transport, and road repairs and maintenance.

Over the past three months the Council has carried out the most extensive public consultation exercise in its history to give local residents, businesses, partners and staff the opportunity to have their say on where they felt cuts and savings could be made and to come forward with suggestions for increasing income.

All 1,499 comments and suggestions made during the consultation were considered by members of the Cabinet and a number of the suggestions have been incorporated in the revised budget proposals which were formally approved by the Council today.

The main changes to the original budget proposals include:

  • Increasing the Adult Social care budget by £3.8m to cover the previous year’s overspend thereby protecting services to the most vulnerable.
  • Reducing the level of savings required from the Discretionary Rate Relief scheme which provides business rate relief support for charities and non profit making organisations from £800,000 to £400,000 in 2017/2018. This will help minimise the impact on charities and clubs which work with the most vulnerable people in Cornwall
  • Protecting the rural bus network which helps local residents to access education, employment and social activities across Cornwall
  • Reducing the funding to voluntary and community organisations by £400,000 to reflect the work which is taking place to reduce duplication and operating costs by sharing staff and buildings, develop a new way of commissioning services and the potential for funding from the Government’s £320m Transformation Challenge Fund.
  • Increasing the efficiency savings and income from Community Safety by £413,000
  • Delaying the implementation of the School Crossing Patrols savings to enable a comprehensive risk assessment to be carried out.
  • Increasing savings from waste budget by £210,000 over the four years mainly from additional income from the energy to waste contract but with some reduction to the opening hours at Household Waste Recycling Centres.
  • Through working in partnership with the RNLI we have agreed a new contract which will maintain the same level of lifeguard cover on the 57 beaches supported by the Council with a reduced contribution of £950,000.
  • Increasing savings from the Transport and Waste budget by £324,000 in 2017/2018 . This will be delivered by savings from the development of an integrated transport network for Cornwall and improvements from vestment from the Government’s Growth Deal
  • Additional £1.7m savings from the pay bill as the result of collective agreement in relation to contribution related pay
  • Using reserves to support the budget to allow time for the significant structural changes to be implemented and new models of service delivery to be developed. In particular this will allow additional time to work with local communities and town and parish councils to develop alternative models for libraries and help the private sector to develop a sustainable model for the tourism promotion activities led by Visit Cornwall over the longer term.