CORNWALL Council has voted in favour of raising council tax by the maximum amount of 4.99 per cent for the second year running.

The increase has been criticised by opposition parties – despite them not tabling an alternative budget proposal – but was deemed necessary by the authority’s Conservative administration to tackle increased demand on services such as children in care, school transport and emergency housing needs, which are all running millions over budget.

As he has done on a regular basis, the council deputy leader and portfolio holder for resources Cllr David Harris said it was imperative that Cornwall Council needed “fair and proper funding” from central government “otherwise we will be filing a Section S114 notice in a couple of years time”, which equates to the local authority going bust.

Councillors voted 45 to 28 to set a net budget for 2024/25 of £769.577-million,

which will include a council tax requirement of £393.699-million; an increase of the Cornwall Council element of 2.99 per cent plus a two per cent levy to be spent solely on adult social care – an overall increase of 4.99 per cent, equivalent to a Band D charge of £1,892.75.

The budget includes a net increase of around £37-million in spending on care for adults and children. The vote also included an agreement that a 100 per cent council tax premium be charged on second homes from April 1, 2025.

Cornwall Council leader Cllr Linda Taylor said: “This budget has been particularly challenging and it’s only going to get harder. We cannot afford to break strides to overcome fiscal challenges facing this council.”

Cllr Harris added: “Nobody wants to raise council tax, but there is no choice if we are to continue providing the support our residents rely on.  In fact, 95 per cent of councils across the country are raising their rates by the maximum of 4.99 per cent, which demonstrates the situation we are all in.

“This situation will not improve until we achieve fairer funding from Westminster for local government, and we will continue to press for those vital changes.”

She said efforts were ongoing to push the Government for fairer funding to recognise the high levels of deprivation in Cornwall as well as its ageing population and the economic impact that has.

The council’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Colin Martin said the budget was a “disaster”, saying that as soon as the Conservatives took control of the council, “they lost control of the finances”.

Former leader of Cornwall Council, Independent councillor Julian German criticised the council for not getting value for money on home to school transport while also increasing its spend on consultants.

Conservative councillor John Conway, who supported the budget, said: “We need to rename this document the ‘roadmap to bankruptcy’. Even Cllr Harris has said in two years time if we don’t get something a Section 114 notice is going to be necessary. So we are in the mire.”

Cllr Dick Cole, leader of the Mebyon Kernow / Greens group, added his voice to the call for appropriate and fair funding for local government, and said the group could not support the budget.

The council’s Labour leader Cllr Jayne Kirkham said: “Despite the rise in this budget, we are still struggling, cutting, eating into reserves and selling off the family silver. We’ve lost all sorts of things in Cornwall from swimming pools and theatres to green spaces.

“The shift to local taxation has increased which has led to more burden for Cornwall taxpayers.”

She also called for fairer funding, saying people in Cornwall pay more council tax than people in very expensive properties in other parts of the country.