4.39% council tax rise proposed in Carmarthenshire

A 4.39% council tax rise has been proposed in Carmarthenshire to help deal with what one senior councillor described as “genuinely unprecedented” cost pressures.

The council is in line to receive £311.6 million from the Welsh Government in 2022-23 – that’s £26 million more than the current financial year and a rise of 9.2%.

Cabinet members have approved a raft of budget proposals which would result in it spending £417.8m on core services like education and waste collection, with the remaining £106.2 million coming from council tax.

Cllr David Jenkins, cabinet member for resources, told a meeting on January 17: “I believe this is a very fair and balanced outcome with the extreme inflationary and other pressures, and unquantifiable Covid risk which continues to exist.”

Opposition leader, Cllr Rob James, said after the meeting that the Plaid Cymru-led administration was hitting hard-pressed families with further tax increases despite receiving the best local Government settlement in over a decade.

It’s still early days in the budget-setting process and the public is being asked for its views by February 6 as part of a consultation. Cabinet will meet again in February to discuss the responses.

The administration has set aside £757,000 which could be used to row back on £3.8 million of savings proposals before full council sets the budget on March 2.

Reading from a report, Cllr David Jenkins listed inflationary costs coming down the track such as staff pay rises, including for teachers and domiciliary care workers.

The authority, he said, would also have to take on additional costs presented by Covid. Currently, they can claim them back from Cardiff Bay.

Cllr Jenkins described the present system as a “financial lifeline” – one which had returned £50 million to the council’s coffers since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

He said: “The scale of the expenditure pressure is at a genuinely unprecedented level. We will continue to need to provide efficiencies and savings.”

He added that councils would have to pay more in national insurance employer rates when the UK-wide 2.5% increase in the tax came into effect on April 1.

But he and other cabinet members welcomed the provisional settlement from the Welsh Government, which is to be confirmed on March 1.

As things stand, Carmarthenshire’s education and children’s department would receive £11 million more than the current year.

Referring to this figure, Cllr Glynog Davies said: “Wow – that’s excellent news to all of our schools.”

The report contained a list of savings proposals, such as higher parking charges and new charges to some other car parks, more income from utility companies for work which required road closures, and less black big waste being sent to landfill.

Labour opposition leader, Cllr Rob James, said: “Despite receiving the best local Government settlement from the Welsh Government in over a decade, Plaid Cymru councillors are seeking to continue their drastic cuts to public services, whilst simultaneously hitting hard-pressed families with further tax increases.”

He urged the public to respond to the consultation, and said he hoped many of the proposed cuts would be reversed.

Cllr James also claimed that residents weren’t seeing progress on investment plans talked about for years.

“We need far less talk and much more action,” he said.

Richard Youle- Local Democracy Reporter

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