Cornwall Council’s leaders have criticised central government for failing to recognise local budgetary pressures and increasing service demands in Cornwall following the announcement of the provisional local government finance settlement this week.
Council Leader Adam Paynter said it was disappointing that local taxes and fees were being pushed higher while the government failed to recognise the massive strain being placed on local services and provide any real additional funding.
“Councils have absorbed a massive share of spending cuts from central government, leaving many of our services under acute pressure. This pressure will only continue as the central government grant reduces even further by 2019/20. Adult social care and services for vulnerable children and families are under real stress due to increasing demand and reduced funding. Our current budget consultation shows the challenge we face in finding the funding gaps for these critical services, as well as cleaning streets, collecting rubbish and recycling, and fixing potholes. Already we have to find £75m is savings over the next four years.”
Deputy Leader and Cabinet portfolio holder for resources, Julian German, said: “While the settlement grant means Councils will be able to increase general council tax by a further 1% by raising the current 2% imposed cap to 3% (in addition to the current 3% rise to fund adult social care), it’s not realistic for the Council to simply continue passing these costs on to local residents,”
“I have been out and about talking to people about our current budget and while there is some understanding of the challenges, it’s also clear that many people are finding it hard and an extra 1% would drive them into very real hardship.”
The government also announced that planning fees are to go up by 20% early in 2018, with the increased income to be invested back in to the planning service.
“I’m very disappointed with the local government settlement,” Cllr Paynter said. “We get a slight benefit from the rural grant, but in real terms we’re no better off. There is no new funding for adult social care, which is one of the Council’s biggest pressures as we face a growing ageing population. Instead the Government has chosen to release a Fair Funding Review consultation which we will be actively contributing Cornwall’s voice to. That leaves Council to pick up the tab in the interim.”
Councillor Paynter said the Council would continue to lobby central government for fairer funding for Cornwall.
Nationally, the central government revenue support grant to councils will fall from £7.2 billion in 2016/7 to £2.3 billion in 2019/20, with Councils having to fill the funding gap.