By Julian German, Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council
COMMENT & OPINION
Last week we put out our draft budget for consultation and comment.
There was a robust and wide ranging discussion amongst Cabinet Members. I expect it will generate the same debate in the community.
With continued austerity and the ongoing Brexit negotiations, it’s fair to say that this is the toughest set of economic conditions we have faced as a Council for many years.
Like other Councils across the country, we will get less and less funding from central Government over the next four years. At the same time, demand for our services is growing year on year, particularly those services for children and the most vulnerable.
This picture is not going to change. As more of us live longer and have more complex health issues, pressure on all our services will grow along with demand.
And despite making £300m worth of savings over the last four years, we will need to find a further £75million worth of savings in the four years to come.
Cornwall Council has five clear priorities: supporting residents’ health and social care; more affordable homes; more and better paid jobs; better transport and greater local democracy. They are the right priorities for Cornwall and they reflect what you told us is important in our recent residents’ survey.
At the same time, we need to balance the books, use our resources wisely and act in the best interests of the people of Cornwall.
Cornwall Council’s budget affects all of us. It determines how we will allocate resources, how much residents will pay in Council tax and how we get the most out of the 700 plus services provided by the Council.
At Cabinet, we voted unanimously to propose an increase of 4.99% for Council Tax, with 3% of that increase going directly towards providing vital social services for vulnerable adults.
But with £75m in savings still to find, we need to take a hard look at the way we deliver our services. The choice is to deliver differently or in some cases see services disappear.
As we continue to prioritise frontline services, our aspiration is for people, organisations and business to work together to ensure that residents continue to receive services they need. This means some tough decisions. Increasing Council tax, continually reviewing delivery of our services or reducing our workforce alone will not be enough to meet the needs of the people of Cornwall in the future, so we are putting the work in now to build a strong economy that attracts investment, helps existing businesses to grow and new businesses to thrive, and creates more and better paid jobs for everybody but particularly those leaving school in the next decade.
That is why the choices we are making in this draft budget are so important.
Despite what you may have read, none of this is set in stone yet. It’s a draft budget. In past years we have listened to what residents have said to inform our final proposals. Your views can, and do, make a difference.
If you don’t support an increase in Council tax because this will cause hardship, then we need to know which services we should reduce, or other ways you think we can generate income.
Your feedback on our proposals and your suggestions about how we do things differently is more important now than ever.
Until 29 December, I and my fellow Cabinet colleagues will be out and about across Cornwall hearing your views, or you can provide your feedback online. Please take part.
We all have a stake in shaping Cornwall for the future and in making tough decisions together. This is a genuine opportunity for you to get involved.
Find out how you can have your say on the next four-year budget here: www.cornwall.gov.uk/budget2017