RESIDENTS in Powys will be hit by a council tax hike of 3.39 per cent after councillors finally approved a budget for 2022/23.
On Thursday morning, March 3, the Powys County Council budget meeting, re-started and two new fresh proposals were put in front of councillors.
The previous proposals of 3.9 per cent, 3.4 per cent and a council tax freeze that had been discussed at the first budget meeting on February 24 had all fallen by the wayside.
Finance portfolio holder, Conservative Cllr Aled Davies had tabled an amendment that the council tax increase drop to 3.39 per cent.
Labour’s Cllr David Thomas put forward a proposal for a 0.1 per cent rise in the council tax.
Going first, Cllr Aled Davies said:
“Groundhog Day it is not, the world has changed, as we sat in our comfortable chairs last week Putin’s army was crossing the Ukrainian border.
“The world is an uncertain place, and we are sat here arguing about £1 a week increase on council tax.
“My amendment does not significantly change the budget.
“Slightly more than half of our homes will not see all of that increase because they will see some form of discount on their council tax.
“We have driven the council tax as low as we can, and my only worry is whether or not I have pushed it too low.
“Adequate reserves are essential to protect our services.
“We need our services to be strong to support the inevitable refugees that will arrive on our doorstep, and we must welcome them with open arms.”
Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris wanted to set a historical “context” to the budget in that while the latest Welsh Government settlement provided and extra £18 million for Powys, for much of the previous decade the county had been at the back of the funding queue.
During the discussion on this amendment – several councillors were unhappy to have the war in Ukraine brought into the budget discussion.
Cllr Jackie Charlton pointed out that any refugee resettlement would be financed by the UK Government not by the council
The amendment was supported by 36 votes to 31 with one abstention.
The second amendment was then brought forward by Labour’s Cllr David Thomas which was designed to help residents with the cost-of-living crisis.
Cllr Thomas explained that a council tax rise of 0.1 per cent could be supported by using just over £3million from the budget management reserve.
He believed this fund could be replenished with expected underspending in this year’s budget.
The move was seconded by Liberal Democrat Cllr David Selby who said that the risk was the lack of control and delivery of budgets over the last five years.
Leader of the Action for Powys group, Cllr Jeremy Pugh who supported the Lab/Lib budget proposal said that those who did not, would be “judged by the electorate.”
Head of finance and s151 officer Jane Thomas said: “The use of reserves and additional funding are a one off.”
“That immediately creates a gap in the budget plan for 2023/24.
Ms Thomas explained that the gap could increase to £18.2 million over the four-year life of the medium-term financial strategy.”
She believed to balance the budget in the long term increases to council tax and “significant reductions” to services would need to be considered.
Ms Thomas “strongly advised” against voting for it.
Cllr Thomas said: “The picture painted by the s151 office is very pessimistic and doesn’t accept the fact that the gap can be plugged after we’ve set this budget.”
The amendment went to a vote and lost by 36 votes to 31.
This meant that Cllr Aled Davies’ 3.39 per cent went to a second vote and was approved by 35 voted for to 30 against.
All other elements of the budget were then voted through.
This means that an average Band D council tax bill in Powys will increase from £1,404.26 to £1,451.86.
Earlier this year Dyfed-Powys Police approved a precept increase of 5.3 per cent which will see an extra £14.60 added on top of that bill.
Town and Community Council precepts will also be added on top of that.