A LAUNCESTON councillor has labelled Cornwall Council’s most recent budget ‘the road to bankruptcy’. 

John Conway, Conservative Cornwall Councillor for Launceston, has criticised Cornwall Council’s 2024/25 budget, suggesting that it will leave the council and the county in progressively worse positions as time goes on.  

This year’s budget was confirmed last month, with the council settling on the maximum council tax rise of 4.99 per cent for Cornwall’s residents. Included in this is more than £20-million for emergency housing accommodation, and £37-million in spending on care for adults and children.  

However, Cllr Conway believes that decisions made during the council’s budgeting will leave Cornwall worse off.  

At a Launceston Town Council meeting – of which Cllr Conway is also a member – he expressed his concern following confirmation of the budget.  

He said: “I have christened the budget that we’ve got, ’the road to bankruptcy’. 

“If the budget continues on the way that it is, it will mean Cornwall is in a bankrupt situation.”

Cllr Conway continued: “There is an incredible amount of capital works that we needn’t do, Pydar and Langarth we can just pull the plug.  

“There is a £14-million proposed deficit which will be met with general reserve. I am completely against the use of general reserve as it is something that can only be spent once.  

“The forward projection for the next year is a lot worse, and the year after is even worse than that, which is why we run out of money if something doesn’t give in the meantime.” 

Cllr Conway said his primary concerns surround the use of council reserves to prop up services.  

Speaking to the Post, he explained: “The 2024/25 budget balances utilising £14-million of reserves from an opening general reserve of £41.3-million which will result in a general reserve of £27.3-million by April 2025. 

“Paragraph 2.103 on page 311 states that the funding gap will rise to more than £74-million during the remaining three years. 

“Unfortunately, we can only spend each £1 of reserves once. 

“We will therefore have a negative reserve position probably by April 2026 i.e. a bankrupt scenario. 

“We need to make additional savings, we cannot afford to continue subsidising Newquay Airport by £5-million per annum, we cannot fund capital projects such as football stadia, Langarth etc, interest rates on borrowing of five per cent cannot be funded from non-existent revenue budgets.” 

Responding to Cllr Conway’s comments, deputy leader of Cornwall Council, Cllr David Harris, who leads the council on budget and policy formulation and implementation, including matters of resources – including billing, collection and recovery of local taxation, financial forward planning and budgeting, and the effective use of resources and value for money, said: “Cllr Conway addresses a number of areas, the first, Newquay Airport is an issue we are seeking to address, we are actively seeking a partner for the airport.  

“The second, Langarth, is a long-term programme which was started a long time ago – even before the current Conservative leadership came to power. However, the fact is that we need more housing.  

“Much of the spend surrounding the project is regarding getting infrastructure right, and had the council not have gotten involved, there would multiple projects by multiple companies, leading to a disjointed system.”  

Cllr Harris has explained that the use of reserves allows the council to continue providing essential services. 

He continued: “We are raiding reserves next year because we’ve got no choice.  

“We are continuing to provide essential services, such as adult social care, care for the homeless, support for SEND children, and our reserve balances are there to allow us to deliver what we need to. 

“However, technically Cllr Conway is correct. Next year isn’t that bad, it is the years after which are concerning.  

“As it stands, we are facing a £212-million budget gap by 2028, and we haven’t got the funds to cover that. 

“Nobody wants to put council tax up by five per cent but we’ve got no choice. Council’s have things they have to do and so, while I have concerns surrounding the level of spending, I cannot find anything within our spend which we could get rid of.” 

Cllr Harris has expressed that the route of the problem lies in funding from central government.  

“If we end up like Birmingham council, we will have no choice but to stop some the services which we currently provide, and if nothing changes, we’ll be bust within two years. 

“The only way to get this right is for central government to provide fairer funding.  

“From a Cornwall point of view, all we ask for is fairer funding compared to big cities.”