25 February 2010

Above-average council tax rise, no net unitary savings

The Conservative/Independent coalition that runs Cornwall unitary council is increasing Cornwall council tax by 2.9 percent for 2010/2011, along with cuts in service budgets – and there are staff redundancies.

What is happening elsewhere?

The Local Government Association (LGA) says the mean average increase outside London is 1.9 percent. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) says 2.1 percent. They are working from large samples and the final figure, with returns from all the levying authorities, may be slightly different.

Why is the increase in Cornwall so much more than the average? Remember, too, the recent local government settlements from central government have been good for Cornwall, though the government largesse won’t last in the recession.

Now there is this this story, another mystery. The Tory leader of Cornwall council says that though going unitary has produced savings, it has also produced costs which have outweighed them. The result: no net savings.

This isn’t how the unitary council was marketed by the Liberal Democrats: savings dwarfing the costs were promised and claims that there would be no net savings were dismissed. The Libdems now appear puzzled.

I think we need a definitive assessment and explanation. Are there to be any net savings? If not, why not?

(Post rewritten to take in the story about the savings)