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Merthyr Tydfil Politics South Wales

Council proposes to increase fees/charges above inflation next year

FEES for cemeteries, planning and the registrar are set to increase above inflation in Merthyr Tydfil next year.

Proposals for fees and charges in 2024/2025 which are set to go before full council for approval on Wednesday, February 21 recommend increasing all cemeteries fees by an additional 3% above inflation, increasing planning fees by between 45 and 95.5% above inflation and increasing some registrar fees by between 4% and 15% above inflation.

The proposals also recommend increasing some highways and engineering fees by up to 200% but these are not fees incurred by residents.

Another recommendation is to increase the Lifeline weekly charge by 40% which includes the cost of a sim card needed for a digital switch-over.

But the proposals also suggest keeping car park fees and charges at current rates as they are “more than competitive”,  keeping engineering fees and charges for CCTV surveys with an active drive to increase market share as part of commercial work and keeping licensing fees and charges at current rates.

Council have previously approved a fees and charges policy that states that all non-regulated fees and charges should increase each year in line with inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index inflation rate in January prior to the start of the financial period. For 2024/25 that figure is 4.5%.

The report to council said that previously, the process of increasing fees and charges was decentralised, with individual departments responsible for ensuring that the policy was implemented.

But analysis of fees and charges has shown that there is inconsistency in how this policy has been applied across the authority, with some fees and charges not increasing in line with the policy.

The report said there were often valid reasons for this but that it is an important part of the democratic process that any proposed non-adherence to council policy is considered and approved by council and in order to ensure consistent application of the policy going forward, a more centralised approach to fees and charges is needed.

Some anomalies were found including areas where Merthyr Tydfil fees and charges were considerably lower than other authorities, areas where Merthyr Tydfil did not provide a chargeable service but other local authorities did and some services that Merthyr Tydfil did not charge for, but other local authorities did.

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This has resulted in a proposal to increase some fees and charges over and above the CPI rate of 4.5%.

To ensure an effective centralised approach and a consistent approach to fees and charges, a controlled register of all fees and charges was needed.

The report added: “It is important at this point to note that maximising income from fees and charges should not be the overarching objective for local authorities and that some services will not be able to be fully cost-recovered, and the council would not wish them to be because of the impact that may have on residents.

“There is, however, an important balance to be struck between affordability for residents and reasonableness of charging, to ensure that the council is making appropriate use of public funds and ultimately protect services that may be unsustainable without appropriate cost recovery mechanisms in place.”

It goes on to say that while these figures appear stark, it is not unexpected given the changed approach to cost recovery and is supported by the benchmarking that the council has done.

CIt said that working with departments, the sensitivity of particular services to increases was considered both in terms of people’s ability to meet the proposed charge and the impact it would have on residents.