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Conwy North Wales Politics

Conwy County Council looks to increase council tax by 12.5% next month

PEOPLE in Conwy are facing a 12.5% Council Tax rise next month if further savings can’t be made.

Conwy County Council’s budget shortfall has been reduced from £21.5m to around £19.9m, following the council finding around £1.5m in energy-cost savings.

The council will set its final budget at a meeting early next month, and Conwy’s finance and resources overview scrutiny committee discussed an updated report this week at a meeting at Bodlondeb.

Councillors heard how managers had made 10% cuts across council services with only education and social services being asked to make 5% cuts.

In the latest version of the report, Conwy’s finance officers modelled several separate scenarios, including Council Tax rises of 7.5%, 10%, and 12.5%, bringing in an additional £4.6m, £6.24m, and £7.78m respectively.

A previous model for a 15% Council Tax rise was excluded from the latest report, which would have generated £9.3m.

Conwy’s chief executive Rhun ap Gareth claimed council service managers had made as many cuts as possible.

“This was one of the most rigorous budget-saving exercises that we’ve undertaken, certainly that I have been involved in,” he said.

“We need to trust our heads of service and our officers in this respect.

“They have done over and above.

“If you look at last year’s (cost-cutting/budget) exercise, it was 3% (cuts). We are now looking at cuts of 10 and 5%.

“So personally I have confidence the process has been robust.

“I think credit should be given to services for actually finding 10%.

“If you’d asked me six months ago if we would have been able to do that, I probably would have said we would be really struggling.

“These are ambitious savings that will have an effect on our services.

“So to say the effort has not been good enough is unfair on all our officers.”

He added: “Personally I think it would be difficult now to address more savings than we’ve identified because they’ve gone through so much in order to achieve this.

“In terms of Council Tax level, in terms of services, I’m not sure we are going to be able to get much further than we are now, especially in the time we have, and of course, looking forward to next year when we have a very challenging target as well.”

Answering a question from Cllr Gareth Jones, cabinet member for finance Cllr Mike Priestley silenced the chamber for a couple of seconds when he revealed the percentage Council Tax needed to rise.

He said: “Gareth you’ve said, ‘we’ve made all these decisions; what does it mean to the Council Tax payer?’ Well, it means a 12.45% increase to balance the budget in Council Tax if I’m right.”

Cllr Dave Carr said: “That kind of rise is unacceptable because people are not earning that.

“Most people are getting pay rises of anything between 5% and 7% and some lower than that.

“We’ve got to be mindful of our residents and how much money they’ve got coming in.”

Cllr Priestley responded: “I’m not recommending a council tax rise of 12.45%.

“What I was asked was to identify what the shortfall would be, and it works out at 12.45%.

“I’m not recommending that. We still have a couple of weeks. We’ll work at it again.”

Councillors opted not to set an indicative rise, and the matter is set to be discussed again by both the scrutiny committee and cabinet before the council will set the final figure on March 2.