Cornwall Council 'could go bust in two years' without extra funding

The council is facing a major budget shortfall. Credit: ITV News

The deputy leader of Cornwall Council has warned the authority could "go bust" within the next two years and faces a "financial abyss" without extra government funding.On Tuesday 20 February, councillors debated increasing council tax by almost five per cent - the maximum allowed without triggering a referendum - but even that may not be enough to balance the books.Cllr David Harris, Conservative deputy leader who is responsible for finance, urged his colleagues to "scream properly" at politicians in Westminster, adding: "If we don't get a radical review, we will be bust inside two years".

The council has a budget shortfall of £14million, which will be taken out of reserves.

Demand for services is outstripping income, with particular pressure on children in care; school transport; and temporary and emergency accommodation for homeless people.

The council must use £14million of reserves to present a balanced budget.

Cllr Colin Martin, Liberal Democrat leader, branded the budget "a disaster" and accused the Conservatives of taking "political choices" and "losing control".

The council will be allowed to increase council tax on second homes, but this will not come into force until April 2025.

Cllr Dick Cole, of Mebyon Kernow, said there is "no option" other than to make cuts, use reserves and increase council tax, but added the county "should not be in this position".

Labour leader Cllr Jayne Kirkham said: "We have moved the burden to the people least able to cope. Council tax is an unfair tax. Householders in Cornwall pay more than people who own very expensive properties in other areas of the country. We have more poverty and we don't get the help from central government for that."

Almost every local council with responsibility for social care in England plans to raise its council tax by the maximum this April, according to data compiled by the County Councils Network (CCN).

These increases come despite councils receiving an emergency injection of £600m last month.