Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet has proposed reducing the Council Tax increase despite the cost of living rising at its fastest rate in three decades and the continued pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members met today to discuss feedback from the public budget consultation as well as to review the council’s current financial position.
After further consideration of the authority’s draft budget, Cabinet Members have agreed to cut the previously proposed increase of 4.39% to 2.5% in recognition of the pressures being faced by residents.
Now, a proposed Council Tax increase of 2.5% per cent is being recommended to Full Council – that would mean a weekly increase of 66p on the average Band D property or £34.07 for the year.
All 74 members of the council will meet in March to discuss the recommendation and make a final decision.
Cabinet Member for Resources Cllr David Jenkins said that they had reviewed their budget plan and made key adjustments which allowed leeway to cap the council tax at 2.5%.
Cllr Jenkins said: “The public response to the consultation quite clearly indicated a majority favoured the lowest increase possible and I would like us to do everything we can to support our residents, recognising that the cost of living is rising at its fastest rate in three decades.
“To be able to set a Council Tax increase as low as 2.5%, I believe is a great achievement considering that there are so many financial risks and pressures with the budget this year, including the recognition that inflation is running well in excess of 5 %. This low increase will hopefully help all our residents of the county.
“Adopting these proposals, allows the Cabinet to present a fair and balanced budget to county council, which responds to the major concerns fed back from the consultation but also recognises the significant inflationary pressures that are being placed in front of the council over the forthcoming year and the financial risks of any future response to COVID-19.”
The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover planned expenditure, as well as having money in reserves to pay for unplanned expenses and emergencies.
Cllr Jenkins added: “I would like to express my thanks to all who took part in the consultation or responded to the surveys. One thing that is generally clear from those who took part in the consultation is that they do appreciate that difficult choices need to be made.”
Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “We have had two extremely hard years with COVID and to be able to present a budget which maintains and develops the services we have is quite an achievement.”
The budget also includes no proposed cuts to school budgets for the next financial year, Cllr Jenkins said: “There are no savings allocated to delegated school budgets next year, allowing headteachers and all schools staff to continue to put all their focus into helping Carmarthenshire’s learners get back on track after what has again been a disruptive two years.”
Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We are continuing to see the impact of the pandemic on our schools, it has been a very difficult for staff and learners and we haven’t yet seen the end of this with the omicron variant.
“We have supported the schools to the best of our abilities, and I want to thank all our headteachers and staff for working with us.
“This is excellent news for all our schools allowing them to deliver the current level of service in future years.”
Image Credit: Nigel Davies / Carmarthenshire County Hall