CONWY’S band D council tax increase is the highest in Wales, statistics released by the Welsh Government confirm.
And band D residents in Conwy county will pay £85 more a year than the Welsh national average.
The statistics reveal Conwy has the largest overall band D percentage increase in Wales at 8.9%.
This compares to the smallest band D increase of 2.7% in Torfaen.
Controversially the authority increased council tax by a whopping 9.9% overall to deal with a budget shortfall of over £21.7m whilst slashing service budgets by 10%.
The figures are from the Welsh Government’s annual statistical first release on council tax levels in Wales 2023-24.
Of all the 22 Welsh local authorities, the stats show that Conwy’s band D residents pay more than residents in all other authorities in north Wales, apart from Gwynedd.
Conwy’s band D council tax increase for 2023-24 averaged £82 or 5.5% over the previous year.
According to the report, police precept increases averaged £21 or 6.8%, and these increases combine to produce an average band D rise of £102 or 5.8%.
The average bill for band D residents in Wales is £1,879, but Conwy residents pay £1,964.
Only band D residents in Gwynedd, Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, and Blaenau Gwent pay more.
The stats also show that Conwy makes 30% of its annual income through council tax – the fourth-highest percentage in Wales.
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders said the rise was not acceptable.
“The 9.9% council tax increase voted for by the Conwy First, Welsh Labour, and Plaid Cymru-led local authority is unacceptable,” she said.
“During a cost-of-living crisis, Conwy County Borough Council cannot justify charging £85 over the national average.
“Undoubtedly, there are steps that Conwy Council should be taking to manage our resources more effectively. Ideas include looking at asset management, reducing the number of empty properties, cutting down on wasteful spend, and reviewing the management structure.
“The Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru co-operation Government should be helping too, especially by reviewing the funding formula, introducing council tax referendums, and addressing the fact that some local authorities are able to hoard millions of pounds in reserves.”
The Aberconwy MS said she is now calling for a cap on future council tax rises and claimed residents were furious.
“I have received many emails from upset and angry residents,” she said.
“People also believe that, despite paying so much more, standards are dropping: four weekly bin collections; huge numbers of roads across Aberconwy that have never received any maintenance for over thirty years.
“People are fed up with the number of potholes. Some have had their cars damaged.”
She added: “Social care is practically non-existent with not enough care packages in place to support the many needing to return home from hospital.”
Cllr Charlie McCoubrey, leader of Conwy County Borough Council, commented, “The council faced unprecedented challenges in setting a balanced budget for 2023/24.
“External factors that the council has no control over (inflation, energy costs, nationally negotiated pay awards, rising interest rates and levies paid to external bodies such as North Wales Fire & Rescue Authority) increased costs to levels that nobody could have predicted, placing significant pressure on the 2023/24 budget.
“These pressures have been exacerbated by growing demand for services such as social care, education and housing, increasing the costs of delivering these crucial services.
“Members and officers have worked tirelessly over the past months to close this gap. We identified further savings with cuts to services of between 4% and 10%, and scaling back some capital projects, whilst trying to protect vital front-line services and look after those most vulnerable in our communities. This process has been incredibly challenging for all involved, particularly following a decade of budget cuts, and we are all acutely aware of the financial strain that households are also facing during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Despite all this work, and having received additional funding of 7.3% from Welsh Government (below the Wales average of 7.9%), Conwy was still left with a funding shortfall of £7.3m for 2023/24.
“Consideration was given to using the council’s general reserves to close the gap further and minimise the council tax increase, but a consequence of Conwy historically having kept council tax low, in comparison to our neighbouring authorities, is that we have not been able to build up reserves to a sufficient level to enable us to do this – our reserves are currently one of the lowest in Wales.
“As a result, members were left with no realistic alternative but to increase the County Council element of council tax by 9.9% in order to set a balanced budget.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said, “The local government funding formula is agreed in partnership with local government. As part of our efforts to protect public services, we are providing increased funding for local authorities in the coming financial year, with Conwy Council receiving a 7.3% increase. We fully recognise the significant challenges caused by inflation and will continue to work closely with local government to meet the shared challenges we face.
“The responsibility for setting the council’s budget – and as part of that decisions about council tax – are matters for each local authority and its elected members. Since devolution we have respected the responsibility of local authorities and not used powers to cap council tax.”