Res­i­dents set for 5.4% rise in tax

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - LIZ BRADFIELD [email protected]­plc.com

RES­I­DENTS in Brid­gend county look set to pay 5.4% more coun­cil tax next year with warn­ings from coun­cil fi­nance bosses there could be a hike of over 10% the fol­low­ing year.

Brid­gend County Bor­ough Coun­cil (BCBC) col­lects over £70 mil­lion in coun­cil tax from around 65,000 house­holds across the county bor­ough ev­ery year.

But coun­cil­lors point out the amount doesn’t even cover the schools bud­get which is due to re­ceive £94m in 2019-2020 un­der the cur­rent pro­pos­als

Since the sum­mer coun­cil chiefs have been call­ing for an end to fund­ing cuts from Welsh Gov- ern­ment, warn­ing the lo­cal au­thor­ity had reached a crit­i­cal point and would soon have to make de­ci­sions pre­vi­ously thought “un­think­able”.

At a cab­i­net meet­ing on Tues­day Novem­ber 20 the coun­cil’s fi­nance boss Gill Lewis said that based on the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s pro­posed bud­get of al­most £270m, the coun­cil tax for 2019-20 would be 5.4%.

BCBC’s pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the bud­get which ended on Sun­day Novem­ber 18, stated coun­cil tax was set to in­crease by at least 4.9% in 2019.

In last year’s medium term fi­nan­cial strat­egy, the coun­cil had pre­dicted an in­crease in coun­cil tax of 4.5% for 2019-20.

But of­fi­cers say with the on­go­ing un­cer­tainty around fund­ing in fu­ture years and sig­nif­i­cant pres­sures re­sult­ing from pay and de­mo­graphic in­creases - more school chil­dren and older peo­ple with in­creas­ingly com­plex med­i­cal con­di­tions - the coun­cil tax hike is nec­es­sary.

They warn in 2020-21 coun­cil tax could in­crease by over 10%.

In a re­port which went be­fore cab­i­net mem­bers on Tues­day, of­fi­cers say only 35% - £3.7m - of cuts have been iden­ti­fied for for 2020-21 leav­ing the coun­cil at risk of fail­ing to bal­ance the bud­get.

The re­port by Ms Lewis states: “We will con­tinue to iden­tify op­tions to close the gap dur­ing the re­main­der of the fi­nan­cial year and into 2019-20, at the same time seek­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing from Welsh Gov­ern­ment.”

She adds: “A ma­jor chal­lenge for the coun­cil is how to con­tinue to meet pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions for many highly vis­i­ble and tan­gi­ble ser­vices when the avail­able bud­get in­evitably means the coun­cil will be less able to de­liver these ser­vices to the same level and fre­quency.

“These ser­vices are of­ten the ones the pub­lic iden­tify with their coun­cil tax pay­ments.

“The coun­cil’s strat­egy is to re­tain and main­tain the most im­por­tant pub­lic ser­vices in this area whilst driv­ing ever greater ef­fi­ciency, mak­ing some ser­vice re­duc­tions where we think it will have the least im­pact across coun­cil ser­vices, recog­nis­ing that this still may be sig­nif­i­cant in some ar­eas.”

At the meet­ing coun­cil leader Huw David said the draft re­port of the medium term fi­nan­cial strat­egy was a “stark warn­ing” of the se­ri­ous­ness of the coun­cil’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

He said: “Most of the other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Wales are cur­rently look­ing at a coun­cil tax in­crease of any­thing from 5% to 15% this com­ing fi­nan­cial year be­cause we are all fac­ing sim­i­lar pres­sures.”

Deputy leader Hy­wel Wil­liams added: “This is a draft re­port.

“The re­port sets out one op­tion for set­ting a bal­anced bud­get for 2019-20 and a fur­ther strat­egy for get­ting us from 2021-23.

“The coun­cil is the largest em­ployer in the county bor­ough and we are re­spon­si­ble for a gross spend of £400m.

“We need to set a bal- an­ced bud­get in Fe­bru­ary.

“Next year we will re­ceive £1.22m less than last year [in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment set­tle­ment].

“We know the fu­ture years will be very chal­leng­ing with a fur­ther £30m to £40m need­ing to be found to bal­ance the bud­get.

“The only way we can do this is by pos­si­bly hav­ing a coun­cil tax rise in ex­cess of 10% - we need to do this to pro­tect vi­tal ser­vices for 140,000 res­i­dents in.the county bor­ough.”

Fi­nal de­ci­sions on the bud­get for 2019-20 will be made by coun­cil­lors in Fe­bru­ary.

Brid­gend County Bor­ough Coun­cil

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