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Conwy North Wales Politics

‘Conwy council tax will be uncomfortably high’, warns leader

CONWY’S schools will be asked to make further 6% cuts in the coming year, despite making 5% in the last financial year when schools are still struggling after COVID.

And leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey revealed he is concerned by proposals to cut the council’s nappy collection service in a county that has one of the oldest populations in the UK.

After a cabinet meeting at Bodlondeb today (Tuesday), cabinet members will ask the council’s heads of service to go back to the drawing board and look at more cuts, having already identified over £7.7m of savings for 2024/25 – not including schools.

Conwy faces a black hole of around £25m.

But a council report released last week revealed that even an 11% council tax hike and 5% education cuts would leave Conwy £3m short – with the council modelling for 8%, 9%, 10%, and 11% increases in council tax.

This follows Conwy receiving a rise of 2% in its local government settlement from the Welsh Government – the joint lowest in Wales – an amount of £202.7m.

Consequently, the cabinet has now asked department heads to identify further savings with a long list of service cuts already proposed.

These include removing litter bins from streets, closing public toilets, reducing grass cutting, slashing library opening hours, ceasing or reducing nappy collections, and increasing garden waste collection fees.

But leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey felt cutting or reducing the nappy collection service from weekly to monthly was a step too far, revealing he had particular concerns for the elderly.

“One area that did concern me was nappy and sanitary collections, which was a saving of £80,000,” he said.

“Now it highlights for me just how difficult it is to make savings when you go down to services like that, which are vitally important for our residents.

“It is not a nice position to be in, but environment services over the years have made cuts after cuts after cuts that we’ve asked them to make, and this really is a symbol of how dire things are getting for us that we are having to consider options like that.

“Now that (nappy collection cuts) would be a year-on-year saving. We know next year will be difficult as well, and it is something we have to look at, but I think we need more detail (on how it would work in practice).

“I think, for me, if we could find that money somewhere else… It is a real serious concern for our elderly especially, and this is not easy for young families either.”

But Cllr Chris Cater proposed schools should be given an indicative figure of 6% cuts so they can start preparing for the coming financial year, having already cut 5% last year.

Cllr Penny Andow seconded this proposal but said she did so with a heavy heart.

The education cuts proposed will be particularly hard to swallow in the post-COVID period when many schools are struggling and headteachers have been forced to make redundancies.

But the leader warned Conwy must balance the books or face more draconian cuts imposed by administrators as have some bankrupted councils in England.

“It will be very hard to please anybody giving the position we are in,” said Cllr Charlie McCoubrey.

“It is unprecedented for this authority to have to find that level of cuts on the back of what we have done the last 10 years but especially the degree we had last year,  but we need to do it. It is kind of our duty legally. If we don’t do it, we know things will be a lot worse.”

Cllr McCoubrey added, “Council tax will be high. It will be uncomfortably high. But I think we need these next couple of weeks to see what there is out there essentially (in terms of further savings).”

The final budget will be agreed at a future full council meeting.