Residents set for 5.4% rise in tax
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