1 March 2013

Suppose you were writing a council budget at a time of financial difficulties. You have a choice.

(a) freeze council tax, mend pot holes, and cut car parking charges, but also destroy around 135 council jobs and cut £1.6 million from employee funds for vulnerable adults and children, cuts which will adversely affect the services to them; or

(b) put council tax up by 1.97 percent, don’t destroy 135 jobs, maintain funding for adults and children who are in need, keep up the car parking charges, and patch the potholes for the time being.

The other day Cornwall councillors chose.

Forty nine chose (b) but fifty two chose (a).

The Libdems had proposed (a) as an amendment to the Tory/Independent Cabinet’s budget and voted for it with support from some Tories apparently out to embarrass. Labour’s sole councillor and Mebyon Kernow councillors voted against (a).

No doubt in May the Libdem election leaflets will cry up the council tax freeze and potholes. They will not mention the loss of 135 jobs and the cuts against the adults and children in need. They should not get away with half a story but the fullness of what they have done should be told.

The Libdem budget also expects the collection rate for council tax, already high in Cornwall, to increase. Hmmm. I think the recession and the removal of the council tax exemption from the poor in Cornwall is more likely to lead to a fall in the collection rate. How much do bailiffs cost?

For next year the Libdem decision to keep the council tax unchanged means that at the council-tax-setting cost inflation will have created a large hole in council finances and consequently, with a lesser tax base due to the freeze, a large rise in council tax or a large cut to services will follow. That will be well after the May 2013 elections of course.

I think that the Libdem budget shows financial naivety and an unacceptable order of priorities.

Also read
Jude Robinson (Labour) and Andrew Wallis (Independent) and Lance Kennedy (former Tory) have comments on the budget and manoeuvrings that are well worth reading.