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FINANCE chiefs in Carmarthenshire are keeping a close eye on council tax income as hard-pressed households defer payments or apply for support.

Executive board member for resources, Cllr David Jenkins, told colleagues that there had been a “marked reduction” in council tax payments up to December last year.

It is an issue facing all councils as individuals and families whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic try to make ends meet.

The council estimates that council tax revenue could be down by up to £2 million at the end of the financial year on March 31.

A report before the executive board said a council tax reduction scheme to support struggling households – although various criteria must be met – has experienced “exceptional demand”.

Cllr Jenkins said he expected the greater proportion of the missing council tax income to be deferrals and reduction scheme applications.

“These payments are, however, being closely monitored and we, like other authorities, are liaising with the Welsh Government,” he said.

Cllr Jenkins said any end-of-year loss of council tax income was not included in the council’s latest estimate of a £1.2 million budget overspend. This sum is based on data up to the end of October 2020 – and the projected overspend is down significantly from £3.9 million in August.

The council has faced additional adult social care, mental health, cleaning and personal protective equipment costs while losing income from things like school meals, commercial property and leisure centres, although most of this has been recouped from the Welsh Government.

School budget overspends are down from £1.5 million last August to £800,000 at the end of October – and the figure has been trimmed further, said Cllr Glynog Davies, executive board member for education children.

Cllr Davies said the overspend for primary schools was now down to £165,000, thanks to interventions and support from the authority, and that he also expected secondary school overspends to be lower than previously.

But he added: “Our expectation is that these figures will rise again next year.”

Meanwhile, the council had originally planned to spend £114 million in 2020-21 on capital projects like new schools and regeneration schemes, but it now expects the figure to be just over £51 million.

The curtailed programme was due to Covid-related delays, but Cllr Davies said several of the school projects were up and running again.

He added that he hoped to bring forward a report on a new site for a new Ysgol Dewi Sant in Llanelli “very soon”.

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