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Blaenau Gwent freezes 2022/23 council tax as intended 4% rise scrapped last minute

A PLANNED four per cent council tax increase in Blaenau Gwent has been sensationally scrapped at the last minute.

But opposition councillors have blasted the move as “a scam” aimed at increasing support for the Independent administration ahead of May’s Local Government Election.

On Thursday, February 17, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council met to set their budget for the coming financial year.

A four per cent increase in rates was proposed and looked set to go ahead – until council leader Cllr Nigel Daniels pulled a rabbit out of the hat by revealing the money that this increase would raise will now be found from other sources – meaning the authority can freeze rates in the coming financial year.

Cllr Daniels said savings generated by Bridging the Gap, the council’s cuts, savings, efficiencies, and income-generation strategy, would create an estimated £2.4 million surplus for next year.

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Of this money, £950,000 will be used as a contingency fund for increased pay awards due to the rising costs of living, while the rest would be used to bring the council tax increase down from four per cent to zero.

The remaining £1.45 million had originally been earmarked to go to the council’s financial resilience reserve.

Cllr Daniels said:

“The reserves are at their highest levels since 2012, therefore I will not be recommending that this surplus be transferred into the reserves, but used in setting the council tax for 2022/23.

“I will be formally recommending there will be no percentage increase to the Blaenau Gwent element of the council tax, it will be frozen for the forthcoming financial year.”

But he advised the council that other “component elements” such as Police and Town and Community council precepts which “we have no control over,” could go up

Labour group leader, Cllr Steve Thomas believed that the change was motivated by the forthcoming council elections and that the public are “not stupid.”

Cllr Thomas said:

“Everyone wants zero rise in council tax.

“He’s gone straight down to zero and by golly what do we have ahead of us in May is an election, it’s a complete and utter scam.”

Cllr Daniels retorted that it was “no scam.”

Cllr Daniels said:

“From the public’s perspective it’s going to be a difficult year with the cost-of-living increases, energy hikes and we’re in a position not to add to those pressures.”

“There’s no eye on the election whatsoever, we’ve presented a sensible budget.

“I’m more than content we are doing this for the right reasons, for the people of Blaenau Gwent and for this council.”

Councillors unanimously backed the budget

In December the Welsh Government announced an increase of 8.4 per cent to the draft funding settlement for Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council for 2022/23 which equates to £10.4 million extra.

This sees the council budget go up from just over £120.6 million this year to £130.8 million for 2022/23.

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