FROM April, people in Powys will be be paying 2.9 per cent more on their council tax bills.
This means that a Band D property will pay an extra £39.58 for the year, or 76 pence a week.
The decision was narrowly voted through at Powys County Council’s meeting on Thursday, February 25.
On Monday night, February 22, an amendment to the Council Tax was put forward which saw the Independent/Conservative group change their original proposal of a 3.9 per cent increase, to 2.9 per cent.
It was revealed at the meeting that late funding allocations of up to £2.6 million coming to Powys from the Welsh Government, had allowed the cabinet to change the proposals.
Discussion on an alternative budget put forward jointly by all the opposition groups was not allowed to be discussed at the meeting.
Council leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris (Independent – Llangynidr), who seconded the proposals, said: “This is a budget that is grounded in reality.
“Not only have the service budgets and savings being considered by the cabinet but every single aspect of this has been discussed, robustly challenged and considered.
“We had some last minute extra funding from Welsh Government, and we wanted to help services and activities that we know are important to our residents.”
Part of the changes include setting up Powys Recovery Fund which is set to receive £1.8 million over two years to help the county recover from Covid-19,
Cllr Harris then spoke about the opposition’s alternative budget.
Cllr Harris said: “There is not enough detail for me.
“We’re still in the pandemic there will be very serious ongoing risks if we reduce the council tax increase level.
“It means there will be less money coming in to the council next year.”
“There are various suggestions in there that I’m uncomfortable with, there are many unanswered questions unanswered.”
She pointed out that some building projects may not have started but contracts had been exchanged, and queried which ones would the opposition stop in order to deliver its proposals.
Responding to the budget, Liberal Democrat and Green group leader, Cllr James Gibson-Watt said that he was “extremely disappointed” not to be able to outline the alternative budget.
Cllr Gibson-Watt (Glasbury) said: “Once more we are facing a budget debate, which is basically, you take what has been offered to you or you leave it, without the opportunity to discuss a viable alternative.”
He explained that the alternative budget had fallen down to changes they proposed to travel costs which had created a “risk” in the budget
Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “However, I do believe that the risks inherent in the alternative were not really significantly greater than that which has been presented to us in amended form, just a few days ago.”
He pointed out that there is just under £11.9 million worth of cuts and savings in the 2021/22 budget, included some that are “very important in the recovery process”.
Cllr Mathew Dorrance, leader of the Labour group, (Brecon St John), said: “I find it incredulous that we have been unable to discuss our budget proposals.
“Our alternative proposals would have protected services and kept the budget low,
“We as opposition leaders should have been briefed about the additional funding from the Welsh Government.
“We should have had access to that information that could have formed part of our proposals.”
Cllr John Morris, (Liberal Democrat – Crickhowell) asked why the amendment wasn’t scrutinised before the budget meeting?
Cllr Harris, explained that there was “so little time to discuss everything,” and they needed to wait to find if the funding was specific, or the council decide how to use it.
Cllr Roger Williams (Felinfach – Liberal Democrat) asked whether the amended proposal should be allowed to be discussed at all?
Head of Legal Services and Monitoring officer, Clive Pinney confirmed that the amendment complied with standing orders.
“It was placed in time, and therefore it can be debated, “said Mr Pinney.
Cllr Michael Williams (Independent – Machynlleth) proposed taking the proposal to a vote.
This was seconded by Cllr Jonathan Williams (Meifod – Conservative).
The vote was 38 for and 34 against.
Councillors will return to formally set the budget at a meeting on Thursday, March 4.
The police and community council precept is added to the Council Tax bill.
- Just before Christmas 2020 the Welsh Government announced a four per cent rise of just over £7.3 million in funding for Powys.
- This takes the draft revenue settlement for Powys, from the Welsh Government up to £191.897 million.
- With the Council Tax and grant funding added to the budget, the total figure for the 2021/22 will be £279.807 million.