Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Alex Folkes' money 'saving'

Alex Folkes has suggested 38 ways for Cornwall Council to save money.
 Allow Cornwall Council control to raise charges on things like the Tamar Bridge and create local income tax and tourist taxes? 
Most of us would lose the will to live if  we considered each suggestion in turn but perhaps a few general observations can be made.

Approximately eight of these are not ways for the Council to save but in fact ways to make it easier for the Council to raise more money by taxes or fees. He talks of local income taxes, tourist taxes, less restriction on raising (bridge) tolls. I hardly think that the Council wants these powers to charge us less.

Bizarrely, Alex Folkes considers that allowing the Council to charge more in planning fees would be a demonstration of market forces. In fact, it would simply be a tax by another name as the Council is the only provider of planning permissions.

A few of the ideas repeat those already proposed by the Local Government Association to update the way in which it is decided how much government grant local authorities will receive and for these amounts to be clear well in advance to allow good budget planning. This is long over due.

Three points relate to the extra costs or restrictions that arise for the Council from state aid, procurement and VAT rules. These are fair points but they probably all depend on renegotiating a deal with the EU, which I thought Liberal Democrats were generally against. Unless you say you will leave unless you get a better deal, your bargaining position is rather poor.

Five ideas relate to filing less returns with central government, simplifying accounts etc but some of these may give rise to less transparency and less ability to compare the performance of Cornwall with other local authorities. One idea would actually give rise to more red tape.

Eight ideas are a plea for more powers. This is very attractive to the Council, of course. However, as the recent news on the Iceland Bank fiasco demonstrates,  the more rope we have.........
Of course we must get more money to cope with flooding  and natural disasters but much of that case has already been made to the government.

There may well be a case to review the number of councillors.  However, I think that councillors are the very last people who should make a decision on this for  obvious reasons.

Overall, it is a list which looks like it has been pulled together in large measure from ideas of officers. It is very much what would suit the Council, not necessarily what would suit Cornwall.

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