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Strong opposition to Ceredigion 11.1% council tax rise

STRONG opposition was raised to Ceredigion’s budget, which will see “the highest council tax ever known for the people of Ceredigion” with a warning there may be a danger of “pre-determining” council cuts, some of which may need public consultation.

Ceredigion councillors, at their February 29 meeting, narrowly backed the budget, by 20-16, which will see an 11.1 per cent council tax rise, expected to be the second-highest rise in Wales after neighbouring Pembrokeshire sets its budget next week.

The council tax rise takes the basic level for a Band D average property to £1,726.05, up from £1,553.60, with the average all-in bill for an average Band D property set to be £2,103.89 for the next financial year.

The budget also included some 70 cost savings, some of which may need consultation before they can be enacted.

The direct expected costs for Ceredigion highlighted in the proposed 24/25 budget (Pic: Ceredigion County Council report)

One of those speaking against the budget, which had been proposed by the county council’s Cabinet meeting earlier this month, was Liberal-Democrat Leader Cllr Elizabeth Evans said: “This is a Plaid Cymru budget. Regardless of how we vote today the residents of Ceredigion will focus on one thing, council tax increasing with the services we provide decreasing.”

She said that, while she was confident in the “good governance” of the council, there had been an “overwhelmingly poor” settlement from the Welsh Government, and a “devolved austerity to local government since 2008” from Westminster.

“Residents in rural Wales deserve a parity of services with urban areas of Wales.

“There are residents today who have only known austerity, and to live at a time of prosperity is alien to them,” Cllr Evans told members.

The county councillor for Aberaeron warned that many of the 70 proposed savings should not be pre-determined by the February 29 budget, with a danger of going into the budget “voting for the unknown”.

“This why I and the Liberal Democrat group are unable to support the budget,” Cllr Evans added.

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Aberaeron and Aberarth councillor Elizabeth Evans (Pic: Ceredigion County Council)

Fellow Lib-Dem Cllr Paul Hinge said: “Why are we being asked to set the highest council tax we’ve ever known for the people of Ceredigion?

“I firmly believe it’s because Welsh Labour continually turns a blind eye to the rural areas of Wales; what are we left with? Crumbs.”

He added: “They reward Labour councils to our detriment, this is how our Senedd deals with the people of Wales; we are not equal; that’s the problem.

“We need to have a proper settlement for this county.

“I have a great personal difficulty in agreeing with this budget, with a heavy heart I’m, for the first time, not voting with it.”

Ceredigion Tirymynach ward county councillor Paul Hinge (Pic: Ceredigion County Council)

Independent group leader Cllr Gareth Lloyd warned of the need to prepare for the following year’s budget almost as soon as the 2024-’25 one was passed, warning it was likely to place the county in an “even worse” situation.

Echoing the sentiments expressed in the recent farmer protests at the Senedd, he said: “We are all here as members to do our best for our electors and for the authority. We’ve crossed the threshold whereby the balance of the scales have fallen and pressures on local authorities are huge, and I think we need to arrange our buses to go to Cardiff to show our feelings.”

Leader of the Independents Group in Ceredigion County Council, Cllr Gareth Lloyd (Pic: Ceredigion County Council)

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Evans said: “One of my concerns is that there were elements contained in the budget yesterday, and which were passed, which are yet to go out to consultation.

“Issues such as closing Rhydeinon household waste site in Llanarth, parking on Aberystwyth prom and moving our public libraries. In supporting the budget, the majority of councillors have also given the green-light to all the different elements contained within the budget papers, and have by extension pre-determined any responses to the consultation process.

“Residents may now question the value of public consultations.”

The potential closure of one of Ceredigion’s four household waste sites – Aberystwyth, Lampeter, Cardigan, and Llanarth – was one of the 70 potential savings.

Despite a request for clarification at the meeting, the site at risk of potential closure was not identified.

In a statement issued after the budget,  Leader of Ceredigion County Council Cllr Bryan Davies said: “This has been a difficult budget setting process in what has been a less than adequate settlement from the Welsh Government, below the 3.1 per cent promised.

“These are not decisions that we want to have to make but are necessary in order to protect frontline services where possible. The outlook for future years is poor and we will have to undertake a fundamental review of the purpose of the council.

“In the meantime, we continue to lobby Welsh Government to ensure that Ceredigion gets a fair budget in future years. I am grateful for all the collaboration that has taken place to present this budget, as well as the work between the council and town and community councils as they take on additional responsibilities.”

Ceredigion County Council leader Cllr Bryan Davies