9 February 2009

(There is an update: 6 March 2009 Unitary costs and savings 2)

How are we doing with the imminent* unitary council in Cornwall?

Remember we were told by the unitary advocates that the new council would save the people of Cornwall about £15.4 million a year without any loss of services or deterioration of the quality of services. Additionally, they told us that the new council would cost about £19.3 million to set up. See this earlier post about these savings and costs, and other forecasts about them, People? What people?

Kevin Lavery, the new chief executive of both dying county and emerging unitary councils, has produced an update. He says the savings will be about £15 million in the first year and about £29 million in its third year, which I assume is 2011/12. That is in line with what we were told by the unitary advocates.

As for the one-off costs, Lavery says they will be about £20 million though an exact figure is not possible until all the redundancies are completed. The costs presumably include only the direct costs of redundancy to Cornwall council tax payers and not the wider redundancy costs to British tax payers there might be for additional needs for taxpayer-funded services. The £20 million is in line with the forecasts of the unitary advocates.

Of course these figures cannot be guaranteed but they look worked out, realistic, and convincing.

Reports from the county Implementation Executive and the Western Morning News are here and here.

Incidentally, the new unitary council comes into existence on 1 April 2009 but presumably the present county councillors or possibly an implementation executive will rule until the unitary councillors are elected. Think of this as a hiccup on our adventurous journey to the sunlit uplands.

*I use “imminent” with a similar meaning to how we in Cornwall use drekly (directly). The date for the elections to the unitary council has not been decided. The elections for the European parliament are on 4 June so that’s a possible date; but the new ward boundaries for the 123 seats in the new unitary council (the present county has 82 seats) are unlikely to be agreed by then so a date in the autumn is likely. But who knows.

Council tax
The body which is guiding us to the unitary authority is called the Implementation Executive and consists of twenty four county and district councillors. It has agreed a budget which now goes to the present county councillors for ratification on 17 February. This proposed budget will increase council tax in unitary Cornwall by an average of 2.6 percent for 2009/10. Council tax in all former districts will be harmonised in one year, 2009/10, and this means initially different percentage increases in different districts. How different? At the extremes in Kerrier the rise is 0.5 percent, in Penwith 4.9 percent. In fact the county council tax is really determined by the need to stay below the government’s announced cap of less than five percent; Penwith currently has the lowest council tax levels and thus its harmonising increase will have to be the largest and must be less than five percent; this works out at an average of a 2.6 percent increase for the county as a whole.


‘Cornwall county council to produce over £15 million in savings in first year’ : press release from Implementation Executive February 2009

Cornwall three-year forward budget
: Implementation Executive 6 February 2009

Western Morning News: 6 February 2009 article ‘Council tax could rise by 5%’

‘Implementation Executive meeting takes step forward in setting budget for new Cornwall council’ : press release from Cornwall county council 6 February 2009