Have Your Say

 


Truro Chamber’s response to Cornwall Council’s budget proposals


Dear Mr. Folkes,


Truro Chamber of Commerce welcome the opportunity to comment on Cornwall Council’s draft budget. We appreciate there is considerable pressure from central government to cut expenditure in the years ahead.

However, the Chamber feels the cumulative effect of, in some cases, small cuts in expenditure would have considerable impact on the vitality and viability of businesses in Truro and other town centres. Our major concerns are as follows;


·         Over recent years the local authority has made considerable increases in car parking charges.  It should be remembered car parking involves price elasticity of demand. In other words demand is affected by price increases. This has affected foot fall in town centres. It impacts on the less well off and encourages shoppers to visit out of town shopping centres where car parking is free. Cornwall Council already raises the second highest revenue from car parks in the country.

·         We would not object to charging for off street parking with the installation of parking meters in principle. It would be welcomed If it were to create more parking spaces by opening up more convenient places for people to park short term and, even perhaps, extend to some residents parking areas that are otherwise empty all day.

      The provision of parking meters would involve considerable investment. Such an investment would perhaps be better spent on the provision of automatic barriers in car parks as are seen in most privately operated car parks. Provision of such barriers would save money on enforcement in the authority’s car parks. Over a period of time it would be self financing and in the medium to long term would save money. Also, shoppers could be more flexible, they would have open ended shopping trips, not dictated by parking tickets. They would shop for longer, spend more and even pay more for parking.

·         Outsourcing of car park operations has been suggested. We would question the idea of outsourcing a service that raises so much revenue.

·         The cutting back on car park cleaning, litter service, precautionary salting routes for winter road network, the closure of toilets, 30% reduction in the contract for maintenance of public open spaces which have all been mooted would make Cornish town centres less attractive to locals and visitors alike. The savings would be minor compared the affect it would have on town centres.

·         The Chamber would object to the cessation of funding for Visit Cornwall and reduction in support of World Heritage Sites and status. Tourism is the lifeblood of Cornwall. The county has to compete with other holiday destinations in the UK and overseas, which are investing heavily in marketing their respective regions.

·         The proposed reduction in support from call centre staff for BIDs schemes, increased charges for issuing summonses and a reduction in Town Team support for BIDS would be unwelcome. BIDS would have fewer resources to promote their town centres.

·         Cut backs on public transport, particularly bus services, affect potential shoppers particularly less well off ones and ones from rural areas. Footfall and spending in town centres is harmed.


Rather than cutting back on these services the Chamber feels certain services could be better provided on a more local level. Truro City Council do a great job providing tourist information, award winning parks and floral displays, toilets and other services. Providing services closer to the community can be more cost effective and the provider can be more responsive to local needs.


In conclusion, the cut backs, many of which would save small amounts, would affect footfall and the viability of many businesses which are struggling to survive in the aftermath of the recession. They could be described as short-termist. It is likely to affect shop occupancy rates and, as a result, impact on council tax revenue.

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THE PENSIONER’S REVOLUTION


There is little doubt that 2015 will be the year of the pension!

It could also be the year of the Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). Alarm bells are already ringing loudly that Chancellor George Osborne’s new pension freedom is going to lead to calamity in that financial sector through a combination of the naive, the foolhardy and the unscrupulous.

Any pension miss-selling is bound to grab the headlines from next April; those scare stories will demonstrate how the once well-funded are now dependent on the state for their final years after frittering away their life savings.

Those pension horror stories already exist. The scandal of poor returns for those buying an annuity is the main reason for the wide-ranging pension reforms. But that has not been the only issue in the pension market.

Those approaching pensionable age have been persuaded to come out of final-salary and money-purchase occupational schemes.

Many firms have battled to end their final salary pensions, as they were proving unsustainable because of increased life expectancy and the economic situation, and switch to money purchase pensions. Some have moved their pensions away from the workplace and struggled to keep track of them.

