Cornwall

Cornwall council tax: Lack of freeze preparation 'a mistake'

Cornwall Council crest
Image caption The Conservative-Independent authority is freezing council tax for the third year running

Cornwall Council made a "big mistake" by not being prepared for a council tax freeze, an MP has said.

The cabinet had planned to raise its levy by 1.97% but an alternative budget put forward by opposition Liberal Democrats was approved instead.

Camborne and Redruth Conservative George Eustice said the authority should consider an emergency budget after local elections on 2 May.

The authority's cabinet is to debate how to deal with the freeze on Monday.

'Sensitive budget needed'

The Liberal Democrats' proposal for a budget for 2013-14 was passed by 52 votes to 49 in February, partly due to support from backbench Conservatives.

It meant the Conservative/Independent-controlled authority froze council tax for the third year running.

The cabinet argued a rise was the only option to protect frontline services but the Lib Dems said their budget focused more on what local people wanted.

However, the authority needs to find an extra £4.6m in savings on top of £30m identified as part of a four-year budget strategy.

Mr Eustice said the council should have been better prepared for such a freeze and a better look at the situation was required after a new authority was formed.

He said: "What I hope will happen is that, after council elections in May, the new regime will be able to have an emergency budget and have a proper look at how to deliver these savings but do it in the most sensitive way."

A report to be discussed at the cabinet meeting has predicted cuts to frontline services and job losses.

It said most of the savings would be made by reducing the dependency on agency staff and 30 jobs that could be cut - both agency and staff - had been identified.

But it also warned the number could rise to about 135.

Day centres for the elderly and disabled, libraries and some children's services could also be affected, it said.

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