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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Warning over 10% rise in council tax

A Llangollen county councillor says Denbighshire residents could be facing a 10% rise in council tax as the result of a much worse financial settlement from the Welsh Government than expected.

Cllr Stuart Davies has issued the grim forecast in the wake of an announcement yesterday (Tuesday) by the county council on the latest financial outlook.

The council expressed its concern about the likelihood of a "substantially worse" financial settlement for the county for 2015/6 than had previously been indicated.

Cllr Julian Thompson-Hill, Lead Member for Finance and Assets, said: "We have been working very pro-ctively as a county on developing our budget strategy for 2015/6 and beyond, to ensure that we are not having to take knee jerk reactions late in the year.

"We have developed a new system for providing our councillors with choices over where we make our reductions in budget and are working our way through detailed discussions on each and every one of our service areas.

"As Welsh local authorities, we have been given from Welsh Government an indicative budget reduction at an average of -1.6% and this is what we have been working to deliver.

"We are now very concerned that the Welsh Government may be considering a significantly greater reduction in the local government budget next year.

"This would equate to a potential additional £3 million over and above the £6m of cuts we are already planning for.

"What we need from the Minister is a clear statement as to exactly how bad the settlement is going to be so that we can make our plans accordingly.

"As an authority our councillors want and need to make decisions well in advance of the final announcement of the budget in November otherwise we will not have sufficient time to ensure proposals are properly thought through and indeed many will require a substantial lead in time to deliver and these decisions simply cannot be made with only a couple of months notice.

"I am also highly concerned that Welsh Government may be looking for councils to protect spend in areas which are not statutory. In these very difficult times it is vital that local councils have as much flexibility as possible to determine at a local level, taking into account local priorities, how we structure our own budgets. The more areas which are externally protected the worse the impact on remaining services. In a similar vein we would be calling on the Minister to assure local government that the established principle that there will be no new requirements imposed on councils without the requisite funding being allocated will remain in force.

"In all of this, Welsh Government need to be clear that whilst we will at all times seek to preserve front line services for the residents of Denbighshire, the impact of these cuts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on our ability to maintain services and we would welcome the Minister giving us the assurance that they will not be making any punitive reductions in local government funding. We do appreciate that they have the perfect right to transfer funds from local councils to the NHS.

"I would reiterate what is needed from Ministers is a clear and transparent announcement as to what reductions in budget will be required from councils, in order that we can plan in good time and we do not need to be hamstrung by having large areas of budget protected restricting our choices unnecessarily. This is only the same consistency of approach adopted in other regions of the UK where 3 year budgeting for local councils has been the norm for some years, this should be the case here in Wales to allow us to forward plan effectively."

Cllr Stuart Davies said: "This is devastating news for residents.

"The way the funding works means that £300k is equivalent to 1% on council tax. This news means that, if we have to find an extra £3 million on top of the cut that we were threatened with, we could be potentially looking at a 10% rise in council tax, all due to the stupidity of the Ministers.

"They are presiding over a failing NHS and are allegedly taking money off local government to pay for their mistakes with the NHS.

"I had the unedifying sight last week of the former Minister for Health, Lesley Griffiths, pontificating about councils merging when she couldn't get it right at health and is now going to make a mess of local government.

"This makes my job almost impossible. Next Monday I will be participating in the budget process where I will be asked to make swinging cuts in our services or put council tax up."

1 comment:

  1. The very least our Town Council could do is abandon their plans for capital expenditure and reduce the precept dramatically to help compensate for this outrageous increase. Over the last few years, residents haven't been so much as hit as hammered, with a 16% hike in the Precept in one year alone. County should also allow us to decide how their cuts are prioritised too. A Public Meeting iin the Town Hall really is a must in this climate. If our Government is really as opposed to austerity as they claim, they have a damned peculiar way of showing it.