In your everyday financial life there is probably nothing as complicated as your pension. You should always seek specialist advice whenever making financial decisions, but in the case of pensions, it is essential to consult an IFA.

In some ways it is surprising that the chancellor has not insisted on this. In his March Budget speech when this new pension freedom was revealed, George Osborne promised free pension “advice” for everyone.

Pension “advice” has become “guidance” – but it remains “free”. That will come from the government-funded Pensions Advisory Service (PAS) and the Money Advisory Service (MAS).                                                                                    

It has been hinted that the “guidance” from those bodies will be to tell the customer to go to an IFA. Why bother with the middle man/woman?

Osborne would have offered much greater protection and much less chance of a pension scandal if his Pension Bill had recommended that everyone required “independent financial advice” when making pension decisions, perhaps even requiring an IFA stamp of approval before any changes are allowed.

The media is already focussing on what will happen next April when pension freedom arrives.

A recent Times headline read: “200,000 will ‘blow pensions’ next year” after recent research by Ipsos Mori. 12% (200,000) of those eligible were planning to cash in their entire pension pots. 25% of each sum withdrawn will be tax-free with the remaining 75% taxed at the marginal rate.                                     

Of those planning to withdraw their entire pot, 23% claimed they would save it, 22% would use it to live on and 21% planned to spend it on a holiday – 16% said they would invest in property, 14% give it to children and family and 13% would use it to pay off debts.

A SAGA poll (4,000) mirrored much of the findings of the Ipsos Mori survey, with a clear indication that helping the family was a major factor in what was planned for this released pension money.

With more estates being dragged beyond the Inheritance Tax Threshold (£325,000) when assets are taxed at 40%, lifetime gifts will escape provided the giver survives seven years.                      

 It was also evident from the findings that those who had been prudent over several decades by saving into a pension were not suddenly going to lose all control and “spend, spend, spend”.

Charities responded to the surveys by saying it was vital that the over-50s received independent guidance.

Age UK, through Caroline Abrahams, stated: “This survey emphasises how crucial it is that the Government delivers on its commitment to provide good-quality guidance to retirees...”

Those pensioners planning a holiday also need to be careful and aware when taking out travel insurance, as older and older travellers go further and further.

One couple (aged 68 and 66) saw their travel premium increase by 50% for no other reason, apparently, than they were another year older!                               

In the UK there are 11 million people aged 65 and older – and three million aged over 80. It’s reckoned that by 2030, there could 20 million over-65s; by 2086, a third of the UK’s population will be over 60!

Although we are living longer (and staying healthier), veteran travellers are still a high risk. According to figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) those aged 61-65 are twice as likely to claim as 31-35. Saga figures show that those in their 70s are twice as likely to claim as those in their 50s.

The average cost of a claim on travel insurance for those aged 71-75 is six times higher than for those 21-25.

And, just like a mortgage, there are age limits. Some 40% of those over 65 in the UK have long-standing illnesses (roughly four million). There were 15 million people admitted to UK hospitals in 2013 – seven millions of those were over 65!

When checking the 543 travel insurance policies available for a single trip, just 75 of them had no maximum age limit, according to price comparison site, GoCompare.

Not all pensioners are able to go on holiday – and it is not just the cost that stops them. The number of people aged 60 or more in prison has doubled in a decade, according to Prison Reform Trust. More than 100 people over 80, including five who were 90-plus, were in jail at the end of March this year.               

The percentage of those in prison over 40 has risen from 18.5% in 2002 to 30.5% today. In that period those aged over 60 and 50-59 are the two fastest-growing age groups in the prison population – increases of 146% and 122% respectively.

 Age concern is not going to go away; our ageing population is impacting on all aspects of life, sometimes in ways that were not anticipated. It is not just George Osborne’s Budget revolution that is changing pensioners’ lives!

For a free, no obligation initial chat about your individual finances, call us on 0800 0112825, e-mail info@wwfp.net or take a look at our website www.wwfp.net.

The value of shares and investments can go down as well as up. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

 

 


Press Release - New County Hall

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