The rise in Council Tax in Cornwall won’t be as bad as we all thought. At today’s cabinet Adam Paynter, Cornwall Council leader, and Julian German the Cabinet member for Resources announced they have been able to immediately pass on some extra Government cash and reduce the increase in Council Tax to 4.99% rather than 5.99%.
This will mean the budget will revert to the original plan to go up 4.99% this year, 3.99% in 2019/20 and 1.99% for the two years after that.
The final budget was all set to go but then yesterday local Government minister Sajid Javid adjusted the amount of money that he was giving to various authorities around the country. Fortunately this means Cornwall will be receiving £2.2m extra for adult social care. Julian German was still adjusting figures going into the Cabinet meeting this morning.
The council leaders have agreed to immediately pass this benefit on to council tax payers. They could have chosen to keep both the tax rise and have the extra money announced yesterday.
An average Band D council tax bill will now be £1468 rather than £1482. 2% of this rise is ring-fenced for Adult Social Care.
The Council Leader Adam Paynter said that this extra money was a first success for the Fairer Funding for Cornwall campaign. The leader said fairer funding from central government would bring in an extra £39 million a year to Cornwall which would mean an £71 extra per resident.
Cllr German said that his initial budget proposal presented in November has changed because of the public consultation. “We have listened” he told cabinet.
The council’s money man pointed to the examples of adjusting the budget to allow for the four year plan to continue Citizens Advice service in Cornwall, and to stop the rapid increase in transport costs for post 16 year olds in education.
Despite all the cuts, Cllr German said he could still set aside over £10m to fund the Council’s commitment to implementing the Foundation Living Wage (FLW) in order to raise wage levels for Council staff and those employed by Council contractors; aiming to raise the average wage across Cornwall.
But the Conservatives are also claiming credit for the extra funding. Steve Double MP has said it was he who secured a commitment from Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak for additional Government funding for Cornwall Council as part of the local government funding settlement for 2018.
Commenting, Steve said:
“Along with my Cornish colleagues I have been keen to press the Government for the additional funding that Cornwall needs as part of the local government funding settlement.”
“Unlike the Lib Dems and their friends running Cornwall Council, who shout loudly about fair funding but don’t actually do anything else, my colleagues and I have been working hard behind the scenes to deliver real results.”
“I was pleased to meet the Minister and receive his commitment for an additional £1.7m funding for Cornwall’s Adult Social Care services and an extra £1.5m for the Rural Services Delivery Grant.”
“There is more to do but I am pleased we have been able to deliver this excellent result and my colleagues and I will continue working to get the best deal for Cornwall from Westminster.”
Commenting, Leader of the Conservatives on Cornwall Council Cllr Phil Seeva said:
“It is great to see another positive result from the Cornish Conservative MPs. The Conservatives on Cornwall Council have worked tirelessly with our Westminster representatives to get a better deal for Cornwall and this outcome shows it is working. It goes to show that our six Cornish MPs, along with the Conservatives being the largest group on Cornwall Council, are a powerful force for lobbying and delivering the best results for Cornwall, not just moaning and talking about what we want to happen, as we see with the current Administration at County Hall.”
The Cabinet have also today gained approval for the rest of the Council’s budget for 2018/19, a four year business plan, a 30 year Housing strategy, the establishment of a new publicly owned arms length company to build a 1000 new council houses.
This afternoon they will seek to approve the recommendations from Cllr Sue James for a new Waste strategy that will aim to drastically improve Cornwall’s poor recycling rates.
The waste strategy will ‘inform’ what we want from the new Waste Contract due to go live in 2020. It will include swapping to weekly recycling collections and fortnightly bin collections, plus collection of food waste. The strategy is modelled on the success of Wales.
The council will begin the significant investment in homes, commercial space and supporting infrastructure through the Council’s Investment Programme.
The cabinet have made it clear this week that they are proud to be proposing a balanced budget and business plan for the next four years. This means the council plans to only spend what it gets and won’t need to borrow anymore to deliver services. Members of the Lib Dem/Indie coalition have not been shy to point out how they have managed to scrimp and save in the face of severe government cuts to keep our head above water, whilst pointing fingers at Tory led administrations like Shropshire and Northamptonshire who are going into the red.
That doesn’t mean Cornwall won’t be borrowing any money. In fact we’ll be borrowing an extra £600 million but this will be seed money for investment and house building. The cabinet started asking for some of this money today to fund the new housing company as part of their Housing Delivery Plan.
The as yet unnamed new company will be wholly-owned by the Council and established to own the housing rental stock built through the Housing Development Programme Pilot Schemes, and the Housing Development Programme (HDP). The new builds will be financed by 15% Equity and 85% long-term debt from the Council which will be funded from borrowing and added to the Council’s capital programme.
Sites which meet a range of planning and delivery criteria will be sought in identified hotspots including Truro, Penzance, Bodmin, Newquay, Falmouth, Camborne, St Austell, Redruth, Hayle, St Ives, Saltash, Liskeard and Helston, Launceston and Penryn.
The council say the HDP seeks to improve the quality, choice and affordability in the private rented sector, while providing a mixed tenure of homes:
– 50% private market rental
– 35% affordable rent and shared ownership in line with local planning
– 15% sold to the private market on completion.
Although the council will have to wait over 10 years to start turning a profit, the analysis for the whole HDP shows that the company delivers a total profit over 40 years of £163.5m. The majority of this, £145.5m, is returned to the Council in the form of a dividend.