31 January 2024
Truro City Council has agreed a budget for 2024/25 which will ensure it can continue to deliver much needed local services and maintain public facilities and buildings and put the council on a sound financial footing for the future.
Currently employing around 56 members of staff, plus seasonal staff, the City Council is responsible for providing cemeteries, parks, play areas, open spaces and gardens, including Boscawen Park, Tremorvah, Redannick and Newbridge Lane playing fields, along with Coosebean woodland, Treffry Road community woodland, Beechwood Parc, Victoria Gardens, Hendra Skatepark and Daubuz Moor; allotments, the community library, visitor information, destination marketing, public toilets, CCTV provision and community development initiatives.
It also part funds the City’s Anti-Social Behaviour Officer who maintains public safety and enforces regulations.
The Council owns or leases a number of buildings and spaces in the city, including Lemon Quay, the Municipal Building and Clock Tower, Hendra Hall, Coosebean, the Community Library, Moresk Centre and Zebs. It is also involved in a number of exciting projects, including the tennis court refurbishment and new Café and pavilion at Boscawen; Idless Nursery Development, and the New Life for City Buildings and the Boscawen Sports Hub Town Deal projects.
The majority of funding for the City Council comes via an annual precept, which is collected as part of the general council tax bill. The remainder is generated through income from a variety of different sources, and grants for specific projects.
The Council is acutely aware of the challenges facing residents during the current cost of living crisis and has been working very hard to minimise costs and make savings to keep any increase to the precept as low as possible. This has included augmenting our finance team to review all areas of spending, and identify options for generating additional income.
Unfortunately, like other councils across England, the Council is facing serious financial challenges created by the combination of ongoing reductions in funding by the Government and Cornwall Council, high inflation, fluctuating commercial costs and energy prices, the impact of the National Pay Award for staff and an ever-increasing demand for services.
Increases in interest rates and construction costs have resulted in higher than predicted charges for delivering a number of key projects over the past 12 months. The City Council has also had to provide bridging funding for the initial costs of developing its two Town Deal projects. Together these factors have led to a significant reduction in the authority’s reserves which are now below the recommended statutory required minimum level for local authorities.
The Council is also being required to meet the £1.2m costs of repairing the Clock Tower and is currently in discussions with the building’s owner Cornwall Council over the creation of a long-term repayment schedule.
The impact of these exceptional financial pressures means that to maintain the current level of services provided for residents, improve facilities, support local organisations and activities and build up a sufficient level of reserves to put the authority on a sound financial footing for the years ahead, the Council has been forced to look at increasing its precept for the coming year.
Following a debate at this week’s meeting of the full Council, councillors voted by 12 to 3 to set a precept of £3,005,618 for the 2024 /2025 financial year. This will mean an increase of £1.57 per week for a Band D household.
“We recognise the significant difficulties many of our residents are facing at this time and have not made the decision to increase our precept lightly “said Truro Mayor Carol Swain.
“The scale of the financial challenges facing us mean that we have no choice but to increase the precept if we want to protect services and ensure that the Council has sufficient reserves to finance both our day to day operations and future plans. With various schemes, projects and staffing changes, we have a very important budget year ahead of us for 2024/25.
“The budget has been prepared in a sustainable way reflecting outside financial factors affecting our communities, but still with a view to allowing the City Council to deliver services locally to meet the needs and aspirations of the community. This increase will safeguard services now and put the Council on a more secure financial footing, enabling us to look at lower increases in the future.”
The increase agreed at this week’s meeting relates to the City Council element of the council tax. Cornwall Council and Devon and Cornwall Police have not yet decided on their precepts.