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Blaenau Gwent four per cent council tax increase would be ‘kick in the teeth’

COUNCILLORS in Blaenau Gwent have called for the proposed council tax increase of four per cent to be lowered.

A budget scrutiny committee discussed the 2021/22 budget proposals including the proposed council tax increase.

Concerns were raised over the proposal to increase council tax by four per cent with Cllr Stephen Thomas, leader of the opposition Labour group, called it a “kick in the teeth” and independent minority councillor Lyn Elias called the proposal a “shocker”.

While the committee agreed that the council tax increase should be lowered, there was no agreement on what rate this should be.

Cllr Thomas proposed the council tax of four per cent “is substantially reduced”, but councillors thought it wasn’t specific enough.

Cllr Julie Holt said: “How can I vote on something if we don’t know what the proposal is?

“What figure are we talking about?”

Cllr Thomas then clarified that this substantial reduction would be below a two-per-cent increase.

The chief officer for resources, Rhian Hayden, said that a two per cent reduction would lead to around £740,000 less income to the council.

She said: “It would reduce the council tax surplus from £1.3 million to £600,000 and increase funding gap in future years.”

Cllr John Hill proposed that members “look at the possibility” of increasing council tax below four per cent and the potential consequences.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Thomas said:

“The majority Independent Group have shown their true colours today by voting against our proposal to reduce their four per cent to under two per cent as we recommended.

“They will have to answer for their actions and explain to the people why they will not use some of the almost £9-million surplus revenue they have benefited by in the last two years to give relief to our long-suffering residents at a time of great need.”

The leader of the minority Independent group, Cllr Phil Edwards, who seconded Cllr Thomas’ proposal, said:

\“A four-per-cent council tax rise is an insult to our community in a year when so many have suffered the economic effects of Covid-19.

“Whilst there may be no reduction to services, many of our residents are facing debt and the proposed four-per-cent hike simply cannot be justified.

“The council has had successive increases in revenue for the last two years and the least we can do is share this uplift to help the people who matter most.”

The scrutiny committee agreed to recommend that the executive and council look at a council tax increase that is below four per cent.

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