01/24/2022

Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

A council has announced that it will propose a freeze on council tax and increase spending as part of this year’s budget.

The Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council will meet next week to discuss the local authority’s budget proposal for 2022-23.

If approved, the council’s budget proposal would also mean no cuts to frontline services and an extra £1.5 million a year for local primary, secondary and special schools among other spending increases.

The council’s medium term financial strategy has been updated to reflect a 9.2 per cent increase in funding from the Welsh Government.

Independent Councillor Amanda Williams said: “Whilst I welcome no increase, I would like to go further because we are in dire straits at the moment I think.

“People are reliant on every bit of money that they can get.

“I do think [there are] positives such as they have said that there will be free school meals for all primary school children, but my concern is will that money have to be found elsewhere.”

Liberal Democrat councillor, Cheryl Green said: “Obviously, the local government settlement was much better than expected, so I would expect [the council] to try and keep the tax down as much as possible because Covid has really hit people hard in the pocket.

“I certainly would support a freeze on the council tax.”

Independent Alliance Group Leader, Alex Williams, said that whilst he also welcomed the Welsh Government’s increase in funding, he was “angered” after some Labour members of the council posted “Bridgend County Borough Council Tax Frozen” on social media – calling it “presumptuous in the extreme”.

Cllr Williams said: “It hasn’t even been discussed by the Cabinet yet, [let] alone by all Members at Full Council, so this assertion is presumptuous in the extreme given the fact that Labour don’t have a majority on Bridgend County Borough Council.

“Who knows how Full Council will decide to proceed? Freezing Council Tax may very well be the best course of action, but it hasn’t yet been debated on the floor of the Council Chamber.

“Perhaps an amendment will be proposed to cut council tax given the better than expected funding settlement from Welsh Government to support the most vulnerable people in society with what is expected to be significantly higher energy bills in the forthcoming year.

“The number crunching would have to be done to see if this is a viable suggestion.”

Deputy Leader of the Council, Hywel Williams, said: “I am aware that political parties of all kinds are making comments and forecasts about what the final budget for 2022-23 might be.

“The council’s impartial media release draws attention to the fact that these proposals are about to be discussed at Cabinet next week.

“If agreed at that stage, a second release will be issued outlining how the proposals will go through scrutiny before moving on to the final stage of the process, which involves being discussed by all members at a meeting of full Council prior to a vote on whether to accept them or not.

“This is the same procedure that has been in place for all past budgets, and as usual, members have already had plenty of opportunity to contribute, ask questions and join in as part of the budget evaluation process.

“Setting a fully balanced council budget is no easy feat. Thanks to the additional funding from Welsh Government, this is the first time in years that a potential council tax freeze has been affordable, and I am looking forward to debating the proposals further as they make their way through the democratic process towards Council.”

If approved, the council’s proposals would also mean:

An extra £2.5m to ensure that all care workers receive a pay rise which reflects the real living wage
An extra £1.2m a year for children’s social services, safeguarding and foster care
An extra £650,000 a year for supported living services aimed at people with learning disabilities
An extra £465,000 a year to provide specialist support for children with additional learning needs
An extra £147,000 a year to support mental health services
The council’s plans will also incorporate free school lunches for all primary school children and free childcare for all two-year-olds as part of a fully funded all-Wales Welsh Government initiative.

If approved, transport planning and regeneration will receive £2.2m, while £1.7m will be invested in regulatory services such as Licensing, Environmental Health and Trading Standards.

The proposals will be discussed at a meeting on Tuesday January 18.

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