WREXHAM residents are facing a six per cent increase in council tax – but there will be no cuts to services.
A provisional 2023/24 budget has been presented to Wrexham Council’s Independent / Conservative led Executive Board by council leader, and lead member for finance, Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind).
If approved at full council next month, the precept hike will see council tax on a Band D property rise by more than £100 as the authority looks to invest in transport and social services.
The average council tax on a Band D property in Wrexham is currently £1,741.32 with the six per cent increase to kick in from April if approved at February’s full council meeting.
Authorities across the country are grappling with pressures greater than any period in the last decade as inflation continues to rise across the board.
Cllr Pritchard said investment in Wrexham had been prioritised “where it is needed” across services – such as an increase in public transport to the city centre.
Presenting the proposed budget, he said: “The proposals for next year recognise the demand pressures in social care, inflationary cost increases including pay and energy in council services including education and schools.
“Extra investment has been provided for highways maintenance and resurfacing plus public transport and bus services.
“In addition, an amount has been allocated for investment in the council plans and priorities.
“I think it’s a sound, solid and safe budget, and that’s important as we are in really difficult times.”
Cllr Pritchard outlined that these budget priorities included;
- £7m for social care.
- £5.2m increase for schools.
- £1m investment in council plan priorities.
- £1m additional finding for highways maintenance and resurfacing.
- £200,000 for public transport and bus services, with a further £200,000 for the following year.
- £900,000 for other service ‘pressures’ including for homelessness, sheltered accommodation, ICT support and leisure centres.
Cllr Pritchard added: “There are no service cuts proposed as part of this 2023/24 budget.
“The proposals to the Executive Board include a six per cent increase in council tax. It is proposed as a reasonable balance in ensuring we have financial resilience, sustainability within council services.
“We have to remember that council tax is starting from a lower position than the average in Wales. We know that future years will be more challenging and we must use next year to plan so we can continue to deliver services in a financially sustainable way.
“It is important that members of the public understand that all elected members, regardless of what (political) group they sit in have the opportunity to make representation at budget workshops throughout the year.”
The budget was backed by Rossett Cllr Hugh Jones (Con), lead member for environment, who welcomed the highways investment, saying he wanted more permanent, more longer-lasting rather than temporary repairs to highways.
Llay Cllr Rob Walsh (Ind), lead member for children’s services, praised the extra investment in the budget.
He said: “Budgets are never easy but considering all the pressures this is a very, very good one.
“I’m pleased about the additional funding for this area (social care). In an ideal world we wouldn’t need this provision but we’ve got to be honest with the demand.
“Every year council tax goes up, I understand it’s not popular but under the circumstances I don’t think we could get much lower than we have done.
“It won’t solve all the issues. But we are listening to the public.”
Leader of the opposition Ruabon Cllr Dana Davies (Lab) asked what the council’s plan for a public transport bus service would be – whether it would be money paid to the private sector to deliver the service.
Cllr David Bithell said no decisions had been made on how the money earmarked for public transport would be spent yet, but that it was a priority for the council’s carbon work going forward.
Summing up the budget proposal, Cllr Pritchard warned that the cost of inflation was still an unknown going forward.
“We don’t really know where inflation will take us and what the future holds”, he said.
“As a lead member of finance I think it’s the best budget I’ve ever presented to council.”
The budget proposal was backed by the Executive Board and final approval will be sought at a full meeting of Wrexham Council next month.