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6.9% council tax rise confirmed for Caerphilly

Caerphilly County Borough Council offices (Pic: LDRS)

CAERPHILLY residents will pay an extra 6.9% in council tax from April, after councillors clashed over the county borough’s final budget proposals.

During a heated full council debate on Tuesday February 27, opposition members criticised the authority for putting up council tax and cutting services such as the Coffi Vista cafe in Caerphilly town centre.

Caerphilly Council said it has to make cuts because of lower funding settlements and the legacy of UK austerity policies, as well as recent inflation and wage growth.

The authority has announced it will need to make an estimated £45 million in further savings over the next two years.

But some opposition councillors accused the local authority of not listening to residents who had taken part in a public consultation on the budget plans.

Caerphilly County Borough Council budget meeting at Ty Penallta (Pic: LDRS)

Plaid Cymru councillor Charlotte Bishop said the proposals would hit lower-income families, telling the meeting “there must be a better way than just always sticking it to the working man”.

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The council tax rise of 6.9% means people living in Band D will pay £93.36 more next year, or a weekly rise of £1.80.

Eluned Stenner, the cabinet member for finance, said Caerphilly was expected to have “the lowest council tax in Wales” even with the increase.

She admitted “none of us wants to see an increase in council tax”, but the alternative was “unpopular cuts to public services”.

The new budget does contain a range of savings measures, however.

These include mothballing The Winding House museum in New Tredegar while the council explores a Community Asset Transfer.

And Coffi Vista, perhaps the most controversial issue during the budget-setting process, is set to be closed and the premises leased to the private sector.

At the meeting, Plaid councillor Greg Ead asked whether the council had made any changes to its planned savings because of the consultation.

The closure of Coffi Vista proved an emotive issue at the meeting, after 2,900 people signed a petition to keep the site open, and consultation results showed opinions were split over its future.

Council leader Sean Morgan said Caerphilly was “a listening council” and called suggestions the local authority had ignored consultation responses “absurd”.

As an example of a change, Chris Morgan, the cabinet member for leisure, said the council had softened its policy on raising sports pitch fees following the public consultation.

Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge asked whether the authority could pursue a council tax rise of 5% and dip into its reserves for “the remainder” of the income it required.

Steve Harris, the head of finance, told the meeting that using further reserves to plug every budget hole was “in effect kicking the can down the road”.

Cllr Stenner said the one-off use of £11m of reserves in this year’s budget would give the council “much-needed breathing space” but was “not a sustainable option” for future spending.

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