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Wrexham senior councillors back 9.9% council tax increase

A COUNCIL tax rise of nearly ten per cent for Wrexham residents has moved a step closer after being backed by senior councillors.

Members of Wrexham Council’s executive board met today (Tuesday, 20 February) to discuss measures to address a forecast budget gap of £22.6m for the next financial year.

The proposed increase of 9.99 per cent was supported by the ruling independent/Conservative administration as they highlighted the difficult financial position of the local authority.

It will see the bill for an average Band D household increase to £1,598 per year from the start of April, subject to final approval at a full council meeting next week.

The figure relates to the council tax element only, with the final bill due to be higher once the North Wales Police Authority and community council precepts are added.

Speaking during the meeting at Wrexham’s Guildhall, council leader Mark Pritchard said local authorities were facing an “extremely challenging” financial outlook due to cuts from central government.

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He added that redundancies would have to be made to help balance the budget.

He said: “I used the words last time I was here that we’re in very dark times and that’s where we are.

“If you have a look at the amount of money that we’ve lost since austerity started, our share is £60m and with £20m over each of the next two years, you’re looking at over £100m.

“It’s quite frightening where we are and unfortunately the impact will be that we will have to raise council tax.

“I think it’s a sound and balanced budget to the point that we will continue to deliver services, but unfortunately even at this level, we will still have to make redundancies.

“It’s important that everybody canvases their MS’s and MPs in Westminster and Cardiff that there is appropriate funding for public services across the UK because this is devastating what is happening.”

The council has so far identified £13m worth of cuts and savings to bridge the financial gap.

Schools in Wrexham are among the areas set to suffer real-terms budget cuts of £5.4m which it was previously warned would “decimate” their finances.

Despite the proposed increase in council tax, there is still a budget gap of £1.8m left to be addressed.

Labour opposition leader Dana Davies questioned why the situation had yet to be addressed, with the budget process entering its final stages.

In response, Cllr Pritchard said: “We could have brought a balanced budget in by putting council tax up another two per cent.

“The assumed forecast was 12.4 per cent but we make the decisions on the council tax and we felt that 12.4 was too high.

“What we’ve done is that we have come to a political decision and set it at 9.9 and I think we’ve done well.”

The Welsh Government announced the provisional settlement for all 22 Welsh local authorities in December, with Wrexham receiving an increase in grants of 3.2 per cent.

The figure compares to an average increase of 3.1 per cent across Wales as a whole.

However, the authority said a combination of inflationary pressures, staff pay awards and other cost increases meant it was facing significant financial challenges.

Executive board members approved the budget recommendations, including a 9.9 per cent council tax increase, at the end of their discussions.

The proposals will now go before a meeting of all 56 local councillors in Wrexham being held next Wednesday (February 28, 2024) for final approval.

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