“DISGUSTING” levels of poverty in Ceredigion were highlighted as councillors pushed back against a suggestion to increase council tax higher than proposed in the draft budget for the coming financial year.
Members of the healthier communities overview and scrutiny committee spent a number of hours discussing the draft budget for 2022/23 in relation to social care, social services, early intervention and well-being at a meeting on Monday, February 14 before giving a view on council tax recommendations.
The committee heard from cabinet member for Porth Cynnal Cllr Alun Williams that social care was under great pressure in all local authorities and issues surrounding funding, staffing and demand had all be “exacerbated” by the pandemic and a need for sector change across the country.
Cost pressures facing Porth Cynnal, Port Gofal and Porth Cymorth Cynnar include staffing costs, inflation in externally commissioned services, increasing looked after children, Direct Payment rises, support placements, domiciliary care waiting lists, public protection investment and transport costs.
The draft budget considered by cabinet earlier this month has been prepared on the resumption of a 4.75 per cent council tax rise – £67.10 a year on a Band D property raising £2.1million – but on Monday Cllr Alun Lloyd Jones proposed a 5 per cent rise to help reduce the savings required to be made by a council and cover a new environmental health officer role of £55,000.
Cllr Marc Davies argued against this, stating “poverty in Ceredigion is really high, it’s disgusting.”
He said that it was easy to suggest increases but “people haven’t got money out there,” and the council should look for where more savings could be made, highlighting the pay rises for councillors proposed by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales.
Cllr Elaine Evans said she couldn’t even support the 4.75 per cent rise “with the current economic crisis” and people were finding it “almost impossible to make ends meet.”
The total revenue settlement, known as the Aggregate External Finance (AEF) allocated to Ceredigion for 2022/23 is £119.419milllion, an increase of 8.6 per cent.
Cost pressures of all services total £13.1million a report to committee states and the overall budget is estimated to be around £166million including AEF and council tax funding.
Increases to fees and charges in the remit of the scrutiny committee will raise £155,000 additional income and a travelling savings target for offices and members of £230,000 was noted, although £113,000 is still to be found.
The committee voted against a 5 per cent increase and backed a recommendation of a 4.75 per cent increase.
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