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Merthyr Tydfil Politics South Wales

8% council tax rise on cards for Merthyr Tydfil

AN 8% COUNCIL tax rise is being proposed for residents in Merthyr Tydfil next year.

The 8% rise is being proposed along with a minimum of £9.4m in efficiencies and cuts to address the funding gap and to protect as many services as possible, particularly education and social services.

It would mean a band D council tax of £1,974.61 for 2024/25 or an extra £146.27 for 2024/25.

The council said that as 84% of the properties within the county borough were valued at bands A to C, a significant proportion of council taxpayers would be liable to payments less than £1,974.61.

It said that the majority of properties in the area were band A and for them this would mean an increase of £2.24 per week.

Band B properties would see an increase of £2.61 per week, band C properties, £2.98, band D properties, £3.36, band E properties, £4.10, band F properties, £4.85, band G properties, £5.59, band H properties, £6.71, and band I properties, £7.83.

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These include the increase in the police precept from the police and crime commissioner. The proposals come as the council aims to close a budget gap of £12.52m.

The plan for schools includes budget cuts of £1.98m but the report said this applied after increasing the schools budget base for increased pupil numbers, pay awards, energy cost increases, new demands and inflationary impacts.

It said that, although there was a real terms reduction of 3.9% year on year, the schools budget was increasing in cash terms by £1.7m.

The original contribution proposed from schools was £2.1m but this was reduced to £1.9m through the use of grant money.

The total planned education budget reductions of £2.46m would also include £27,000 in savings from post-16 home to school transport, which would involve introducing a charge for post-16 transport from September 1, 2025, which would apply to all students starting a post-16 course of study from September, 2025.

Social services spending cuts of £2.89m are being proposed, £1.21m from neighbourhood services, £1.31m from economy and public protection and £1.29m from governance and resources.

The savings in neighbourhood services would include things like the creation of a new sustainable drainage design engineer post leading to an overall saving of £50,000 as it would support the current team with their statutory duties together with carrying out additional private design work to generate income.

There’s also an invest to save proposal for a new street lighting electrician leading to an overall saving of £49,000 as it would provide additional resource to undertake work that will generate income and allow savings to be made.

And there’s a plan to increase the current fine for breaches of the side waste policy from £100 to £300, in order to encourage residents to recycle more, leading to a saving of around £7,000 based on the 34 fines that were served in 2022/23.

The proposals would also see the council’s Contact magazine reduced by one issue per year, saving £5,000.

There’s also the plan to remove the Help for Pensioners scheme, saving the council £30,000. This scheme provides financial support up to a maximum of £50 per qualifying claim or 96p per week and the council said that claimants would still continue to receive support through the council tax reduction scheme.

The proposals also include the use of £2m from the budget reserve towards closing the budget gap.

Other proposed cuts include reducing the young carers contract, reduce vacant staffing hours at Ty Bargoed, removing vacant posts from within day services, reducing trainee social worker posts from three to two, reducing available social services apprenticeships by one and changing security arrangements at Cyfarthfa Park.

In terms of fees and charges, increasing the lifeline weekly charge by 40% and all cemeteries fees by an additional 3% above inflation are also proposed.

These savings across all departments total £9.18m with the additional reduction of £253,000, within the education department adding up to £9.43m.

If approved, the council’s budget for 2024/2025 would be worth  £160.61m.

The Welsh Government’s provisional settlement indicated an increase in funding for Merthyr Tydfil of 3.4% (£4m) from an adjusted 2022/23 amount of £118.9m to £122.9m.

On February 7, Welsh Government announced an additional £25m of funding for local government, which resulted in additional funding of £500,000 for the council with £215,000 restoring an earlier cut to the social workforce grant and the remaining £285,000 being allocated through the revenue support grant.

The report said that this resulted in a revised deficit of £12.52m for 2024/25, the highest deficit in recent years and it added that this highlighted the challenge faced by the council in addressing unprecedented additional, unavoidable, external financial pressures.

A special council meeting on Wednesday, February 28, will consider approving the proposals with the final Welsh Government budget for 2024-25 set to be published on February 27.

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