Big tax hikes to beat coun­cil cuts loom for N.Wales

AV­ER­AGE BILLS SET TO RISE BY £55-£60 A YEAR IN NORTH-WEST

Bangor Mail - - NEWS - Gareth Wyn Wil­liams

RATEPAY­ERS in north-west Wales face hikes of around £55 a year as coun­cils con­tinue to feel the pinch.

Both Gwynedd and An­gle­sey lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are set to ap­prove in­creases of 5% as they bat­tle to plug fi­nan­cial black holes, hav­ing each been passed on cuts of 0.1% in their block grants from Cardiff Bay: above­in­fla­tion tax rises are likely for the whole of North Wales.

A re­port that will be dis­cussed by Gwynedd’s cabi­net on Fe­bru­ary 13 rec­om­mends that mem­bers ap­prove a 4.8% coun­cil tax in­crease from April, mean­ing the av­er­age “Band D” house­hold will have to fork out an ex­tra £59.57 a year, or £1.15 a week.

The re­port notes: “The key to all of this is to strike an ap­prop- ri­ate bal­ance be­tween the need to spend on ser­vices for the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety, and the ap­pro­pri­ate in­crease to be levied on the res­i­dents of Gwynedd.

“This year, it is rec­om­mended to in­crease the tax 4.8%, which would pro­duce tax of £67.74m.

“The choice be­tween main­tain­ing ser­vices and tax­a­tion is al­ways dif­fi­cult, of course, and it is a mat­ter for all mem­bers to weigh up and ar­rive at the bal­ance they con­sider to be ap­pro­pri­ate.”

The fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made dur­ing a full coun­cil meet­ing on March 1.

Over the Me­nai Strait, mean­while, mem­bers of the author­ity’s Cor­po­rate Scru­tiny Com­mit­tee will be asked to rec­om­mend a 5% rise for is­lan­ders, 1% of which will be ringfenced for its so­cial ser­vices de­part­ment.

An­gle­sey Coun­cil’s chil­dren’s ser­vices were slammed by in­spec­tors fol­low­ing a visit in Novem­ber, 2016, who lifted the lid on sev­eral fail­ings in the ser­vice.

Ac­cord­ing to in­spec­tors, ser­vices “were not al­ways de­liv­ered by a skilled, com­pe­tent, suit­ably qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced work­force,” with a “par­tic­u­lar vul­ner­a­bil­ity” at team man­ager level.

Since then, the author­ity has vowed to bring the ser­vice up to scratch, with the lat­est CSSIW re­port not­ing that “sig­nif­i­cant progress” has been made in the mean­time.

How­ever, it also noted: “Given the sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns iden­ti­fied dur­ing the in­spec­tion, there re­mains sub­stan­tial work for the lo­cal author­ity to carry out to fully im­ple­ment the im­prove­ment plan and en­sure that im­prove­ments are sus­tained. We will con­tinue to mon­i­tor progress over the com­ing months with a more for­mal re­view by way of a re-in­spec­tion later in 2018.”

Ac­cord­ing to coun­cil of­fi­cers, the ex­tra 1% in­crease would off­set in­creased costs faced within so­cial ser­vices. If the full 5% is im­ple­mented, gen­er­at­ing an ex­tra £1.67m in rev­enue, it means in­creased bills of £54.36 a year for the av­er­age “Band D” prop­erty, or £1.05 a week.

This would still place An­gle­sey as the sec­ond low­est North Wales coun­cil, slightly above Wrex­ham.

The fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made at the next full coun­cil meet­ing on Fe­bru­ary 28. Conwy Coun­cil has also agreed a 5% in­crease next year, with 4.75% in neigh­bour­ing Den­bighshire: 3.9% has been ap­proved in Wrex­ham, with no de­ci­sion yet in Flintshire.

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