THE MAYOR of St Ives has warned the imminent increase in the precept – the proportion of council tax going to the town council to provide key services – may look "frightening" in percentage terms.
St Ives Town Council fixes its precept, like other towns and parishes in west Cornwall, in the next few days.
But as Cornwall Council has cut costs in various ways, some of its responsibilities may now fall on town councils – and St Ives may be facing new additional costs.
The town has long been working to take over the Guildhall from Cornwall Council and while that may eventually make money for the council, in the short term there are new costs to absorb.
The town council is also looking at taking on the provision of public toilets – considered by many to be crucial in a seaside town – after Cornwall Council said it would no longer pay for them.
The authority is also responding sympathetically to calls for a Neighbourhood Plan to formulate what sort of development is allowed in a town that has a skyline dominated by flats and cranes.
All of these cost money and mayor Ron Tulley has warned that any potential increase in the precept may be alarming if analysed as a percentage rise, rather than an actual pounds and pence increase.
The level of the precept is due to be determined by the full council tonight.
Mr Tulley would not discuss figures but he said: "When we take over the toilets and the Guildhall, in absolute terms it's not going to lead to a big increase but if you look at it as a percentage rise it may look big.
"If you take a choice to cut things like St Ives' toilets from Cornwall Council, it's minute in terms of its budget but when you pass those costs to St Ives Town Council it becomes a huge amount.
"It can look frightening when you present rises as a percentage of the previous budget."
The council is also considering increasing the hours of its current three paid staff – the clerk, administration officer and clerical officer – and bringing in a consultant to handle the Neighbourhood Plan process and possibly another as a property consultant.
Mr Tulley said: "With the extra workload we are just looking if we need extra staff to deal with it but the issue is cost."
Councillors were also due to consider adding new responsibilities to job descriptions of the current staff, increasing their salaries and their hours.
See next week's Cornishman for full details of council tax precept plans from our town councils across west Cornwall.