Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Cornwall's Budget (with apologies to the English language)

Today Cornwall Council set its budget for the coming financial year. The central plank of the proposal is a Liberal Democrat one - to accept the government grant which means a freeze in council tax.

The Conservative-led administration has also accepted Lib Dem demands on saving local bus services and protecting public toilets from closure - both of which are very good news.

Astoundingly, the Leader of the Council made the claim that there had been no cuts to either leisure or library services in Cornwall last year or this. I challenged him on this, pointing out the cut to the hours of virtually every library in Cornwall and the dumping of Camelford Leisure Centre and Bude Sea Pool by the council. In response, the Leader attempted to justify his statement saying that these were reductions, rather than cuts - abuse of language which a quick check of a thesaurus would disprove.

The Liberal Democrat group on the council voted in favour of the aspects of the budget that dealt with the council tax freeze. There were twelve members (mainly independents and MK) who voted against the budget and six who abstained. Of particular interest is that there were two cabinet members who failed to back this key plank of the budget - Neil Burden abstained and Julian German voted against.

The Lib Dems also voted in favour of the housing investment plan. We aren't completely convinced that the administration has worked this plan out fully, but we do think they are heading in the right direction and we were happy to support it. Similarly, I also backed the capital investment plan.

Where we disagreed with the administration is over their business plan - their manifesto, in effect - and their medium term financial strategy. We do not agree with the vision that the Conservatives have for Cornwall - there are far too many whiz bang schemes and not enough concentration on jobs and high quality core services. We also do not believe that they are competent enough to run it properly. You only have to look at the failure of the car parking budget for an example.

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